I had a few humble goals for this month-long trip and as of today, I have accomplished almost all of them! And it hasn’t even been a week yet! Here’s a quick run down with photographic proof that I have achieved these goals:
Goal #1: Seeing Giant Pandas.
Yep. And they were cuter in real life then I could imagine. I’ll write a little more about this later so all I’ll show here is a picture:
Chengdu is the land of the giants as in addition to the Giant Panda’s, we saw the Giant Buddha. I’ll write more about him later too, but just know that when they say Giant Buddha, they mean giant:
Goal #2: Being Forced to Speak More Chinese.
Of course this will continue as the trip goes on but I had to make a call to a Chinese person and yes, they understood me at least a little. We hired a driver for our trip to the Giant Buddha and when he dropped us off, he gave me his phone number because he was going somewhere else to park (and nap). So when we were ready to go I had to call him so he could pick us up. Well, it worked! When he picked up the phone I didn’t really know how to introduce myself except to say, “I’m the foreigner!” which he totally got right away. I also said, “Right now, we are going to the restaurant.” (Which is where he dropped us off.) He of course said something back to me which I didn’t understand but I gave the Chinese affirmative grunt and hung up. (People aren’t big on saying goodbye.) Phone conversations are the hardest because you don’t have any hand gestures to help you figure the conversation out, so I’m pretty proud it worked.
Goal #3: Eating a Hamburger.
This was the first goal I achieved upon arriving in Chengdu. Here is a picture of me enjoying my first hamburger in over 5 months. Yum, yum. What was even better is that I am enjoying the hamburger in a restaurant/English language bookstore which was very exciting as I was able to buy a book as well.
We ate some other western food while here as well. I had an English Breakfast (you know, the baked beans, eggs, toast etc.) at the hostel. I realized, as I got a little container of butter with my breakfast, that that was the 3rd time since I’ve been in China that I’ve eaten butter. The first time was when we made mashed potatoes with a friend, and the second time was when I made Christmas cookies with another friend. It’s amazing as butter is such a staple of my diet at home yet I haven’t really missed it all that much.
And we couldn’t resist going to a highly recommended Tex-Mex restaurant. This was probably the most satisfying meal I’ve had in a long time. I got a steak and cheese and man oh man was it ever good. Gooey, big hunks of meat. Delish! And we topped it all off with a hot fudge sundae for desert.
Chengdu was a great city despite the weather being very cold and the city having major pollution issues. We saw all the big sites and rode our bikes around most days. We also hung out with a bunch of other travelers and it was great to talk to other English speakers. What was surprising was the many of them were in their mid 30’s too. You always imagine backpackers to be in their 20’s but it turns out many of them had careers, got tired of the status quo and wanted to see the world for awhile, which I think is very admirable.
Here are some pics from our time in Chengdu.
I should also add that I was able to avoid most of the spicy Sichuan food by eating street food, asking for food “bu lada” (not spicy) and having some western food. In fact, in over 5 days there were really only one or two dishes that I couldn’t eat because of the spice.