Sichuan Province: Chengdu

After losing Rick, I was able to slow the pace down a bit and I spent a month or so in Sichuan, which is one of the nicest parts I visited in China. Having bought a "hard seat" ticket as opposed to the coveted "hard sleeper", the 16 hour train ride to Chengdu was a bit of an ordeal. There was no seat number so it was a matter of finding a space. Unfortunately I found myself across from a bunch of drunks swilling baijiu and after inadvertantly letting slip that I could speak Chinese they made several attempts at engaging me in conversation before mercifully passing out. At one point I shuffled my feet and discovered that there was someone actually sleeping under my seat. a short time later I watched incredulously as another passenger cleared a space in the baggage rack, rolled out a blanket and climbed up and went to sleep!

I spent a few days in Chengdu, not actually doing much, just trying to recover from my cold. Chengdu I found a bit more laid back than some of the other parts I'd been to. Venders wern't incessantly hawking their wares and people would say "hello" just to be friendly. I saw Tibetans for the first time and there were a number of Tibetan restaurants and stores. Internet cafes were very cheap, some as low as Y1.5/hour (i.e. less than US$0.20).

yin-yang

During my stay in Chengdu I visited the Green Ram Monastery (Qingyang Gong), one of the most famous Daoist monasteries in China. It 's well worth a look. I was descended apon by amputee beggars on skatebords at the gate but I had come well armed with yi jiao notes.

Left: The Green Ram Monastery, Chengdu.

Leaving the Green Ram monastery I trekked over to the site of Du Fu's thatched cottage. Du Fu (AD712-770) is one of China's best known poets. During the Lushan Revolution he went to live in Chengdu for four years. Obviously the original cottage is long gone but the grounds are very pleasant and there are a number of exhibits, which make it worthwhile despite the expensive entry fee.

Giant Panda Breeding Research Centre

It's estimated there are fewer than 1000 pandas living in the wild today. As your chances of seeing these critters in their natural habitat are pretty rare, the breeding research centre (daxiongmao fanzhi zhongxin) is probably worth a visit. The centre is about 16km northeast of Chengdu. This is a good option if you don't want to make the trip to Wolong Nature Reserve which houses the Giant Panda Research Centre. Some of the hostels arrange day trips, or you could take a taxi.

Giant Panda painting by Wu Tso-Jen