Thursday, January 4, 2018

Back like Szechuan sauce with my day ones coming on top

Chengdu is in the Sichuan province of China. Even though it’s relatively central if you’re looking at a map of the country, it’s pretty far west in the inhabited portion before the mountains take over. Sichuan (also known as Szechuan) is known, at the very least, for its spicy food and opera.

Opera costume

While it’s a sizable city, there isn’t a whole lot to do or see of major significance within the city limits. Many trip guides of top local attractions in Chengdu only list the pandas and a couple of other places and then start suggesting places two hours away or more. With only two full days here, and wanting to spend time with our friends, we knew those places wouldn’t work on this trip, but we still managed to have some pretty good days.

The panda base, even for me who loves pandas beyond reason, really only takes half a day. We were there for about six hours before heading out for our afternoon activity - Wide and Narrow Alleys (Kuanzhai Xiangzi) - which offered us the chance to see some interesting Chinese architecture, eat adventurous food, and browse a variety of shops.

When we arrived, we’d already walked something like seven miles and were ravenous, but trying to locate and identify food was a challenge. Well, mostly identify. We saw steamed buns and varieties of meat on sticks and then saw cooked rodent heads (later identified as rabbit) and some brain soup. We’re adventurous, but we’re not that adventurous. Eventually, we found some alleyway dive, pointed at some things and ended up with some beef rib on a stick, pork chunks on a stick, and some dumplings not on a stick. It was pretty good! We wandered up and down the alleys for awhile until we’d had our fill and then successfully navigated the metro for the first time to get back to the consulate, which is where our friends live. For dinner, we all went to a Tex-Mex restaurant that was surprisingly good. At the end of a 26,000+ step day, I felt no qualms wolfing down some cheesy enchiladas and a big German Chocolate ice cream dessert.

Even the graffiti gets into the spirit


Wide Alley


Rabbit heads - not lunch

We were mesmerized by this guy whipping noodles

Caramel work

Sichuan Opera costume

Starbucks > Communism

On Friday, we started our day by navigating up to the Panda Avenue metro station, just to see how it was decorated and then went to a shopping area called Tai Koo Li for people watching, more panda decorative cuteness, and delicious soup dumplings and dim sum that our friends recommended. Nearby was a Buddhist temple - Daci Temple - which we also explored.

Don't miss the panda scaling the building behind us!

Afterward, we took a cab to Wangjianglou Park or Bamboo Park. The paid area has some historical buildings to explore and the open area features a few more, but also lots of people just going about their park business. And a run down children’s amusement park.

Dinner that night was at a place the Americans colloquially call Rabbit Restaurant. Everything is served family style and everything was delicious. This was probably my favorite meal of the whole trip. We had crispy rabbit (which our friend convinced her daughter was chicken for as long as she could and the look of betrayal when her daughter realized she had, in fact, eaten rabbit was all too clear), duck with crispy rice, eggplant (very popular in Chengdu), some vegetables dishes, some buns you scoop some pork and grain mixture into, and some sort of fried corn dish. Way more food than seven people could eat, but I definitely did my part and then some.

Afterwards, we relaxed and watched My Neighbor Totoro, which I had failed to see before then. I can now authoritatively agree that it is super adorable and it was fun to see and share things about Japan that make it even more meaningful. Apparently it was originally released as a double feature with Grave of the Fireflies, one of the most gut-wrenching films I’ve ever seen and also an anime film. I really hope they showed Totoro second.

Saturday morning, we relaxed with our friends (particularly the kids), had pancakes for breakfast, and did our laundry. Then it was off to the airport for a few days in Beijing!

The luggage carts had touch screens for airport info!

Karaoke booth! Sadly, we did not have time to try them out. 

Many thanks to our dear friends for hosting us in Chengdu!

1 comment:

Giggles said...

Some times you just gotta karaoke! Or something.

When my brother was in China there were turtle heads on a dish once and he was told that turtle heads are garnish and not for eating. So he went on a satirical rant about how if you're going to eat the head of one animal (he'd eaten fish head the day before) then you need to eat the heads of all animals. Turtle heads don't have a lot of meat on them.