Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Do the Chengdu

Happy Tomb-Sweeping Festival (Rather belatedly)!

Since Brian and I didn't have any tombs to sweep here in China we went traveling for our last jaunt of these 6 months in Asia. The plan was originally to head to Hong Kong, since we have yet to see that famous city, but Brian was sent to Chengdu for work and so I bought a ticket to head there instead. Chengdu is located closer to the center of China, in the Sichuan province, and is known for its spicy food, teahouses, and giant pandas. It's also surrounded by mountains containing some amazing scenery, making its indirect sunlight and misty days rather iconic.

I realized that I haven't done a Top Ten list in a while. Apologies.

Top Ten Things that we did in Chengdu:

1. Renmin Park and Baihuatan Park - Brian and I spent one whole day simply wandering the streets of chengdu in the general direction of Renmin Park. We'd heard it was good....and it didn't disappoint. Chock full of people, drinking tea, playing cards, rounds of mahjong, kids running around, and.....(this is my favorite) dance gardens. Who would have thought? In the center of the park (aka the Monumental Monument, in their words) is an area that is segment into smaller paved spaces. In each of these a different group would be gathered, playing a particular style of music and dancing traditional dances. Brian and I just sat there and smiled. How could you not?

amusement park rides for kids!

the best adventure playground

they would hang bird cages amongst the trees in this park. beautiful chirping, color, and accent. delightful!

2. Pandas - Just to the north side of Chengdu is the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. I read that you should arrive early, and you definitely should. On the misty morning we were the only people in the park and headed straight to the back and the adult panda pavilions. We saw 3 huge black and white beauties lumber out, plop down and start chomping on large stands of bamboo, just watching us with their big black eyes. Very Hanna-like. Then we wandered over and saw a whole group of younger pandas playing and eating, ruled by The Tyrant as Brian called him. They climbed trees, fell out of them, ran around, ate bamboo, and wrestled. Absolutely delightful.

a red panda
The Tyrant (aka show-off)

3. Pet and Plant Street - during our wandering day....loved it.
tadpoles, puppies, kittens, koi fish, birds

4. Lingxiu Hot Springs Spa - A tier of naturally scalding hot spring water down to cool temperatures. You start at the bottom with the cooler pools and work your way up. We stopped for chuar and some beer in the middle, mentally soaking up the misty mountain around us. There was also a strange series of pools, of which Brian and I did not partake. They were labeled Banana Pool, Mint Pool, Pineapple Pool, and Chocolate Pool. Also appropriately colored neon yellow, mint green, and purply brown. Hmmm.

5. Hand-pulled noodles - After the park strolling we happened upon a tiny streetside muslim restaurant. We picked from the pictures on the wall and then sat to watch the noodling-pulling show. This guy was good. His dad was so proud of how good he was...and we were not lax in showing our admiration.

6. BBQ fish in Baguo Town - After a few luxurious hours in the hot spring Brian and I went wandering into the nearby town to see if we could find something to eat. And we could. The specialty of the house was a large fish that we picked out of a tank. Within 10 minutes that delicious fish was slammed on the ground, thrown into a searing liquid, topped with piles of fresh herbs, and placed on our table. I'm still overcoming my childhood dislike for fish, but it was wonderful.Oh, and the owner tried to make us pay 2 kuai to use his plates! nu-uh. Not on my watch. Brian still teases me about it, but I threw out a laughing 'shen me?' in the tone of 'whaaaaat?' And it worked. We saved 4 kuai.

7. Finding the bus back to Chengdu - God blessed us incredibly with buses. In Chengdu going to Mount Emei, we walk into the station to get tickets and ask when it leaves. 'Now' is the reply. We walk into the terminal, miraculously pick the right exit lane and are the last two seats together on the bus. Then, heading back to Chengdu we buy a ticket with 10 minutes to spare, buy some snacks, and once again get the last  two seats together, the bus pulled away 1 minute later. Timing is everything.

8. Mount Emei - This site would be an incredible multiple day hike. However, I wasn't really informed of that before we went. I thought we could grab a bus to the top, see the famous buddha, and then alternately hike and catch buses back down. In one day. Ummm....not so much. We did grab the bus to the top....only to find that it takes over 2 hours to get there, then a hike, then a cable car, then another walk. So, we didn't get to see much of the mountain other than the buddha. However, we met a fun group from Hong Kong on the bus who took us under their wing, helped us buy wicker sleds for our feet, and tried to give us directions. It wasn't a bad experience, but during this day I definitely understood why people travel with tour groups in china. If you don't speak or read mandarin, there is virtually nothing (websites, visitor centers, signage) that can help you navigate. It can be very frustrating...and yet make you feel like a true adventurer.

9. Street food - I still don't really know how to spell chuar. But I know what it is. It's delicious meats, veggies, and tofu shish-kabobed onto wooden skewers and cooked over small charcoal troughs. After a few months in Beijing and our friend Greg removing a lot of the fear of such cooking, Brian and I eagerly sampled chuar and handmade honey candy at every stop that we could. Man, it was good. It was such a great moment to be strolling through these bustling, happy city parks snacking on sichuan spicy snacks.
hand-formed honey candy

10. Intercontinental Hotel Buffet - Before heading back to good ol' Beijing, Brian had another surprise in store for me. We taxied south of the city center to the Intercontinental and lazily enjoyed an incredible spread of cuisine from everywhere. Thai noodles, sichuan meats, french cheeses, american ice cream, Indian curry, and japanese sushi....all in a big beautiful atrium with calling birds and falling water as a backdrop. A perfect way to end our fun weekend.
our awesome hotel river view

1 comment:

  1. So jealous cuz I haven't visit Chengdu yet.
    It is "chuan" in pinyin, something cooked in a way like the hot pot. In Chengdu, there is a street called "Jingli Folk-custom Street", which is famous for its various snacks and bars. I am not sure if this is the one you visited. If you go to Sichuan Province next time, I would strongly recommend "Jiuzhaigou Valley" for its unique landscape.