Having a bit of a nightmare on this computer today so will make this short and sweet! Chengdu=AWESOME. Firstly, it was SOOO good to on the road again after working for a few months, was starting to go a little stir crazy in Hicksville, however I found it REALLY funny that I was taken out for my "Welcome Dinner" with the Principal and various other school bigwigs on the night I was leaving...anyway...
36 hours on a train and I arrive in Chengdu which is in the Sichuan Province, famed for spicy food, pandas and some beautiful Tibetan areas. My belly was very excited at the prospect of some good food and it wasn't disappointed! The ingredient that gives Sichuan food such a kick is the pepper, which makes your whole mouth tingle then go numb, like some kind of narcotic! MAde for some VERY tasty food though so I was happy.
Once again, I met a fantastic group at the hostel, it seems I'm meeting some of the best people of my whole year in China (Not forgetting Team Magic of course...) which is good for me travelling solo in such a mad place! The first day I had arrived early so spent the day in a bit of a daze after 2 nights on a smelly train surrounded by farting, snoring and spitting locals...I went on the hunt for some dumplings and went to Tianfu Square, site of a HUGE statue of Chairman Mao. IT caused some controversy when it was erected as it appeared that Mao was saluting the West, a BIG no no in those days! But it's still there and is quite impressive really.
The next day was one of my China highlights, I went to the Panda Breeding Centre and it was AWESOME. There were about 80 of them, babies and older ones and for animals that we think are lazy they were highly entertaining! One fell out of a tree which I found hilarious, thankfully he was unhurt! The funniest thing I learnt here was the tale of "Panda Porn" which is exactly what you think it is! Pandas are pretty lazy, as they don't get much energy from the bamboo they eat, in the wild the chances of them finding a mate, actually doing the deed and giving birth are slim to nil, so in this centre they do all they can to aid the process! Which involves showing the Pandas videos of other Pandas doing it...I kid you not! Needless to say it hasn't really worked! Only one panda has actually got pregnant naturally, the rest have been artificially inseminated! Anyway, they were ace and due to the early start (Pandas get up early and then sleep, so we ad to get up early to see them!) I spent the rest of the afternoon watching Kung Fu Panda!
I was up early again the next day to go to Leshan which is home to one of the biggest Buddhas in the world. This one is carved into a cliff face and is 71 metres high. Very cool. Spent hours wandering around the park itself which housed many small temples and other bug statues of Buddhas and various other dieties. It was a very enjoyable but VERY hot day. Thought I was going to melt after walking up about 5 million steps to get to various lookout points! Worth it though. And thanks to Matt and Jay for entertaining me all day,
I'd forgotten the joys of British humour!! ;o)
My last couple of days were spent pottering around! Went to the Old Quarter (Tibetan) and visited a few more temples (Wenshu was the nicest)drank a lot of beer and talked rubbish with the lovely people in my hostel. It seemed I was surrounded by men for the whole week which really wasn't a hardship! hehe.
The last 2 days have been spent on yet another train but this one was BY FAR the most SPECTACULAR journey I've EVER been on. I took the train from Chengdu to Lhasa, Tibet, which took all of 46 hours. The scenery was amazing the whole way through. We started with rolling hills and rice fields, moved onto a more rugged, cliff like terrain, followed that with a few snow capped peaks and when we started on the Qinghai-Tibet part of the route (Only completed in 2006, reaching an altitude of over 5000 metres) we were rewared with total snow! Everywhere we looked was white it was so beautiful. As we descended it was reversed again, and we saw more green and some beautiful lakes.
The journey was fantastic, shared my cabin with a beautiful Tibetan family who kept trying to feed me and kept poking me awake when we were passing something pretty! The altitude got to me a little though. The highest I'd been to before was 4600m and although only a little higher I could really feel the effects. Oxygen was piped in by your bunks but thankfully I wasn't that needy! Just had a really bad headache and was short of breath for a while. Kinda like a bad hangover!
So now I'm finally in Tibet, it feels totally surreal to be here Lhasa is a beautiful city. From what I've seen so far it's quite Westernised and is split into 2 parts. The modern (Where the Chinese live) and the old (Where the Tibetans live). Now, I'm not 100% clear on all the story surrounding Tibet and China, and due to scary firewalls that block things you shouldn't say (My friend broke Blogspot talking about a certain massacre in a certain square...noone can access it now!!) I'm going to say nothing...google it! hehe.
Anyway, I'm off for a lie down now, my big overland adventure to Kathmandu and India starts tomorrow so I need my beauty sleep!
Hope you're all well,