Acrobats, disappearing faces and crazy tricksters. Chengdu, Day 3.

Chengdu Day 3.

Break Time.

‘Three days and you guys already need a break?’ Yeah, we’re lame.

Heck no we’re not. Rude. You have no idea just how many stairs are at Leshan Buddha. No wonder they carved him into the side of the mountain. The thought of carrying all those rocks up to the top is enough to make anyone drop dead.

So day three, we schedule time for a break. And by break we mean go to a bamboo forest (Wangjianglou Park, 20 RMB. Highly recommend) and have a photo scavenger hunt…followed by a more break-type thing of drinking tea, while watching people get there ears cleaned (apparently, it’s a big deal in Sichuan).

Anyway, bamboo forest. That sounds pretty cool, right? Yeah, no kidding, it was.

Favorite photos. Go!:

Over 23 types of bamboo


Bamboo puppy






Winning photo

After the 30-minute long scavenger hunt (criteria: patterns, chinglish sign and serenity), which turned into an hour-long scavenger hunt (silly, Josh. Who could possibly do a half-hour long scavenger hunt? Maybe a three-year-old…), we found a little tea garden, where we just sat and drank tea, for like, an hour. We were so tired.

Tea time with Lawrence and Cedric

While enjoying our hot beverage of green leaves, we were solicited to a nice ear-cleaning several times. While we turned down this highly favorable offer, these guys didn’t:

Massive Q-Tip

Eventually, we decided we should move and draining the last drop of tea and bite of GORP (trail mix) we took another gander through the park, where we heard this humming. As we kept walking deeper into the forest, the humming grew louder and louder. What was this strange humming? It sounded like a million wasps trapped in a honey jar.

As we turned the corner we discovered the most AMAZING YO-YO TRICKS EVER, performed by a group of men (and one lady) that were probably in their 60′s (we’ll most of them). Seriously, it was SO cool, I took about 500 photos. What can I say, I was impressed. Clearly.

Crazy yo-yo master and his tricks

After seeing these amazing middle-aged toy dabblers perform their tricks, we were certain there was nothing left in Chengdu that remained to impress us.

Ha. What novices, what fools. I can almost here some random famous Chinese guy laughing at us, “To think that giant pandas, giant buddhas and elderly folks spinning tops like two-year-olds playing the dradel is all China has to offer. As if. We do have a history thousands of years old, you know.’

Honestly, it should have come as no surprise, when later in the day, we stumbled upon a back room that led to a half-hour long tea ceremony and face-changing performance. For only 30RMB we sipped on some phenomenal buckwheat tea while watching all this take place:

Yeah, these Sichuan people. They sure do know what they’re doing.

Face-Changing Opera

Before catching our train to our second destination, Xi’an, we made one more round to Jinli for final gift purchases and a second-round of snacks. I mean, who wants to waste time sitting at a train station when there’s a city full of acrobats tumbling and performing tricks everywhere you turn?

Another hour or two perusing, a few more snack samples (spicy tofu, Sichuan-style egg rolls and dumplings) and then we were gathering up our stuff and on our way to the train station.

Quail on a stick anyone?


Sichuan style egg-rolls and other delights

Xi’an bound and on our way to see some warriors. Little did we know just how many warriors, we were about to face…

Photography: Leshan Buddha

Leshan Buddha, the largest stone carved Buddha in the world.

Here I was thinking we were taking a two hour trip from Chengdu just to see some big ole buddha. Wrong. There was more than just Leshan (aka big ole buddha), there was a whole slew of Leshans (well, not as large, but still hugely impressive) and Leshans brothers, sisters, compadres, who’s-it’s and what’s-it’s, as well.

This place is absolutely incredible and a definite must-see while visiting Chengdu. The trip took the entire day and we hiked probably more stairs than the great wall (not exaggerating), but I have to admit I actually enjoyed Leshan and his chums more than the pandas. I know right? Can’t believe I just put that in print.

Anyway, enough of my jabbering- my words won’t do the photos justice. So here you are, a mini-scrapbook of our day chilling with Leshan:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How to get there:

Honestly, if you’re not familiar with navigating through China, it might be easier to just book a tour.

On the other hand, if you can work your way through a Chinese Wal-Mart without having a mild panic attack, you should be fine.

Simply go to the South Bus Station and purchase a ticket for about 53 RMB. (This is easily done by saying ‘Leshan’ and pointing to a picture of the buddha on a map of some sort). Wait until your approximate departure time, or until someone comes and taps you on the shoulder, recognizing that you soul laowais in the bus station are supposed to be on his bus (or 6 person van in our case) and get in said van.

Ride an hour-and-a-half out of town. Change vans (no cost). Another 20 minutes and you’re there.

Leshan Entrance Fee: 160RMB (Although, if you have an ISIC card, bring it. Fairly certain you can get a 50% discount).

Leaving Leshan: Don’t worry about purchasing a ticket back. There’s plenty of people that offer rides at the exit. We caught a bus back for 45 RMB that made several drop-offs throughout Chengdu.

Tips: Pack plenty of snacks, it can be expensive. Didn’t do the boat ride for the ‘best view of Leshan,’ have heard it’s a ripoff and you only have about .2 seconds to snap a photo. Who knows though, could be great. Either way, the choice is yours. Have fun.

_____

And after all that hiking, traveling and climbing of stairs there’s no better way to end your packed-full day than with a little sichuan specialty: Spicy Hotpot.

What can you do in Chengdu?

See giant pandas. Check.

12 o’clock in the afternoon. An entire day awaits. How much can we possibly see with all this time on our hands? Two? Three? Five-hundred things?!

(We later learned that this is not the best game plan strategy for your first day in a new city where the temperature is suffocatingly hot and you have two very tired travelers. However, we did not factor this into the equation of ‘let’s see everything Chengdu has to offer in one day!’ We had a very grumpy Lauren by 9 pm.)

So after seeing PANDAS, here was our itinerary (and photos) from the rest of the day:

First stop: Wenshu Monastery, 5RMB

Beautiful temples. Shaded walking paths. Library in the back. Friendly people. Saved a turtle (hey Chineseman, might be funny to flip them over, but that’s how they die.) Peaceful.

Wenshu Monastery

Weighs almost 1000 lbs


Wenshu Monastery


Monk at Wenshu


Window aka shoe rack


Monks library

Second mission: People’s Park for a relaxing session of people watching, Free.

Chinese dating service. Basically, resumes of men are hung up at the park to find them a girl. Holler.


Dancing at the park


Absolutely adorable!


He wasn't so keen on me


Just waiting for him to fall in...


Water designs

Parks in China are always a flurry of activity, but whoa. People’s Park in Chengdu is a whole new level. It’s a buxxing conglomeration of colors and noise and just randomness. There were bands, there was dancing, there was opera-singing, there were theatrical performances, there were activities which I have no idea how to classify and they were all taking place five steps away from each other.

The noise, my friends, sounded like a combination of: a tiger playing a grand piano, a billy goat wearing tap dancing shoes, a monkey trapped in a parked car, elephants doing the conga, and that weird buzzing noise you sometimes hear, but can never figure out where it’s coming from and all of this was in a space the size of a giant chessboard. But it was noise in a fun way, well, for about two minutes. Still, it made for some good laughs. Check out the dancer at the end of this video. I’ve never seen a man wear so much sparkly sequins:

Third adventure: Wuhou Temple, 60 RMB.

Wuhou Temple


Wuhou Temple

Did I mention we walked to 75% of these places in the unbearable heat (and managed to get lost one time which resulted in a ridiculously over-priced, but fun, motorbike taxi ride)? Yeah, we were a little too gung-ho…

After Wuhou Temple, and accidentally coating myself with red powder from this brilliant red wall:

Whoops

we walked over to Jinli street (also free)…

Jinli Street


Alley in Jinli


…for a little snackaroo. Well, dinner really. But oh man, talk about options!

Snack stalls boasting Sichuans best fair were lined up beckoning tourists over with their sizzling sounds and spicy aromas (all were good except the stinky tofu). Nearly all of them had customers lined up out front, as well. How were we to possibly choose, especially for someone who has difficulty making decisions.

After walking up and down and up once more, I finally landed on the winner: dan dan noodles and an egg wrap with spring onions. Awesome. Especially the dan dan noodles.

What's cookin' good lookin'

An overpriced beer to wash it down and contentment was ours.

After our meal, we were too tired to do much more exploring. We tried, don’t get me wrong. We walked down every street in Jinli, but we just didn’t have the whole shopping thing in us, so after a while, we decided to head home.

45 minutes and a few wrong turns later we were on the back of an extremely overpriced moped taxi, now, finally on our way home. A good night sleep is an understatement.

Our 'taxi' home

What can you do in Chengdu? Plenty.

Check out more photos from our day here:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Panda-Landa. Welcome to Chengdu, China, home of the giant panda.

PANDAS!

I don’t think I have to tell you how excited I was to be spending my day with: PANDAS! (Well, giant pandas to be exact).

Don't hurt yourself buddy

Those precious black-and-white fuzzy little faces. Those clumsy little bodies. That cute little grin they pull off as they chomp away on their bamboo. I mean, just look at how cute they are:

Getting tired of looking at pandas yet?

Whadda you lookin' at?

Might as well go and read something else then because you’re about to be pandafied.

Although, not as pandafied as these creatures on exhibit in the panda museum.

The first day of our trip and we did what everyone should do after traveling for two days nonstop: woke up early. My only motivation? We were going to see PANDAS! (I know, you had no idea). We chose to go to the Panda Breeding Center with MIX hostel, as they offered a 98 RMB package that included entrance fee, transportation and tour.

My recommendation for visiting the Panda Breeding and Research Center: Take the bus and go on your own (Entrance fee 58 RMB). The tour felt rushed, which I’m sure is fine for anyone who wants to just see the pandas, but if you absolutely love pandas and want to spend as much time with them as you can, then this tour is not for you. Also, go early as that’s when they’re most active. Pandas are typically lazy from their non-nutrious diet of bamboo.

Except, of course, when they’re eating said bamboo:

Fun Facts about, you guessed it, PANDAS!:
-Pandas are considered premature when they’re born because of how tiny they are compared to the size of their mother. (About 1/900th of their mothers size).
-Many times female pandas give birth two twins, but usually only one survives.
-Pandas eat about 30-45 pounds of bamboo a day!
-Giant pandas front paws have five fingers and thumbs to help them grasp bamboo!

Fun facts, photogenic pandas and two hours later, we were on our way out of the park. Had we decided to hold a panda (photo-op) for 1,000 RMB, we would have been there a little bit longer, but our budget didn’t allow for 30-second long panda hug and photo (although Josh can tell you, I regretted this decision almost immediately upon leaving the park and dwelled on this for the remainder of our trip).

By noon we were back at MIX and had pretty much the rest of the day to explore Chengdu, which I’m fairly certain we did… Stay tuned for photos and stories from the rest of our day in the spicy city.

Here are a few more photos from our panda-filled morning, because really, there’s no such thing as too many pandas: