Emma reports from Sichuan. 2: Chengdu

Jul 26th, 2005, 12:20 AM
  #1  
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Emma reports from Sichuan. 2: Chengdu

Today we stuck around the city and checked the place out. I like this city! Michael is harder to please than Bron or I, so he may be a harsher critic, but I think this is a really interesting place. For a start, it's a really big city, with a crowded populace. Tiny, bustling alleyways are everywhere. People are everywhere. Bikes are everywhere. Best of all, trees and greenery are everywhere. This is a fantastically green city, there are rivers and canals throughout, apartments have rooftop gardens spilling over the sides and streets are lined with huge old plane trees. It's really attractive.

In the morning we wandered down to Wenshu Monastery, which is a lovely big temple complex very near us. The temple was fine, much like other Chinese temples. The best part of this place was the relaxing areas. We quickly sat down for a refillable cup of green tea at one of the extremely peaceful tea houses, and then moved onto lunch at the monastery-run vegetarian restaurant. This restaurant did fantastic vege dishes, as well as mock meat dishes (on the menu you can order any style of meat dish, they do a reproduction). I loved the food - I thought it was really great. The setting was superb, and the price was perfect (Y68 for 6 dishes and drinks). I wish I had a place like this in Dalian!

Near the monastery there were a couple of little alleyways that specialised in family run "movie theatres". Just an open shop front with a curtain draped across to shut out the light, a bunch of cane chairs and a DVD player. Each one had a group of pretty uncommitted young and old men wandering in and out (to watch the street gambling), and the odd woman. I was pretty impressed with these businesses (I've never seen this in China, though Anshan's "movie theatre" was about as ghetto as you can get) and I wondered how much they cost.

After lunch we hired some bikes, and proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon completely lost and generally heading in the wrong direction (Chengdu's haphazard street naming system is legendary). The upside is, we managed to check out some little-frequented (by foreigners at least), generally very interesting areas of Chengdu. Along a river promenade we found a very busy market/gambling/recreation park, with dozens of tiny street stalls (Bron bought some paper fans and attracted a huge crowd of onlookers, none of whom attempted to speak to her, instead just repeating each Chinese phrase she said and nodding approvingly). There were literally dozens of itinerant foot callus removers, masseurs and dentists. Yes, you read correctly, itinerant street-side dentists equipped with only a chair, some implements and a bunch of grotty-looking false teeth.

After that was a massive crowd of mahjong players sandwiched between the river and a slum area. Some were playing for money but most were just four old folk playing together. Jonno got a flat tyre and we found a bike repairer in minutes, and a tailor to fix a tiny tear in Mick's t- shirt. This area was really quite poor; the market seemed to stretch on for miles through tiny laneways, and we got stared at a lot!

After another couple of hours lost in downtown Chengdu, we inadvertently stumbled across Renmin Gongyuan (People's Park). Every city has a Renmin Park, but this one was absolutely great! We arrived at about 6 o'clock in the evening, so there were plenty of people out enjoying the park. It's right in the centre of the city but you can't see or hear any traffic, it's huge, but filled with so many tiny little hideaways it takes hours to explore. The gardens are immaculate and fantastic. There is a gorgeous bonsai park, a huge winding lake, everything you could want in a park. Imagine Canberra's Commonwealth Park, but far more user-friendly, also more tropical, and filled with interesting little areas all used by various groups. Tai-chi practitioners were in several corners of the park, also qi gong, ballroom dancing groups, Latin dancing groups, dancing for exercise, Chinese opera singers, a choir group, musicians, kids, dogs... Sorry to go on about it, but this is a perfect park. In amongst all this were the ubiquitous tea houses (Chengdu is obsessed with lovely little garden tea houses, they are everywhere). If this park was in my home town, I'd be there every day.

After the park we got lost on the bikes again, found a few more city temples/ gardens but were too hungry and tired to bother looking at, and then finally found our way heading back in the right direction home. Chengdu is undergoing major renovation at the moment, and we got stuck in a vast street worksite at one point. Bron managed to make the days of a bunch of bored workmen at one point. "Look, look! Laowai!!! Laowai!!" They called to each other as Bron and I passed. Bron stopped, pointed back and said excitedly "Kan kan, nebia, Zhongguoren!!!" (Look, over there, Chinese!) The workmen fell about laughing, they loved it. If they had been close enough Bron would have got 20 high-fives.

(To be continued)
Neil_Oz is offline  
Jul 26th, 2005, 02:44 PM
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<"Kan kan, nebia, Zhongguoren!!!">

I just love that! Wish I could've been there
Patty is offline  
Jul 27th, 2005, 05:55 PM
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it sounds like your daughter and her friends are having a fine time in Chengdu! I have a soft spot for it as it's my dad's home town. Teahouses and spicy food...
Will she see the pandas?
bkkmei is offline  
Jul 29th, 2005, 06:12 PM
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Neil:

What a great report!

Been busy all week and only got to the Asia board tonight - what a wonderful and enjoyable surprise this section of your daughter's report is!

Mucho thanks for sharing!
easytraveler is offline  
Jul 30th, 2005, 04:51 PM
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Thanks all. bkkmei, I think I've developed a soft spot for Chengdu myself, and I've never been there! The food is certainly a big attraction.

I've just posted another report - the pandas had to be dropped from the agenda, unfortunately.
Neil_Oz is offline  

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