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Sichuan - China - Chengdu - Chongqing - March / April 2013 - Page 4

Day 10 - Monday, 1 April 2013

Dog heads

Good news, the dog head man has returned to sell his dog heads. Only they are the same ones now a bit older and more rotten.
Somehow they are a bit less confronting compared to when they were fresh! The picture is below, you have been warned.

This morning I went to nearby Eling park which is practically in the centre of the city and is supposed to give you a good vantage point from the modern tower in all directions. Today however was the most polluted / foggiest day yet, so I got a great view of a sea of white.

The park itself is a bit weird, its long and narrow and at first I was at the crappy end which was full of old people, chickens and ramshackle housing.
The other end strangely has the first Australian embassy in China, theres a plaque but I think the house has been replaced, a monument to the soviet union, and a celabratory garden for the victory over Japan due to Hiroshima. Its not a memorial garden.

Before I headed to the park I went for coffee and succesfully asked for non fat milk, and perhaps as a result, got the worst coffee ever. 100% froth.

Bus vs motorcycle. Bus Wins!
The number of accidents is still high in Chongqing even though scooters are banned. However for every accident I see, I never see anyone get properly hurt. They all pick themselves up and keep going.

Dog heads. Enlarge for detail! Now looking a bit past their use by date.

The steps up to the path were lined with buddah. I am never sure if its buddah or buddha, the bald fat guy.

The wrong end of the park seems to be for homeless old people. They seem to be enjoying their rent free lifestyle.

Chickens everywhere. Chicken vs tiny dog, Chicken wins.

Sea of pollution.

You can climb up to see more of the sea, I did.

Theres a sign declaring this pagoda built in 1984 as being awarded one of the top 7 new structures in central Chongqing in 1993. I am not making that up. The sign also talks about how you will feel so close to the twinking stars you can reach out and touch them. Perhaps I could swim up to them?

Last fog picture for today.

My hotel room has all kinds of great features, including this LG washer / dryer with laundry detergent provided.
I stood and watched it for 10 minutes to show my appreciation, now I can wear my various camo shorts a second time on this holiday.

Lunch. A Chongqing take on Japanese curry, with very little curry, lots of sichuan pepper, more vegetables than Japan would give you, paper thin egg on rice, and just as I suspected, ice cold mash potato.
Still it was quite nice!

Its like a sauna in here

Another night of not many photos. My last night in Chongqing. I had to choose my favourite city centre out of the 5 I had visited. I selected Nanping.
This turned out to be a good choice as last time I was there a couple of days ago it turns out I had only seen a small part of it, as it goes forever and gets nicer and nicer until you end up at the starlight mall with the greatest supermarket I ever did see in the basement and more restaurants than any place I have been.
I am easily amused I realise.
It is also going to connect directly to the metro, but doesnt yet cause its still going through a 'soft opening' which is mall speak for we didnt rent out all the shops yet and theres still some construction going on.

I couldnt wait to leave my room to go out, because I had been drying my clothes in the provided washer / dryer. The walls are literally damp! When you put a dryer in a cupboard with no exhaust fan and no windows, what do you expect to happen?

Staring directly into the moon, no wait its the sun. Its hard to tell. With all the smog the sun is no brighter than the moon.
If you looked into the sun like this in Adelaide you would go blind. Here it doesnt even bother the auto exposure thing on my camera.

Did you know that kebabs are one of the world famous three gourmet? Well now you do. Can you name the other 2? Bubble tea and duck necks I suspect.

The above mentioned starlight plaza. About 10 floors with the Vanguard supermarket on the bottom, imax theatre at the top, everything else in between, about 40 proper restaurants. I think the developer might be Japanese because it has large multistorey tenancies for Muji and Uniqlo.

Ok, no more boring pics...that arent food.

Monday night and a newly opened shopping mall means places had seats. The only full restaurants with lines were 2 pizza places and one steakhouse. I wasnt interested in those.
The place I selected advertised itself as being especially healthy, which means lots of things were inedible parts of animals in clear broth. Presumably just to flavour the broth.
I selected cucumber and a beef dish, this time with green chillies. It was fantastic.

mother on 2013-04-01 said:
one of those dog heads looks like a monkey

Day 11 - Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Contrasts

Today I made the journey from Chongqing, back to Chengdu, where I have another week of updating this website twice a day with nonsense.
The journey was largely uneventful, it was a bit rainy as I was leaving and again as I arrived in Chengdu, but nothing to stop me from doing anything. The pollution today could however be mist.
This obscured much of the view for the 2 hour train ride.
The only eventful things that occured, similar to a previous journey when I boarded someone had stolen my seat (they sell standing tickets) and since the woman knew she had stolen my seat she pretended to be asleep.
She even peered at me out of 1 half open eye in an almost comical manner before ignoring the polite tap on the shoulder I gave her.
This train had only started its journey from this station, so its not like she had been in the seat and asleep for hours.
Much like my previous experience with this scenario, the best thing to do is to take any baggage they have, which was under the ladies legs, and walk off with it. This gets their attention, and it gets me my seat. It also is highly amusing to the other passengers.

The woman who boarded next to me had her baby in a strap on wicker basket thing. Of course the baby preferred to not be in the basket, but thats no problem. The mother proceeded to wedge all her other belongings in the basket with the baby to trap him in there. He became just a head peering up, but seemed happy enough.

Now for my hotel room in Chengdu. I have booked a properly Chinese hotel room, it only has 2 English reviews on tripadvisor and those are from a couple of years ago.
It is very interesting, the room is full of so much crap theres nowhere to put my own things. The fridge doesnt actually operate as a fridge. Theres mini bar stuff everywhere that is useless to all, and strangely none of it is alcohol (not that that bothers me). Theres a full stationery kit, a full sewing kit, a postcard rack, a formal tea making set, a smoking kit with pipe and tobacco, shoe shining kit with display stand for your shoes, a huge range of condoms, apothecary products, grooming kits and various lotions made from lamb foetuses.
And lots more!
I also have a massive bathroom, with a spa bath, separate shower with room for 4 people, giant walk in wardrobe and marble entrance area.
The bed seems bigger than what would normally be classed a king size too.
TV has no English channels except CCTV news, an almost impossible to use menu to try and trick you into buying pay per view, and this one is new to me, the remote is sealed in a plastic bag.
Internet however, super fast and of course (like the entire world except Australia), free. Wired and wireless. All this for $60 a night, breakfast included.

And now to type some crap about the wanky term used for todays text, contrasts.
I read before coming here about the differences between Chongqing and Chengdu, by westerners who had lived or worked or visited both.
According to them, Chongqing is a hole. Chengdu is the place to be. I have now been to both.
Whilst I can see what they are getting at, I will put it more eloquently.
Chengdu is a much more modern, cultured city, despite the lack of population, megamalls and modern infrastructure. The people in Chengdu seem more for want of a better term, civilized. And I know that sounds really racist but I dont know how else to put it.
The way people act is very different, theres less spitting, people dont push past you, theres a lot less people crouching around with baskets of junk no one wants etc. There is even a definite difference in the way people dress, Chengdu dress is much brighter, and modern, girls wear makeup, men are more likely to wear jeans and a t-shirt than grey pants and a polo shirt.
Now these are generalisations, and you can find squalor and luxury in both cities, but to these eyes, the difference is very apparent.

I will add, that if you wanted an otherwordly experience, Chongqing wins hands down. The geography, skyscrapers, massive infrastructure all make for a setting that seems more like being on another planet than any other place I have been, just not sure I would want to live there.

The Chongqing high speed rail terminal is antiquated, and surely due to be replaced. You first line up outside, then x-ray, then frisked, then passport or ID check, then ticket check, then you wait in a shed. This is the shed.

Some 40 minutes before your train, you get loudspeakered into the next waiting area, after a subsequent passport and ticket check.
About 15 minutes before your train departs, you get loudspeakered (by that I mean men in red hats charge around yelling at you with a loudspeaker), into a carefully organised line.
Once the door opens, the line immediately ceases to exist, and theres a mad crush to get through the door. The loudspeaker guys go into overdrive and smack a couple of troublemakers with their loudspeakers.

My hotel room, the bed and work area with some of the crap they have littered about the place in view.

Looking back into the bathroom from the strange sunroom area. It would make more sense if you could enjoy the view from the bath, but you cant, theres no chair or anything in the sun room, just enough space to have a small party.

Above mentioned sunroom. I guess you could set up a telescope and look across at people in other buildings.

Huge shower with enough water pressure to remove chrome from metal plated objects.

Huge walk in wardrobe.

Better shot of work area, if you think you can put all that stuff in drawers, think again, they are full of stationery and shoe shine stuff.

Alcohol free mini bar.

Barbecue night

I like Chengdu. Its very relaxing to walk around.
A couple of things I forgot from earlier. When checking into a Chinese hotel they always copy the main page of your passport and the visa page. I believe this gets entered into a database so foreigners can be tracked.
Today I got questioned about my previous trips to Japan, and why my passport has so many Chinese tourist visas. I explained I keep coming to China on holidays. They asked what business I had in China, remember these are hotel desk clerks. I told them none. They said 7 days is a long time to stay in Chengdu if not on business, what will I do? I said walk around a lot.
The girl noted down all my responses, but I have to wonder where they get entered! The red army could come crashing in here at any moment.

Now for some car news. People talk about the big mac index for cost of living. In China I have devised the Porsche Panamera Index. The Porsche Panamera is a ridiculously fast, enormous, ugly as hell, expensive family car. It was designed by Porsche for rich Chinese business men with families.
In Australia, no one has one, in China, they are common....in Chengdu. I think this is a good indicator of the relative wealth of the two cities, I have seen a lot more Panameras in Chengdu than I did in Chongqing, and the population here is under half that of Chongqing. It seems to me wealthy people choose to live in Chengdu.

On my walk to dinner I went through a muslim area. Here they are making delicious looking bread in the street. I really wanted to try it but I cant just eat plain bread for dinner. I rarely eat bread! Perhaps another day when I dont feel like a proper meal.

Apparently this MGM building is a giant disco. Unfortunately I am there too early.

A new winner for fire trap waiting to happen award. I could not find a way out of here for at least 10 minutes. No exit signs, no escape routes, crap everywhere. The problem with just heading in one direction until you find a wall is you hit a t-junction that is there to confuse you into staying in the facility. A bit like casinos and their confusing layout.

Tonight mall is an indoor / outdoor variety with a perspective trick. The floors slope down, the steps slope up (as they are steps) and it gets a lot narrower at one end.

Some distance underneath this mall is the alternative hipster boutique underground area. Lots of girls with tiny shops selling stuff they designed themselves.
This is highlighted by the sign, all for arbitrary.

For dinner, I had barbecue. Not Chinese barbecue where you get delicious cubes of fatty pork, but korean barbecue where you select from a list and cook it yourself.
I was proud that I succesfully filled out the list of things I wanted despite it having no pictures and being in Chinese. I did have a separate picture menu to compare some items to, and price, but also I could recognise a lot of the characters.
I may have over ordered....but I did eat it all. Probably the healthiest meal option you can get around here.

My favourite way of eating, pile it all on a lettuce leaf and wrap it up, delicious.

bobule on 2013-04-05 said:
delicious

David on 2013-04-02 said:
3. forgot to add, its not raining. It rained for maybe 5 minutes in total, twice today, once in Chongqing, once in Chengdu. Both as I was on a train. Weather has been as close to perfect as possible for my whole trip so far.

David on 2013-04-02 said:
1. I dont know anyone else, so no one writes comments.

2. Im sure it has increased, but also there would probably be much more water. Only I couldnt work out where it had all gone whilst the bridge was being constructed. I doubt before the dam was built you would want to go in that water either.
I hope in your research you take a macro look at the impact of the dam, the control of the river saves thousands of lives each year due to flood control, the electricity it produces from the multiple hydro plants, and the year round access to water it provides farmers to feed the country.

mother on 2013-04-02 said:
Doesn't anybody else write comments?

mother on 2013-04-02 said:
proud of your ability to stick up for your rights re train seats. I've trained you well!

So is it still raining.

I've just been doing some environmental research on the Three Gorges dam, water pollution in ChongQing vastly increased due to slower flow. Did you notice? not tempted to go swimming?

Day 12 - Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Bad science

First up, I headed north, via starbucks for overpriced coffee (but they did understand the concept of non fat milk). This took me to a river, which looked milkier than my coffee.
Before too long I ended up at yet another Wanda Plaza. Not sure what the Wanda brand is but they own everything in this part of China. Inside was an impressive array of stores, restaurants and amusements.
Since it was on top of a metro station, I headed back south, to the Sichuan science and technology museum, which sits proudly behind Chairman Mao in the central Tianfu square. So surely its a proud well maintained impressive showpiece for the city?

I dont really get tai chi. The people in the white pyjamas are moving in slow motion. The guy in the middle in black is going crazy doing his drunken master style in fast forward. Yet somehow the others are following his teachings.

The milky river. Strangely it smells very clean, like somethings been added to it to make it smell nice.

These condom vending machines are literally everywhere. On every city block. I am not aware of any creationists blowing up black presidents over it yet though. Next they will take our guns.

On my travels I passed this buiding with a rocket out the front. The sign on it had a rocket too, so presumably its something to do with rockets.
So I am taking a photo, and 2 guys with green suits and white gloves and helmets come charging over and tell me to get lost. If its a secret, why put a rocket out front?

Many streets in Chengdu are themed. One nearby my hotel has at least 50 stores behind garage doors that make signs and badges of all kinds. Giant acrylic ones, neon ones etc. The street I went up this morning sells only microscopes and those things people use on tripods when surveying. So if you ever need a Chinese electron microscope, I know where to send you.

The above mentioned Wanda Plaza. Quite new but full. Has an amazing vanguard supermarket in the bottom. I didnt go in as I wasnt hungry or going back to my hotel yet. I am saving a return visit as a special treat!

From a nearby shop I bought some pick and mix chocolates, then I found a giant games arcade. So I was in my shorts, in a games arcade, carrying a bag of chocolates. If only I had a van parked in the basement.
This is the best drumming game I ever played, its a real Roland v-drum kit, and the default song was Master of Puppets.

I headed down to the basement to look for the candy van. Note the red and green lights, just like Burnside Village in Adelaide, a place we consider to be a luxurious marvel.

Next up, headed outside and ate my chocolates in the smog. Even had 2 easter eggs.

The museum looks impressive enough from the outside, a massive building.

A cat stands guard, hes rarely disturbed by visitors....

We started off good, a Chinese Mig-21 copy. This is the only place I saw any other people. A school group was just leaving as I arrived.

Various cheap models covered in a thick layer of dust.

The robot band, not working. There were lots of robot exhibits. Most of them were not working. The one that did was nothing more than a Sichuan opera tape loop with a dancing robot that just kind of vibrated a bit.

This actually kind of worked, some of the time. Chinese state of the art pneumatic sequencer.

I made fun of the museum, but some of the mathematics stuff was interesting, however much of it was broken, and those things that needed power were switched off.
It did make for a fun activity to wander around and marvel at how dated it was, on your own, in a giant building. There was plenty of opportunities to take photos of myself glaring at the camera such as this.

Walking back and I came across this giant map, with lots of people interested in it. What could it be, bus routes? Convenience store locations? No, its real estate listings. All these blue things on the map are apartments for lease or sale (sale I think), complete with the cost per square foot mentioned.

I found a great place for lunch near my hotel. An alleyway with upmarket small proper restaurants. By upmarket I mean they have proper tables and chairs, and a menu at the table.
I decided on this place for no particular reason, then decided to have vegetarian. The picture showed green celery, what came was white, with delicious tree fungus and a ginger flavour.

My other dish was eggplant and beans, with lots of garlic.

Theres about 6 other nice looking places to try along this alley. I have no excuse to go without dinner as its literally over the road from my hotel.

Swedish horse meatballs

When I was in Chengdu last week, I tried to make it to the South Railway station and was thwarted by a bridge and construction work.
I keep reading about good places to eat in the area around that station, however the articles are a couple of years old, I didnt know if they were still there or were now just a hole in the ground, I set out to again try and find out.
The pictures can tell that story, I rate my success as partial.

Before that, a story. When setting out for my evening walk, I checked the weather, 23 degrees C, decided shorts were still ok, and off I went.
Now, so far I have only seen a handful of other people wearing shorts, and they were a football team on the train going home.
I walk past the hotel reception desk after exiting the lifts and one of the thousands of bored staff charges after me....
Hello? Hello! I stopped to see what happened, thinking maybe I had dropped something.
Turns out she was very concerned that I would go outside in shorts because it is going to be very cold, and I might freeze, and I should go and put on winter clothes.
I assured her I would be fine, its going to stay above 20 C, I dont consider that to be cold, and I have been out and about walking in this part of China every night for a couple of weeks now.
So I walk off, and shes just glaring at me.
As I left the front door of the hotel she chased me out of the door carrying a bright yellow disposable rain jacket, pleading with me to put it on. I graciously declined.

I exited at the metro station past the south railway station and was greeted by this. A giant construction site. Could it be that this area really is now a no go zone with nothing but building sites..

My hopes were fading fast, this array of guys on scooters and metal coffin tricycles waiting to take people from the station exit suggested there was nowhere nearby to get to on foot.

But then I went under a bridge and crossed a road, through a tunnel that appeared to be mainly a drain, and arrived in giant mall land.

It was a strange place, so many giant shopping centres, spread out, neatly cultivated trees and lawns etc.

Most of the shops were furniture stores, home appliances, and even kitchen design places. A bit like a Home maker centre in Australia, but indoors and multi level, with restaurants and a cinema on the top floor of each in case you need hot pot and transformers 3 whilst you are picking out a new couch.

Eventually I got to one of the places I read about, this was apparently the first modern mall in Chengdu, with foreign brands, and as such at one stage had a few restaurants set up by westerners. There is still a tex mex grill and pizza shop run by real italians.
Which meant I saw a few white people, who had trolleys full of peanut butter and western cleaning products.

Oh...OK

This area really is kind of like a different city, I havent seen the free bike setup anywhere else.

The menu in Ikea is not quite like it is in Australia (or England for that matter). Yes you can still get swedish meatballs which recently were outed as being made from horse, but theres also some Chinese influenced dishes.
I noted later that the hotdogs were 40 cents on the way out and they have no Daim chocolates.
The restaurant also had hot soy milk, free refills, and a section featuring things on sticks.

I gave in, I thought it was too amusing to not eat at Ikea in China. The meal was actually decent, especially the fruit salad. I didnt eat the rice!

The actual store part is largely identical to Australia, prices are similar too. I wonder who would buy stuff from here cause surely theres Chinese equivalents that are cheaper and already made for you that gets delivered to your door by a tricycle.

Back in another mall now, and this one had a hipster store that featured weird watches you cant tell the time on, backpacks made from recycled paper, t-shirts with Che Guavera, and of course a Porsche Panamera model. See my text from earlier today.

Last picture for the day is just because my camera is awesome. Theres basically no light here on this building site, and its a hand held frame stacked shot of darkness to reveal the cool structures under construction.

mother on 2013-04-03 said:
there don't seem to be many people in Chengdu? Are there any old areas with allyways? It all seems very open with wide streets.

mother on 2013-04-03 said:
don't go kissing any chooks or ducks - they won't let you back into aust!

There is now a page 5, use the navigation thing below or the index thing at the top left.

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