Thursday, April 8, 2010


Chengdu was a considerably different city to the others we'd seen in China so far. It was low rise and spread out, with a trees, parks and other wide open spaces. What was more surprising was that it was a really funky city, and the street our hostel was on had dozens of cool cafes, bars, boutique stores, and of course cheap food. It was really quite unexpected for China, which was great.

We spent four great days here with Annelies, who had holidays over the Easter break. We had an awesome time just relaxing and not worrying too much about trying to see "everything". We hit up the park and had a very Chinese afternoon drinking teas and eating seeds which were provided by our Chinese friend who once he heard we were kiwis wanted to tell us all about his supplements business (sounded dodgy, maybe in the hope we could land him a manuka or deer velvet contract...). 

Adding to the hilarity of the day, after watching some Chinese singing and dancing, Lizzie's clapping was mistaken for "I want to come up on stage and dance with you", so her and Annelies danced around in front of 100 Chinese people whose reactions made it unclear whether they were happy or offended, while I flat out refused and opted for the title of official photographer. That night we went to the Sichuan Opera  (or face changing show), which was at times amazing and at others embarrassingly tacky.

Chengdu is in Sichuan Province - which is known for its spicy food. There are two main types - Sichuan BBQ (skewers of meat coated in spices) and Hot Pot (skewers dipped in boiling chili oil). They're both damn hot, and after trying it, we moved on and opted for something a little more bearable - a Muslim Chinese restaurant which was incredible and about a $NZ1 a dish. We had a long distance train coming up in a few days, and you just can't risk these things...

Chengdu was also an admin city for us. We organised our permits to Tibet from our Guesthouse and spent a lot of time talking about this, organising train tickets, and looking for extra warm gear we'll need. We left for Xi'an on the 5th to see the Terracotta Warriors and will head to back to Chengdu on the 8th to start our tour. We're both pretty darn excited about this one. An 8 day itinerary takes us to Lhasa, Shigatse, Gyantse, Yamdrok Tso, and finally to...Mt Everest Base Camp! The train in is a whopping 40 hours, but is apparently incredible and also the best way to acclimatise to the altitude as it is gradual (unlike flying in). With our bag full of altitude sickness pills we should be right though, and will hopefully be writing in a few days from the "Rooftop of the World".

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