Asia | China | Sichuan Province | Songpan – Songpan
Chengdu’s Ximen bus station beats a zoo. We fought our way through the screaming adults and crying kids, and located our bus to Songpan in an inconspicous corner. Just as I stretched out my legs from the first row of seats and commended myelf for buying the seats two days in advance, the operator put two little boys on a rectangular box right in front of me. My ample leg room was gone in wink.
But losing the leg room was not all. Right after breakfast, the bus drove into some mountainous terrain. By the time we reached Songpan, both of Daniel and I were covered in puke, each by a different boy on a separate incident. I was puzzled how this could happen, and tried to calculate the probability, but Daniel made me realize how nerdy it was to calculate now that the incident had already happened. I had to take it in stride thinking that it would be (knock on wood) a once in a life time experience.
Despite our sorry state, two horse trek operators approached us fearlessly before we even got off the bus. This was about the fiercest competition I’d ever seen. Both offered to take us to a hotel with discount, both offered to bring me to the tailor to fix my broken zipper, and both offered the exact same trekking packages at the exact same prices with the exact same meals! We picked one randomly, and were told to be at their office tomorrow morning at 8:30 for a two-day trek to nearby Er Dao Hai Park to see some beautiful lakes and hot spring.
With everything set, we left to explore the town. Having seen but a few foreign tourists in their lives and really enjoyed doing business with them, all Songpan natives know a phrase of English or two. Daniel was continuously greeted with ‘hello’ from the toddlers walking by and ‘shishkebabu’ from the roasted lamb vendors, while I was completely ingored walking next to him. I uttered my bitterness at one of the stall tenders while pulling Daniel away, and received the only greeting of the day.
Songpan’s layout somewhat resembles that of Dali with a main street connecting a series of elaborate old gates. A few boys killing their summer vacation play pool on the gate. The close-by mountains and the roof of a mosque formed a stunning backdrop to their cute faces. Offering me a peach, they told me about where to have the best dumplings in town, and the temple that they often visit for fun. I asked about the mosque, and the oldest one immediately refused to go because he saw dead people there. My curiosity rose up and tried to connive him into taking me there, but none of my schemes worked. ‘I’m not going anywhere near there no matter what you say. That place is scary!’ His last words were firm.