T/he lazy bones hostel that we were staying at in Chengdu had various activities available such as the face changing opera, the trip to the panda centre and a few other things.
One of those other things was a walking tour of Chengdu. The walking tour started from the Mix hostel which is owned by the same people.
I can’t remember the tour guides name but she spoke very good English which was really handy for us as we don’t speak anything else – we get by with English but I don’t even think we are very good at that.
When we arrived at the mix hostel, they told us to wait at the reception area. A few minutes later, a nice German couple turned up and then with a drum roll a smoke machine and some fireworks, the tour guide appeared.
Actually, there were no smoke machines or drums or fireworks but I was trying to make this part a wee touch more interesting.
A few minutes into the walk, a local woman stopped the tour guide and they had a brief conversation in their own language. I’d like to think the local woman was asking where she found 4 western people and what she was doing with us. Perhaps the woman thought the tour guide was some sort of pied piper type person. Apparently, a lot of Chinese people don’t see that many ‘western’ people so some do have a tendency to stop and stare at you for a wee while.
The tour guide informed us that the woman was recommending a restaurant to take us to, which that was nice of her.
Instead, the guide took us around the city and towards the Wenshu monastery and the nunnery that I have alredy written about – we went there on our own but today, the visit was going to be a bit different.
On our way there, we stopped at a book shop. All of the books were translated to Mandarin so there was never really an option for us to buy them but the shop itself was quite huge. It was housed over 3 levels – Dalmuir library is smaller than 1 floor of this shop.
After moving on from there, the guide was able to point out various other points of interest such as some popular, local restaurants. She then took us to a local market and although there was nothing much happening there, it was a market where the local people do their shopping.
The meat section was differnt to the meat aisle that I’m used to in Tesco, it had cabinets with what looked like pigs feet and legs in them. Next to that, there was a large steel dish full of chickens feet.
They pretty much use the whole animal when it’s slaughtered so they were selling kidneys, livers, intestines and various other unrecognisable things. Some of the stalls had full animal carcasses hanging that were waiting to be butchered. Like I said, it’s a bit different to Tesco.
The skinned ducks or chickens were a bit of a strange sight too – the body of the animal was in a box with it’s neck and head hanging over the side of the counter.
The same market also had a section which sold fresh fruit and veg which was a lot nicer to look at than pieces of dead animals. The fresh fruit and veg was much bigger than what we see back home as well. I don’t know why – perhaps they are given a longer time to grow out here or perhaps they are using the good ol’ GM crops out here ?
So, after all those lovely chopped up animal pieces, it was time for the next part of the walk. I’m sure most of you can guess the next part ? It was lunch time.
This wasn’t a normal lunch though, it was lunch at the Aidao nunnery. To begin with, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the thought of it. I’ve got absolutely nothing against nuns but I knew it was going to be a vegetarian meal and I’m not a vegetarian.
The tour guide took us into the lunch hall so it was good to have a local person with us who knew what they were doing.
Before entering, you have to lift two bowls and some chop sticks. One of the bowls is for the veg and another for the rice.
After a short prayer, one that we didn’t understand but sat in silence during, the lunch is served. The nuns come round with large serving trays and pretty much keep filling your bowls until there is no way to fit any more food in.
At the start, we were told to ensure that we didn’t take too much food as it is deemed disrespectful to waste food but they try and continually top up your bowls as your eating.
After a while, you have to cover part of it with your hand and shake your head to indicate that you don’t want anything more to eat.
I’m not sure why but you’re not supposed to talk while eating and even if I was allowed to, I don’t know the Mandarin for “no thanks, I’ve got enough here”
The lunch cost a total of 5RM which is about 50p (or 10 bob if you prefer).
Although it was a vegeetarian meal, it was a really nice one and a unique experience that few people will get to be part of.
After the monastery, we saw some more of the city and then made our way back to our hostel as we were leaving early the next morning.
In the afternoon, we received a lovely email from our next accommodation to inform us that they had cancelled our booking due to a pricing issue.
So, the last night in Chengdu involved trying to sort out where we were going to stay the next night for our stay in Jiuzhaigou where the national park is.
We got somewhere booked and have now been to the park, that’s probably going to be the next thing that I write about.