Dear Virtual People,
No comments, :-( it's lucky I've got this cute panda bear to comfort me. So the train to Chengdu was note quiiite as nice as the train to Xi'an. There literally was no barrier between our 'beds' and the rest of the carriage and it was a nice surprise to learn that they don't change the bedding even though sweaty people had just been lying on it for 15 hours...but I got to use my sleeping bag liner finally and as always my super-warm-blanket saved the day (I was at all smug to my fellow passengers..!). We really should have been playing Mah Jong and eating homemade food like the rest of the carriage, but we compromised and spent most of the day (we got on at lunch) playing a variation on Uno, reading articles such as 'BREASTS: why men love them' and eating MASSIVE versions of pot noodles. Oh and the toilets...I'm getting worryingly used to squatting! I watched a tv show last night that claimed that squatting is actually much better for your back....and it's so funny, all the kids over here where split pants so wherever you turn there are little baby bottoms popping out. It's no Pampers commercial though - at the train station a one year old peed RIGHT NEXT TO MY FOOT. I couldn't move. It was packed. And there was urine FAR TOO CLOSE.
Anyhow, we were woken up at 5am on the train - the Chinese don't really do soft wakeups, unless suddenly turning of bright lights and playing load chinese pop music is your idea of the pleasant way to rise. Everyone was looking extremely ravishing as we got off the train - my backup, post Beijing and Xi'an shopping is literally taller than me, plus I have the day pack and the 'it doesn't fit but I want it' bag to ram through crowds of little asian people. It was fine though because....we were going straight to the Pandas!! We arrived so early though that our chubby friends were still snoozing, so we had to head to the Panda Coffee House to have some...pan(da)cakes. YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP! We were the only ones in there so they aired a video about panda's and the Research Centre that was voiced by the most upperclass and out of touch British Man. He spoke some true gems. I quote:
"Aged 5, the pandas begin to have amorous feelings for one another..."
"The panda wanders the forest alone, searching desperately for her, Miss Right...."
"In the ancient times, the two things a man needed to be truly happy were to pass the imperial examination, and enter the bridal chamber. For Pandas, the equivalent would be to eat lots of fresh bamboo, and find a good lover."
(I can relate to this). :-P
I also found it very amusing to learn that pandas, the national animal of China, actually obey its one child policy! If a panda has more than one baby, which they often do, they pick the strongest and discard the weaker one. Yeah, I think we all now know where the Chinese get their social policy ideas....I'm pretty sure the Pandas secrely run China.
So anyhow, they eventually woke up and from a big boy panda nonchalantly reclining with some bamboo, held like a cigar, to the hilarious antics of 6month olds trying to climb down tree frames and actually just watching them walk (seriously, you think seals look hilarious - wait, maybe that's just me? - pandas are hysterical. Youtube it!), I have some wicked photos. Unfortunately as pandas are, to quote the film, "springtime lovers" we didn't get to see any babies, but this is purely motivation for the next trip!
Post Panda hysteria, we headed back into Chengdu and lunched at a lovely temple - Wenshu Monastery, at a really famous ancient Vegetarian restaurant. The Temples out here are all Buddhist, so typical Chinese style and also contained a huge teahouse (courtyard filled with bamboo chairs and locals drinking from glasses with flowers in them). It was really cool to try 'vegetarian meat' and we're getting quite good at knowing what to order. It actually tasted pretty authentic, or atleast the texture sort of convinced you you were having meat. Wandered around the temple, which was cool because parts of it were sort of 'tudor style' but still oriental, so it was different to the other temples we'd seen.
We then headed back into Chengdu to get cheap massages! After the Great Wall and Xi'an cycling and literally just supporting the weight of my backup, I sooo deserved this. We'd been quoted about 60 yuan (divide by 10) for a full body so thought they were s***ting us when the usual calculator came out and they wrote 36!!! For the entire body! It wasn't exactly a relaxing experience though...first of all when I hadn't really thought through how ridiculously ticklish my feet are so I spent the entire foot massage in hysterics, to the amusement of the rest of the masseurs, but not the chubby one rubbing my feet. Maybe this is why he was so aggressive on my back - seriously at times he was literally just slapping me repeatedly! My back is actually bruised and my shoulders possibly feel more tense. We had our clothes on, but they still go properly intimate - someone in my group got a free grope or two, but luckily chubbers kept his hands for whacking me. Although, there was one dude who according to the 78 year old lady next to me, was quite interested (and the right age she happily informed!) and who wanted to know if I spoke french....but he didn't speak french himself! Maybe he has designs after a Parisian lady, I don't know as he got really embarassed and ran out of the shop!!
We also packed in the People's Park which was like one big fair as it was Sunday. I got forced into dancing with 2, not being mean but slightly disabled looking, chinese street dancers in front of FAR TOO MANYchinese people. They were doing streeet dancing with their tops rolled up like crop tops, and he reeled me in so what was I supposed to do...I rocked a bit of 'Stamp the Ants' for anyone privileged enough to have seen that beautiful move. It was so bad, it was just them and me and a cute little girl for a good five minutes. I hate my group. I hate cameras. I got my own back though by making Jo and Fong join an outdoor dancing lesson. They were terrible and I took photos. Mauahahahaha.
Finally posed, like Mao, in front of the giant statue of Mao. Then head a way way too spicy typical Sichuan meal of Hot Pot, though we kind of had to make it Mild Pot. Then saw a traditional Sichuan arts performance, including opera (NOTE: BY OPERA THEY MEAN HIGHPITCHED WAILING), chinese instrument performances (NOTE: WHICH THEY RUINED BY TERRIBLE DROWING POLYPHONICE RINGTONE BACKGROUND MUSIC), but also an amazing shadow puppeteer. Seriously, his hands were incredible, he made them into so many animals etc., it sounds easy and crap but it was the most enchanting thing I've ever seen and actually dazzling. They ended with an apparently very famous 'Changing Faces' routine where the performers change their masks in less than a second - it was very cool, but extremely frustrating trying to work out the trick of how the frick they went from brown to blue to red in the wave of a fan.
I spent the time after that with a stray dog who looked lonely, so I had to go and buy him some Pedigree Chums for dinner. Unfortunately whilst I was trying to figure out whether he'd prefer Savoury Chicken or Beef he wandered off, so then I had to wander the streets of Chengdu looking for a stay to feed! The one I eventually found was so suspicious of me that he wouldn't eat the meal I emptied on to the street corner. I'm pretty sure the chinese people walking past also thought I was crazy...in the end I gave up and just left a pile of chicken on the street corner! I hope a damn dog ate it!!
I'm exhaaaaausted from all this fact retelling, you b****es better comment me so that I have something to read after all this work! Today we're staying in a monastery on a mountain which we are going to trek tomorrow, but more about that the day after tomorrow when I'm back. See, isn't this like a charming serial from the 50s?!
Tschus and the like,
But forever not bitter :-)