Thursday, October 14, 2004
Much has happened since last I wrote, and will take a couple of posts to catch up (maybe, or I'll go bonkers and do it all now. This is, after all, our big email day [it's cold drizzling miserable foggy smoggy ugly weather dour casting on us) and these computers rock!
Chengdu is a great city. We've met many good/nice people and are eating like kings if kings were vagabonds from America roaming the streets of Chengu. The day following the bus ride was a relaxer in the streets of the city. Breakfast was et at the restaurant adjacent to the hotel-not bad, but I'm not used to warm milk. Not sure where it came from either. Some background: our hotel (the Traffic Hotel, the'Backpackers Palace'-it says so in big block letters on across the entire building) sits on a river much like the Seine. Only instead of being a big dirty river running thru France (where I can't understand what people are yelling at me) it's a big dirty river running thru Chengdu (where I have no idea what people are laughing about as they try to run me over). There is a nice path running alongside the river(20 feet up and paved) where people like us can walk and amuse the local Chinese who find our mere existence to be laugh-worthy. That is what we did to relieve the ailings caused by the bus. Before we reached the river, however, we were forced to pass a middle school. It was recess and chaos reigned supreme on the blacktop (I remember the days of stickball on the 'blacktop' back home only now it's a damn park but they kept the stairs leading in which is nice all the days I spent biking up and down those stairs mom not knowing....). I spotted some hoops and ineffectual attempts to emulate....athletes. My buddyPat in mind (I did it for you, Pat!!) (he likes to choose opponents-such as 6 year olds-to beat up), I walked over to scope the scene. Spotted easily (being the big goofy white boy in the city), the kids started calling me Jordan (I may look like a stellar bballplayer, but black I am not. I don't think) and beckoned me over. What ensued can only be called my greatest moments on the court-I was dunking (low hoops), shot blocking, dribbling circles around the kids and clearly being the dominant player. Rachelle stood outside the playground and pretended to not know me (didn't work didn't work!!). I finished with a 2-handed from the foul line double twist jammerama, grabbed my jacket and walked away. It was great!
We moved on. This was our first day really dealing with the true chaos of city traffic, and I love it! It's so much easier to cross streets when lights mean nothing and everyone is SO good (for the most part) at avoiding each other.
Regardless. Our first stop was some park with a pagoda, built...a longtime ago by....people (Taoists) who felt no need to use nails or any sort of securing device, just nooks and crannies. And it's still standing! Aren't you enthralled? Didn't think so. Here's something to make up for that history book type sentence-before we got to the pagoda (in the Taoist section of a larger paek) we passed by a phenomenon. For those not in the know, karaoke is huge here. Unbelievably huge (a couple we met the other day said on their cruise up the Yangtze River, there was a bar and karaoke rooom and that at random times of day people would go karaoke, even with no witnesses. But I digress). Well in this park they had dueling karaoke. Not on purpose I'm sure, but 2 stands set up about 30 feet apart, volume cranked. It was amusing for....10 seconds then my ears hurt. Imagine Ream (you are famous now Jefe! You've been mentioned on my blog! Loser) singing. This was worse because it was amplified.
Bad, eh? Later in the day, in another park (this one was being scoped out for a tea house-a big building where you drink tea and act Chinese. We failed miserably. Rachelle kept talking in English), there it was again! Only this time people brought their own sound systems and instruments! It was horrible, but made an interesting backdrop for the fan dancing class we were watching while eating lunch (cookies and fanta). Hehe! There was a guy in the class who was so only there because his wife made him go!! I laughed, then followed Rachelle thru the flower gardens....
The only other exciting event this day was meeting some Brits at the bar next to our hotel. They had been teaching in Inner Mongolia and suggested we never ever go there. Their favorite suggestion of mine was to email coworkers right then (there was free internet). Keep in mind-this was about 10-11pm Monday night here, which made it 8-9am inDenver! That was fun! And I got responses, most of which can not be repeated in public...
Next day was not the same day. It was Tuesday. We thought it'd be a good idea to head out to Leshan, home of the world's biggest Buddha(take THAT Vail!), another 2 hour bus ride. Thank Pan that not all buses in China are rumbling sacks of cattle dung. This one was actually nice and smooth. Good vibes that were soon to end.
For the most part, we've not had many problems here. People have been very nice to us, even though they stare take pics/vids. Nothing aggressive or spiteful has happened (that we've understood). Leshan changed that. It's supposedly a tourist town, but it fooled us. Immediately upon alighting from the bus we were surrounded by hotel reps and bike cart people. They wouldn't leave, kept tapping me on the arm, and one bike dude followed us on the street for blocks. As we walked around looking for our hotel, I stopped to look at the map and get my bearings. An old man came up and stopped to look at us. And pointedly laughed at us. A little kid made a move as if to hit me as he passed (i was ready with my punjabi stick, so he's one of the lucky ones!). There was a general feeling of, dislike I guess. And our hotel. We've picked better. They advertised in block letters across the front that they are 'Lonely Planet Recommended'. We need to warn the LP and have them not do that anymore. A poop hole. (Mom's and concerned family members, don't worry about it. We're fine!!) Dirty,dank, one cockroach (about 3 inches long) that we saw (Made Rachelle scream and me feel like a mighty hunter), and the bathroom ceiling didn't just leak, it was as if a dike were breached and the Mississippi drained into our bathroom. Nice.
The town itself was covered in smog our entire 2 days there. We ha construction workers harass us, shop workers, most people we passed.The whole place made us uncomfortable and cranky. No matter, we came out of it fine and with some digits!! You see, the next morning we took a boat across and down river to the Big Buddha park and met another Brit couple on the ride. We spent the day with them and ended up swapping emails at the end of the day.
I know what you're saying: "Tell me more about this Big Buddha! I'm enthralled!" Ok, I will. It's mighty big! And surrounded by throngs and throngs of people. It was insane. You could walk up around his head and take pics down at him, and there was a trail leading down alongside, past his feet (a nice look up his skirt?) and up the otherside. We declined the trail as the line to go was immense and full of shoving yelling Chinese. Around the head the picture phenomenon was abundant (and the noise was overwhelming).
What is the picture phenomenon? It appears that the main goal in the life of a Chinese person is to pose for pics, usually with a nice background (I am very much doubting that the background is really noticed, that it's more for the bragging rights later). It's unreal.They shove to get to the forefront, get you out of the way, work on their pose for about 30 minutes and then spend another 30 taking the pic. So strange! But to each his own. I hate getting my pic taken and won't pose (right Rachelle?) so I guess I'm biased.
It was an experience, and we were more than a little relieved to catch a bus back to Chengdu as soon as we were able to commandeer a boat back across the river to Leshan.
We were supposed to head to a holy mountain for a couple day trek before going back to Chengdu, but the weather haze smog crap was overwhelming and our high hopes were being trod upon. And we both felt the need for a couple more relaxing days without travel.
Of course our day was ended in the bar, and this time we made a new Chinese friend (med student). I promised him a place to stay in the US if I ever get one.
So here we are, in Changdu again.
A better post if following. Wait for it.....