10/17/13 - 10/19/13
The problem with long-term travel is that after awhile it becomes less of a vacation and more of a lifestyle. And just like any other lifestyle, you can get stuck in doing the same things over and over again. You move from place to place, staying in hostels or hotels, seeing temples, museums, historical monuments/places and doing a lot of touristy things. You eat at a lot of restaurants, trying the local food or if you're adventurous or on a tight budget you eat a lot of street food. This sounds exciting and adventurous, and it can be, however, after awhile you just get tired of it all and just want to do something normal. The sites that sound so amazing at home, just don't excite you as much anymore. You have seen so many temples, that they all seem the same. You get tired of the food, even though it is still very good, but you long for food from home. Essential, you get travel fatigue and it is a normal part of long-term travel.
There are, a few ways to combat travel fatigue, though. You can take a rest day once in awhile and don't do anything touristy, and do something normal like go see a movie, but this, though helpful, doesn't always fully recharge you. The best way is to take a vacation from your travels. To do this, you might find a place to stay for a week or longer and just live like a local for awhile. Don't do anything touristy. Do normal things like write, read a book, watch a movie or lay out on the beach. Find a place that has a kitchen, so that you can go to the market, find some ingredients and cook your own food. Just relax and rest up! After awhile, you will, hopefully, recharge and be ready to start travelling again. And that is exactly what I was planning on doing, because I knew at some point I would feel it. Unfortunately, travel weariness started to descend on me earlier than I expected and I just wasn't in the right place to take a vacation!
I first started to feel it in Xi'an, when I didn't feel like going to several places that I would normally go. I only had a limited time in China, because I had already booked a flight to Thailand on November 15th, so that I could make it there for the Festival of Lights, and so in order to see everything I wanted to see, I couldn't take a break. Besides, there aren't many beaches in China! So, I pushed through it and sort of compromised. In Xi'an, the feel wasn't overwhelmingly bad, so by doing something domestically normal, like going to the Post Office and sending the package home to my parents, helped a little bit. However, I really started to feel it, in my next destination, Chengdu.
I forced myself to walk around Chengdu on the first day. I did manage to go to a very interesting temple that was dedicated to a famous Chinese literary novel called, "The Romance of the Three Kingdoms." It was based on actual events that occurred during the Three Kingdoms period in Chinese history (about 220-280 AD). One of the main characters, Liu Bei, who was the King of the Shu Kingdom, had his mausoleum here. I had read this story several years ago, so this temple was more interesting to me that a lot of other temples I had visited. I had planned to walk to a few other temples in the area, but I just didn't feel in the mood. Instead, I tried my best to combat the weariness, by finding some dinner at a Western restaurant. So, I found an Irish Pub, had a few beers and some grilled chicken and mushrooms and watched a futbol match on the TV!
The main reason, I had come to Chengdu was to go see the Pandas at the Giant Panda Preserve. Despite the weariness, this really interested me, so I wasn't going to miss them. I mean, who wouldn't want to see Pandas in their natural habitat?! I booked a tour with my hostel and got up really early the next day to go. And it was well worth it! The Pandas are so cute and cuddly, I don't know how they couldn't put a smile on anyones face. They are very passive and kind of lazy. The bigger ones just sat around all day eating bamboo, while the younger, smaller one were playful and would wrestle around with each other. It was just adorable. Despite their size, they would also climb up into the trees. There were also about half a dozen panda babies in the nurseries. They were so small, compared to the adults and so very cute! The preserve also had Red Pandas, which are like cute, red-furred racoons. They would actually crawl onto the walkways where all of the tourists were walking! The preserve did offer the chance to hold a Panda and get a picture with it, which I had hoped to do, but then I found out the price and decided that it wasn't worth it. They wanted 2000 yuan for the privilege, which is over 300 American Dollars!
The tour only took a half day, so I was back to my hostel by noon. I wasn't in the mood to do anything else that day, so I decided that I might as well take a rest day. I sat in the hostel lounge and surfed the internet all afternoon. I did a lot of travel research and some planning, however I scrapped most of it by days end. That night, for dinner, I found a Tex-Mex place and had some tacos for dinner.
I had decided that I was going to see the Three Gorges in Central China, before heading to Hong Kong a for a couple of days and then to Shanghai. So, the next day I went to the train station to buy my tickets. However, before I left, I met a British girl in the lobby, named Becky, who invited me to walk around the city with her. She had a route all planned out and knew exactly where to go. Since, I was so unmotivated to go anywhere on my own, this was perfect for me. She accompanied me to the train station and then we went off exploring the city. We saw a few temples and an enormous Mao statue, that we had a hard time finding at first, for some reason. Finally, we went to the park, where they had a bunch of different tea houses and a lot of dancers!
One aspect of Chinese life, that I found to be amusing, is that you could walk around any city and in any open area, at any time, you will find a bunch of middle-aged women dancing together. It is a like a fitness program for them. They all dance in a square with a couple of feet between each other and all doing the same moves in sync with music. I kept running into these random dance parties in every city in China. You will find them in parks, in front of metro stations or railway stations or just in some random open area. It is usually middle-aged or elderly women, though occasionally there are some men involved too. In the park, there was a whole bunch of dancing going on from the square dancers, to teenagers trying (though not very well) to breakdance, to couples pairing up to do ball-room type dances and finally older men, just kind of flailing about. It was quite fun to watch!
Even though, I was feeling weary of traveling at this point, Chengdu was still quite interesting. The Pandas were great, not enough to get me out of my funk, but still very cool. The rest of the city was really cool too and had a nice vibe. I think that I would be very interested in returning to Chengdu, someday.