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October 25th - October 30th 2012

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August 27th - September 13th 2012

Japan and Taiwan
March 1st - March 22nd 2012

China
November 1st - November 18th 2011

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June 25th - July 17th 2010

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Sichuan - China - Chengdu - Chongqing - March / April 2013 - Page 2

Day 4 - Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Researching Pandas

The main tourist feature of Chengdu is pandas. The entire worlds population of wild pandas live within an hour of here. Whenever you see baby pandas on tv, they are at the Giant Panda Research Base.
Thats where I went today.
It wasnt as over run by tour groups as I thought. The baby pandas werent quite babies anymore, now almost 6 months old. Its a very high quality facility and worth the visit.

Getting there if you arent on a tour group is a challenge, I took a million photos (by request of multiple people) and quite a few videos that wont appear here. Read on for the photos, I spent ages selecting and cropping etc.

I was up early, out before 7 when it was still dark, the internet tells you to get their early before they get sleepy. The internet also told me to go to a bus station south of the city, to take the only public direct bus, 902.
It is not easy to get there, despite it being the most popular tourist attraction in town, basically its assumed you will go with a tour group.
So After a 30 minute speed walk I stride confidently into the bus station, which is a hive of poor people with all their worldly belongings.
All the busses seem to only go to the other side of the country. Theres an information booth with a young girl, I ask in Chinese for 902. She informs me in perfect English that 902 has not run since they started building the subways to reduce congestion, you must go on tour bus!
I ask how a Chinese person would get there, she gave me instructions to take 3 busses....challenge accepted.

Getting on a bus at this time of morning was really dangerous. They barely stop, are all 100% full and you charge into the street before it gets there and hope to not get run over.
If you dont do this you will be at the back of the scrum and never get on one. It took me 2 goes to get on my desired bus, but they come every couple of minutes.

After a nail biting ride, sometimes at great speed, I arrived at a bus depot. Now what.
The bus I thought she told me to get next was nowhere I could see, no numbers on signs or the ground.
Time to employ a new tactic, follow the cute looking girls with panda merchandise. This proved a succesful tactic.
The reason the bus I was told to go on doesnt go at the moment is because of the construction around the Panda Research Base, you drive around it and then back to the gate which is currently somewhat hidden.

Up until now, I had no idea if I was going to the pandas, a Sewerage factory or an Engine plant. Various bus signs that had English listed such things as destinations.

And now we get to the Pandas.
As mentioned the small ones are about 6 months old. There are maybe 20 small ones throughout the park, some are rotated into duty to be petted by the few American tourists who are prepared to make a $200 donation for the experience.
I think they are too big to hold currently, so I am not sure what the VIP experience currently is.

There is a heap of new, fancy looking architecturally unusual buildings under construction, with the associated noise levels. I think there has been a lot of recent attention to this facility that has seen funds pouring in. Various celebrities seem to have sponsored facilities under construction.

.

..

...

....

.....

......

.......

........ I am using dots to count where I am up to.
There are 2 distinct areas, I guess they are working on a Disaster recovery strategy so that they dont all die off at once due to disease, fire etc.
The area closer to the main gate, the sunshine nursery, is roughly 10x busier than the moonlight nursery at the back of the park, which seems to actually have more pandas.
My top tip, go straight to the moonlight nursery.

Its me, in my signature purple shirt, commando shorts, clown shoes, a winning combination.

*

**

*** astericks this time

The park is rather nice, away from everything. Off in the distance here you can see a new style upmarket Chinese suburb.

#

##

### last one!

Apparently red pandas, also called the lesser panda, are more ferocious than the big ones. Theres warning signs everywhere, but strangely no real fencing.

I didnt bother with many photos of the lesser panda.

Still in the Panda park is this nice looking lake.

Which upon closer inspection has a terrifying swarm of gold fish making life difficult for swans.

The photo doesnt capture it, but the fish literally climb over each other to get out of the water and try and get the food!
The girl screamed each time but kept doing it anyway because her boyfriend kept stuffing up the photo.

Getting back again, an even bigger challenge! I got on a random bus that came assuming it would go somewhere like say, the city.
Instead it went a differnt way and I became confused as to which was North or South. The sun was too far over head to know precisely and blackberrys famous GPS failure was indeed still a failure.
I changed bus but couldnt find out where I was, time to go on foot to get my bearings!
After about an hour, I worked out where I was based on a river that ran through a really impressive nice park I found myself in.
I was nearby the Northern train station which is the last stop on the metro.
That blue building sits on top of the metro, to get there I walked across construction sites, fields etc. I had my doubts but other people seemed to be making the trek.

Judging by the buildings nearby, its an area due to be demolished soon!

Back in the city now, I got off a stop early.
Tomorrow I am going to Chongqing for 6 days, but then I am back in Chengdu, in a different hotel. This is it (the middle building), Celebrity Ruicheng. Its enormous!

Eager to get back and edit and upload my photos, I bought a sandwhich and portugese tart from an upmarket bakery. Its in a box but it is made on site.
It wasnt good, sure it was fresh high quality ingredients, but they put so much mayonaise on it that to me it becomes almost inedible. The portugese tart however, fantastic.

I hope you all (all? I think no one reads this!) appreciate the effort I made editing all these photos!

Eastern culture

Tonight, I headed east, on foot.
The east side of the city, and the next 5km further east, are the nicest parts of Chengdu I have seen so far.
Nicer than the city centre itself, which I am sure will be ok once finished, but will have lost a lot of its for want of a better term, culture, in exchange for louis vutton and gucci.
Thats not to say east of the city is hutongs and people in big straw hats. Its still a bustling modern city with malls, skyscrapers and convenience stores, but people actually live here currently too.
The people spend much of their time in the street, more so than any other city I have been to, and all seem so very happy. Well perhaps not the guys in the car crash in the photos below.

It may be too early to call, but my long walk through the east of Chengdu has me ready to elevate it to, best Chinese city yet visited status.
I reserve the right to change that upon reflection, but I will back in a week for another week to make sure I know what the hell im talking about. Not sure if that last sentence made any sense.

Around the corner from my hotel I found this market. Its a labyrinth down many back streets.

I had no idea this existed, its still under construction. The buildings that surround it are enormous, mixed use residential and commercial.
Its worth mentioning that all this construction is happening at the same time as at least 4 metro lines are being built, as well as 2 full elevated ring roads, more on that shortly.

One of the above mentioned ring roads. It boggles my mind to think that you can walk under it whilst its being built, as I did. You get showered in sparks from people welding sections together, hot dip bolts are being put in place and plasma torches are cutting things to size.

Australia take note. This is a supermarket in what many of us consider to be a third world country. I WISH we had these in Australia. Coles and Woolworths have a lot to answer for. Also, I love supermarkets.

This is the Mix C megamall view from the roof. Its eerily similar to a place I visited in Nanjing, which may have also been called Mix C but I cant remember.

Also like the one in Nanjing, it has an ice skating rink.

My dinner was average. It came from the food court. I chose poorly. I got excited when the plastic version had lots of nice looking bok choy. The real version did not live up to the plastic.
Also I ordered and pointed at the one that had roast pork as well as bbq pork, yet instead of roast pork I got duck, which is fatty and full of bones.

Also Australia, this is how you make a food court. Note that its large, clean, has a variety of non chain stores and every one of them makes the food in front of you to order. Also everything is $3 or less.
Now if only I could figure out how to still pay Australian wages of say, $25 an hour to achieve this.

Heading back now, and this is the impact a metro line under construction has. What would normally be a very busy road is blocked, and hence it becomes a great space for people to enjoy themselves in relative peace and quiet.
It was excellent to walk down here, it went for miles with almost no cars, just people eating out, dancing, skateboarding, whatever.

And a bit further up the street, you get to where the metro is actually being constructed. They just dig a trench, lay the tracks, build the road over the top of it again. Same thing I saw in Hangzhou. I climbed up someones fire escape to see this, they sure looked surprised to see my head appear out their window.

Long exposure.

And a random neon shot, because I didnt do any on this trip yet.

What at first appeared to be just one of many minor traffic accidents was somehow different. The 2 guys involved didnt just drive off. Instead they argued. A crowd formed, the police were called.
Now if the police came to an accident here, you would stand just out of view and try and listen in and observe. Not so in Chengdu, you crowd around the scene as close as you can.
As I was taking the photo it did occur to me that no one else was filming, and then it occured to me that even in our 'westernized' countries the police have been known to arrest or shoot people for filming them.
I dont know if its illegal to film the police in China or not.

mother on 2013-03-26 said:
Panda in tree thinks it's a koala

Day 5 - Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The waiting train

In my previous visits to China, you just turned up to a train station in Shanghai, and bought a ticket for a train that was departing in the next hour. Generally the next couple are full but so long as its not a weekend or holiday you are fine. Especially if you arent travelling in commuting hours.
Then last night I read about someone who couldnt get a ticket from Chengdu to Chongqing for 5 days! This left me concerned. More concerning was that he then went to the place where people without a national ID card go to arrange transport by private car. And that his driver changed number plates 3 times during the journey.
As exciting as that sounded, I didnt like my chance of negotiating a ride with my limited language skills, so off to the station I went, bright and early.
The usual dramas in the line ensued, but when I got to the front I was able to secure a ticket, on a train departing in 3 hours time. The good news is that a 2 hour bullet train ride still costs $10.
Now to do some people observing, the most unusual were some very rural people, carrying home made baskets on sticks, in the traditional grey or dark blue pyjamas, husband and wife about 3 feet tall.
They did not understand the x-ray machine at security, escalators, and the yelling and screaming they levelled at each other was concerning!
It was concerning to the authorities too, who were busy trying to help them, but they werent speaking Chinese.
I saw them a few more times in the station, still screaming at each other at the top of their lungs, maybe thats just how they communicate!
They seemed a real novelty to everyone, not just me, young people were trying to help them, writing stuff down, which they couldnt seem to read. Eventually they at least seemed to get on a train, a T train which is to say a slow old train that goes to some place far far away. I cant imagine sitting next to them for days!

The train ride itself was memorable, such great scenery, so many tunnels. I took enough pictures so lets go.

The new Chengdu East station. Much like all the other new stations. It is modern and efficient. They are a bit too the same though, even on the inside the same fast food options, the same supermarket that doesnt sell any food to eat now, just freeze dried package goods to take home.

The inside of the station, a sea of grey.

The journey traversed countless valleys, you go from being on top of a viaduct then into a tunnel, every few seconds.

Occasionally you get to a satellite city being built to utilise the location of the new rail line. If you look closely on the left here you can see a fun park.
No doubt built to entice families to move here.

Terraced farming started to appear in places. Not sure what they were growing.

But of course the pace of progress is rapid, even out in the countryside theres massive infrastructure.

In the 2 hours you cross probably 6 vast rivers such as this. I poorly timed the photo, it looked much more impressive if I took it 3 seconds earlier.

Nearing Chongqing, it gets smoggy, and you can see ridiculous amounts of construction.

And another big river, this one being mined for something.

Once off the train, the scene is chaotic. I am in no hurry so hang back for 5 minutes whilst the crowd clears. Chongqing North station connects directly to their metro which is a mix of elevated monorail and subway. This system connects basically to the door of my hotel

Outside the door to my hotel is this strange scene. A demolition site, being used as a carpark, with 3 temples, at least one of them being the real deal.

My hotel is very impressive, I will talk more about it later, its an executive apartment and cheap, but has the greatest view ever. The street below with the people is the main pedestrian area of the city, Jin Fang Bei

And out my other window I get a view of one of the rivers that encircles the city centre.

I made my own dinner

My hotel room has a full kitchen. I celebrated by making my own dinner, more on that later.

If they were to remake bladerunner, it could be filmed in Chongqing.
The skyscrapers are endless, but very interesting. The layout of the city encircled by rivers with cliffs descending into them makes for some terrifying construction.
The city itself is also quite hilly and interesting, streets loop back around onto themselves.

The centre of the city is largely 'finished' with the focus now being on river crossings and the waters edge. Appparently there are actually 4 centres to the city, where I am is just one of them.

Story time, I went shopping in Ole, which is famous for having all imported products and being expensive. Its still cheaper than Australia though.
Theres 2 big food scandals in China, milk and or milk powder which killed off a few babies, and gutter oil. Ole is full of ultra ultra expensive versions of both.
They have the same long life devondale milk I use at home, for $8 Australian a litre. Theres an entire section dedicated to imported baby milk powder, but I have no clue how much that usually costs (praise the lord/allah/vishnu/buddha). They also have plain old crisco canola oil, for about $10 a litre.
Everything else in the store is cheap, but they are relying on the fears of foreigners and perhaps wealthy Chinese to engage in profiteering.

I was out around dusk, the best time for photos. The city is mostly cool shadows. If you dont like skyscrapers, bad luck.

These 2 are either side of the pedestrian street.

And looking back from the descent into the river area.

This isnt finished yet and I couldnt find a spot to get a clear shot of it. Its a homage to the Shanghai expo China pavillion, only much bigger.

This blew my mind. The scale of this is not really understood in the photo. Its a double decker bridge for a start. Its probably a hundred metres off the water. And on that, wheres the water? Somehow they have diverted it whilst they make the bridge.
I have seen photos, theres normally A LOT of water in this river, as the height of the banks suggests.

Looking up river, you can see another bridge, and a sea of skyscrapers, and a lot of sand where a river should be.

The cliff top restaurants are rather funky. Lots of statues etc. such as this pirate ship.

Russian tourists have been catered for with plenty of high end shopping. I still dont know who actually buys stuff from here, these shops are always ghost towns.

And heres what I bought to prepare my dinner, pork belly, various vegetables, with shredded garlic and ginger and some chilli. I also bought noodles to prepare to have with it, but it made too much food so I skipped the noodles.

Ready.

Served.

David on 2013-03-27 said:
yes its really that shallow, just as it was in Hangzhou

New York was built the same way

thats why they dig up roads to do it as theres no buildings on top of the road, hence no foundations to disturb

mother on 2013-03-27 said:
question about the metro construction in Chengdu. Is it really so shallow? In the photo it looks like it is just below stree level and that the ajoining buildings are in danger of having their foundations undermined. what do they do, just dig a trench and put a road over the top?

David on 2013-03-27 said:
no rain so far, and google says there might be a shower on one day out of the next 7

actually the weather has been perfect the whole time I have been here so far, never too cold to not wear shorts, even though im the only person who does

moher on 2013-03-27 said:
NHK says rain for Chongqing - lots of it. any happening?

mother on 2013-03-27 said:
I like the buildings with roof gardens - is this common? Also lets see some indoor shots of your hotels. panda photos were popular at work today

Day 6 - Thursday, 28 March 2013

Panda overload

The metro system in Chongqing features elevated monorails. Not the silly little tourist ones like they are getting rid of in Sydney, but train sized ones you can fit a few hundred people on.
A great advantage of these for the tourist is you can look out the window and see off into the distance, which I enjoyed so much I missed my intended stop, but then I found myself at a zoo, by accident.
It was quite a nice zoo, big enclosures, and despite being in the middle of the city it was huge, took me 2 hours to march around it pausing briefly to take photos.
Once you move past the pandas, theres basically no one there, and even the pandas only had maybe 10 or so people.

The zoo had a surprising number of baby animals born on site, all of the pandas were but also lions, orangutangs, elephants, giraffes etc. Pretty much every enclosure had a sign explaining when it was born, in the zoo itself.

One particular panda, I forget which, holds the world record for breeding, having fathered 25 pandas, most of which have been shipped off to other places around the world.

Now that we have talked about live animals, lets talk about dead ones. On my way to the subway I saw a guy selling fresh dog or wolf heads. Just the head. Teeth bared, brain exposed, no ears, fur still on. I dont know what this was for! I should have taken a photo but he looked a bit shady. On my way back in the afternoon he was no longer there. Anyone know what you might do with the head off a freshly killed dog? Soup?

The view from the monorail revealed an inner city zoo, somewhere in the fog. Amusingly, when I looked out the window this morning I thought the sky was a dark shade of copper shrouded in fog and pollution.
I was concerned how I would handle that, it was far more polluted than anything I had seen. Until I stepped outside and it was fine. It was then I remembered my room windows have dark tinting.

Ok, lets get this out of the way, the lesser or red panda. The walls to this enclosure are low, and theres only one. Low enough to put your kids on to look over. What could go wrong?

Now for a series of panda photos. This one looks particularly happy. I think he might be the world champion breeder.

Mostly they just eat, I have only included one photo of each panda. They are all starting to look the same.

Too lazy to sit up whilst eating.

This one looks like me, constantly stretching its back.

Only a couple more, people seem to appreciate panda photos.

Last one (for now...)

Elephants, there were baby ones but they were inside the house thing. The field they have is really quite large, if they wanted to they could run around etc.

Same goes for the giraffes, but they mostly just want to stand right by the people.

These are baby lions. Not sure if they are dead or asleep, they wouldnt move. A human baby used all its powers of bashing on the glass to attempt to wake them, all to no avail.

Presumably they breed food for the other animals in the zoo too.

The infamous drop bear. Feared by blonde tourists visiting Australia.

KFC has decided to get in on the panda craze. I think I would rather eat the dog head soup.

Would you eat Korean food in China?

Of course you would, because its cheap and has lots of vegetables.

A photo of the impressive (to me) raised monorail tracks. Im aware no one cares and really just wants more panda photos.

No panda photos

Tonight there are absolutely no panda photos.
Theres not many photos at all.
I went to Sha Ping Ba, one of the other city centres, which is a labyrinth of pedestrian streets on a slope.
Its dirtier and older looking than the area in which I am staying, lots more people selling stuff on the ground, small dogs charging about, underground malls filled with shops no bigger than a phone box and no Gucci or Cartier to be seen.
Its a good 12 stops on the subway, so too far to walk even for me. The highlight of the subway ride was the impromptu study group that set up on the floor with their books, pen, paper etc. I got the impression that they do this every day.

My activity for the evening was the staring game. People stare at me, I stare back, HARD. I am yet to lose at this game. Generally it makes people who stare realise what they were doing and feel self concious about it. The best way to let someone know you are staring back is to slowly push your face forward from your shoulders and tilt your head on a slight angle.

A less fun game is the store music recognition challenge. Many stores have what sounds like hold music from a phone system from 1984. Usually this is greensleeves, fur elise, ode to joy or that one about the bells of something something (which mcdonalds ice cream and tea drink sub stores use, China mcdonalds has more than just burger shops).
However the overall winner, by a landslide, and used by nearly every shop on permanent loop, GANGNAM STYLE!

The Sha Ping Ba pedestrian areas claim to fame is that they have re created the three gorges damn system, up the middle of the mall. The three gorges damn (I am just going to keep typing damn instead of dam out of habit) is just down river from here, with most cruises through it departing from here.

My dinner was 5 chillis on the menu. Most things only had 1. It was bright red in the picture. I think I got round eyed because it was more like 1 or 2 chillis.

The streets are littered with people trying to sell stuff which its hard to imagine anyone would want.
If you owned a legitimate store whos entrance is now blocked by these people, you would be annoyed. They leave me alone though, only hassling locals to buy a pair of spongebob squarepants 'quallity' ear buds for 20 cents.

The square / line dancing is so popular you might just need to book.

Due to my lack of photos, bonus photo of tonights snack. It is like a sesame crisp, only much thinner and lighter due to being full of holes.
Of course I ate the entire jar of them in one go. They are more savoury than a similar thing would be in Australia, most things are.

mother on 2013-03-28 said:
tinted windows in China - rather an optimistic idea!

David on 2013-03-28 said:
For those of you (2 people) who emailed me about how I am mad to go to a place like China because a guy died in a sink hole near a building site in Shenzhen, which was the main news story on news.com.au this morning... I hope you flee or never visit Melbourne, since apparently 2 people were killed there when a wall collapsed at a building site on Swanston street.

Now lets compare populations too, 20 million vs 1.2 billion.
There would have to be 120 people killed in sink holes for a direct comparison to be made!

Lets not forget that a crane driver also died at a Grocon site on Swanston street a month ago too, possibly the same site.

Page 3 probably has more pandas

Contents

Latest Update

Day 1 - Saturday, 23 March 2013
  3 flights to get there
  Planes broken
  Not enough air
Day 2 - Sunday, 24 March 2013
  Numbing and spicy
  No dinner
Day 3 - Monday, 25 March 2013
  The plane
  Never so lost
Day 4 - Tuesday, 26 March 2013
  Researching Pandas
  Eastern culture
Day 5 - Wednesday, 27 March 2013
  The waiting train
  I made my own dinner
Day 6 - Thursday, 28 March 2013
  Panda overload
  No panda photos
Day 7 - Friday, 29 March 2013
  Mountain garden
  Down by the docks
Day 8 - Saturday, 30 March 2013
  More brides
  I was wrong
Day 9 - Sunday, 31 March 2013
  Ancient dune buggy street
  Steak night
Day 10 - Monday, 1 April 2013
  Dog heads
  Its like a sauna in here
Day 11 - Tuesday, 2 April 2013
  Contrasts
  Barbecue night
Day 12 - Wednesday, 3 April 2013
  Bad science
  Swedish horse meatballs
Day 13 - Thursday, 4 April 2013
  Ocean world where are you?
  Drunken Chengdu
Day 14 - Friday, 5 April 2013
  Lets try that again
  An old street
Day 15 - Saturday, 6 April 2013
  New old ancient street
  Mapo Doufu
Day 16 - Sunday, 7 April 2013
  Mountain full of temples
  Quiet night out
Day 17 - Monday, 8 April 2013
  Tibetan beggars
  Massive restaurant night
Day 18 - Tuesday, 9 April 2013
  Lets get out of here
  Still 2 flights to go