Monday, June 25, 2012

Two Days in Chengdu

We just returned from our last hurrah trip in China. Can’t believe I’m writing that, but it’s true. The trip was really a two-part deal, so Doug and I have decided to split up the blogging duties. I drew the first part of the trip to Chengdu, which is probably good because the second part of the trip, to Jiuzhaigou, was so mind-blowingly amazing, I don’t know how I would do it justice. Which is not to say that the first part of the trip was shabby - it wasn’t at all. In fact, it was pretty awesome; it’s just that the second part was probably our best trip of all of the ones we’ve done here in China.

But enough about Jiuzhaigou - it’s my job to blog about our time in Chengdu. Initially, we weren’t going to spend any time in Chengdu as we were pretty much done with Chinese cities, but it turned out we were going to have to fly though there to get to Jiuzhaigou, so we decided to stop over for a few days. In order to keep costs down (as we ended up having to take 4 flights to make this trip happen), we decided to stay in hostels the whole time. Luckily for us, the hostels were great (our hostel in Chengdu – Sim’s Cozy Garden - even had private bathrooms in the room for about $30 a night for all of us), so the boys are now accustomed to something other than plush resorts, much to my relief. The boys actually really loved the staying at the hostels, much to the relief of our wallets and our mental state.

Using Sim’s as our base, we managed to hit the highlights of Chengdu, including the panda research center. We were actually organized enough to get there early in the morning, which meant we saw them as they were eating. As a result, they were fairly active; as they are pandas, active is a relative term. In this case, it meant they were lying on their backs, munching away, as opposed to lying on their stomachs sleeping. Nonetheless, it was really impressive and far better than the other Chinese animal exhibits we’ve visited.

Watching a red panda stroll by

We also checked out a little market street. Meh – much like others we’ve seen although we did score some delicious noodles at a shop packed with Chinese tourists and catch a short Sichuan opera.

Quin eating noodles like a local

Enjoying some tea before the opera

Face changing masks and fire breathing were hits with all the boys

Finally, to round out the day, we hit the Tibetan market place; although I suppose on some level it makes sense that Buddhist monks have to buy things somewhere, it was strange to see so many of them out shopping, an activity I don’t really associate with Buddhist monks!

The next day, we drove close to two hours (and experienced possibly the worst bathroom I’ve ever seen in China along the way, which is saying a lot, at a local rest stop – think squatter toilets with no doors or dividers) to see the Leshan Buddha. Despite the fairly long lines to descend to see the Buddha, it was really impressive as it’s over 1,000 years old and over 71 meters tall. 

Quin at the top of the line near the Buddha head

Berkley entertains the Chinese tourists waiting in line to descend

The line to descend

 Berkley and Doug are almost to the bottom

 The whole family, partway down the steps

Looking up at Buddha from his feet

On our return, we closed out our visit to Chengdu with a dinner of hotpot (which really originates from Chongqing, but that’s a whole different story), at a restaurant recommended by our hostel. At a hotpot restaurant, they basically place a vat of boiling liquid in your table which you use to cook meat and veggies of your choosing. Obviously, we stuck to the latter, although Klaus, a German who tagged along with us to Leshan and then to dinner, did make a go at some of the mystery meats. Luckily, the servers were really helpful to the Laowai as setting everything up was a mystery to us. First, you dump a pouch of oil into your bowl. Then, you add a little of the cooking liquid to your bowl. We went with a mix of spicy and mild liquid so the boys could try as well; I made the mistake of dipping my chopsticks directly into the spicy liquid and couldn’t feel my tongue for a minute or so. But the spicy liquid mixed with the oil was perfect for the adults. After adding some fresh garlic and cilantro (or parsley as they call it here) to your bowl, you drop your eats into the liquid until it’s cooked, then cool it off by dropping it in the oil. Messy – yes, but delicious too.

All in all then, even though we only spent two days in Chengdu, we felt like we got to see a good slice of the city. And while I probably won’t be hightailing it back to Chengdu, I will say that so far, Sichuan food is definitely my favorite style of Chinese food, and I would go back to explore more of the rural parts of the province in a heartbeat.

1 comment:

  1. Great pictures and post.
    Linda C.