A Travellerspoint blog

Day 139 - Tianfu Square, Peoples Park & An Idiot Abroad

Yo!

So today I awoke and decided to go out and explore Chengdu a little as I hadn't seen that much of the actual city yet. It was a pretty wet day again and although my laundry had been out on the line for forty eight hours, it was showing little sign of drying so I took it to a dry cleaners across the road from the hostel and for the pricely sum of 20Y (£2) they would dry all of my laundry and would also dry clean a pair of trousers I have that used to be cream coloured but which were now covered in black stains. I dropped my clothes off and then headed out and walked down to Tianfu Square in the South of the city.

It was a nice walk there but when I arrived at the square there weren't many people there and it was just a big open space really. I mean, that in itself is impressive in a city that has so little space and so many people but I did wonder why the square wasn't full of people. After making my way to Peoples Park, my question was answered as it was absolutely teeming with people. There were groups of people dancing, people playing musical instruments and singing, groups of men sat around under pagodas playing mahjong, cards & Chinese chess and then there were the crowds of people stood around watching all of this going on.

The park itself was a really nice space with luscious greenery all around, interspersed with an impressive collection of orchids that people were taking up-close photos of. There was a lake that you could go out boating on but after looking in the ancient looking boats and seeing car batteries sat in the bottom of them in pools of water I decided to give it a miss. I spent a while wandering around and there was one spot which seemed to be the main spot in the park for any would-be dancers. I walked past group after group of dancers and stopped at each one to watch for a couple of minutes however I didn't spend too long there as all of the groups seemed to be having a competition to see who had the loudest PA system and I'm not sure if you've heard old Chinese music before but it sounds like a mixture of screeching & wailing and when it's cranked up to about 400 decibels it's more like a form of torture than music.

On my way around the park I came across people writing on the floor in water with what looked like a giant paintbrush. They were copying out Chinese poetry and although most of it is untranslatable, I liked the way they were writing the characters out in a kind of flowing style and it was still nice to look at. (some people didn't look at it though and instead chose to just walk through it - one of the perils of writing in water on the floor I suppose) After exploring for a while longer I made my way back to my hostel and after the previous nights festivities and walking about all day today I was pretty tired so I watched a couple of episodes of An Idiot Abroad with Tom, Veronika & Patricia and relaxed for a while. Before I went up to bed I arranged to go to see the giant Buddha in Leshan the next morning with Allison so I set my alarm for another early(ish) morning and went to sleep.

Bye for now!

Tom

Posted by UKtoCA 23:24 Comments (0)

Day 138 - It's Panda Time!

Hey all!

So four days have passed since I wrote a blog post eh. Doesn't time fly! Anyway, I'm going to attempt to get up to date now starting with the day when me, Allison and Pavel went to go and see the pandas at the Panda Breeding & Research Facility of Chengdu.

We had wanted to get there as early as possible so we met downstairs at some ungodly hour (ok, half past seven but it's still pretty early!) and after nipping to a little stand to get some dumplings we all ate breakfast and then made our way to the bus stop. It was quite a lot further than we had imagined and by the time we got there we had missed the first bus but no problem, another one would be along in a minute...or so we thought. It turned out that there was acually only one bus doing the route to the pandas so having missed the first one, we had to wait over an hour for it to return and pick us up.

By the time we arrived, bought our tickets and made our way to the first panda enclosure they were pretty much all asleep but they were still amazing to look at. Over the course of the next two hours we saw lots of different sized pandas, ranging from "Awww!"-inducing little baby pandas all the way up to a giant panda who looked like a sumo wrestler! (and every other size inbetween)

It was amusing to see them trying to get comfy up in the branches of a tree which were probably no bigger than 3" in diameter. How they didn't fall out as they rolled about was beyond me. The baby pandas were really cute, sleeping all huddled together in a heated cot and if I could've taken one with me I would've done, although quite what I'd have done when it grew up to be a big panda I don't know. One of the baby pandas was in its own cot complete with a blanket and a ball for it to play with, like it was a furry human baby.

When I was looking at the huge panda who was sleeping with her back to the crowd, another smaller panda walked over to her and gave her a big hug but she wasn't interested so after a while he made his way up into a tree and had a nap. Once we had seen all of the black & white pandas, we walked around for a while longer and we spotted a couple of red pandas in their enclosures but unfortunately they were too far away to get a proper look at them.

It had been drizzling for a while at this point and so once we had seen all of the pandas, we went and got some food before heading back to town on the bus. When we returned I blogged for a while then sat outside with Tom, Veronika & Patricia from Stockport, Spain & Holland respectively. We spent the evening drinking beers, Chinese brandy and baijiu; a common drink in China that smells a bit like white wine but which has an alcohol content of about 48% to 65%. Needless to say it's pretty lethal stuff, even more so when you consider that it costs about 30p for a 10Cl bottle. (and it tastes like it costs 30p too!) After spending quite a few hours chatting away I called it a night and headed up to bed after getting some food to soak up the baijiu that I had consumed.

Laters!

Posted by UKtoCA 22:58 Comments (0)

Day 137 - New Surroundings, Being Shot (Again) & Plans Afoot

Ni Hao all!

So today was my first full day in Chengdu which started with me being awoken by the train conductor at 4.30am. I knew from past experience that we wouldn't actually get into Chengdu for about an hour so I took my time getting up and when we arrived at the station I disembarked and made my way out into the melee of people in front of the train station.

I caught a cab to my hostel and after a bit of driving around asking people where the hostel was we eventually found it and I checked in then went to bed for another couple of hours. When I awoke I had to rush to get up, shower and eat as I had to be at a clinic downtown by 11am to get my final hepatitis B vaccination. I got another taxi there and after getting stuck in traffic for a while we arrived and I went up to the clinic which was a Western style one as the one in Beijing was also. (and I don't mean saloons, shootouts and sheriffs)

After chatting with the American doctor and informing him of the availability of a super-accelerated immunization course for hep B he signed me off as ready to go and I was led into a room by a Chinese lady who informed me that she would "Shot me now." I didn't put up a fight and after she'd 'shot' me I went and sat in the waiting room for fifteen minutes so that they could check that I wouldn't pass out or go into convulsions or anything. Once I had paid I made my way back to the hostel on the very new and very clean subway system and I thought about what else to do with my day.

I did want to explore but unfortunately I had a bag full of dirty clothes and nothing to wear for the next day so I spent the next couple of hours hand washing my clothes in the washbasins on the top floor. I would've given my clothes to the hostel to clean for me but at £3.50 a kilo it would've cost me the equivalent of three nights accommodation to have them washed so in the end I just bought soap power for 50p from the shop and did them myself, taking half of the skin off my thumb in the process. (soaking your hands for an hour then wringing out clothes isn't recommended, especially if you're not a manual worker and so don't have hard skin on your hands)

After I had finished it was pretty late and there was only an hour or so worth of daylight left so I decided to just hang about in the hostel and chill out. I met an American girl called Allison and a Czech guy called Parvel and we arranged to meet in the lobby at 7.30am the next day to go and see the pandas at the panda breeding and research facility. I then sat outside for a while after getting some 25p beers from the shop and I chatted with lots of interesting people. I met a guy from Birmingham whose kids have grown up and left home so he decided to go travelling for an indefinite amount of time and who had just came to China from Tibet. I also met a liberal Muslim girl from London who had been in China for a few months and who was due to stay a while longer, and I met an American guy who had met a Chinese girl on his travels and they are due to go off cycling around China in a couple of days time.

After a few hours chatting I ordered some food for my tea and I thought that the portion sizes would be quite small with it being hostel food but it wasn't so. After eating what was basically two full meals worth of food and having another couple of beers I was stuffed and tired so I headed upstairs to the land of nod, ready for a fun day to come at panda central.

That's all folks!

Posted by UKtoCA 05:50 Comments (1)

Day 136 - Goodbye Xi'an, Hello Chengdu (Well, Nearly)

Bonjour!

So today I didn't do a whole lot really as I awoke quite late and had a 17 hour train to catch at lunch time to Chengdu. I blogged for a while in the morning and stocked up on all sorts of delightful snack foods for the impending trip and then when 12pm arrived I got a bus to the train station. I did think that I may miss my train as the bus took a long time to get to the station (and there wasn't much headroom so I spent the whole trip there hunched over) but I managed to arrive with ten minutes to go until my train was due to depart.

I boarded the train when the time came and settled down in my middle bunk hard sleeper bed for the long journey ahead. If you haven't travelled by train in China before it's very easy and the only minor annoyance is the loud Chinese music that they pump through every carriage from about 8am until 10pm. It can be fixed with a good pair of noise cancelling earphones though so I spent the next eight hours reading my Ian Rankin book, (which is wicked!) listening to music and eating the snacks that I had bought earlier, then 10pm came and the music stopped, the lights went out and I drifted off into a peaceful sleep.

I did say at the start of this post that I hadn't done much by the way so don't be asking me for the past three minutes of your life back that you spent reading it as it isn't going to happen, I mean I'm not God! Feel free to ask God for the time back if you want by the way as who knows, miracles do happen every now and again! ;)

Bye for now!

Posted by UKtoCA 05:36 Comments (0)

Day 135 - The Muslim Quarter Round 2 - Haggling

Hey all!

So today I had planned to meet up with Anya and go out and explore on the bikes that the hostel apparently had to rent for free. When we met thought it turned out that there was only one bike available to rent and although we tried our hardest, they wouldn't let us take the staff bike out. I decided to just go for a walk so Anya headed out on the bike and I set off around Xi'an's sights.

As I've already seen multiple temples, bell towers and drum towers I wasn't really in the mood to trek around some more of them so I took them in from the outside instead as I steadily made my way around the town. As my Sister told me before I set off travelling, once you've seen a few temples you've pretty much seen them all (bar any specifically interesting or special ones) and I've now found for myself that it is indeed the case.

I eventually found myself back in the Muslim quarter where we had gone for food the previous evening and it was just as busy and hectic by day as it was by night. I was going to make a trip to the Great Mosque as I haven't visited a mosque yet but upon arriving at it, I found it to be covered in scaffolding and netting as it was undergoing renovations so I decided to give it a miss.

After wandering around for a while and eating some more yummy food, I found an alleyway that was full of stalls selling all types of goods, the majority of them fake. I spent an enjoyable hour there chatting to stallholders and haggling down a pair of sunglasses from £12 to £3 as my original pair are a tad broken now and a pen from £8 to £1 so that I don't have to keep changing pens for my journal.

I headed back to the hostel happy with my purchases and after saying goodbye to Anya, I finally managed to Skype my Sister for a while until the internet cut out. I was pretty knackered by this point so I called it a night and made my way up to bed.

Au revoir for now!

Posted by UKtoCA 05:17 Comments (0)

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