Day 2: Chengdu, and you?
Chengdu Travel Blog› entry 2 of 24 › view all entries
Upon leaving the aircraft I spot two fellow travelers: Erna and Nico. It turns out to be a very pleasant couple and we walk together towards passport control. It doesn't take long to get into the country and even luggage arrives pretty fast. As usual I am very happy to see my suitcase appear on the belt.
As we get into the arrival hall, we spot a Chinese man carrying a Fox-sign. He introduces himself as Simon, our local guide. Since the rest of the group hasn't arrived yet, Ils and I set out to find an ATM. We look all over arrivals and even upstairs at check-in, but not a single cash dispenser is to be found. As I am not that keen on airport money exchange stalls, I decide to wait till we get to the center.
In the mean while most of our group members have arrived and we get to know each other.
Of course we cannot wait forever and Simon already directs us to the bus. The bus itself is spacious enough for 22 pax but not all luggage fits in the hold. It needs to be put onto the empty seats and in the corridors as well. Thankfully we'll only have this bus for 2 days.
After checking for the umpteenth time whether the TL isn't among us, Simon decides to head for the hotel already. We just make another stop at the terminal just to be sure and.
This appears to be his first assignment for Fox travels, but he has done the same tour several times for other touroperators. We ought to be in good hands.
After a short ride we arrive to the Wenhan hotel. It is located at a very busy road, which I assume to be the ring road around Chengdu.
We move to a cosy function room on the first floor and get a nice cup of fresh jasmin tea. We also receive a pocket map of Chengdu, a bit of information about our program and a few suggestions for optional excursions. According to the tour schedule we should make this afternoon a city tour through Chengdu but this is now postponed till tomorrow afternoon. What a bummer! This way there is no time anymore to visit the giant stone Buddha in Leshan. I planned to go there on my free afternoon tomorrow.
It's already a little past 1PM when we finally get to our room and we make a cup of instant soup while waiting for our luggage to be brought up. Most of our fellow group members wanted to go and take a nap or a rest but Ils and I want to go into town already. After all we are only here for a mere two days, I want to get the most out of them!
As the luggage takes a really long time to arrive, I go and fetch it downstairs. We quickly change clothes and get into town. As we couldn't change money at the hotel, we first ought to look for an ATM or money exchange agent. Already a few steps out on the street we discover a bank but our pass is refused. Changing money here isn't possible either so we need to keep on looking.
Leaving the bank we pass by the park around the Wuhou temple and Jingli Street. Jingli street is a newly built tourist area where they try to recreate the atmosphere of Chengdu in the past. It's all very artificial but we are in the mood for a treat and spot a Starbucks. Living up to the motto "while in Rome, do as the Romans" we order a mango and ginger ice tea; a treat which our local coffee shop doesn't serve. After this short break we stroll a bit through these small streets, but it isn't too exciting and we decide to head for the center and the People's Park.
But oh disaster! The little map of Chengdu must have fallen out of my pocket.
Back at the hotel, we spot our tourleader at the lobby and are quickly provided with a new map. It seems that without even noticing we did pass the People's Park already. We walked much further than we thought. We should have taken one of the not so appealing looking streets to our right after all. Oh well....
Back in our room we enjoy a nice cup of tea with a cake and then we head out again, this time to explore the area directly around out hotel. There are a few shops but along the busy ring road there is not all that much to be seen or done. After about an hour of strolling along, it's time again to return to the hotel and get dressed for dinner.
We signed up for a joint group dinner and afterwards for a Sichuan opera show "Changing Faces". Dinner takes place in a Chinese restaurant at walking distance from our hotel and the entire group is joining.
It has started to rain but via the Tibetan quarter we get rather quickly to the restaurant where two large round tables are prepared. As I expected almost instantly a number of dishes are put on the turning element in the middle of the table; though nothing that looks familiar to me. I stick to a few scoops of plain rice and try a little of everything but there is nothing I truly enjoy. These are not the flavors I have gotten to know on earlier China trips.
Apart from the shared dishes on the table and the continuous filling of our tea cups, a selection of weird side dishes and soups appear to the table. Our guide explains this is all food that is supposed to be "healthy". These are cures against all sorts of ailments.
It's about time now to go to the performance. We were told that the show would take place in one of the many tea houses but eventually we end up at a regular theater and upon enterring we get a complimentary bottle of water instead of a cup of tea. After a short wait the show kicks off. First there is an orchestra with drums and actors dressed as ancient warriors roam the scene.
Eventually it is then time for the "changing faces". The actors change their masks in the blink of an eye and so it looks as if their faces are really changing according to their emotions. It is said that this is very difficult and it takes the actors several years to learn this art. Yet I do not find it really spectacular but I nevertheless had a nice evening.
Back at the hotel the little shop appears to be open still and I buy a yoghurt to still my protesting stomach. After a quick shower it's time to hit the sheets and try and recover some of the lost sleep from last night on the plane.