Just One in a Billion
Trip Start Oct 22, 2007
13Trip End Dec 12, 2007
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Left Nepal yesterday for Chengdu, China, home of spicy Sichuan cuisine and the lovable giant panda. The flight provided incredible views of the Himalayan mountains and the rugged, desolate Tibetan high plateau. Eastern Tibet looked really rugged. Not a place you want to be stranded.
For a city with a population of 4 million, Chengdu's city streets are pretty mellow and very clean and orderly, certainly when compared to the chaotic and not so clean Kathmandu.
I have to say one thing about Chinese cities
My hostel is located in an interesting section of the city; bordering the Tibetan neighborhood and across the city from a nice park and temple. At night, there are Sichuan opera performances within the temple grounds as well as a very chic shopping/restaurant district. At the opera performance, they serve you tea and give you a basket of peanuts. How civilized.
Today's Chinese woman is certainly a fashion statement. Leather boots and tight blue jeans. Leather boots and hip hugging short pants that go just below the knees. Leather boots and sweater dresses. Not that I noticed. Leather boots and a mini skirt....
Walking the city streets is easy and a colorful experience especially while walking through the Tibetan neighborhood. Every shop offers an interesting selection of products or services; tea shops to electronic repair, Buddhist statues and prayer wheels, a Monks Are Us clothing store, sowing shop, interesting looking food, fashionable clothes, and of course, a place that does laundry.
There are products that are uniquely Chinese: shops catering to teaware and specialty chopsticks, caligraphy artisans showing their wares, and sports equipment shops specializing in tennis, badminton and ping pong. Watch out Forrest Gump!
You also see red Chinese lanterns everywhere, lovely park ponds with orange and white colored carp, and everyday people in the park practicing their taichi movements and exercises.
There's a Don Henley verse that goes something like this: I saw a Deadhead sticker on a cadillac, you can never look back, never look back.
Here's my version of that song verse: I saw a Nike wool cap on a Tibetan monk, I can never look back, never look back!
People along the storefront sidewalks seem pretty relaxed; guys playing various games of Chinese chess, checkers, and other games, people taking a lunch break or chatting with one another.
You see almost as many people traveling on the road by bycycle as you do cars. One middle-aged gentleman in a suit looked like he was riding his daughter's bike. That might be slightly embarrassing to explain at the office.
I tried to look up in the phone book a gentleman I met on the plane to Shanghai who lives in Chengdu. His name is Carl Wong. It sure was a difficult task.
Chengdu has a lot of Wong numbers!
Ok, ok, I'll stop wth the Chinese jokes.
The air could be a little cleaner. There's a definite thick brownish gray layer that separates the ground from the relatively bluish sky above and it's not fog. Now that I've visited three of China's larger cities, Shanghai, Ghangzhou, and Chengdu, I think an apt description for these modern cities would be the Many Shades of Gray. Shanghai had that overcast pollution gray tone, Ghangzhou the drizzly rain gray and Chengdu has the fog smog gray motif. Now if I can just clear my throat!
This morning was "when in Chengdu, see the giant pandas". They are a special treat to watch, those big, cuddly funky lookin bears. They do enjoy munching on their bamboo too; rolling on their backs, smacking their lips as they chew those succulent bamboo stalks.
Of course, I'm like that when I'm eating watermelon.
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