Tuesday 6th October
Heard people wandering around the train, thought my alarm had not gone off, but when checked the time it was 4:20am. We were under the impression we would not be arriving till gone 6am, so tried to get back to sleep. 20 mins later Ad was bashing my leg to wake me up as the guy who originally took our tickets and swapped them for cards (so he knew where we were getting off), was asking for his cards back.
Was surprised it was so early, packed our bags just in case, good job we did as the train pulled into the station and hour earlier than expected. CRAZY!! I was well pleased tho as I could not wait to get off this train.
Guy from hostel was waiting for us, took us to cab and we all went to hostel together, the hostel paid, it wasn't too far away thankfully. Unfortunately could not get in a room until others had booked out and they did not have to book out til 12pm, oh well only 7 hours or so to wait DOH!!, we took good advantage of their internet, especially while no one was using it. As soon as the kitchen opened we got a fry up each, well their version of one which consisted of Toast, eggs, bacon, fruit and little tomatoes, not bad actually, woke us up a bit. As soon as room was available we settled in and got all the boring bits done, showers, washing etc.
Bumped into an English couple who have already done all the tours and were able to give us tips on most, including the easiest and cheapest ways to get there. Glad we bumped into them, they were in the middle of adding their graffiti to the walls of the hostel like so many other travellers, you could tell they were good at graphics.
Had a little stroll out by the river and bumped into a Chinese guy who supposedly worked for the Lonely Planet, he offered us cheap tickets to the local opera and Chinese lessons, we took his so called business card - an A5 piece of paper, bless - somehow I don't think he worked for Lonely Planet.
Headed into the old town, which was just around the corner, really nice place. Had some fairly spicy spring rolls, really yummy. Spotted a guy all dressed up like a Kung Fu fighter, did try and get a pic but he was too fast wizzing around the streets, my paparazi isn't up to stratch yet. However, we did see somebody dressed up as a Panda and managed to get a pic with them te he. The food stalls were brilliant. Got LOADS of Peanut/toffee sweet stuff, I've had it at home before, it's delicious, we gave them the equivilant of 1 pound, in the hope that we would get a nice amount for our money - boy did we get more than we expected, a bag full mmmmmmmmmmm should last a few days - well left with me more likely a couple of hours te he.
The meat stands were not so appetizing after seeing a huge range of some very questionable meat and a number of pig snouts, we didn't fancy purchasing from them.
Some event was going on in the street near us, not sure what it was, a girl was out on a balcony about to throw a bouquet of flowers - like a bride would do at a wedding, but it looked like a whole bunch of guys jumping around underneath getting ready to catch it - very odd, but interesting all the same.
Back to hostel to chill for the evening. This hostel called "Mix Hostel" is soooooooooooo chilled out, kinda feels like we are in a tropical place, really cosy and chilled out music, everyone was really friendly. Had some dinner, the food was really cheap and delicious, Chicken, Veg and Peanuts with rice and a noodle soup YUMMY!!! Played some cards, then some table football - OH YES this place has it all te he - I was rubbish at table football though, well I say it was me, but my men just were not in the right place at the right time TERRIBLE. Managed to really chill out LOVED IT.
Wednesday 7th October
Got up fairly late, it was very cloudy and raining so wasn't in a rush to get out. Spoke to a girl from Manchester, she has been living and working in China for a year or so and really loves it. I spotted that she had a Panda card that another couple told us about - basically because of the Earthquake the Panda reserve was offering thousands of these cards as a thank you for people's support and donations in getting the park up and running again. This card gets you in the park for free. We asked the girl directions to find this card, but she didn't really specify just showed us roughly on the map. It was now our mission to find it.
Stopped at the post office quick to send back next lot of photo's on disc, my souveniers and a few other bits a bobs, costs a lot more in China than it did in Japan, seems odd but hey ho, better sent back than weighing down our back packs.
Mission indeed - We must have spent a good 40 mins traipsing around tourist agencies asking about the Panda card, some would try and guide us on the maps, some just completely ignored us not wanting to know. It was a nightmare, but finally we came to another Youth Hostel and thought we would give it a go. The lady on reception was extremely helpful, she phoned a number of an english speaking lady and she listened to what we wanted then explained to the lady on reception in Chinese, who marked on a map for us exactly where it was and even wrote it on paper for us.
Finally we were going to get the card, could not believe it had taken all day. Found the shopping area that the lady had marked for us, but still there was no obvious area to buy the card. We showed a number of people the directions that had been written down in Chinese for us, but still no-body could help, was really starting to think it was impossible. We ended up near the fish market, lots of trade going on, crazy crazy. Was about to give up and head back when we saw a couple of young girls at a reception desk and thought we'd give it a try. They spoke a little english and one managed to pinpoint the exact area exactly, it was a good couple of streets away from where we had been guided origonally, we wasn't 100% convinced that this would get us there, but gave it a go anyway.
Halalula!!!! We found it, the lady behind the desk was a little hesitant to give us them, but I think she must have seen the exhaustion in us both, so she passed them over for 10p each, what a mission, we were both knackered but at the same time soooooooooo pleased to have finally found it. It wasn't like we'd wasted the day much as it had been dull and raining all day, so no worries there.
Thought we would make the most of the few hours we have left so we wandered to the square which was dead center of the town and held the statue of Mao, the leader of China. Took some pics and wandered around a bit then headed towards People's Park, shame it was such a dull sky as the park actually looked really nice, I'm sure it's a really peaceful place to stroll in the sunshine, but it was getting dark now so we had a quick look around and left. Back to hostel for dinner and to chill before bed.
Thursday 8th October
Bit of a crazy day, we were told that we would now have to pay more for our room as the cheaper rooms had become available, so we just said we'd move to the cheaper one, moved all our stuff in only to find that somebody had complained of flee's in that room NICE, so luckily they offered us our origonal room at the price we had it before, bit of mucking around but all worth it in the end, we certainly didn't wanna get stuck with the flees, thats for sure.
Had a look at the map for something to do today, even though it was yet another dull day, but headed to the Bamboo Forest down in the South East section of Chengdu, we figured it was something different that we hadn't done yet, so why not. Wasn't far at all and managed to get in extra cheap with our student cards EXCELLENT!! Was a really nice place to stroll around and get away from the hussel and bussel of the city. Very quiet I guess because of the weather, but even though it started spitting the bamboo leaves sheltered us well, so it was all good.
A chinese lady stopped me a couple of times to take pics of her and her Santa's little helper mascot, she was really sweet and fun to chat to, in the end we both had pics with her and the mascot.
Came across a square with bonsai trees all around it - something about bonsai's are just soothing, it really made the area feel enchanting, was nice. To one side an older guy was practising Tai Chi, was impressive to watch and to the other side we had a guy singing on a mic and people surrounding him clapping. Not what you would expect to find in a park in the UK that's for sure, but I guess that's what makes China so individual and quaint, it was nice to be in amongst. Ended up staying here until almost closing time.
Went back to hostel for dinner, there meals are just too good and at such a reasonable price, couldn't resist. After we decided to go to the internet cafe on the corner as there systems would hopefully be better than those in the hostel, we were right. In fact these systems not only had Skype that worked but a web cam to. It was so nice to chat to everyone and get to see them all as well, we spent ages on there, first to mum, then to Heather, Kellie and my niece and nephew, who spent time dancing and pulling funny faces at me, I loved it, WEB CAM IS ACE!!, then to Claire and briefly Tan, who we disturbed at work, but hey ho it was worth it just to say a quick hi, really felt good after talking to everyone. Plus Ad could sit on the one next to me and chat to all his friends and family as well, so we were not fighting over the headphones te he.
3 hours later the guy told us our time was up, was strange when Claire, all so many miles away asked who that guy was behind me - webcam's great in many ways te he. It was very late so we decided to stop gabbing down the mic and head for bed.
Friday 9th October
Was gonna go see the Panda's today, but when our alarm went off at about 6:45am and it was still pouring down with rain, we decided against it. The guy we had planned to share a cab with was waiting for us in reception, Ad bless him, went down and apologised, I just don't see the point in trying to enjoy it when it's a horrible day.
Got woken up about 10ish, when the little old lady here - who I have to say really reminds me of a Monkey almost bashed our door down, to change the covers on the beds next to us. She looked at us breifly then carried on knocking things around in the room, till we were up. Think she was making all that racket on purpose. So I just sat on the bed playing a quiz game til she gave up and left.
Thought we were save to go, but as we headed towards reception she started yelling at us to give her our keys, but we were previously asked by the girls on reception to hand them in when we leave, so not sure what she was up to, but just ignored her and took them to reception. Thanked them for a great stay, we did actually really like this place, apart from Monkey lady of course.
Grabbed a bus into town and after going to the wrong ticket office first managed to find the right place and book tickets to Meishan. We wanted to go on the next bus, but the tickets said 19:30 on it, which is hours away, was really bummed and whilst trying to figure out what to do for the next 5 hours or more, we saw a tourist office next door and thought we would just check with them on the tickets. Lucky we did, the tickets always say the last bus time, but you can use them on any DOH!! We were not the only people to get confused by this, another english couple had done exactly the same and were heading in the same direction, so all jumped on coach together and had a good ole natter on the way.
Check out Meishan section
Continue Tuesday 13th October
Bus journey back to Chengdu seemed longer, but we did get stuck in a lot of traffic, I guess the time of day didn't help. Luckily Gal new the way to go, so we walked a little to the bus and got the bus as near to the hostel as possible. A short walk the other side and we were at The Loft hostel.
A nice location, a traditional looking Chinese street with lots of nice little coffee shops and locals out playing games etc, was really welcoming. Decided to use today to do some of our boring bits i.e. washing etc and caught up with our blog, emails etc. A really nice hostel, we felt very relaxed here. Gal kindly offered to show us around some areas he had already been to - the old town was really nice, the square as you walk into it was full of locals dancing, really sweet, nice to see. Plenty of restaurants in the old town, with a huge variety of very questionable meat, but a little on the expensive side, so just had a look around and headed back.
Stopped at a street food stand on the corner, Gal had made friends with the girl that runs it and we really enjoyed selecting a number of meats and veg to have bbq'd and sat on the little kiddies table and chairs to one side with a beer and chilled out whilst enjoying every mouthful mmmmmm. YUMMY YUM YUM.
Back at the hostel we managed to get our Panda cards activated ready for visiting them tomorrow, then the guys played pool, which gave me an opportunity to try and update the blog some more, it's becoming a bit of a project for me and I can't help but want to catch up with it.
The guys got talking to this Canadian guy, who gave me the creaps a bit, he seemed not quite with it and a little to grumpy for my liking, like he hated the world, but seemed to be enjoying his travelling - maybe he'd just been travelling on his own for too long. After that note we were off to bed, early start tomorrow.
Wednesday 14th October
Nice early 6:30am start for us, it was so misty and cold outside, but very quiet and perfect for catching a cab to the Panda reserve. You are advised to get there early, as the bears are their most active in the mornings.
Ad couldn't help but film the driving through the front window, they drive like maniacs here and he wanted to get some proof to show you all at home, this is just a snippet of what it's actually like. It may have been crazy but it got us there in plenty of time and only cost us 3pound 50 which if we get charged the same going back will be much cheaper than what the hostel was charging, so that's good.
A little disappointed at first because yet again it was really foggy and you could hardly see in front of you, everyone kept staring at me cos I had a skirt on, but I didn't care, I was warm enough, just wanted it to shine up a bit, so we might be able to see something. Arrived just in time to see them all waking up, they seemed very dopey and kep falling on top of each other.
5mins in and you couldn't help but fall in love with them, they were great entertainment and hours of fun to watch. We stuck around the sub-adults section for ages, they were hillarious to watch, just couldn't stop play fighting, no wonder they have to sleep so much in the afternoon, they must use all their energy in the first few hours of the day. I was so pleased we didn't go with a tour because every few mins a group would appear and they only seemed to get 10mins or so at an enclosure, before they were ushered on, then we were left all alone with the pandas and it was perfect.
We saw them have their lunch and it was like watching a group of old men sitting together eating, soooo funny. The babies were gorgeous, one was only born in Aug, so just a few weeks old and in an incubator, next to that was two young ones a few months old in a cot and already play fighting, soooooooooo cute and great to watch. First time through this section we both got yelled at by the guards for taking pics or trying to film them, so 2nd time around I was well prepared, with camera neatly tucked away in my sleeve I managed to film them a little withough the guards seeing SNEAKY SNEAKY!
Next section on and we came to the slightly older but still only about a year old or so bears and they were just as much, if not more fun than the sub-adults. Lots more people around this section, but we managed to squeeze our way through and find a nice spot to take more pics and a few video's. Think we managed to use up both camera's here, there was just too much to take pic's off. Felt sorry for the red panda's because they just don't get as much attention as the Panda bears, but I'm sure they really don't care.
Afterwards we walked around the whole complex, it was baking sunshine now and it didn't seem so odd to have a skirt on, see I must of secretly known it was going to be a gorgeous day. A big part of the complex seemed empty, almost like it had been prepared for panda's coming here, but empty at the moment, maybe this part had been refurbed since the earthquake.
We didn't end up leaving until 2:30pm, so well worth doing it yourself as the tours get you back to your hostel by 11am and that is just not enough time, in my books anyway. Had a brilliant time and would def go again if I was in the area. Our taxi back was a bit crazy, he seemed to be driving for ages and the bill was getting higher and higher, by time it reached nearly 5 pound, Ad managed to speak a little Chinese and tell him it was too expensive and we got it much less on the way. I think the guy was lost, but luckily he turned off the meter and only charged us 3 pound 50 anyway phew.
Pleased with ourselves for sorting that out and the whole day being much cheaper than a tour, we celebrated with a delicious lunch in a nice little Chinese restaurant with no english menu in sight, so we just chose the only thing with a pic, turned out to be Chicken, chillies and veg, very tasty and the perfect amount to share. I have to say the food is really nice in China as you would probably imagine and soooooo cheap.
Got some shopping on way back to hostel, only to find out that the change we were given from the cab driver home had been fake. Now we know why he was so happy to only charge us the price we paid on the way, I thought it was odd that he had asked for an extra 5 note, so he could give us a 20 back. The lady in the supermarket wouldn't have any off it and we were a bit taken aback at first, as we had never seen a fake before - to us it looked exactly the same, but once we showed the girls in the hostel, they explained the differences, at least now we know what to look for.
Decided to move onto Jiuzhaigou Valley Park tom, a good 10 hours bus ride but have heard it's amazing to see, especially this time of year. WHY NOT!! Gal decided to join us, so we booked tickets and got ourselves prepared. I was worried it might be slightly chilly up there, so bought some leggins in a local little shop, even this lady wouldn't take our fake DAMM!!
Gal took us to another favourite restaurant of his, a family run place and even though we didn't really fancy more noodle soup, here it tasted different and some what better than what we have had so far. Plus the family were so sweet and very welcoming, we had a great time there and were really pleased he took us there.
Back at hostel we had another couple of rounds of Durak, still not able to beat Gal, but we are def getting better at it. Crazy Canadian man was watching a violent looking film, he did come to tell us when he'd finished which was nice of him, but then said if we didn't go then and there, he was going to put another one on, we decided not to bother te he. Shower time and then bed, a really nice American girl in our room was telling us all about Jiuzhaigou, it sounds amazing can't wait. Ad had to laugh cos she wouldn't stop talking and the whole time he was showering we were gabbing and still gabbing when he returned. You know me, I can talk for England once I get going and clearly she could talk for America te he. Finally time for bed.
Check out Jiuzhaigou section
Continue Sun 18th October
Back in Chengdu, all feeling a little tired and dying for showers and bed. Went to the tourist office to make sure we could book a room at Sims hostel, a hostel that had been recommended to us a number of times and Gal was meeting a friend there. Luckily there was availability and it was cheaper than we thought.
Took forever to catch a cab, in the end we just opened the door and got in, seems thats the only way to secure a cab around here. Was a very short ride just on he outskirts of town, not too far away which was nice, but the cab driver pulled over and pointed in the direction of the hostel, but we still had trouble finding it, not the only ones either, their were two guys on bikes who had cycled from Beijing looking as well and a lady who was staying there but could not find her way back - odd. Together we found it in about 5mins. Phew!!
Great place, lovely gardens, which we had been told about but it still was even better than I'd imagained. Was fairly busy, lots of people coming and going, but we settled in nicely. Dumped our bags, did some washing and chilled for the rest of the evening. Managed to chat to Tan on skype which was nice, haven't chatted to her yet and is always nice to catch up. Spent a bit of time going through emails etc also.
Realised Charles was staying in our dorm, good to see him again, sounds like he's been here for a few days and is really enjoying himself. We had a good catch up, found a nice Japanese seating area to chill, of course got the playing cards out, ready to thrash Gal at more Durak. First decided to create some music of our own for a selection of musical instruments propped up against the wall. We enjoyed it, but I think others may have another word for what we were playing - Music might not be that word te he. Actually Gal's a good guitar player, so not all bad and we sang "The Monkey Blues".
Took a while but managed to beat Gal once more at Durak before bedtime, good timing considering he's leaving tomorrow te he, I think the snickers bar helped. Def time for bed a longgg day.
Monday 19th October
Up lateish, heard Charles and Gal chatting and decided we would get up and join them for brekky. Gal took us to a place where he had eaten last night, very cheap and delicious, the guy running the place was so pleased to see Gal and that he had brought others with him, we were treated really well, an extra large portion of friend rice mmmmmmmm
After said bye to Gal, he's now off to the South with a guy he'd met in Beijing. Spent a while chatting to Sim himself, getting tips on the best areas to move onto without it being too cold. We don't have warm enough clothes for the very cold parts. He recommended Danba to us, supposed to be very Tibetan and a little out in the sticks so you get to experience something different, he's leaving to go there today, but said a driver can take us in a jeep in a couple of days, so thats good and he will even meet us there, excellent - nice guy.
Had a quick drink with Charles in hostel bar, such a chilled out place, then he showed us where the nearest bank was. We all then bussed to the nearest carefor as Ad had been told he could get a really nice tea flask there, that he wanted to use but keep as a gift. There were plenty there, but not really as gifts, just standard everyday ones. Found a nice shop selling them on the corner tho, but the prices were sky high, one even cost over hundred or more pound CRAZY!!
Took Charles to place where we got our panda cards and even though they started saying that they were no longer in giving them away, the boys managed to sweet talk her and she had one spare that she gave him, think it helped that we said we already had one and just needed the one for him. Either way, he got one and was really pleased.
Bussed back and Ad managed to pick up a flask in a shop on the way back, was cheaper than the others, just hope that it's not too cheap and leaks or something - what a surprise it turned out to leak DAMM!!
Got back quicker than expected, an english guy was staying in our room - turned out that he had lived in Ashford for a while - small world ay. The guys all went to bar for a drink, but I suddenly took a turn for the worst and wasn't feeling well at all, so decided to just lie quietly on the bed and rest. Just what I needed, felt better after about an hour and went to join them.
Played a bit of very bad pool, I blame me not feeling quite right. Then played Charles at some card games, while Ad went on skype for a bit. Taught him how to play Slam - crazy game, forgot how frantic it makes me, he thrashed me completely, it's obviously not my day for winning. All played more games into the night, then bed.
Tuesday 20th October
Very sloooooow morning, but loved it. It's the first time we've watched a film in bed in the morning, so relaxing and so nice that we were not disturbed by anyone coming in to clean the rooms.
Decided to chill out as much as possible today, so had a nice relaxing brunch up on the balcony overlooking Sims garden, a really nice view, LOVELY!! Used the time to go on web for bit and chat to family etc.
After Ad decided to teach me snooker, YEP SURPRISE I'm rubbish at it and I think I only gained points cos Ad made one little mistake, other than that Ad cleared the table. I played terribly DOH!!. I got him back though by just scrapping a win in pool, which meant I played Charles next, while Ad played table tennis with some German guy, he really seemed to enjoy it though, cos the guy was a great player and Ad got to have a proper game for a change, instead of playing me.
Manage to beat Charles at pool to, so having a good day of winning YEHH!! Was a little side tracked in between though, trying to get the attention of the SIMS rather large bunny rabbit jumping around the garden, soooooo cute.
Ad then played me at table tennis and what a surprise I was still terrible te he, but had a great laugh trying, especially when Ad hit it so hard that it flew through the bar window and a customer had to throw it back to us, think we gave up after that, too funny.
Relaxed in garden for bit while read my book, then Charles joined us and we went back to the cheap area in town and had dinner, some gorgeous slightly spicy bean dish with rice, very tasty. Back to pack our bags ready for early start tomorrow, said our goodbyes to Charles and then bed.
Go to Danba.