Monday, December 10, 2018

9 Chengdu - Peoples Park


Parks Play an important part in China’s society.  Maybe because China is so densely populated. No backyards and picket fences here, just blocks and blocks of apartments tower on mass throughout the cities.  So many people, especially retirees flock to the parks to relax, socialise and enjoy life. 

Peoples park in Chengdu is one of those hubs… Beautiful gardens provide the back drop to this social mecca.. Here you can join an impromptu choir, dance for fun or watch others show off their skills. Musicians busking not for money but for your enjoyment. Sit in one of the oldest teahouses and enjoy some tea and have a chat. Groups gather to play cards or mah-jong… As I mentioned the gardens were beautiful with wonderful displays of colour, flower artistry and wonderful topiaries. 

Now a side note, in the park there were monitors that measured the noise within the park… I wanted to write something about it, so to get my facts right I googled it… well…. Apparently this park had the reputation of being the noisiest park in China, thanks to those rowdy retirees who didn’t want to sit and home and vegetate…  Rather than go too much into it … have a read of this light hearted description https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/04/world/asia/china-chengdu-park-noise.html

But here is what peaked our interest the most!  No need for Tinder in China, because you have Match Making street in nearly all major city parks. Here people come to arrange good marriages..  Walking along the lane you see mainly handwritten signs advertising a prospective husband or wife, details of age, height, employment and wealth..  Technology still does have a presence here cause if you are interested out comes the iPad with photo’s for your perusal. It must work if the crowds are any indication.  Groups huddle together in what looks like negotiations where those with the  best prospects win!

I did offer to auction off anyone interested from the Contiki Club!


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
custard.

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.