Here I am with one of the pigs who roam the hostel!
At about 10:30 a.m., we enthusiastically exited our train and were immersed into the chaos of the Chengdu train station. We followed throngs of travelers and locals carrying fruits and vegetables on bamboo poles that rested on their backs. We arrived at the train station exit, scanning the crowd for a woman who was to be holding a sign that read "Sim's Cozy Garden Hostel." Our hostel offers free train pick-up service, which was one of the reasons we selected this hostel a few months back in America. Although we could not spot her, we eventually hear a "Lucy!" in the crowd and see a small Chinese lady, with a friendly smile on her face, running towards us. I guess we were easy to spot!
When we arrived at our cheerful hostel, I fell in love immediately.
Jason is looking at the prayer cards at Wenshu Yuan Buddhist temple.
We were greeted by three adorable, black pigs that seem to scamper and roam around the hostel grounds freely. After checking into our room, we enjoyed lunch at the hostel's cozy restaurant, and our Sichuan pasta and rice dish was delicious. We took a quick tour of the hostel and were pleased with all of the scenic seating areas and traditional Chinese gardens, both of which helped to create a relaxing environment after spending time in all the commotion of Shanghai
After washing our clothes and neatly hanging them on the outdoor lines to dry throughout the day (we have yet to see a dryer in China), we headed on foot to Wenshu Yuan, the headquarters of Sichuan's Chan Buddhist sect.
Jason and I sip our tea at the teahouse.
The grounds were fairly large and consisted of several pathways leading to gardens, ponds, temples with gold and bronze statuary, and courtyards with large, bronze incense burners. We then ventured into the bustling teahouse, which is also located on the grounds of Wenshu Yuan. We timidly purchased our cup of tea, which contains some type of herbs and tea leaves that rest on the bottom of the cup, from the lady in the window. We then found a seat and enjoyed the atmosphere as men walked around with kettles of boiling water to refill our cups. I have yet to find a manner in which to drink the tea without swallowing a few floating tea leaves! As we casually sipped our tea, a man walked around the teahouse offering his services - cleaning out your inner ears! We watched him delicately place several pointy, metal instruments into peoples' ears, and then he would flick the metal instruments, allowing a chime to vibrate through the air.
A man is having his ears cleaned at the teahouse!
The entire process took about ten minutes and was entertaining to watch. I earnestly tried to get Jason to have his ears cleaned, but he wanted nothing to do with it. I can't blame him!
Next, we returned to the hostel where we used the internet and sat outside to read and write. I wasn't until around 7 o'clock that we were growing hungry again and were on our way to Chongqing Qinma Hotpot, a local and popular Sichuan restaurant. Since there was no English menu, our server brought out a menu and pointed to a few items she thought we might enjoy. We trusted her opinion, and before we knew it, we had several plates and bowls on our table and we had no idea what to do with any of them. First, two large tins that formed concentric circles were placed over fire on the center of our table.
We enjoyed a confusing, but delicious, Sichuan dinner!
The center pot looked like some type of broath soup with a few mysterious items mixed in, while the outer pot seemed to be a mixture of water, oil, red peppers, and some other unfamiliar ingredients. We also had at our table two bowls of some type of broath, oil, and seasoning mixture. In addition, we were given a plate of dumplings with a mystery fish inside, another plate piled high with uncooked slices of beef, a plate of raw bamboo, and a final plate with green vegetables.
After several minutes of confusion, and numerous laughs and stares from neighboring tables, an English-speaking server was sent our way who kindly taught us how to prepare our meal. Once we were taught the mechanics, and we were able to do it on our own, we savored every last bite of the scrumptious, exotic dinner.
As we exited the restaurant, we were met with a downpour of rain, and since we had no umbrella, we dashed all the way back to the hostel, splashing from puddle to puddle.