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Chengdu Travel Blog

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Traveling trough the mountains

So, yet another sleeper train.

Our train left at 1.20pm and was scheduled to take 16 and a half hours, making us arrive at 6am. This wasnt the greatest news but we contacted the hostel we were going to stay with and arranged for them to collect us. Just in case something went wrong (again) we picked up a leaflet from the hostel in Xi'an which had the address in English and Mandarin. We had booked soft sleeper bed again, which were actually more like hard sleepers. The train was shabbier than the previous ones, most likely because they were traveling between poorer cities. In the dining cart we encountered a few diffculties. The main one being that NO ONE spoke any English. We sat at a table for a long time, with the waitress that was taking orders staying down the other end of the carriage.

Eventually the woman that was serving found us a menu with English writing on it but we quickly discovered it wasnt their menu, just an odd one laying about as everything we tried to order they didnt do. We ended up having to order two portions of egg fried rice as it was the only thing we pointed to that they had. We also tried to order two bottles of beer, but the waitress again shook her head. We found this a bit annoying as they clearly did have beer as we saw them serving it to other people. The Chinese people in the carriage found our situation highly amusing, many were openly staring at us and laughing. Im sure we were the butt of quite a few jokes.

After our delicious(!) meal we headed back to our cabin, stopping to buy a few bits from one of the staff that were walking up and down the train with trolleys of food and drink.

The guy spoke no English, the boy was his interpretor
We managed to buy two bottles of beer from her, only I think because we reached into the bottom of the trolley and picked them up. I can only assume that women drinking beer is highly unusual because as we sat in our cabin, merrily drinking our beer, we got many people gawking us as they walked past, with one man actually doing a double take and poking his head into the cabin to get a closer look!

We busied ourselves by admiring the scenery. The train route was through mountains, actually going through the middle of them! It was very remote, but here and there we still saw evidence of people. Crops of sweetcorn were planted on the side of steep slopes and tiny huts were plonked between trees. As we were standing outside our cabin a family from a cabin a few doors down had gathered near us and were all looking at us, talking to each other about us.

Our hostel
We found this a bit rude, 'look at the strange people, aren't they funny looking' and tried to ignore them. They eventually pushed forward a twelve year old boy, who turned out to be one of the only English speakers in the group. It turns out they were quite facinated by us, particularlly at my amazing height. In China the women are very small, the average being 5' 4, and the men aren't that much taller at 5'7 so me being almost 6' was facinating to them. They were also taken with my many tattoos, women in China dont have tattoos (I have previously had old women scrunch their faces up in disgust and mime at me to wash it off!!!). As we were talking to them the woman with the trolley came round again and we tried to buy another beer. She told us 'no beer' but we persisted, with the man from the family (who spoke no English at all) saying he wanted to buy us a beer so we could drink with him.
Kids playing by the water

We were invited into their cabin to sit down and spent a good few hours talking to them. They taught us the Mandarian for hello (Ni Hao) and for cheers (Gam Pai). We were questioned on lots of different things, from what we ate (bread and milk make us strong!) to brothers and sisters. There is a one child law in China, the population is so big that extreme measures have been brought in to halt the massive surge in numbers. The family asked us to write down our names on a piece of paper and as I started writing mine they all exclaimed in surprise (I take it left handers aren't that common in China either huh!) We eventually headed to bed aroun 11pm, as we had to be up at 5am to ensure we were ready for when the train got in at 6. Turns out we neednt have bothered as our train didnt actually arrive until 10.

Women dancing in the park
30am! Four and a half hours late! Our 16 and a half hour journey turned into a twenty one hour journey!

Not surprisingly there was no one waiting for us when we exited so we jumped into a taxi and showed him the address. The taxi pulled up at the end of a road that was blocked off and pointed down it then at the address. We thanked him (xie xie which is pronounced shi shi) and headed down. The street is actually a very old alley, with some buildings, our hostel included, dating from the Qing dynasty. We checked in with no problem, but the floor of our dorm room had a huge puddle in it which we had to report. They apologised and mopped it up for us, we sat outside and went online for while. Once we figured the floor was dry we went back in to sort our stuff out.

Huh??
I was sitting on my bed (the lower bunk) when I happened to look up at the wall opposite and saw a HUGE spider. All I could managed was a 'Woooohhhhhhoo(very articualate I know) but it made Rachel look up. She took one look and shot out the door, telling me to 'get the boy, g.g.get the boy'. I took this to mean get the guy on reception to catch it so I went out to reception. There was actually a woman on reception who didnt know the word spider, but she soon got the gist when I made a creepy crawly running gesture with my hand. She followed me back to the room, took one look and went and got the boy lol! He took one look and fetched a broom. He eventually managed to kill it by squashing it onto the mattress and promised to change the sheets. We were a bit dubious about sleeping in the room after that but it turns out we didnt have to as about an hour later one of the staff came up to us and said they were going to have to change our room as the puddle from earlier was actually being caused by the AC dripping.
The hand dug statue of Mao

We were put into an 8 bed dorm, with 4 guys and 1 girl. This would have been ok, except the frosted glass door of the bathroom was still partially see through, and the door didnt lock! We put up with it for one night and the next morning asked to change rooms, opting for a private room, which we got at a discount for all the trouble we'd had. We then went out to explore the area, heading to people's park. Inside the park we heard music, eidel wiess from the sound of music of all things! We of course had to find out what was going on so heading towards it and found a group of middle aged women dancing. We stood and watched for a while, finding it all very amusing. Turns out it wasnt an isolated group, as we walked round the park we came across group after group of women dancing, they were EVERYWHERE!! It wasnt even as if it was the weekend, this was midday on a Tuesday! To be fair they did look like they were having a great time.

After the park we went to find the huge white marble statue of Chairman Mao. In Wild Swans (the book Rachel is reading about China's history) there is a part set in Chengdu, and it says the marble used to create the statue had to be dug out of the quarry by hand, as using machinery would 'diminish the effort and dedication to Mao'! Tomorrow we go to see the pandas, the reason we came!!

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Traveling trough the mountains
Traveling trough the mountains
The guy spoke no English, the boy …
The guy spoke no English, the boy…
Our hostel
Our hostel
Kids playing by the water
Kids playing by the water
Women dancing in the park
Women dancing in the park
Huh??
Huh??
The hand dug statue of Mao
The hand dug statue of Mao
Chengdu
photo by: spocklogic