After the days we spent exploring the breathtaking Jiuzhaigou and admiring the pandas’ cuteness, we spent our last day relaxing in the provincial capital of Chengdu. Sichuan province is famous for its very spicy food. I was a little afraid of being able to find food that we could all eat, but it turned out well. Our first night in Chengdu we found a local restaurant serving chuan chuan xiang, which is a local specialty (these are a big deal in China). The way this restaurant worked is that we went to coolers in the back that were filled with food on skewers. There were various sorts of meat, lots of different vegetables, several types of tofu, and maybe some noodles. You picked what you wanted (for the group) and brought the skewers to the front. They cooked the skewers in big pots of broth/soup. There were two selections: one was spicy, one was spicier. We went with spicy. We sat down at our table outside on the sidewalk, and then they brought us our skewers when they were ready. Although on the spicy side, they were really good! We didn’t know exactly how much this was costing us because I couldn’t figure out the menu/price board. I figured it couldn’t be that expensive because we were in a smaller city than Beijing, not in a tourist area, and not in a fancy place. When we were done, they weighed the leftover skewers to calculate the cost, and added our rice, dipping sauce, and drinks. The total, for the six of us, was 70RMB which is about $11USD. We liked it even more once we knew how cheap it was!
The second night we found a more traditional restaurant and ordered more traditional (stir fried) Sichuan dishes, including twice cooked pork, kung pao chicken, dry pot chicken, and eggplant and green beans. It was really good! Sichuan food lives up to its reputation of being spicy and delicious!
The next morning we set out for People’s Park in downtown Chengdu. Chinese parks are always good for a relaxing stroll and very interesting for people watching.
This park featured a monument to the 1911 Revolution in the center. This was the revolution, led by Sun Yat-sen and others, that overthrew the Qing dynasty and ushered in the “Republican Period.” Eventually this republican government devolved into a warlord period and lost the civil war to the Communist party. I don’t know of any monuments to this revolution in Beijing, so it was an interesting geographic difference to see different things emphasized.
The park was full of groups of retired people doing various exercises, such as the woman above doing taiji jian (tai chi with a sword), regular tai chi, dancing, singing, dancing with fans, and dancing with balls on paddles (sounds weird but was really cool to watch them balance the balls).
There were also lots of pretty flowers! In 256BC, the State of Qin built an irrigation system called Dujiangyan, that keeps the rivers near Chengdu from flooding. This engineering marvel made Sichuan the most productive agricultural area in China. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit it, because I think I would have understood it more visiting with an engineering professor than if I ever get to visit on my own. This irrigation also helps to keep the area nice and lush!
Some retired people write out classical poems in water on the ground. We’ve seen this in Beijing, too. Its really beautiful!
Once we’d wandered the park, we settled into a tea house by the lake/pond in the park. Tea houses are very famous and common in Sichuan. In Beijing, people drink tea, but I’m pretty sure there are more coffee houses than tea houses. In Chengdu it seemed like there were tea houses every 500 meters. In the interest of experiencing the local culture we tried one out. I enjoyed it, but I generally enjoy tea and know enough about tea to order one I thought I’d enjoy. My tea is the center photo above, tie guanyuan oolong (Iron Buddha oolong). My companions ordered (from left) black tea, three different types of green tea, and lemon tea. We ordered by the cup and then they brought us thermoses of hot water so we could refill our cups when we wanted.
The other notable tea house experience was the wandering ear cleaners. They wandered about the tea house offering their services (“ears comfortable?”), while twirling a giant tweezers around their fingers. We all declined their services, but did see others taking advantage. They put a headlamp on, and it appeared that they placed a giant q-tip in their patient’s ear, and turned it by spinning the tweezers around it. I didn’t get any photos, but it was interesting to observe.
After our adventures, we got on a plane and flew back to our home in Beijing, tired and happy!