Trip Start May 29, 2008
Trip End Dec 19, 2008

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Flag of China  , Sichuan,
Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Chinese think of Chengdu as a "normal" city. Normal sized cities in the US aren't 11 million strong. SD alone is 3 million and that's a stretch. The city is off the international radar and still huge. It's nonchalantly seen as an average sized city. China's population is pegged at $1.3B and that's with a governmental limit of 1 child per family or fines of 7 times your annual income. A child normally costs 7 times your income already so adding another 7 is a slap in the face. Undeterred, China is still the largest country in the world. Chengdu is a charming "average" sized city. We had to visit Heming Tea House in Renmin Park while in Chengdu. Again, Anthony Bourdain brought us to this place.
The luxury of the day was unabashed ear cleaning. We were enjoying tea and had asked the waiter to send over the ear cleaners that we had seen on the Anthony Bourdain show and within a minute we had 8 guys running and jumping over chairs and tables to be the first to get to us so they could provide their exquisite ear cleaning services. This was a full frills Ear Spa experience with these ear artists aka "eartists" using multiple pronged bamboo sticks with cotton fluff stars at the end of them to ensure the best waxing - ear waxing of course. They were methodical in their art as they first cleaned around the ear to prep it and then slowly worked their way into the ear using multiple prongs. I'm a bona fide Q-tip enthusiast so this was a real treat for me. Rachel was a little freaked out as she was afraid the eartist would slip and puncture an ear canal or something horrible like that. They had accurate hands and at the end of the cleaning they would bring out the fluff star by twisting it out with a tunefork thing that would make a noise every time it twisted out.
Later on that evening we had a blast with our guide as he came out of his shell for dinner at a local Hot Pot restaurant. We loved that he would take us to the most authentic restaurants as we didn't see one other tourist there and the locals packed the joint so we knew we would strike Hot Pot gold here. It didn't disappoint in the least. The Hot Pot is a pot that contains a fiery concoction of spices, broth, chilies, and whatever meats or vegetables you want to simmer in it. It's essentially a delectable, spicy fondue and a Sezchwan/Sichuan specialty. FYI - Chengdu is pretty much the capital of the Sezchwan/Sichuan region. Our guide ordered a smaller pot for Rachel, since she didn't know if she could handle the hotness, but oh she could handle it. The food tasted so good you kind of forget how spicy it is and you just keep on eating. Our guide threw together this phenomenal sauce using oyster sauce, sesame seed oil, chicken powder, salt, and coriander which was like fireworks in your mouth when combined with the marinated hot pot meat. I'm salivating just remembering all of this food. They also served brain, which I wanted to go after but the guide said it's not good for you and Chinese are superstitious about its positive effects on the body. Like I said, the guide came out of his shell as well talking about politics, capitalism, socialism, and wanting to move to America. He was comfortable with us and started giving his opinions on how foreigners smell compared to Asians (he may be right to a certain extent and we believe it may be because of the tea and other healthy detox foods they consume - the bathrooms smell horrible in China where that detox byproduct goes), how he didn't like the American body just Chinese, and then went off about how it may be a good idea for him to marry an American so that he can get citizenship and live with her and do chores around the house but he explicitly said "no sex though" which didn't surprise us as he came off more like he was a fan of the same sex rather than the opposite. Another funny thing he told us was that Chinese love it when Italians come to town because they can fool with them. Italians will always say "ciao" when leaving and in Mandarin there's a word that sounds similar to "ciao" but means f--- and the Chinese will say this to Italians whenever they see them. Cruel prank I know but, nonetheless, funny.
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