AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Chengdu

We arrived in Chengdu train station at 8am on the train from Lhasa. Outside the train station is the entrance to the Chengdu Metro. Sheer bliss. We went down the escalator, paid 20RMB (20p) each for a ticket and stood on a pristine clean platform waiting for the train to arrive. It was cheap, clean, easy, fixed price for everyone and had no hawkers. Sheer bliss!

A comfortable 20 minutes later we’d swapped metro lines to line 2 and reached our station. Upon reaching the street the view was somewhat surprising. A massive pedestrianised area with skyscrapers all around us. Fast food, upmarket shops, electronics stores, clothes stores. The area was packed with affluent shoppers. After more than two months in Nepal this was a shock to the senses. It was an easy 5 minute walk to the hostel from the metro.

After breakfast and a shower we started sorting out all the extra weight we’d been lugging from Nepal. We’d already ditched the sleeping bags and thermal coats in Lhasa, but we still had probably 7-8kg between us of unnecessary clothing, gifts and birthday presents. We located the post office on the map, bagged up everything to post and headed off. A quick (and cheap) underground ride later and we were on the street where the post office is. The street had 8 lanes in total, huge footpaths, it was spotlessly clean and surrounded by skyscrapers.

Chengdu cityscape

Chengdu

Cityscape Chengdu

At the post office the staff were very helpful. To inspect and then pack every item took 30 minutes. After the post office we went for a late lunch. Chengdu has a LOT of bakeries. We found one with good bread so ate there. Then we went next door and had cake. So far Chengdu had been a perfect city.

We went shopping in Carrefour. Just the usual, shower gel, deodorant, breakfast for the next few days (most hostels in China don’t include breakfast). In the metro we bought the 2 RMB (20p) tickets and entered the security checks. The deodorant is a banned item and we couldn’t enter! Annoying as we’d gone through earlier with deodorant in our bags! But, those are the rules, so I got the refund on the tickets and we would have to walk back to the hostel.

After getting to the hostel I went to get my hair cut. With a bit of wandering I found a place, a bit posher than my last few haircuts. For 35 RMB (£3.50) I had my hair washed, dried, cut, washed again and dried again. I tried to get the washing skipped but for the fixed price they insisted. With the haircut sorted it was food time.

Chengdu has so much food on offer. Around the hostel every other shop is a restaurant. Every 50m is a food stall on the street selling just about anything. Fruit is everywhere! And then there are small convenience stores and what we’d call newsagents in the UK, also selling food. There’s so much choice it’s actually hard to decide where and what to eat. We opted for cheap and bought spicy noodles from a seller on the street. Cold noodles, chilly sauce, some herbs, sliced cucumber and a pinch of sugar for 5 RMB (50p). Tasty and a bargain. So far we were liking Chengdu much more than the last time we were in China.

The next day we woke late and decided to wander around Chengdu. First we went to the train station and bought train tickets for the next day to Mount Qingcheng. Then we took the metro down to Wenshu Monastery. The monastery had a few interesting buildings but with no information of what we were looking at we soon left.

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Incense

As with just about everywhere in China there were food shops everywhere. We chose the emptier restaurant simply because it would be easier for us to take our time. Luckily the restaurant was also in English and we ordered hot and spicy potato noodles. Not very hot but pretty good. Very oily though. The Chinese seem to love a lot of oil on their food.

Andrew Eating Hot & Spicy Potato Noodles

Hot & Spicy Potato Noodles

That afternoon we wandered towards the People’s park. The park was vast and confusing but very popular with the locals. We went to the tea shop in the park and ordered some very expensive green tea. There was so much tea in the cup it was too bitter and we had to take most of it out just to be able to drink it!

Green Tea at the He Ming Teahouse, Chengdu

Annemarie drinking Green Tea

Andrew drinking Green Tea

After the park we walked down to the river and then walked along by the river for a few miles. The number of skyscrapers is impressive! Everywhere we looked was high rise buildings. Offices, apartments, expensive hotels, you name it they have it.

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So far almost everything about Chengdu has been positive. The metro network makes getting around cheap and convenient, that is probably the single thing which I like most about the city. There’s nothing I hate more than negotiating with taxi drivers who decide that based on my skin colour I should pay 5x more than local people. The streets and pavements are clean and wide. There’s lots of trees to make the city feel a little greener. And the people are generally friendly and helpful. If they can’t speak English, which very few can, they will gesture or point to try and help us. This is great and so much better than the last time we were in China.

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But, there’s a problem with all this. I didn’t want to like China! I wanted to dislike it and get out fast. We’ve seen how the Chinese operate in Tibet. There are police checkpoints very frequently. We would usually drive for 1-2hrs before there was yet another checkpoint. This wasn’t for the purported passport and visa check, after all if there was a problem with the paperwork it would have been found in one of the previous 50 checkpoints! Nope, it was good old fashioned intimidation! This was the state letting the local people know who is in charge. Chinese parts of Tibetan towns are modern, clean and have all possible amenities. On the other hand Tibetan parts of town were dirty, dark, few amenities and looked old. Chinese people are asked to move there for good jobs and good pay. In the wider country talking about the wealth of government family members is strictly punished. They execute more people than any other country. And basic freedoms are severely restricted! Not to mention almost all social media sites are blocked. For these reasons I feel bad about liking Chengdu and this part of China.

Posted from Chengdu, Sichuan, China.

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