I was in Chengdu a good five days ago now, but updating this is getting harder and harder as Livejournal is now blocked and Photobucket might as well be, it’s so slow. Thankfully the Russians don’t feel the need to block websites yet so everything will get a lot easier in a couple of weeks.
So, about a week ago I just about got the sleeper bus from Guilin to Chengdu. The connecting bus from Yangshuo blew a tire halfway down the expressway and pulled into a garage for repairs. It got going again, but not quickly enough, and I had to jump into a taxi which got me there just as the sleeper bus was pulling out.
Sleeper buses are a funny thing – I’ve never seen them in Europe, but we really could do with them. Instead of sleeping flat you are angled at about 20 degrees so that your legs are in a compartment under the person in front. It was surprisingly easy to sleep until the guy in the next bed started snoring like a pot-bellied pig. The main road turned into a potholed dirt-track soon after, and the bus shook so much that everyone woke up, except the snorer. Ten minutes after that the bus came to a halt, the driver woke him and it turned out he was the other driver. Talk about being in the wrong job.
After 22 hours we got to Chengdu, and I found the hostel without any major problems. It was a nice enough place, down an alley off the city centre, which I went to explore soon after. There was a large soviet-style main square, with elaborate water displays and an over-sized Mao statue, so I hung around there for a few minutes, then went to the “People’s Park”.
I’ve been to many parks in my time, and this must count as one of the strangest. Everyone seemed to be involved in one activity or another, all of them outside what I’d class as normal park behaviour. Old men were flying kites on immense spools, the kites so far away they appeared as miniscule dots in the sky. Children were boating around the circular river that surrounded the place, trying to catch tadpoles with little nets. Some old men were sitting on fold-up chairs watching karaoke dvds on a portable tv, while others read the newspaper, which had been fixed page-by-page in a long line of transparent display cases. Strangest of all there were at least a hundred people participating in an open-air ballroom dancing lesson. It was definitely worth the 8 kwai entry.
On the second day I thought I should probably go and see the panda breeding centre. It was a worthwhile enough trip – the year-old pandas were surprisingly active, the film surprisngly graphic, and the stuffed animals in the museum the worst I’ve ever seen. In the afternoon I went with a French girl I met to see the Zen Buddhist temple, which was fairly cool. We saw a monk get absolutely furious for no obvious reason. I thought they were supposed to be calm all the time, but apparently that’s a myth. Shame I didn’t get a photo. These are the ones I did get, though –

Here’s the statue of Mao in the main square. They knocked down a 400-year-old mansion house to build this.

Ballroom dancing in the park.

One-year-old pandas play-fighting.

An accurate depiction of ice-age China.

Zen Buddhist temple, which I probably shouldn’t have taken photos of.

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