Trip to Chengdu
Trip Start May 15, 2008
14Trip End Aug 15, 2008
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There were no problems with the flight and we got into Chengdu around 10 AM. From there we went to get our rental car, which was a Buick mini van.
We jammed all of our stuff and 10 people into the van and we were on our way to have lunch at Jimmy and Tommy's parents house. It was about a 45 minute ride and we met up with Jimmy's older son and a few other friends of the family on the way. Once we left the highway it was an extremely bumpy ride back to where we would be walking rest of the way.
The walk back to his parents house was not as long and difficult as the one to Xiao Li's house, but it was still about 15 minutes of walking on a path to get there. We carried some stuff back, but not ours since we would be staying in a hotel for this trip. After getting back to their house we walked around for a little bit while lunch was being finished up. We wound up in their peach tree orchard and the peaches were ready to be picked.
Everyone picked a couple handfuls of peaches and we saw a bed in the middle of the orchard. I asked Mike what that was and he told me that Jimmy's dad sleeps out there when the peaches are in season, so no one comes and steals them. We ate lunch outside on their "patio" and Jimmy's dad showed us his homemade gun that he made many year ago.
Then we got back on the road to go and see one of Jimmy's friends piece of land. The main reason for this trip was to have a friend of their family, who is apparently some kind of witch doctor tell them where a good spot would be to possibly build a house. He got out his Ouija board type thing and some how came up with some information.
After we were done walking around for a while we got back in the car and we weren't really too sure where our next stop would be. Mike was in another car and all that Jimmy was telling me is that we would be staying at a very beautiful place tonight. Liz, Xiao Li and I all fell asleep in the car and Jimmy finally got us to our destination in the mountains. I think the car ride was at least an hour and we ended up at a lake.
We went to a hotel on the other side of the lake and looked at a couple of rooms and decided we would be staying there for the night. We dropped off our stuff and Jimmy kept telling us we were going to a place that has big fish to eat.
We looked at the fish and I think we might have bought one, but I'm not sure. We looked at the lake for a little bit and then sat down at a restaurant for dinner.
Liz is always a big hit with the ladies for pictures. Anytime another woman joins us for dinner, they have to get a picture with the female foreigner, then they tell me how beautiful she is. We don't understand why they don't tell her. After dinner we went to back to the hotel and called it an early evening, since we were up at 5 AM that morning.
Jimmy wanted to get an early start the next day, so we were to meet down in the lobby at 9 AM. We were of course the last ones to get downstairs, while everyone else was waiting for us in the van. We got on the road to head back to Chengdu for a lunch time birthday party. On the way we met up with the witch doctor and some other people in a tiny van that had a lot of fireworks in it. We got a quick breakfast, which back home would usually be an egg sandwich or something, but here in China a quick breakfast is noodles and meat. It was actually a great meal, as most every meal is here. We got back out to his parents path around 11 and I was handed two huge wheels of firecrackers to carry back to the house.
You would think that fireworks would be reserved for night time activities, but it is tradition to set off fireworks before the meal at such a special birthday. So 5 or 6 people started unwrapping the firecrackers and laying them along the path to the house, tying them together in a continuous string.
After about five minutes of a firecracker show and no one getting injured we proceeded with eating lunch. They hired a "catering company" to cook the food and they had brought all the tables, chairs, dishes and cooking apparatus back to the house. It was raining so there was a tarp over top of the 15 tables that were set up.
There was enough food cooked to feed about 25 tables of people, but the leftovers were used for dinner that night. The party was not as rowdy with the drinking as Xiao Li's dads was, but there was still a decent amount consumed. They also purchased a refrigerator just for us, because foreigners don't like to drink warm beer.
The party was winding down and Mike and Jimmy had taken a walk to look at a pond full of minnows. After a while I called Mike to see how long they would be and he said that Jimmy was sleeping in the grass next to the pond. Around that time Tommy asked us if we wanted to go into town to buy another cake for the dinner that night. We said sure, and the three of us were off on an adventure. We got to the bakery and they told us that it would be about 15 minutes before they would have a cake decorated for us. I went out to the car and woke Liz up with a half dozen flowers that I bought her for 50 cents. Tommy got us a bicycle carriage and we took a ride around town while our cake was being finished up.
I saw a place that was weaving straw and asked what they were doing there. The next thing you know we were inside of someones house picking out which kind of hats we wanted to buy. We got 4 of them and then we were back in the bicycle to get back to the bakery. Tommy and Liz went to the back of the bakery and took some chocolate and then we were on our way back to the party with the cake.
Carrying a three tiered cake over a bumpy road isn't the easiest thing in the world, but I balanced it on my hands the entire ride back and then carried it on the path and it arrived at the party the same way it was in the bakery. When we got back to the house dinner was being served, so we ate the leftovers from the day and took pictures in our new hats.
The catering crew did all the dishes and packed everything up and carried it back out to the road. We stuck around for a little while, waiting for it to get closer to dark and then we lit off two boxes of fireworks. Then we packed up our stuff and got back on the road to the city of Chengdu. We stopped at one of Jimmy's friends places and gave him some peaches and drank some tea and then checked into a hotel that had VIP Building written on the front of it. The room was very nice and they actually didn't turn the power off during the day, so that allowed us to get a good nights sleep.
The next day we were supposed to be in the lobby at 9, since Mike and Xiao Li can get ready in approximately 10 minutes, they were downstairs 20 minutes early. He had all sorts of plans for the day. We had breakfast in the hotel and then we were driving around looking for a place to wash the van, since we had been driving on muddy roads for the past two days. The first place we stopped at was too busy to take us and then we spotted another place but Jimmy wasn't too sure on where the driveway was. As he was slowly turning into the driveway we heard the sounds of tires skidding and then the van got hit in the side by a motorcycle. We were all shocked for a few seconds then we realized that a guy just plowed into the side of our car with a motorcycle and he is now laying on the sidewalk moaning in pain. This might put a slight delay in our original plans for the day. Mike and Jimmy got out and then I did to find a guy on the ground next to his motorcycle that was now leaking gas. Mike got the motorcycle up and out of the way and a crowd was starting to form. They were trying to figure out what was wrong with the guy and he told them that his hand and ankle were hurt. The last section of his pinky finger was bent back at a 90 degree angle and when they got him up he wasn't able to walk. In the middle of all the commotion Mike and Jimmy got him into the van and we were on our way to a hospital. We later found out that we weren't supposed to leave the scene like that, but this guy was in some pretty serious pain and we wanted to get him to a hospital quickly. The hospital was only about 5 minutes away and when we got there Mike carried him up the steps and into the "emergency room". The hospital took a look at him and said that they couldn't take care of broken bones there and that they would transport him to another hospital.
Mike and Xiao Li got into the ambulance with the guy and then they were gone. Next a car arrived that we thought might be the guys family, but it wound up being one of Jimmy's friends and before Liz and I knew it Jimmy got in the car and left too. So there we were, Liz and I sitting in a rental van that was just hit by a motorcycle in the parking lot of a Chinese hospital. We waited for a while and then got out our DVD player and continued to watch Grey's Anatomy. Mike eventually called us and said that the guy is fine, no broken bones and that his finger was just dislocated. He asked to talk to Jimmy, and I told him "Jimmy is gone". Mike asked, did the police take him away? I explained to him what happened and he told us to just wait there until he gets a hold of Jimmy. A little while later Jimmy came back and got us and we went back to the scene of the accident and Jimmy waved down a police car to explain what happened. At that point Liz and I were picked up by Jimmy's cousin and he took us to the hospital. We weren't overly intersted in sitting in a room with a guy that we didn't know, so we waited in the lobby. Mike said that the guy was talking up a storm and he was actually a really nice guy. He was very sorry that he ruined our trip and he told Mike that he has always had bad luck and that his motorcycle didn't have any brakes. That might explain why he ran into the side of the van. The hospital said that they wanted to keep him for a week, because his chest hit the handlebars and we eventually parted ways and went back to the hotel to meet Jimmy for lunch. The police took his drivers license and the van, so now we were without a car. He would be able to get both of them back on Monday. Jimmy was pretty worked up and sorry that the whole thing happened. We had lunch and were forced to drink and then we made our plans for the afternoon. Jimmy arranged for one of his friends that speaks a little bit of English to take us on a tour of an old city about an hour outside of Chengu, while they went and handled some stuff with the accident. Jimmy went to the hospital to see how the guy was doing and to take him some peaches, but the guy had left the hospital. As they were driving away from the hospital they saw the guy hobbling down the road, apparently he was doing alright. The next day the guy called Mike's phone saying he needed money for something in the hospital and Mike couldn't really understand what he was saying. He gave the phone to Xiao Li and she said, we saw you walking down the street, we came to visit you yesterday afternoon. He didn't have to much more to say after that and then hung up.
After lunch Liz and I got a cab out to the town of Luodai with our new guide. The girl insisted on buying this lei for Liz and then she kept asking us if we wanted to eat, even though we just finished lunch.
The area we were walking through had all kinds of shops and even had a museum that spoke of the heritage of the people from the area.
While walking through the market our guide bought us this sweet treat that was nothing like we have had before and then we continued on, looking forward to finding the "Mini Great Wall"
When we got to the end of the market, we were approached by this guy asking us if we needed a ride anywhere.
Usually we just walk by these people saying no thanks, but our guide spoke to him and got it set up for him to give us a ride to the wall. After driving quite fast down some rather bumpy roads, we arrived at this place.
It was a pretty hot day and we really didn't know what we were getting into when we got out of the car. We walked up one set of small steps and saw this huge set of steep stairs.
Liz isn't too fond of heights or steep steps in the middle of a hot afternoon, but after some coaxing we were climbing up the "Mini Great Wall of Sichuan". The wall never served any purpose like the real Great Wall did, it was just built as a tourist site. We thought that we would go to the top of this first set of steps and look around and that would be it, come back down and continue on with our day. When we got to the top our guide pointed to a building way off in the distance and said that is where we are going.
I interpreted this for Liz and she said "NO WAY, why would we do that?" But next thing you know we were putting one foot in front of the other and making our way to some random building. Along the way there were many little stands that were selling drinks and fruit and slingshots and little trinkets. We stopped at this one to buy a fan and we bought water at another stop too.
As we continued to get closer to the end we looked back and realized how far we had actually walked.
I asked our guide if when we got up to the top would we be walking back down to where we started, and she said yes. We really weren't looking forward to this but we would do whatever she had planned. We finally got to the top and she realized that we didn't have enough time to walk back down to the beginning, so she called our driver that brought us up to the Wall and told him to come and pick us up at the top of the mountain. She told us that we just walked 7 kilometers, we felt like we accomplished something.
While we were waiting for him to drive up, we went into the temple and got blessed and were told that we would have good health.
There was also a tea house and the top and we walked through that. It was a pretty cool set up, looking out over all the mountains. Our driver eventually made it up to the top and we were on our way back down the mountain. Luckily no other cars were coming up the mountain, because the road was pretty narrow and windy.
Liz and I were expecting that we would get in another cab that would take us back into Chengdu, but this guy actually took us the entire way back in his little van with no air conditioning. We met up with everyone at the hotel and then went to a hot pot place to eat dinner. The food was extremely spicy and some guys even had their shirts off in the restaurant. Surprisingly, Mike kept his on. After dinner we walked around a little bit and saw a building that had every window broken out from the earthquake, but surprisingly there was not much damage to the rest of the town. People told us that during the earthquake the sidewalks looked like waves and that the statue of Mao Zedong looked like he was waving to everyone.
Mike and I couldn't understand how the roads and sidewalks weren't completely ruined or at least a little cracked.
After walking around we went back to the hotel to get a foot masage and then we were off to bed. We were allowed to sleep in til 10 the next day, but then Jimmy called us and asked that we be ready for 9:30. Jimmy found us a van and we went to eat breakfast at a noodle place. From there we went to Jimmy's house that he has on a golf course. We hung out there for a while and then decided to go into an older part of Chengdu that has a park and some shopping. The area that we were walking through had all kinds of fancy tea and coffee houses and some small stands to buy art or souvenirs. This tea house had a painting of Michael Jackson on the wall.
Next we found the park and walked around for a little bit. Since it was Sunday, there were a lot of people hanging out taking naps or playing cards. There were a couple of diffrent areas that had a microphone where people were singing. We're not sure if it was a karaoke type set up or if it was actually someone who sings for a living.
We came upon an "amusement park" that had a few rides and we decided to go on one that looked like it spins around. Liz's belly wasn't feeling so great from the hot pot the previous night but she eventually decided that she would go on the ride with me. Upon entering the ride we saw that the ride was self propelled. If you wanted the car to move you had to pedal and then turn the steering wheel to get the car spinning. Liz wasn't too keen on the spinning but we still had fun.
Next we found a game where you spun a wheel and whatever animal it landed on would tell the guy what kind of lollipop he would make you. He had some melted down sugar that he would put on a stick in the shape of a bird, or a tiger or a big dragon, which was the grand prize. Xiao Li actually got the grand prize dragon and that really made her day.
We continued to walk around and got into a bigger part of the city where we ate a late lunch. We weren't overly hungry, but I take advantage of every oppurtunity that we are given to eat. Mainly because we never know what the plans are for the day, and if we do they can change at any moment. We could eat at 5 o'clock or we could eat at 8 o'clock. Everyone ended up eating a meal and then we were back to walking around.
We told Jimmy that we would like to get back to room to get cleaned up for dinner and to maybe take a nap. We made plans to go to dinner at 6 o'clock.
We didn't know where we would be going for dinner, but we were told that everything at this restaurant was taken from the wild. Nothing was raised on a farm or bought from a store. They apparently go out to the mountains and hunt for the meat and find the vegetables growing wildly. We weren't overly convinced that this was entirely true, but it was an excellent meal. To get to the restaurant we had to go down a bumpy dirt road where we eventually got to a parking area that had a set of steps going up a hill. Everything was overgrown and the whole area smelled like a toilet. We were told that this place was where a lot of the government officials eat. Some of Jimmy's friends met us at the restaurant and one of the guys was actually a part of the local government. He had a video of his involvment with the earthquake relief efforts. We watched the 10 minute video of how they got supplies out to the remote areas and how they were helping the people who lost everything. It was very interesting, but I think we would have gotten more out of it if we could understand what was being said. When dinner was served we were told that we were about to eat leopard, beaver and pig. The leopard was in a soup and it was one of the best parts of the dinner. Liz apologized to her cat Oliver before she took her first bite. During dinner we were greeted by every person in the party by standing up and drinking a glass of beer. Sometimes it seems like they are trying to make you drink much, but it was explained to us that they were just welcoming us to their town and they were very happy to be able to meet foreigners. So with the mixture of the beer and all the food we were all pretty full. We then drove back to the area of the hotel and we were taken to a barbeque place. It was a really cool place with a tarp as a roof and a whole bunch of tables. We had about 15 people with us and they filled up about 20 feet worth of table with all kinds of barbequed food. We were not hungry at all, I picked at a few things and we stayed there for about a half hour and then headed home.
The next day we had to get up at 6 and on the road by 6:30 for our flight back to Qing Xi.
We had a really enjoyable time on this trip and got to see the full spectrum from city life to country living. The whole motorcycle incident sort of put a damper on our original plans, but the things that we ended up doing were just as fun.