Trip Start Aug 25, 2010
36Trip End Nov 23, 2010
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Where I stayed
Made it to Chengdu without mishap after 10 hours of planes, trains and automobiles. I must admit - traveling like this is exhausting and I have had to alter my initial tour of China. I wanted to go to Songpan here in Chengdu to go horseback riding through the mountain side. Totally cool - yes? Well it is an 8 hour bus ride up and 8 hours back with 8 hours of horseback riding. I've decided it will take more out of me than it will give at this point. Perhaps if I had 2 months in China I would feel differently...
So I am ixnaying that one and am staying in Chengdu for a few more days instead. It's a great city despite the air pollution (which is the worst Ive encountered yet - as bad as Hng Kong but without HK's heat) . Everywhere I walk, there is a little haven - a park, a sculpture, a pool that takes my breath away. There are 14 million people here - very cosmopolitan and I am back in the land of Prada
I have decided I can start my own business by sitting on the corner and getting paid my Chinese tourists to get my pic taken. A dozen people have stopped and posed with me like I am some sort of "site" - probably more of a "sight"!
So my first day in Chengdu I walked to the Dufu cottage where this poet back in the 700s lived. On m way there I visited the antiques market and a couple of parks. I have been watching lots of mahjong hoping to get an inkling - lots of rules - chinese cards also have lots of rules - unlike American cards which only have a few - I really want to be taught because I would love to play with the old people in the park - drink tea, smoke cigarettes and play cards is my kind of way to while the afternoon away.
At the cottage, I had my first fit of true frustration - palatable in my mouth and fiery in my stomach. There is a free shuttle bus, the 901/902 which takes you from major site to major site. I asked like 4 different groups of people - visitor center, guards, and some fellow tourists and no one could tell me where it was
So I walked. I walked for 8 hours around Chengdu and only covered a fraction of the city. Lovely, but exhausting (my legs are looking good though!) I got a tip on a reasonably priced restaurant (i am staying on Newbury street for like 8 dollars a night - did I mention that?) and a suggestion for a not-so-spicy meal (Sichuan cooking is fiery). The dinner was terrific - I eat every bite of my meals.
I woke up at 630am yesterday to go to the Panda Breeding Research Center which was sensational. They are so darn cute. Their little (or not so little) mouths are in a perpetual smile. I got to see the babies too that they were feeding and caring for - one was a month old and still all pink with just a little fur - he was my favorite. I couldn't take pics of the babies alas. The Pandas eat like 25 lbs of bamboo a day but only retrieve like 20% nutrition - hence they basically eat and sleep without much playing.
After Pandas, I went with the tour guide Dora for a lunch at my favorite restaurant and ate Kung Pao chicken - our American version is for the birds
After a 3 hour nap (!!) I went to the Sichuan Opera which, as my British friends said "was brilliant". Costumes, puppets, acrobats, singers, dancing, fire breathing, all of it. My favorite was the shadow puppet guy - he was fabulous. There were also these face changing people who magically switched colored masks without touching their faces. I tried taking pics but they came out pretty crappy so I stopped. I had the largest headed man in China in front of me (naturally) and was 29 rows back - look it up on google images if you want to see better pics.
Today I am going to People's Park to hang with my mahjong people and relax. Tonight I am getting a massage. I am so sore - I found out how tense I am when I got my ears cleaned in front of the hostel by some dude. Happily, my ears weren't have bad. One guy took like 30 minutes with special potions - nasty. They very carefully stick thin implements into your ears and scoop out the wax. It gives me the heebie jeebies thinking about it but whatever - it's just one of those things different and fascinating about China. Anyway, at the end the ear man squeezed my neck/shoulder and I realized they are as hard as rocks. All the stress, information overload, sleeping on boards, etc has taken its toll. So Daisy, a Chinese woman and Barbara, a german woman, and I venture tonight for a massage. Can't wait.
All is good. I plan on going to Xian on Tuesday or Wednesday. Depending on whether I like it there I might skip Shanghai and go straight to Beijing. We'll see. Until then - be well all!