After a successful China Air flight we arrived in Chengdu, central China in the Sichuan Province. Our first night was spent in the hostel bar where we teamed up with a couple from Canada and a Polish guy for the pub quiz. Unbelievably we won and it was free beers all round (nothing to do with the Canadian’s iPhone).
We had a couple of lazy days recovering from Beijing which was easy to do as the hostel was so nice and friendly. We went into Chengdu city centre one day but it was so busy we didn’t stay long. Another morning was spent at the local food markets which were fascinating if not a little bit worrying when I thought about all the local food I’d eaten and the likelihood it was from this very market.
We booked our trip to the Pandas for Wednesday which was great. The Pandas were very cute but we didn’t get to hug one as it was £100 each so we decided against it. I am trying to think of more to write about the Pandas but to be honest there isn’t much to say other than they are very cute but once you’ve seen one….you know what I mean.
We’d met a couple the night before from Melbourne who were on the same trip and in the evening we decided to eat local and find some dumplings. It seems dumplings are eaten for lunch rather than dinner so we ended up in a local street restaurant, lonely planet in hand. As soon as we stepped in, everyone stopped eating, laughed and stared at us which isn’t unusual. Most restaurants have picture menus which makes things easy but this menu wasn’t very clear so when chef was called over to take our order we tried using the lonely planet translation page to order but it didn’t seem to be working so we had to resort to using farm yard animal noises to order our dinner….very funny! Anyway we didn’t get what we thought we’d ordered but what we did get was very nice and we had a giggle with the chef at the end, trying to tell him that his food was delicious.
The next day, the four of us got up early for a 10 hour bus ride to Jiuzhaigou; still in the Sichuan Province where there is a stunning National Park with beautiful mountains and lakes (3500 metres above sea level).
We decided to book 2 nights last minute as it looked amazing. We were quite nervous about the bus but it was ok if you didn’t concentrate too hard on the quality of driving and overtaking on corners. Also, the Chinese are prone to motion sickness so sick bags were handed out before we left and sick buckets positioned down the aisle…nice. The bus ride back to Chengdu was probably the worst, I just remember staring out the window and then suddenly going into a tunnel which had no lights, water gushing down from the roof and our driver decides to overtake. I heard myself say ‘you’ve got to be effing kidding’ and then held my breath until it was over. Thank god for the iPod and kindle on these journeys!
Anyway we made it to the mountains in one piece and considerably colder, checked into the hostel and had an early night. We were up at 6am to start the day’s trek. The trail totals 32km in length and there was a bus to take you to different spots along the way so we decided to take the bus up to the very top and walk down. Everything we saw was just stunning from the snow-capped mountains, clear blue lakes and Tibetan villages and I think we took over 300 pictures that day. We also featured in a lot of the Chinese tourist’s photos and they were fascinated with us. A group of four girls grabbed Sam for a picture which was very funny, one even gabbed his bum. We have had that a lot though, not bum grabbing but pictures being taken of us. Some try and be sneaky and position themselves in front of us, some just ask and sit next to us. I am thinking of charging next time!
In total I think we walked about 17km that day which for me is pretty impressive. Back to the hostel for some food and a couple of beers and another early night as we were leaving the next day. A 20 hour round trip for one day but well worth it and glad we have got to see some of rural China.
I am writing this on a train from Chengdu to Xian and will post it when we arrive. We have hard sleeper tickets so are in a carriage full on bunk beds. Sam and I managed to get the middle bunks which means you can see out the window and nobody sits on your bed. The journey should take about 16 hours and we arrive in Chengdu around 5am tomorrow. Even now I am being stared at every time someone walks past. I just smile.
We plan to stay in Xian for 3 nights although we were just chatting to a Chinese couple from Xian and she said 3 days wasn’t enough to see Xian but it’s forecast rain for the whole week so we’ll see.
Until the next time…..