Friday, November 30, 2018

8 Taste of Chengdu part 2 Street Food or should I say "Snacks"

When we say snacks we think chips, peanuts, cheese and crackers but in
Chengdu, it's anything on a stick. Some easily recognisable others leave
you wondering. BBQed and deep fried morsels heavily marinated in soy,
chilli or a thick sweet substance. Steamed buns, dumplings and all that is
just the savoury.

The bakeries are amazing and I could easily survived on anything filled with

Just as we would have water in China you are served green tea with every
meal. Popular drinks are ice teas, fruit juices, milk teas and bubble
teas... Bubbles you ask, think warm milky tea infused with beads of jelly
that don't necessarily give it flavour but texture.

As much as I have been enjoying the fabulous lip numbing flavours, there are
moments where I craved simple tastes of home.... Well until the next yummy
thing was in front of me!!

8 Taste of Chengdu part 1 Banquets

Today was the first of many banquets that we will served be during this
trip... Chengdu is in the Sichuan Province, which is becoming the foodies
capital of China.

Hot and spicy are the main characteristics of their most popular dishes.
Meats and vegetables are stewed in a red oily bubbling soup to create their
most famous dish the Hot Pot! Duck, fish and lots of vegetables steamed or
sautéed, were some of the many dishes laid out on our table. Just when you
thought you had enough more plates are brought out.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

7 Chengdu Highlights - Wide and Narrow Streets Part 2

And now the food... what can I say, delicacies of all sorts served as snacks on stick. Memories of the Easter show come flooding back, but instead of Dagwood dogs and fairy floss it is pig snouts and rabbit heads that are on offer.
Fruits, juices and ice teas beautifully displayed and each a piece of artwork in their own right.

7 Chengdu Highlights - Wide and Narrow Streets Part 1

At the start of our day we all piled into our bus under the direction of our
local guide Flora with our SNA host William working the background to ensure
everything went well.
Our group was a good mix, we had the Contiki tour up the back, our Chinese
family in the middle and our Taree representatives down the front.
First stop was at the wide and narrow streets of Chengdu. Streets linked by
alleys, lined with shops, restaurants and tea houses. Shop keepers, waiters
and performers traditionally dressed, so authentic right down to the
beautifully applied makeup or wonderfully painted masks.
Amazing old architecture restored and repurposed into shop fronts selling
trinkets of all kind begging to bought and taken home as a reminder of your
visit to this interesting place.
A couple of Artisans that tickled my fancy.. Sugar Art.. Shapes made from
toffee. no sand in jars here .. They have flymo artists creating models of
some very popular icons.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

6 Good Morning Chengdu

We woke up this morning to the soft and gentle music filtering into our room from the park below. Looking out our window, in perfect formation, locals were completing their morning ritual of Tai Chi. Like a well choreographed ballet they moved from one position to another. You could feel the serenity just by watching, but we soon shook that feeling off as we started to rush around to get ourselves ready for our day.

Our breakfast buffet was beautifully displayed, tempting us to eat more that we should have. As great as western selection looked, it seemed so bland next to delicious colourful array of the asian cuisine.

Stations full of fresh fruits, pastries, dumplings, porridge's and congees. A dedicated station for stir fries and noodles. Steamed vege's, fried rice and my one disappointment that I didn't try the boiled tea eggs.

5 Tastes just like Chicken..... until you know what it is...

Beneath the square we found lots of shops, food stalls and restaurants. The shops were quirky and geared for the tourists, and as tourists we contributed to the economy. Lots of restaurants with spruikers out front touting for your business. Calling out to us in language with didn't understand, we succumbed to persistence of one particular lady. We followed the golden rule, eat where the locals eat... but hang on everyone is a local except us!

Taking our seats, we were given menus with pictures of food we could not recognise. "Any chicken, beef?" We tried to ask, looking into their blank faces we scrambled for our phones. With a flurry of fingers We typed, then they typed. Ok, so the chicken didn't look as exciting as the hot pot on the opposite page... "chicken" we pointed "no", "what is it?", back to our phones... hmm no translation that made sense... "Pingwa, Pingwa" she kept saying. Carly looked at me, I looked at her and we shrugged and said " Let's just do it"

This region is famous for it's spicy food and hot pots, so we knew we were on a good thing... A tall carafe full of an amber liquid, sitting on the table reminded me of an oversized specimen bottle, and as Carly felt the warm of the glass we realised it must be tea, pretty dark for Chinese standards.

So out comes the gas burner into the middle of the table, the excitement started to build... then came the wok, the rich colour alone, screamed I am full of flavour. But the protein didn't look right, it was white, a little translucent and a bone structure we had never seen before. So petite where the pieces that my first thought was quail, or may be it is pigeon. We picked up the pieces, those joints, that tiny piece of thigh, those little tiny digits at the end of that leg, evoked suspicions that we were about to eat something more sinister.

Our hot pot was full of chillies, lovely green vegetable, ginger, lotus roots, large flat noodles and this meat that turned out "tasted just like chicken".

After eating most of it, we decided to head back flagging down a taxi then going through the process of trying to have him understand exactly where we wanted to go.

Once back at the hotel our first job was to find out what we ate.

Drum roll please!!!!!

It was..... ready for it ...... Baby frog! Urghhhh, now I feel sick 🤕

4 Filling in the rest of day in Chengdu

After settling down in our room, we showered and went out for a short walk around the area where our hotel was. Although conveniently placed for visiting the Panda Centre, it was at least a 40 min taxi ride back into the main centre of town.

Being tired we only walked a couple of blocks, but alas as is usually the case, if we walked just that little bit further, we where told there was a lovely park. Oh well we were more than happy with our choice to head back to the room, order a little room service and have a little nap.

Feeling much more refreshed we decided to jump in a cab and head downtown. It was a $20 well spend as oppose to trying to find our way with shuttles and train stations.

There were two things that I had decided to do before leaving home, which ended up being a real life saver. With the lack of internet and thanks to that great firewall of China, I knew I was going to have problems with google maps and of course translate. I still had Maps me on my phone from last trip, so I downloaded the China maps that way I could use it off line. I also downloaded the Chinese package for Google translate, again so it could be used off line.
What life savers they were.

We have now become quite proficient at having a conversation via the phone and it has helped so much in being able to ask even just the simple things while we are out.

Once in the centre of town we were dropped off at Tianfu Square. From there we could have walked off in all different directions but we decided to keep it simple, especially as the next two days would be spent touring the city.

The square is surrounded with museums, hotels and shopping malls. And as we were taking pictures of the sights, the Chinese were taking pictures of us. No flies on them, they will walk up, position their phones and snap away.. ha .. at least the Buddhist monk asked Carly and I to stand together and smile for him.... so I asked to take his picture in return.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

3 “Neih Hou” Chengdu Touchdown

Slept a little, binged a little and ate a little, that all helped to pass the time away during our 11 hour flight.

Watched all 8 episodes of Sinner... Was good, but not as good as Season 1.

It was still dark when we touched down, but you could still tell there was that famous Chinese haziness that blanketed the city. The plane seemed to take forever to finish taxiing and then finding a bay for us to disembark. Just when you thought that was it... once on the tarmac it was straight onto the waiting buses for another long ride to the arrivals hall.

Immigration brought back memories of our TRS line.... A large bank of counters dedicated to the Chinese, hey but there were 100's of them.. wow so glad that the foreigners line is so short... So we waited and waited as each person was processed, some what felt like an eternity... Whilst the massive Chinese line dwindles we slowly inched our way closer to an officer...

Seems the joke was on us, because now the Chinese lines were empty and we were still standing in a queue going nowhere....a little common sense prevailed and some of us were now being directed to the empty China counters. Looking at the positive, we didn't wait long for our bags.

Once all together again we boarded our bus and headed tour Hotel. If Chengdu has a national animal, it would be the Panda 🐼. Statues and displays of these "cutest animals on earth" appear everywhere. Even one on our laps thanks to our hosts from SNA tours.

Arriving at our hotel, the Crowne Plaza Chengdu Panda Garden, SNA ensured our rooms would be ready, so it was not long and Car and I were making ourselves at home in our lovely room. A 5 Star hotel which would easily compare with the Shangri La in Sydney. Spacious rooms with floor to ceiling windows. For us it mean lovely views of the park that lay at the foot of the hotel. Huge bathroom with separate shower and toilet and a very inviting full size bath, if only we had the time. The only downside to our room was the strong cigarette smell, being only 2 nights we decided to let it go, but if we were here for all four nights I would have asked for a room change. Staff were very friendly and always wanting to help, but language was our enemy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

2 Up Up and away with Air China

Having made our way to Gate 32, you could easily pick those in our group. As us Greeks would say, we were the "xeni" in a plane load of Chinese.

Identified by our special SNA badges, once we had all arrived we were ushered straight onto the plane. Our Famil tour had started. Taken into Business class we were given the run down on Air China, teased with Business class (no First on this plane), walked through premium economy and finally settled into our cattle class.

The configuration was 4 seats in the middle and 2 on each side by the windows. We had the 2 seats by the window. It felt like we had more leg room than our last A380 flight, drop down leg rest and all the usual trimmings that come with it.

Wasn't long and I lost Carly to a centre row that had only one person in it.. Nice, now I had the 2 seats to myself. Once up in the air, off came the shoes up went the armrest and I was set for the rest of the flight. Another track record, if I have a window seat, you can bank on it being on the wing!..... Yay what a great view of Sydney when we left!

What took 5 minutes to say in Chinese our translated announcement only took at most a minute. Now I am pretty good at understanding accents, but it was only the odd word that I could understand, "seat", "dinner", "wine", I have flown enough to link all the words together.

They fed us dinner, dimmed the lights and settled us in for our 11 hour flight.

Carnjo's Tip of the day - if you have Netflix download a selection of movies or shows to watch... not a big selection for us foreigners on their inflight entertainment.