Asia | China | Sichuan Province | Chengdu – Chengdu
Introduction: Chengdu and more of Leshan. Exploring the ancient capital of Sichuan little by little in the sweltering heat and learning what “holy shit” really means in a village temple near Leshan. Chengdu is so far the most boring city I’ve visited, and it probably shows in the entries as well. I felt so miserable that I couldn’t get myself together to move on though.
Daniel, my boyfriend, was supposed to have arrived in Hongkong last night and contacted me about when we’d meet in Chengdu, but the suspense that came with every phone call died after the person on the other end of the line asked for someone else. I got sick of waiting and went shopping in the afternoon in Yulin Community, a somewhat posh and quiet neighborhood in downtown Chengdu.
My frustration escalated by 9pm, and left my cousin’s apartment to enjoy some night air. At the gate, I screamed at a familiar figure, now seemed striking because of its blond hair after I’ve been immersed in Chinese communities for over a month. Daniel had lost the phone number of my cousin’s place, but fortunate had the Chinese version of her address. So he got on a flight from Guangzhou this morning and gave me a pleasant surprise. While I screamed at him, people sitting out in the garden looked at us with puzzlement and a suppressed laugh. I had been wondering what it would be like to travel in China with someone who cannot blend in, and the looks on their face gave me a first hint. But that’s unimportant for now. I had too many stories to tell and hear.
I hopped onto a wobbly bike, and struggled my way toward downtown, almost killing myself or other pedestrians a few times. Qingyang District is famous for its hole-in-the-wall eateries featuring chengdu’s specialty xiaochi, or snacks, but the chaos there is not for the mentally or gastrointestinally unprepared such as Daniel. I tried some spicy pork, sweet potato noodles, steamed rice buns, and ended up so full that I only managed to walk to a pogada style tea house overlooking the willow-lined river bank and spending the rest of the afternoon there.
The heat in Chengdu drained all our energy. I couldn’t even get myself together to leave. We did the touristy thing of visiting the Thatched Roof Cottage of Dufu, one of the most celebrated poets in Chinese literary history. The gardens and calligraphy were beautiful, and well worth the high admission, but the miserable weather wore us out. So we ended the cultural enlightenment soon, and escaped to the mall to immerse in Chengdu’s commercialism and the air-conditioning.