02.03.2010 - 05.03.2010
My last stop in China...Chengdu!
It started with a bang when my flight from Guiyang was delayed a couple of hours. I finally arrived in Chengdu around 1:30 AM Wednesday and realized I hadn't booked a room for that night. I originally planned to come the next day but found a cheaper flight. So I hopped on the bus from the airport to the city center, tried to grab a taxi but they all quoted ridiculous prices, so finally I bargained it down with one lady to take her taxi company. She tells me to wait and a rickshaw pulls up. Here I am with all my possessions, in the freezing cold and drizzle and I have to take a rickshaw around, explaining in my broken Chinese that I needed a place to sleep. The man was actually really nice and came with me to a couple places, all with no rooms available, and finally I ended up at a hostel at 3 am with an open single room. Score! In the morning I realized the area was quite nice. It was in a hutong (traditional looking neighborhood) with lots of teashops and restaurants. Chengdu has much more Western influence than Guiyang, and there was even a Starbucks down the road from my hostel. I'm ashamed to admit I got one everyday....Sometimes you just need a damn good coffee!!
I was a bad girl these past few days and took no photos. The first day I was boring and did lots of job applications on my laptop (my Swiss visa was denied so I have to look at other options--grr!!) The next day I wandered to the Wenshou Temple area. There are several streets that comprise the Tibetan village. Chendgu is only a measly 42 hour train ride from Tibet! In China terms that's not far at all. So there's a huge Tibetan Buddhist influence here. I loved the shops selling jewelry, incense, prayer flags and other Tibetan goods. I also found a great vegetarian restaurant called Lotus on the Water. Since I've pretty much become vegetarian here in China, I always know to look for the temples for veggie restaurants since the Buddhists don't eat meat!
Chengdu is in Sichuan province. Some of you might know Sichuan from the severe earthquake they had a couple years ago. Sichuan is known for several things, in particular it's spicy food and pandas. And I mean spicy. I've lived in Guiyang for the last 6 months, where they douse la jiao (chili) on everything but this is in a whole different league. The Sichuanese have this spice called ma la which literally numbs your tongue.
There was a really good entry about Sichuanese food on a blog I like called Eating Asia, in particular about Chengdu. If anyone really likes to read about food, then here you are. There's also some great photos of the people: http://eatingasia.typepad.com/eatingasia/chengdu/
Outside of Chengdu there's the Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center. This place is supported by the World Wildlife Federation. It was started in 1987 with only 6 pandas and now they have about 83 at the center. More were born and sent to live other places. Pandas are of course endangered so this is important. They're somewhat "reproductively challenged" so it takes a lot of work to breed them. They use artificial insemination a lot so often babies are born very small and need to be carefully nursed.
They have both giant pandas and lesser pandas, the smaller red ones. I was informed that March-May is the "falling in love" season but unfortunately we weren't lucky enough to see any of this--the pandas were too lazy to deal with the whole dating scene today.
I'm really mad I didn't bring my camera...I had to leave early in the morning to get to the base and see the feeding so in my sleepy state I forgot to put it in my bag. I met a couple of girls form London who took some photos for me so hopefully they'll email them to me soon. The pandas were adorable! They spend 50% of the day sleeping and about 48% of the day eating, so that leaves 2% of the time to either "fall in love" or move from one napping spot to another. Our Chinese tour guide said this is because they are vegetarian so they don't have enough energy. Yet again the Chinese are skeptical of non meat-eaters.
Here's the website of the panda center: http://www.panda.org.cn/english/index.htm
It's got some good info about them.
I also met a Malaysian guy on my tour who gave me some great advice about Kuala Lumpur. That's the capital of Malaysia and my last stop before leaving for New York. He recommended some spots for good eats and shopping. Yay!
I will put up my pics as soon as they're sent to me!
I'm hanging out for now in Chengdu until my midnight flight to Malaysia. I got some work to do to find my next job...any thoughts? Right now I got some options in Hong Kong, Spain, Istanbul...those are my top picks. But I need to get home first before I think about leaving again...Can't wait to see everyone!
I'm exhausted but really psyched...in less than 24 hours I'll be on the beach!