Chengdu, China

Trip Start Dec 25, 2008
Trip End Dec 25, 2009

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lovely flight from Lijiang to Chengdu and was so happy that I had reserved a room at Sim's Cozy Guesthouse.  They also had their driver waiting for me at the airport.  It makes the arrival in a new city so much less stressful!!!  I was also nicely surprised to see that the room was exactly as everyone had commented on Lonely Planet.  The room was "cozy" (small) but very clean and even had clean bedding which was changed every three days. As well,  there was some fresh fruit in the room on arrival date as well as everytime the room was cleaned.  What a treat!  I got so comfortable there that before I knew it I had been there for 11 days!!!  I was also planning my trip to Tibet which took longer than I had anticipated.  Amazing how different cultures, countries can lead to not quite understanding the process or how things are done!!  We always tend to proceed from the "already knowing"  based on our past experience but a different country, a different culture, a different language tends to put a little chaos or stress into every situation.  I guess that is why we call this type of travelling to be an adventure. An adventure indeed!  When I read that the guesthouses were the best places to organize a trip to Tibet I thought they actually organized the trip!!!!! Big mistake! First you need to find your group!! That is, if you are travelling on your own and you want to cut costs you need to post messages everywhere that you are looking to form a group to go to Lhasa, give out the itinerary and approximate costs!!  So basically once you have decided and organized everything on your own you then ask the guesthouse to make the call to their affiliate (or whoever pays them a commission) to get the necessary permits, guide and transport.  I personally believe that all of this Lhasa, Tibet thing is a big scam by the Chinese government to first of all make a whole bunch of money from tourists (especially foreigners) as well as keeping a super heavy strong hold on Tibet.  (But that blog is coming up!!!)

I found Chengdu a lovely city to visit although not everybody would agree as  I later met other travellers who didn't like Chengdu at all and thought it to be quite dirty. I spent several days just wondering around and getting lost in streets but discovering many interesting sites and smells.  I found the parks to be all quite different and all very interesting.  The people's park, so well named, where it seems that everyone was trying to outdo the other in all categories: dancing, singing, playing musical instruments, drinking tea . . . I probably was most impressed by the live bands/orchestras playing all afternoon long with locals going up to the mics and singing to their hearts content until they passed the mic  to someone else. What can I say about the number of women (of a certain age) also dancing the afternoon away.  That is definitely something that I would not see at home in Canada. Being of that certain age, I wonder what the reaction would be in my city if we would all go to the park and start dancing like there were no tomorrow!!!! Would be interesting to try!!!!

Another park which, if I remember correctly, is River Viewing Pavilion Park had lovely walks along bamboo lined trails. This is a park where every afternoon the men bring their birds so that they can chat and sing together and it looks like the men get caught up on gossip and playing board games. So very interesting to see and beautiful to hear all the birds chriping away. The Culture Park is interesting for the Green Ram Temple that is there and close to it is the DuFu's Cottage.  DuFu was a very popular Tang Dynasty poet who seems to have lived quite a humble life and inspired generations of Chinese artists.

There is also the endless number of Temples and all quite interesting each having its own set of sculptures and wall paintings. Those that seem to be the most popular are the Wenshu Temple, the Zhaojue Temple, The Green Ram Temple the Wuhou Temple and also the Tomb of Wang Jian. Many of these also have some pretty heavy entrance fees. I don't recall what they all were but be prepared to pay at everyone of them. 

What was nice about staying at Sim's Cozy Guesthouse was that it had easy access to city buses and great bus lines as well to day excursions out of Chengdu.  One day, I took a local bus to the Great Giant Panda Breeding Research Base about 10 klm out of Chengdu. It was a great day trip and it was really interesting to see these big cuddly pandas.  They are in a nice park where numerous Chinese family visit and have a picnic here. Lonely Planet indicates that it is tricky to get here but a couple of streets from Sim's you get on a bus that takes you right to the gates of the park.

Another day trip was to LeShan where you will find the biggest Buddha which is carved into a cliff.  There are also several other interesting sights in this park including some great carvings and scultures in caves and a Temple with numerous steps leading to it. Of course I came from the opposite end of the park and had to go down the steps to get a view of the Temple, then had to climb the steps back up to get back into the park!!!! Other interesting sites are the Mahaoya Tombs Museum (small but  worth a visit being that you are there.)

Three days before leaving Chengdu, I met this lovely Taiwan born lady (Tracia) who's family moved to the United States when she was 4 yrs old.  She was in Chengdu on her own while her husband was on a course (for his Master's Degree) in Beijing. It was great fun to meet her and we hooked up for a day trip to visit the Sanzingdu Museum which is about 40 klm out of Chengdu.  According to the Lonely Planet this museum is regarded by some Chinese archaeologists as more important than the terra cotta warriors.  This is a major site of the kingdom of Shu which is considered to be the cradle of Chinese civilization in the Yangzi River area.  The museum was  really worth the visit and having a travelling "buddy" made it also so much more pleasurable.  We definitely had some great laughs and shared some little amusing incidents which can only add to any adventure. Back in Chengdu, we decided to go find a massage place which was recommended by Sim's Guesthouse.  Stopped for snacks along the way (great stuffed steam bread) and although we did not find the Massage place we did find another one that gave such a great foot massage that we decided to back an hour letter for a full body massage. Of course the price was right and I believe both the 30 minute foot massage and 1 hr body massage ended up costing a total of 15$. Tracia also had me discover hard boiled eggs cooked in a tea type of mixture and they are delicious so anyone heading to China and seeing  eggs cooking in a dark liquid (tea) make sure you try them -  great taste and much better than many fried noodles (!!!) that I had in China.  Tracia and her husband Chris also had organized a trip to Lhasa. Unfortunately, by the time we met up and discovered that we were looking at about the same itinerary I had already booked and put a deposit on my trip to Lhasa. Afterwards, I think we could have reorganized  to do the trip together (that would have saved all of us some extra costs but . . . ). In any case I was leaving on Friday and Tracia was meeting Chris (coming from Beijing) at the airport on Saturday. So we exchanged e-mails and promised to try and get together in Lhasa.

This part of my trip (in China) which had been totally unplanned before leaving Canada and was to be just a means to get to Tibet ended up being a great discovery for me.  I totally enjoyed and love Yunnan province.  The people are very friendly, always willing and wanting to help and the countryside is amazing. I must say that Kunming is still my favorite city  because of the amenities of a city as well as great countryside just a breath away.

During my entire visit in China I would always be so suprised at the end of each day to have accomplished/visited everything I had set out to do /visit in the morning without speaking or reading the language.  Again, the Chinese I met were always so helpful in writing out destinations . . .  that I could just kind of put in everyone's face (!!!!) and myself have that  kind of facial expression asking/pleading for help.  Somedays it took a little more asking, or a little longer ride but everytime I ended up where I wanted to be. It was another amazing month of travel and this time discovering the Yunnan Province in China.  Next stop, Lhasa Tibet.

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