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Sichuan - China - Chengdu - Chongqing - March / April 2013 - Page 5

Day 13 - Thursday, 4 April 2013

Ocean world where are you?

Today in Qingming, commonly called tomb sweeping day, a national holiday in China.
What this means is that unless you work in a shop, theres no work, and schools are closed. But shops and restaurants are all open, just busier than normal.
This also means that everyone is trying to get somewhere to sweep a tomb presumably. So taking a long range bus or train is out of the question, the tickets would have been sold out ages ago.
The day is also raining, well it appeared to be but never did. The streets were wet when I woke up but I never actually saw it rain.

Hence I decided to go to the polar ocean world park where they electrocute dolphins and sit polar bears out in the heat.
I did my research, theres a metro stop named ocean world and the internet told me thats where it was...no.
First, the train didnt even stop here, the stop is closed, the stop after it is the last stop, no problem I thought, I can get off there and walk back. Only I never did find it, I found what is claimed to be the worlds largest structure, its nearly finished but not yet. Heres a link to an Australian news story on it.
When I eventually got back to my hotel which involved an hour long jog up the highway in the rain, I found out that inexplicably the ocean world is nowhere near the station named as such, and is a few miles further south past the last metro stop. Maybe tomorrow!

Getting off at the last station seemed promising at first. A finished building. Turns out its the only one, predictably, bank of China.

The worlds largest building, 3x the size of the pentagon, 500 metres long, 400 metres wide, 100 metres high. And after I read the SMH article I linked above, I now know why theres a stop called Ocean Park here.
It is going to have a fake beach and palm trees when finished.

OK, one last pic, its not everyday you accidentally jog past the worlds largest building hiding in the fog.

Another bank building. When the bubble bursts in China, I dont want to be here.

After an hour or so of light jogging in what looked like light rain but wasnt, along a freeway, I arrived back at civilization, in an area called 'Incubation Park'.
Here stuff was being built but a small mall was finished. The basement was staging a real estate fair which seemed chaotic, perhaps its people trying to buy an investment property before the new anti property investment laws take effect.
I found this cool coffee shop, which is also a book shop and stuff females like shop, where after a long delay and what seemed like a gargantuan effort by 3 staff, I was served a decent coffee.

Back on a subway station, and here they have indicated the ocean world stop is closed, but theres no clue that it is not the ocean world park.
As frustrating as this might read, to me it was exciting to get so lost in the fog, find the giant building by accident and not really have any concept of where I was going.
At times I wasnt convinced if I was heading North or South, one way would take me further and further away from a way home! Luckily I was indeed heading north the whole time.

Drunken Chengdu

It was very quiet out. I should really have paid more attention to that because it ended in me not really getting any dinner!
First I went to the station where the U.S. embassy is. They have closed off the street around the embassy, and you have to walk head on into traffic in the 1 remaining lane to get past.
Theres a police checkpoint on each corner, which means a little bus and guys on segways, there job is to stop you getting onto the street thats closed off or the footpath.
Then there are Chinese soldiers, with rifles, on podiums, all around it. Then theres a few gatehouse things with U.S. soldiers. I decided photos were a bad idea.

Predictably, just about over the road form the embassy, is where white business people go to get drunk. And drunk they were. Theres a couple of hundred metres of brightly lit street and I recognised a few of the names of places from the various Chengdu forums I read before coming here.
Once I saw a drunk guy call a waitress a slut, I decided that I didnt really want dinner here. I felt like mapo tofu from the place near my hotel, so headed back there, the long way.
It was 9pm when I got there, and much to my surprise, everything was shut! Not sure when they normally shut, maybe they closed early for Qingming. So for dinner I had 7/11 fruit salad, and various things that come in packets that are bad for you.

Dinner time on this building site. Noodles in paper cups whilst crouching in the rubble.

No one ever tries to stop you from walking through such places. I like it! I just stand under cranes and wait for stuff to fall on me.

2 of these things were not like the others. Which means I peered through the window, and there were a bunch of waitresses standing by the door to greet people. My boobs were bigger than all of them, except one girl who must have decided hooters is her long term career goal and paid the money.
She could barely stand up straight. This place was really expensive, and full of sad looking lost western businessmen.

Chatime! not seen in Chengdu before now. And its a mobile one so maybe they arent established in this city yet.
Their advantage over the other bubble tea places is they claim to use real milk rather than that cream stuff in plastic dispenser bottles. But with milk paranoia in China maybe thats hindering their business.

This guy and his monkey are harassing people for money waiting outside a particularly popular noodle joint. I think it was popular because its right by the university gate and they appear to give students a discount.
As far as I could tell, the monkey jumps on you until you pay the guy money and he goes to the next person. I would just punch the monkey. I fled before I caught monkey AIDS.

These new residential towers have been constructed specifically to meet the needs of western business families. Theres hospitals and dentists and schools and whatever aimed at Americans (and presumably Australians and English and German) all around it. Its also next door to the U.S. embassy.

It also has a sex toy shop in a very prominent position.

A row of particularly sanitized shops. Very expensive. Many of them still empty. Many of them sell wine or cigars.

This is the most debaucharous location in Chengdu. Referred to as the blue carribean complex. Among other establishments it contains 'the spot' which is a bar run by Americans. It was out the front of the spot I saw a drunk guy call a Chinese waitress a slut to her face and laugh about it because she didnt understand.

On my way back now, this group of restaurants seems to have catered for Chinese idol or similar by setting up a big screen in the street.
There was no one watching it now, but there must have been a big crowd earlier as the street was covered in pistachio and peanut shells.

Day 14 - Friday, 5 April 2013

Lets try that again

Yesterday I tried to go to the polar ocean world aquarium thing, and failed. Armed with further research, I decided to try again.
The weather had turned polar, up until today it had been 25 every day, today, 11. I had to wear pants and a jacket.
Now even armed with much more info, and studying both google maps and baidu, it still wasnt easy. I got the right bus, 501, from the last subway station. It was drizzling rain and I couldnt see out the bus.
My research, the map, and other web pages all suggested the bus travels straight down the road to a bus station, which is then just a kilometre from the polar sea panda world thing.
Easy then, just stay on the bus until it gets to the bus station. No.
Since the metro is being extended the bus station its supposed to go to is not operating, so it goes to another one, it veered off the main road and went through a few bombsite neighbourhoods and eventually got to a bus station by a river. Along the way we passed a massive amusement park world on a lake with floating restaurants. It all looked brand new from what little I could see out the bus window.
Now this bus station, is beyond the edge of the maps I stole from google, so I had no idea at all, start walking then, in the rain. I crossed a bridge and when the freeway sized road had not a single car on it I thought perhaps I was lost. After another 10 minutes I turned back, an old lady passed me on a scooter, she was the only person on the freeway but still felt the need to blow her horn in a musical fashion every 0.7 seconds.
I caught the same bus back again, and got off where it left the road I knew the ocean world frozen animal zone to be on, and jogged South in my jeans, in the rain.
A small flotilla of land craft followed me, taxis, three wheeler coffin bikes, scooters, all demanding I pay them money. But I refused and after 30 minutes I was there!

When I exited the subway, I saw this sign. Presumably for a shuttle bus. So I waited, and no one came. I should have waited longer in hindsight!

The bridge to nowhere I crossed before admitting that I had no hope of finding out where I was.
The bus station I had set off from was a hive of construction workers being bussed in our out of Chengdu from some far off land.

Could it be so?

Yes, I have found it. Im not sure I really wanted to go here, it costs $10 which is big money in China. But its all about the journey!

A big fish, face down. Underwhelmed so far.

The 2 polar bears were enjoying the cooler weather. I have never really seen a white polar bear in a zoo, its hard to keep them clean.

They had every kind of penguin, and they are quite photogenic. People tried to hold their children up against the glass so they could give the peace sign and have their photo taken with the penguins.

Bonus photo of smaller penguins.

There were seals, walruses, sea lions and whatever. But these things really only kill time until one of the 3 shows is on.

The worlds smallest wave pool. Would probably be nice to swim in on a warm day.

The aquarium section was actually good. Better than Sydney (which is $30 just for the aquarium) and Osaka which is heavily advertised but crappy, and im sure it costs more than $10.

Its also very crowded, and everyone is keen to have their photo taken in the glass tube.

Bonus aquarium photo.

If you had to drag your kid around for hours, buy food on sticks, and basically put up with screaming all day, do you think it would be a good idea to buy a delicate glass electrical sphere to add to the situation? Apparently this vendor thinks an aquarium 50 miles from anywhere is just the market for them.

The turtles were also good, they had every kind, indoor, land ones, sea ones. Also a big explanation of which parts are the tastiest.

I had to wait a couple of hours for the dolphin and whale show, so I went back to check on the polar bears. Also, bring your own food! The only stuff for sale is pop corn, and things on sticks like sausages, squid, and unidentifiable organs.

The big sharks mostly sat on the bottom. This is a medium shark. People loved the sharks.

Me in my awesome coat. I so rarely get to wear it.

One of the shows started, billed as 'the fun show'. Once some clown appeared and played basketball I was off. Better to go and get a good seat for the dolphin and whale show.
Before the clowns came out they played gangnam style on the p.a. and people went crazy. They literally cheered when it started, and people were dancing horsey style in the aisles. I made a video.

I got to the dolphin stadium 30 minutes early and got a good spot, it was half full then. By the time it started there were people standing everywhere and it was very difficult to see.
A repeat of gangnam style got the crowd warmed up for the show.

These are beluga whales, best served with a special regional kind of cabbage and cow peas.

I thought this was somewhat unique, they took a kid that could barely walk from the crowd, stuck a life jacket on him whilst he was screaming threw him in a boat and had a dolphin tow him around.
They are aware that its always so full you can never see, theres a giant screen to see the action on too.

Best picture I captured of actual dolphin action, and its not a good one. What I saw of the show was decent, but the highlights reel they showed on the big screen before it started showed a lot more dolphins doing much more impressive tricks. I think today we got the B team.

An old street

Ask and you shall receive.
I intended to walk north and pick a restaurant for dinner, but on the way I saw a brown street sign (global color for point of interest) advertising a folk street.
It was indeed old style, and some old features remaining of old buildings. But it was very quiet, I think its mainly a daytime area when the monastery is open.

As for dinner, it was delicious. I couldnt decide where to eat, too many great choices, so after examining all choices, I spun around 3 times, walked in a direction and decided I would eat at the 10th place I got to, no matter what.
This plan turned out well.

An old street.

Dried meat hanging in an old street. Huge slabs of it. Pork or beef, I am not sure, color makes it look beefy, but the amount of fat suggests pork.
I have left the bike in to give a sense of scale.

A particularly nice old street, I especially like the trees. A sign said nearby was tofu street, but I couldnt find anything that resembled a street full of tofu restaurants.
Further investigation required. I also still need to locate and eat at the place where mapo tofu was invented.

Part one of my dinner was great. Its a giant eggplant, oven roasted with so much garlic that we dont even need Abraham Lincoln.

Part 2 of my dinner was just as good as part 1, and too much to eat. It is tofu and various kinds of mushrooms, with a delicious different kind of chilli.

2 photos of me in one day. I like my jacket a lot.

Just a random gate on the way back to the hotel. Perhaps theres another old street behind it, who knows.

David on 2013-04-06 said:
Birdflu - theres a little on the news, I saw someing on cctv news about recent cases in Shanghai and Hong Kong, and a discussion on it being pork workers.
Chengdu media talked about their hospitals capabilities if theres a local outbreak, but I couldnt really understand what they meant, they showed tablets but I dont think theres a tablet for it.


As for the monastarey ancient streets, its a mix of souvenirs, restaurants, people painting stuff thats for sale, herbal medicine, fortune tellers (I think), jewellery including glass blowers, clothing.

mother on 2013-04-05 said:
so are they giving any news about the bird flu on Chinese TV? NHK is full of it of course and a lot of my students come from Shanghai, so concern is increasing.

I like the old streets, what kind of shops are there - souvenir?

David on 2013-04-05 said:
Also, im actively trying to get bird flu. I bought a live swan, duck and chicken, keeping them here in my room with me.
Meanwhile, well over 1000 people in China would have died of regular flu in the same timeframe that HxNy killed 6 people in Shanghai. You are about as close to Shanghai as I am.

David on 2013-04-05 said:
it rained for about 10 minutes, so ok then, and I stood out in it and didnt get wet enough to look for cover.

Theres no end of interesting things to do, most are hard to get to as the trains are booked out. So I have to find a bus, which is never easy. And if its easy to find a bus to a place, 200 miles away, you have to consider how you might get back again.

mother on 2013-04-05 said:
Told you it was going to rain. Bird flu - more cases. Marine park looks about equivalent to Sea World on the Gold Coast which costs about $79 and is a waste of time and money. Are you running out of interesting places to go?

Day 15 - Saturday, 6 April 2013

New old ancient streets

I had not really been west of the city yet. Today was the day. And a glorious day it was, sun blazing. The weather forecast said it would be cold but it wasnt, so as a result I was a bit hot.
Along my journey I found quite by accident 2 different ancient street areas, both quite new but also with preserved old bits. Theres a reason they are new, earthquakes. Chengdu has been very proactive in making sure anything that will fall down is pulled down before the next big earthquake.
They have been doing this for decades now, and hence the last big one in 2008, which killed 68,000 people all around Chengdu didnt leave a scratch on the city itself.

Tomorrow however, I am going to the region worst hit! Its now rebuilt and the government even built a high speed rail line to the area to spur on development and to make the people happy.
The last station on this line is at Qing Cheng Shan, or in English, Mount Qingchen. I will talk about that later on tomorrow when I get back, it will be a long day as I have read the climb takes 5 hours, but I plan on doing it in 3.
For now, lets discuss the ticket buying process.

The Qingming tomb sweeping festivals last day is today, so I thought I stood a decent chance of getting a train ticket for tomorrow. On my epic walk today, I didnt spot a single train ticket window. They are usually all over the place. Once I returned to my hotel, I asked if they could arrange a train ticket for me. No.
I always read on the internet that hotels are more than happy to arrange tickets for you in China, but not my hotel. So I didnt give up, do you know where I can buy a ticket? The station was the answer. Which of course I knew but going to the station is painful and you have to line up for hours with people demanding to get on a train NOW that has been fully booked for weeks.
I asked if there was a window nearby, Dont know was the answer. So I decided I had to trek it to the North train station, frustrating as I had been walking for 5.5 hours already today!
As I stepped out of the hotel, the doorman followed me, once out of view he told me theres a window in that competing hotel across the street, they will help you. The doorman spoke decent English. He offered to come with me on his break, I said that wouldnt be required and thanked him.
So there you go, my hotel wont help because a competing hotel over the road has an official government ticket window in the hotel....at least they have the signage and a computer that prints them!

Buying a ticket from here was amusing, I dont think the 5 guys who were trying to set a world smoking record who jointly tried to serve me had ever sold tickets to a non Chinese person before.
I clearly stated where I wanted to go and when. Which caused panic and confusion. I thought maybe they were sold out, but the guy taps on the computer and shows me a journey to somewhere that takes 18 hours and costs $100. I want to go somewhere that takes 45 minutes and costs $3.
So next up we go for paper and pen, now we have dates sorted but the destination remains confusing for some unknown reason. Maybe they call the station something else?
By now I had seen enough of them typing pinyin to know that I could do it. So I signalled to hand me the keyboard, typed in QingC and Qing Cheng Shan was now the only option.
A few taps later and I had selected the tickets I wanted and they seemed to be available. The eyes on these 5 guys nearly popped out of their heads!
Anyways, we werent done yet. Now they need to put in a working ID to issue the tickets. Their own ID as the authorized agent. So out comes a plastic bag with about 10 ID cards in it, and most have photos of women, and they try them one by one until one works! Whats going on here?
Now I have to hand them my passport (which I remembered to bring for once) so they can enter my passport number. They jointly flicked through it and cant find a number to enter, somehow they completely ignored the first page with my photo etc. So again I had to point it out to them and ended up being handed the keyboard this time.
Finally the tickets were issued and the guys seemed really pleased with themselves, they have a story to tell about the strange round eye who visited their smoking den and questionable legality ticket issuing service today.

First picture is mainly for my mother. Note the lack of rain. It has rained for maybe 10 minutes whilst I have been awake in the last 2 weeks. Wherever you are getting your forecast for flash flooding and ark building required (NHK), its wrong.

A new old ancient street. A particularly nice one. I am here really early, everythings open but its not too crowded yet.

One of the features of this area is the 3D art. Which means a painting or a photo combined with sculpture of some sort. They proved very popular with people posing for photos.

This place is another mecca for photographers. Theres a few weddings but also fashion or advertising shoots such as this one.

Where possible, genuine old parts have been preserved or built into the new old style construction tastefully. It is very well done.

Sichuan delicacy, rabbit heads! Seriously, I have seen them in a few places and read that its a popular snack. I dont get where the meat is though.

I desperately wanted my photo taken here, but there was a line up of extended families jostling for position which made it impossible for a polite person like me.

Not sure whats going on here, but this couple was being interviewed for tv as well as being photographed.

A giant panda assaulted me as I tried to enter this store. So I left immediately.

About 10 minutes walk away from the above old street area, I came to this. Its very colorful.

And down this street were lots of large old style looking buildings. I think some were wedding halls, some were restaurants but also some hostels. I bet at night its neontastic.

One more photo of that street before we move on, I saw a lot today!

Next up, around the corner is a culture park. A very large park with many tea houses. It was quite busy today with all boats rented. Even the amusement rides had line ups.

And a bit further West, we get to the Sichuan museum. I hadnt planned to go but it appears to be free so why not.

Most of it is your standard history of China told through pottery, silks, scrolls, swords etc. It is an impressive set up compared to some others I have vistied though.

freehand brushwork are absolute superexcellent

And indeed they were. This guy whos name I forget, painted in many different styles for 70 years. Travelling around China to make large copies of cave paintings, temples etc. He never made a cent off his work despite many offers from westerners, at least thats how the story goes.
This particular painting is a good 10 metres across.

This is a brocade weaving setup. Theres an entirely separate brocade museum somewhere nearby, if thats your thing.

A feature of this museum is that it has a Tibetan section. It is stated as the first and only Tibetan culture exhibit in any official Chinese museum. Strangely or pehaps aptly, it features many statues of decapitated buddahs. Where are their heads?

Mapo Doufu

I didnt do very much tonight as I was saving my legs for the mountain hike tomorrow.
What I did do was go to the home of Mapo Tofu, or as its called in China, Dou Fu.
Apparently the spot where I ate it is where a woman invented it many years ago. It is however named after her husband, as thats the way the world works.
I presume the spot looked quite different back then, because now its quite a nice restaurant. I didnt even have to line up, I got seated across from another solo diner, a Chinese guy who didnt stop talking on his phone the entire time I was there.

The actual dish was nice, cheap at $2, the internet (tripadvisor) warned about it being like eating novocaine and various other stupid descriptions from people who must spend their entire life eating carboard. It was a nice balance of numbing and spicy, not anywhere close to some of the other stuff I have eaten here or in Australia for that matter.
I would probably go there again as the other things on their menu also looked nice.

And now I am running out of time to eat stuff, which is slightly annoying. Once you have been in a place for a while you start to see lots of things you want to try, the list seems to grow exponentially as you get more and more familiar. When I was first here a couple of weeks ago I couldnt find decent places, now I have a mental list of 9 I want to try before I go home! At best I can fit in maybe 3 of them.

The inside of the restaurant.

Its a little different to what is typically called mapo tofu in Australia, more oil, served in a hot pot with the oil still bubbling. I chose no rice, best way to eat real Chinese food is straight up!

My favourite accomponiment is cucumber, which is normally served with something other than being sliced and presented with hoi sin dipping sauce. Still it was very refreshing.

This sign is funnier if you know pinyin pronunciation, the guys name is very much wanker.

It was very clear this afternoon, with a proper blue sky. I saw parts of Chengdu I had visited previously in a completely new light. It is a very colorful city when the pollution allows for it.

I took a photo from the same spot 2 weeks ago. When I can be bothered I will compare it to this one to highlight the contrast. Or something like that.

bobule on 2013-04-06 said:
yummy hoi sin cucumber

David on 2013-04-06 said:
The rabbits didnt look that big to me.

The mountain is listed as 1260 metres, so nothing dramatic. Internet says it takes 5 hours to walk up, theres also 2 cable cars and a boat across a mountain lake half way up if you cant be bothered walking.

I suspect I am faster than average, and have given myself 6 hours between train arriving and leaving again. We shall see if I make it the whole way on foot or not. I hope to at least make it up on foot, walking down im not so fussed about.

mother on 2013-04-06 said:
so how high is this mountain?

mother on 2013-04-06 said:
those bunny rabbits must be huge!
nice area you visited today

There is now a page 6, its most likely the last page.

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