The cooking class at the backpackers’ was way over on the other side of Chengdu city from our hotel and not far from the “Jinli Ancient Street“. Dave & I were keen to visit, and yes it is in fact an ancient street, dating back to the Qin Dynasty 221BC – 206BC, a really fascinating place.
|Dave, somewhere in Jinli Street|
It was dark by the time the class finished and we made it to the village when the crowds (all Chinese) were just starting to infiltrate so we didn’t spend as much time there as we would have liked – about an hour.
The beautiful old wooden buildings were occupied by shops selling all types of street food, jewellery, fine silks and original paintings, musical instruments and beautiful hand carved jade ornaments. The place had a really great energy, the people were happy and noisy, typical of all the Chinese people we saw.
And then we had to find a cab. Very difficult, given language barriers and the dark. Not to mention the manic drivers and insane traffic. We finally managed to grab a taxi and the driver didn’t seem happy about taking us to the area of the hotel so far away.
We had a card showing the name and address of our hotel in Chinese, supposedly to make it easier to make our way back. Didn’t work for us. Anyway about half an hour later the cabbie stopped at an intersection and told us to get out, right in the middle of lots of tall buildings, shops and traffic. We had no idea where we were but the driver didn’t seem interested. So Dave paid and we got out.
|This isn’t my image, but it looks pretty much like where the cabbie dropped us off. Well it actually could’ve been anywhere in Chengdu|
Of course every street sign is in Chinese and they all look the same. Dave’s the navigator and he had a fair idea of the direction we should be heading, but each intersection and escalator overpass looked the same as the last. We asked people on the street but of course they didn’t speak English.
We tried another cabbie and he waved us off, as did the 4 policemen sitting in their car. Finally we went into a Starbucks to use their wifi and try to get on to google maps, and while I was buying coffee to get the password, Dave struck up a conversation with a young couple sitting across from him.
The woman had some English and was able to tell Dave the general direction shown on our card. That turned out to be very helpful and after walking for about 30 minutes we were in the crowded monster shopping area called Chenxi Road, near our hotel (imagine 50 times bigger and taller than our Queen Street Mall).
Another 20 minutes and Dave had us wandering down a seedy looking lane way and finally we could see our hotel down the road.
So the lesson we got from that excitement, thanks to our companion Margaret, was to photograph the surrounding area with various landmarks.
Now to some more great food and something we’d both considered to be a trip highlight – Szechuan Hot Pot.
|Delicious vegetables for the hot pot.|
The meal was everything and more than what we’d expected. I had read that it is mouth numbingly spicy and that was no exaggeration.
It was typically hotpot in concept and the waiters brought out plate after plate of delicacies for us to cook in our own pot.
And of course it wouldn’t be a Chinese feast without an ice cold 15cents local beer.
|That’s Marilyn, Sam, Kay and Stan.|
They say that going to Chengdu and not visiting Chenxi Road is like going to Paris and not going to the Champs Elysees. Well I’m not so sure of that, but it certainly is an impressive space and a great nod to China’s prosperity. Around a million people fit into this place at the one time over summer.
The shops sell mainly foreign designer brands, or their Chinese equivalents, in streets spreading out over 4 or 5 city blocks
|Each of these long wide avenues looks pretty much the same.|
|The grandfather had the child tied with a scarf|
|Weddings are incredibly popular throughout China and these little wedding booths were all over the shopping malls in Chengdu. At night they’re packed with young couples.|
|I couldn’t resist trying one of these funny looking treats. Reminded me of a jelly roll. Kinda nice, not very sweet.|
We thoroughly enjoyed Chengdu and we know there is so much more if only we had the time.
Maybe if we ever go to Tibet we’ll have another chance to explore around Chengdu on the way.
Highlights of course – Pandas and all the amazing spicy delicious food.
Our next stop, via Bullet train, is Chongqing to board the ship for our 3 day Yangtze River cruise. Come back in a while to see if I’ve updated this.