Saturday, November 24, 2012

Chengdu, China, part 1

People's Park in Chengdu, on a typical Tuesday afternoon.

One of several men writing in water on the paving stones and then letting the words dry away to nothing. 
Some of the fun rides in the kid's area.
Bree subjects herself to the tuning fork portion of the ear cleaning procedure.
Main temple at the Ai Dao Nunnery.
Entrance to Wenshu Monastery. 
Statue in Wenshu Monastery. 
Any dish in Sichuan that is red means that it will be spicy. And non-red dishes tend to be spicy as well. Basically everything is spicy, but delicious.
Coco, our new buddy at the hostel. Bree learned that he responds to Mandarin commands. 

We took the first couple of days in Chengdu to just explore the city. The cool kids call it either CD or the Du.  We walked to People's Park, a beautifully laid out park. There is a canal with row boats gliding through it. Foliage well maintained but not overly so. All the things you'd expect in a big city park anywhere in the world. It was like central park, in that it is a park, but that is where the similarities ended. There were several troupes of older performers singing and dancing, rivaling for your attention by having the loudest sound system. There was a large line-dancing group where random people would approach and just join in, all knowing the dance. There were old men writing poetry in water on the stone pathways. All of this was strange to me, but what really stood out was one particular moment. 

We entered an outdoor tea house where people sat enjoying tea... while men carrying a collection of long metal tools went about cleaning the patrons' ears. Bree had no sooner sat down when a man dug in, scraping away. What really made the moment surreal was when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed (yet another) group of Chinese teenagers approaching, asking to take a picture with me. I'm in a park surrounded by dozens of people with their heads tilted while ear cleaners scrape away waxy buildup, and I'm the thing that you want to take a picture of?!

Don't get me wrong, I love it. This sums up a big part of the excitement of travel to me. Things that are seemingly mundane and normal here are bizarre, exciting and foreign to us. And our presence is bizarre, exciting and foreign to those here.

Later that night we found a restaurant that was recommended as both being vegetarian and typical Sichuan food. Sichuan food has a reputation for being spicy. It did not disappoint! The food was great and the burn faded from our lips not too much later.

The next day we headed to Wenshu Monastery and Ai Dao Nunnery. Again eating a very spicy lunch at a vegetarian restaurant in the monastery. We later cooled the fire in our mouths at the hostel with a few of the <1$ but 3.3% alcohol 40s of Snow beer (China's answer to Budweiser).

- Matt