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Sichuan - China - Chengdu - Chongqing - March / April 2013 - Page 6

Day 16 - Sunday, 7 April 2013

Mountain full of temples

Today I went to the Qingcheng mountain, a place which claims to be the source of the taoist religion, whatever that is. I read the wikipedia article and I still dont know, whatever it is theres still buddahs everywhere.
Getting to the mountain turned out to be easy. The train takes barely 50 minutes, even though it stops a few times. The high speed rail line was built as a gift to the region to help them recover from the earthquake. The actual city by the mountain was one of the worst affected areas, where various schools collapsed. These schools are now shrines but apparently off limits to foreign visitors.
From the train window it was apparent that what has been built is of a higher quality than most of China, as the story goes, all survivors left homeless, and we are talking hundreds of thousands of people, were re housed in a permanent new house, with new shops and schools etc. within a year.

Anyway, once you get off at the station, you have to catch a local bus to the foot of the mountain. Just follow the crowd and be prepared to be stuffed into a bus like never before!
I took a lot of photos, even though I edited most out, so I wont crap on too much here.

I awoke early, to observe the dawn. Not as clear as yesterday.

Out the front of the Chengdu North station. Which is also called the Chengdu station or Chengdu old station just to confuse tourists.
Note all the army guys waiting to board trains, being sent back on duty after the tomb sweeping festival. Lots of trains left from this station to places unknown. They even have external herding yards where people with bags of crap are kept for a few hours before they are allowed inside!

I presume thats my mountain. And now I know for sure the smog is the fault of farmers. The last bit of the journey was past many nice looking farms, and all were burning small fires of green stuff that lets off a lot of smoke.

The bus situation was ridiculous. Its great to be taller than average so you can get some air.

Even before you get to the official park entrance (which costs about $10!), the temples and whatever starts.

This is the main gate to the park. It is a bit weird to pay, but that seems to be the case at all religious sites I have visited across China. To put this into perspective, the 50 minute bullet train ride cost $2, park entry cost $10.

You can pay money to have 2 guys haul your ass up to the cable car, all of about 200 metres.

Someones decided to invest in a boat. Look how far it takes you. It took all of 2 minutes to walk around this lake.

Zoomed in, cropped, I think this is my destination.

Now I was at the cable car station. Little did I know I had already taken a wrong turn if I want to walk to the top.
There were signs and maps, but they were infuriating. Each map showed just a small part of the trail, orientated differently every time, and never to any kind of scale. Signage to the cable car and boat was very clear though!
They really want you to take the cable car, I want to walk, this was the only path near the cable car station.....

What looked OK from the bottom turned out to be a muddy service track to the poles that hold the cable cars up. I was not supposed to be here! None the less, I pushed on, never saw another person!

Eventually I rejoined the main path, to be greeted by this sign about a wild panda that took an adventure tour down town.

Once back on the main path, the temples started. I think theres at least 10 temples on the mountain.

More temple.

Temples burning stuff. A useful feature, they all have decent toilets, and drinks for sale, at about 200% normal price but that means $1 instead of 50 cents for a 600ml ice tea or coke zero.

I made it to the first of two peaks in really good time. Stopped to take some photos and eat my dried banana chip things.
This is looking over the back of the mountains. Pands live that way.

More view. Looking back from where I had come.

And before I knew it, I was at the top. In about 1.5 hours. For those from Adelaide, its not much more difficult than Mount Lofty to walk the entire way. If you go the crazy way I did!
This has all been rebuilt after the earthquake. It seems to have been funded by the people of Macau.

Some more view. This is actually the foot of the himalayas. If you go further west you are in Tibet.

Last view shot for now.

Its me at the top, wearing my big shorts. Big shorts are useful so you can carry snacks, your passport (required when you take high speed trains), maps, etc.

Me again. People looked at me like I was crazy.

Since I finished the climb much quicker than I estimated, I decided to walk a big loop around back to the start. This involved descending a stair case that was treacherous.
Its the steepest I have ever negotiated, and the steps are too short even for my regular (non giant) sized feet. I had to walk down like a penguin.

An interesting part of the walk around the tops of the mountains.

No, I didnt walk up here.

There were lots of interesting cliffs. All had been given names and a back story that didnt make much sense. This was pencil throwing gorge or some such thing.

And finally, I was back to more temples, which appeared on the maps and I was able to negotiate my way back to the bus! A great day trip from Chengdu.
At first I was physically disappointed the climb was too short, but by extending it with the big loop around the top, my legs were suitably shaking when I finally got back on the bus.

Quiet night out

I didnt get up to much as I thought I would be too tired from todays long hike. None the less I managed to wander around for 3.5 hours anyway.
Starting in the city, headed west, ended up at a big community fun night out the front of a bright Parkson mall area. Activities included dancing of course, karaoke outdoors, modern pogo boot things (see photo), riding around on electric bikes decorated like lambs, rollerblading, badmington, riding on segways without handles (just a wheel you stand either side of), some sort of ten pin bowling game, mahjong, bullshit story telling (groups of old men in heated debate), book trading, illegal dvd selling, skipping rope, water pistol fights, cooking various things on portable gas, paper aeroplane competitions, and about 20 pop up stalls selling stuff, normally aided by mini tv's or hi fi systems.

In the centre of town, this girl is living in a bubble. I couldnt figure out why, I think its to do with a radio station. You can watch her live on Weibo (Chinese Twitter).

Dinner came from Master Kongs, a chain store popular in the east but I only know of one outlet here in Chengdu. It was pretty good, but I remember it being better in Beijing.
The beef was great, but the noodles were different and there was just too many of them.

I also ordered the cucumber, which came as I was finishing what I intended to eat of my noodles. A different variation again, this one has been in the fridge for a while to absorb some of the flavours of ginger and garlic. A bit like you would do with bruschetta topping before putting it on bread.
Cucumbers are my favourite thing.

Me again, this time on one of the streets leading to the main shopping street. People really looked at me weirdly this time. The guy next to me was going through rubbish bins looking for cans.
I am selling Microsoft Surface.

Tianfu square at night has a big fountain show synchronised to music. By music I mean the thing from titanic about my heart will go on.

Picture 400! The pogo boot things I mentioned above. I think these are banned in Australia, too many kids pogo'd onto their faces. Hopefully tomorrow I can find night lawn darts too.

mother on 2013-04-07 said:
Very Pretty mountain and ravines, but hardly a realy mountain. not even above the tree line!

Day 17 - Monday, 8 April 2013

Tibetan beggars

My last full day in Chengdu, tomorrow I start the long journey home, which from hotel to my front door will take something like 26 hours! More on that tomorrow, I am strangely excited to sit on 3 planes and spend 4 hours in Hong Kong airport.
Today I didnt take too many photos, mainly because I was carrying bags full of gifts for my large network of friends (yeah right! I have zero).
I did however walk for many many hours, including through the tibetan quarter, also called little Lhasa. This is in many ways the worst part of Chengdu, because its full of beggars. Monks begging, cripples, crippled monks, you name it. I didnt really experience such behaviour anywhere else in Chengdu.
Apparently there are a lot of hostels for people that want to get high with monks to prove they are worldly somewhere in this area, I didnt see any though. I did see a sad sight of a bunch of westerners on an open mini bus tour though.

Heres a truck that presumably goes to Tibet. Complete with swastikas. I doubt you can go overland like that as a westerner. You can go on the train or by plane to Lhasa and thats it. And even then you need all kinds of permits.

Monks shopping for crap.

Beggar clothing supplies. Men and women dress the same actually (at least I think some were women! Hard to tell with shaven heads).

Time for lunch, this panda brand is more and more popular across China. But so very expensive. T-shirts are $50! Yet I see lots of people wearing them. Perhaps they are wearing fakes.

My lunch is a kind of hot pot. Twice cooked something. Its a mixture of rubbery animal products. I dont know what! The white rubbery stuff was not too nice. The red rubbery stuff was.
Story time, this meal came from a place where you buy a stored value card first. I got to the front of the line, handed over enough cash to cover my meal, when a business man raced up, pushed me aside and handed over a large sum. I looked around he had about 5 guys with him, treating them to lunch in a mall food court?
Anyways, I decided he was trying to look important with his fellow men in suits. So I stood aside and waited. The lady processed his card first, my cash sat on the counter. So as she handed him his card, I grabbed it and walked off.
This was highly amusing to the 5 or so mainly women he had pushed in front of in addition to myself. So now I had his card with about 10x the amount of cash stored on it compared to what I was paying. Whats he to do?
I turned around, he looked mad as hell, but also small and pathetic. So I walked straight past him and handed his card to someone else from his lunch party.

Later on whilst I was eating my lunch I saw him at the counter of the place where he had ordered from yelling and further making a fool of himself.

I need to burn through my remaining yuan, so I paid for delicious glutinous rice ball dessert. It was great.

Last photo for today, near my hotel I found this weird market selling mainly books, coins, notes, old newspapers, stamps.
But most of the books were pornographic! I thought that kind of thing was banned in China. They seemed to disguise themselves as nature journals, basically Chinese girls who have decided to go on a walk through the forest without their clothing.
A rather dodgy looking guy chased me with an armful of them.

Massive restaurant night

Last night in Chengdu, and I headed far out west, almost to the end of the metro, to an area called Golden Cow. I had read it was a big food street with many restaurants.
This turned out to be true, but they were massive restaurants, many of them spanning multiple floors. It was also quite a common site to see people arrive in chauffer driven Porsche Panameras or Range Rovers.
None the less I walked up and down the street, got turned away from two places who only seemed to cater for groups of 10 or more and eventually ended up in a large restaurant that was about half full.
Problem, their menu is Chinese text only, no pictures. They had already fussed over me with tea and whatever so I couldnt just leave, especially since there were 3 people standing to attention awaiting my order.
I look at the printed text on the menu, and recognise a few things. With a few broken sentences I managed to order beef with chilli, ensuring it was stir fried and not a soup, along with a cucumber dish. I also confirmed I like it spicy when asked.
A waitress came back and apologised that cucumber was unavailable, so I ordered eggplant. All in broken mandarin.

I wasnt sure which street I was supposed to walk up until I saw a giant hand holding chopsticks in the middle of the road.

That whole building is one restaurant. It has a courtyard area out the back too.

My normal tactic of going to a place in the local mall failed. The only option was an all you can eat buffet, which is expensive and features abalone, alaskan crab and other things I dont want.

I was turned away from this place. Fair enough as I am in my shorts and clown shoes and women in flowing evening gowns are being assisted out of limo's into the place.

This place was a possibility, until the amassed staff started singing and dancing out the front of the only entrance. Effectively blocking the path of anyone who might like to go inside!
I dont know why they lined up and performed a dance routine, some of them seemed really into it, others looked suicidal.

After finding a place that would take me and ordering in Chinese, heres part one of my dinner. It was great. Very spicy! It has only green chilli (or sort of yellow or white?) but it was probably the spiciest thing I have eaten on this trip.
I had to take the occasional rest to enjoy the burn. Its kind of hard to describe, it was sourer than normal chilli, and feels hot in a different part of your mouth. Maybe it was laced with battery acid.

Part 2 of my dinner, the eggplant. Covered in pickled vegetables with garlic. Not bad, but not as good as something similar I had the other night.

The whole box and dice. I didnt order rice but got it. Someone stood at the table and anytime I sipped the unusual tasting tea she topped it up again straight away.
You can sort of see the decor in here, in a word dated. Also that paper under the glass is the menu.

Presumably on this street once you have finshed eating its time to go to a KTV and drink and sing American pop songs translated into Chinese. Theres many such venues along here.

David on 2013-04-08 said:
I am leaving for Chengdu airport shortly
Flight from there leaves about lunch time on Dragon air, which takes 3 hours to go to Hong Kong.

I then have about 4 hours in Hong Kong airport.

Then its a qantas flight to melbourne overnight, arriving at 730AM tomorrow, takes about 9.5 hours.

Then I have 4 hours waiting in Melbourne.

Then qantas to Adelaide

So I wont be home until tomorrow afternoon.

Like I said, about 26 hours door to door.

mother on 2013-04-08 said:
great restaurants! what are your flight details? times?

David on 2013-04-08 said:
Yes of course I am, last photo for today just means for the day time. I cant handle sitting in my hotel room awake for 8 hours!

I am going to an area far west of the city centre thats recently become popular called golden cow.

mother on 2013-04-08 said:
not goingout tonight?

Day 18 - Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Lets get out of here

I am now at Chengdu airport waiting for my flight.
Cathay has no lounge but they do have a deal with Air China, So I can use theres, and update my boring website whilst waiting.
Getting here took barely any time at all, as a result I was at the airport hours early, before I could check in even. No problem I can wander around and observe the drama of airport lines.
Except this was a particularly quiet time at a quiet international terminal, the vast majority of traffic from here is domestic.

Before that (my stories have no sensical chronology), I had to get a taxi from my hotel to the airport. This I managed to negotiate speaking mandarin, but it was a thrilling ride head on into traffic, narrowly avoiding busses, reversing up a main road due to some sort of delay whilst the driver laughed at me for holding on and occasionally yelled at the talk back radio he had on.
Once you are on the airport expressway however, its smooth sailing, all up the journey took 45 minutes and cost about $6.

Now for my thoughts on Chengdu specifically.
Currently it may be the best place to live or work in China in my opinion. With the proviso that I didnt see any terribly polluted days and I hear they have lots.
I also didnt experience the heat of summer, which is also ridiculous, but I feel that might be the case all across China.
What it does have is a nice working metro, relatively clean streets, friendly people, a laid back attitude, great food, lots of things to do, good connections to other parts of China, and its not yet over run by tourists or expat bankers.
The other contender is from my previous visit, which is Hangzhou. I probably had a better visit as a tourist to Hangzhou, its Chinas number 1 domestic tourist location by a considerable margin.
Hangzhou lacked a metro when I was there, although it is scheduled to start opening now, this made getting around quite difficult, but it does have a lot more natural sites, and is better situated close to Shanghai and Nanjing and countless other places.
Chengdu food is better though! Because I love spicy food and without a doubt Chengdu is the world champion for chilli.
Enough of that, a few boring pictures to talk crap about before I wander around the airport a bit cause theres no decent food in this lounge.

I will try not to contract bird flu before I go.

Its me in the very grey, very sparsely populated check in hall of Chengdu airport.

Final panda photo (probably, you never know whats on the other side of security).

Strangely, there are 3 different international departure areas, each with their own security and no way to travel between them. Theres only 3 or so flights departing from this hall this afternoon. Hence its small and a ghost town.

The air china lounge. Nothing to get excited about, except they have internet and free drinks.

It does have a decent view of the apron. My planes not here yet which is a little concerning given the delays I had on the same Hong Kong to Chengdu flight getting here.

And its me, sitting here typing this.

Still 2 flights to go

4 flights down 2 to go. All 4 have had significant delays. Todays delay was about 1.5 hours. Most of this was still inside the airport, but once we did get on, the pilot announced another 20 minute delay.
Then strangely we got towed out to almost the start of the runway, rather than taxiing under the planes power, never had that happen before.
The flight itself was for me unenventful, not so much for the girl next to me. When approaching Hong Kong you frequently have to circle for quite some time, I think they factor it into flight plans these days. So you get a lot of engine noise in an airbus as they press 1 button to set it into hold, descend, climb or whatever they are direct to do.
This all sent the girl next to me into a panic, she kept peaking out the window at white cloud, then putting her hand over her face and peaking through her fingers. Eventually she had the sick bag out, and even asked me WHERE GWOUND! WHERE GWOUND! Thankfully she did not need to use the sick bag. Once we landed it was evident she even started crying at some point.

Now the fun begins, how to depart a plane gracefully, if a Chinese citizen. Obviously they missed the manual because as soon as we hit the ground people are stadning up and charging to the front to get off first. Seriously reverse thrust was still engaged.
The hostess's's however you put all those esses together were going crazy all to no avail. Of course theres a good 20 minute taxi whilst 30 or so idiots now become self aware they stood up for no reason.
And then to make matters worse, the entire plane de boards onto two waiting busses (strange for Hong Kong!), and these 2 busses waited for a good 10 minutes for various grandmas to be loaded on. A good thing I have a 4 hour stopover cause its now 2.

Unless something weird happens on my 2 remaining flights, I may not update this again!

My tiny dragonair plane arrived late in Chengdu, then had a technical issue which was never described.

Landing in Hong Kong, and its time for stairs. Worlds most modern airport and all that.

Now for some airline food photos, stop reading if you dont care. First up off to the refurbished wing lounge for their buffet. They now have ala carte as well which had interesting options but I opted for buffet.

Buffet dessert with apple pie, chocolate mousse etc.

Next up, off to the Qantas lounge to see if anythings new there. No. None the less had some fruit and ice cream.

And finally, into the pier lounge, where I am now typing this. Cool little cubicles have been put in for people like me to tap away in private.

David on 2013-04-10 said:
all the shops were open, I was there at peak hour

not that I looked in any of them

anyway, Im home now, you can stop reading

mother on 2013-04-09 said:
still avidly following your adventures.

Any shops open in HK airport?

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