A quick 2-hour ride from Chongqing to Chengdu. The train was super nice as well, European standard train, fast, clean and no one was eating their food and then throwing their scraps on the floor! Very civilized. There was a screen that told you how fast we were going, what time it was, arrival time very high tech compared to the last trains we had been on. Got a taxi to our hostel and checked in. We decided to share a toilet and shower at this hostel, as it was half the price. I have been shocked at the price of things here in China, a lot more expensive than I thought it would be.
We got ourselves settled into our cute room on the top floor with an outside garden area. The nicest room and hostel so far. We got “Bella” to tell us what there was to see and what tours they offered. We got a map and marked the highlights, signed up for the Panda tour for the next day. We then set off into the streets of Chengdu.
A much more easy city to navigate around and a lot more pretty and clean than Chongqing. Our favorite stop so far. We went and visited a beautiful monastery, I lit some incense and enjoyed watching the locals pray and walk around the gorgeous grounds.
After our visit of the monastery we went to get some food at “Mai Pa Tofu” a place recommended by hostel. Not that great! Still not blown away by the food, just does nothing for me, Thai food is just so much more flavorful and looks appetizing! We had some chewy spare ribs, some green vegetables, which was lettuce stir-fried and we got this corn that had been fried and was served with sweet sprinkles! We had then fuelled up on this not so great food and we walked the city.
Mao Statue, Tea in the Park....
When I say walked I mean we walked! I would say a good 15+ kms! Was awesome we saw so much and such an easy city to walk around. We went to Mao’s Statue, People’s park to the teahouse there to have tea. Dean had green tea and I had some flower tea. We spoke to a local “Lin” that was trying to sell us a tour. He also was however, very knowledgeable and spoke great English so we had a good chat to him while we sipped our tea, watching all the Chinese around us, playing card games, eating all sorts and just chatting. Lin told us this is a place where people gather to hang out and drink tea. Loved the teahouse experience. We sat there for quite some time and got our moneys worth with the tea as they bring you a thermos full of hot water so you can keep refilling you teacup. We then had a stroll around the park, very pretty. Had all sorts, teahouses, rides for kids, food and drinks and shops.
We then walked around trying to find the “Chinese Architectural Street”. We eventually found it. Well worth it, gorgeous little narrow side streets, suppose to be only pedestrians but of course there were a few bikes and motorbikes around.
Hanging out with the expats watching EPL...
After our lovely wonder around in this area, Dean was determined to find a bar called “The Leg” so he could watch the Man City game! After a good hour of walking after the whole day on our feet we found it. It was right around the corner from the Hooters! Who knows with Dean we may have gone there next! Found the bar, filled with expats. I just hung out wrote in my diary and watched the men get all excited about footie! Man City won 5-1, so Dean was happy and it was entertaining enough for me. After a LONG day of walking we headed back to the hostel.
Chengdu Panda Conservation Centre...
The following morning we had an early start to go and see the Panda’s. Oh were they ever SO CUTE!!!! Wanted to hug one, I could have for USD1000!!!! Rather pricey so admired them from a distance! We had organized the tour through the hostel. There were only 7 of us on the tour. They were all English – one couple, two guys travelling together and one guy on his own. It was nice to be such a small group and they were all very pleasant and nice to speak to. We shared travel stories and they have been travelling China the other way to us so gave us some tips. Our bus driver was our “tour guide” as well. He did not say much, well nothing at all as he spoke no English he just guided us around the conservation center. It was a gorgeous place and the panda’s were SO adorable! We enjoyed the tour, video and museum and learned a lot about Panda’s and they have this breeding center so that the Giant Panda does not go extinct.
Hotpot in Chengdu...
The tour only lasted half the day. So we chilled out at our hostel for a while and then went to do another “must do in Chengdu”, have a “hot pot”. There were a list of must sees in Chengdu and we had done most of them the day before we just had to try a hot pot. We arrived at the restaurant and we were brought to a table with a large hole in the middle for the hot pot. We then chose from a menu all the dishes we wanted to go into the hot pot. I chose some vegetables, noodles, what I think was beef and we stirred clear of the brain, guts etc.
The huge hot pot came with chili, peppercorns and all sorts of other spices floating in it. Under the table was a gas burner that they turned on in order to keep the hot pot hot. The waitress mixed up a sauce for us. There was a lot of garlic, shallots, salt, sugar, vinegar and soya sauce. All the dishes we ordered were placed into the hot pot and mixed in. You then use chopsticks and fish out all the goodies from the hot pot. Dean got some lettuce that had soaked up the entire chili flavor and was caked in chili and peppercorn! His lips went numb and he felt as though there were pins in his lips! Was not too impressed with the hot pot! Neither was I. It was very greasy and nothing special and was $20!
We went for a wonder to see some of the sights we had missed yesterday and then went back to the hostel to chill out before our “night safari of Chengdu by bike”.
Mix Hostel Monday night city bike tour...
This was organized free of charge through the hostel. This was a highlight for sure! We were staying at “Mix Hostel” and it was “Mr. Mix” himself that took us on the bike tour of the city! It was awesome!
Mr. Mix briefed us on road rules in Chengdu and I am sure they apply to the rest of China, cars are King, and they have the right of way and can go even if the pedestrian light is green! Mr. Mix made it clear to let cars go no matter what! We were off. There were only 8 people all together on the tour.
We cycled around the whole city for over 3 hours! We went past the Catholic Church, a Muslim Mosque- amazing to think there are Chinese Christians and Muslims! We biked through the University, past Mao’s statue, mall and shopping areas, a gorgeous bridge that was all lit up. So much to see and take it, people doing tai chi in the park, dancing, walking, cycling etc. Just wanted to look at all the sights but at the same time had to pay very close attention to the road and foot path as there were cars, bikes, people, buses everywhere! We rode about 15kms, we saw so much just loved it!
Mr. Mix then brought us to a great local noodle place for noodles and dumplings. A great meal and cheap!
back on the train - destination Xian!!!
On the 30 Aug we woke up, packed up and got ready for our next stop, Xian. We both liked Chengdu the best so far. We were now familiar with the process at the train stations.
- Go through check point to show ticket
- Go through security
- Find out what waiting lounge to go to
- Wait for train to be called and for then to be a mad rush of people to get onto the train!
We would wait for the mad rush to end before even thinking about moving! You have to be sure not to wait too long though as they close the gates to the trains before the train actually departs! We found our carriage and were pleasantly surprised by the 4 cabin soft sleeper beds!
We had the whole cabin to ourselves for the first 5 hours of the journey! What bliss and what a change from the 100’s crammed into the hard seat cabins! Glad we got to experience travelling with the locals, however for a 17-hour journey to Xian the thought of being able to lay down was great!
Stop number 7 after 5 hours of total privacy we then had to share our cabin with a mother and her son “Bobby” and her mother. The grandmother had the bottom bunk and the mother and her son Bobby had the top bunk. The lady was an English teacher so spoke good English and Bobby spoke some English and when we tried to practice our Chinese Bobby made fun of us! He was a very cute kid, full of energy and kept going from the top to bottom bunk and opening and closing the door! Bobby kept calling Dean, “Dean, Dean”, was so cute.
They were very sweet and were fun to share a cabin with locals and see what they get up to. Lots of eating- slurping and burping!