Monday, March 11, 2013

Don't Mind if I Cheng-do!

Blog-a-Thon, Round Two: DING! DING! DING!  I said I was going to get a VPN before I went to Chengdu.  I lied.  I tried installing an open source VPN, but I lost that techno-battle, and in the end, it's just as well.  I was going just about every minute I was gone; no time for blogging.
Last month's experience in Harbin gave me cause to reflect on my love-hate relationship with China.  Last month I was feeling more love than hate.  This month was a different story.  Don't get me wrong - I had a good trip, but it started out rough because I didn't get enough sleep the night before (one of those things, again), I wore the wrong shoes, China's really crowded, I forgot my deodorant, and there are just.  Not.  Enough.  Taxis.

Some things I loved about Chengdu?  My hostel.  I used to be afraid of that word, hostel.  I envisioned sleeping in a dorm without any privacy and having my stuff stolen.  I've stayed at a few, always in private rooms, and it's never as bad as I feared.  This time I stayed in the Traffic Inn, and it was awesome.  The staff were friendly and helpful, the rooms were clean and comfy, it was hella-conveniently located (right next to the Xinnanmen bus station which made catching the first bus to Leshan on Saturday a possibility instead of a good intention), and they offered a cooking class, which was nice.  I'll have to let you know if the food turns out to be as good when I try it on my own.  In a strange coincidence, as I was walking out my first morning to go explore, I saw one of their goldfish had jumped out of the bowl and was gasping for air, so I called them over and they put him back in.  Unfortunately he wasn't a daredevil wonder fish; he didn't survive.

Also, they had a sense of humor.  In front of the hostel is the Traffic Hotel.  On the Traffic Hotel is a sign with a caricature of a backpacker, asking if any of the (none-too-flattering) traits described you....ridiculously big backpack with all the conveniences of home, Lonely Planet so you can have the same experience as everyone else, hiking boots for taking the well-trod tourist trails.  In the bathroom, they had a sign with some laowai eating hot pot, swearing over how spicy it is, and a note that said, if you ignore the customs, avoid the people, reject the food, etc, you'd be better off staying home, that you are like a stone thrown into water.  You get wet on the outside, but don't become part of the water.

Well, I was in Shanghai for two years and I'm pretty sure I only got wet on the outside.  But I loved the Sichuan food - spicy as hell.  In fact, on the first day on my way back from the Panda Center, I noticed something...you could actually smell the spiciness on the air.  It was awesome.  And I've seen my share of temples (Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucianist), learned a little Mandarin, and now, I've even learned to cook a little, although unfortunately not hot and sour soup, which I feel sure would excuse my aimless wandering in my family's eyes.  By the way - these photos are obviously not of the hotel or the food - there is a food blog coming and I didn't take pics of the hotel.  Instead, you get a couple of random temple/old town-y shots.  I've blogged about temples and old towns before, and since there was nothing jaw-dropping about the ones I came across on this trip, I'll save my words for more interesting things.

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