Tuesday, June 4, 2019

China - Chengdu, Panda picture overload and Leshan Buhda

We took the high speed train to Chengdu which was very comfortable. Originally we thought we would see more countryside but most of the time we were in tunnels. We did see a lot of these yellow flower fields as we drove by. I never did find out what they were. 


As we took the train into Chengdu we passed by this nuclear power plant that reminded me of something right out of the Simpsons. It was right next to the city! I guess thats why the cities can be lit up so much at night because they have lots of power available. 

We stayed at a Tibet experience hotel that was a themed hotel and gave you a Tibet experience. There was a yak in the lobby that you could take pictures with, artwork and museum type displays and even live performances in the evening. 


The breakfast again was like a Vegas buffet and even included things like Yak meat (tough and unseasoned) and potatoes. 

Day 5

The big thing we wanted to see in Chengdu was the Panda Research Center. 
It was like a zoo and breeding center that only had Pandas. 
When we got there it was super crowded and we were worried when we 
had to wait 45 minutes to take the shuttle to the top of the park as crowds and crowds of 
people and school children were streaming past us.


This was the most crowded place we visited so far. Once we got to the Panda enclosures 
it seemed about as crowded as a crowded day at any other zoo in California. 
It was awesome seeing Pandas after Panda and the cute baby Pandas.
It was morning and they just had been fed so they were more active and we 
sat and watched them eating. 

It took forever to finally get on the shuttle but it was worth not having to hike up the mountains. 




This guy was calling one of the Pandas to come and get a snack and he didn't want to come and we were all laughing. 



It was fun just sitting there watching them munching away on their food. In San Diego you had to file past them in hushed silence and didn't have time to just hang out and enjoy them but here you could watch them all you wanted. 


We also got to watch the red Pandas too. (They are related to the raccoons and aren't really a bear.)  Dean is obsessed with Pandas and it was the highlight of the trip 
for him.

Leshan Buddha - 

Joel's next bucket list item was to go the the Leshan Buddha which is the largest one in the world. It is a gaint Buddha which is carved into the side of the mountain. It was being restored since October and just had the scaffolding removed 3 days before we got there! The only way to see the entire thing is to take a boat and see it from the water.

Leshan was a two hour bullet train ride from the city but when we told our driver the wrong train station we realized that we would miss our train taking an hour to get to the other one on the other side of the city. (I didn't realize until I got home and inspected our tickets that when it said Chengdudong it meant Chengdu "east" but we didn't know that)  The driver let us know that it would be cheaper to hire him we ended up hiring him and he drove us to the places which ended up being much better in the end. Everything is farther than you think, bigger than you can imagine and not as easy to get to as you plan in your mind. The drivers have made all the difference.

We raced onto the boat as we got there and they threw on these life jackets and we were on our way. 

You can see the trails in the mountain to get to the Buddha.

The Buddha was impressive but we didn't stay that long looking at it and there were a lot of other boats around us as well but we didn't take long to get to it. 


To give you an idea of how large this Buddha really is I took some close up pictures of the men working on him. You can see how small they are compared to his hands. 

Buddha Park Capital - We ended up going to the the Buddha Park Capital afterwards which was in Leshan as well. This was a newer complex opened in 1994 with tons of Buddha’s carved into the mountain. Impressive carvings but lots of stairs and hills. The map was hard to read and we spent a lot of time wandering but there were great things to see around every corner. 

This was the bridge as we were walking in. 


The hardest thing to see was this sleeping Buddha that we kept looking for and passing and didn't realize until we were leaving that it was in the front and we were seeing it without seeing it because it was so large, ha ha.

This is the head we saw. It wasn't nearly as easy to see as it was in the picture.

Inside of the mountain there were all kinds of carvings and many of them were large as well. 


This guy appears to be stepping on a dwarf...Ashley's saying "huh??"

The grounds were beautiful to walk through as well. 


Throughout the whole trip things would be lost in translation. Here is just one example of a sign that we saw in one of the bathrooms that cracked us up. 


By the end we were all done walking and climbing and were happy to get back to the car and get on our way back to the city. 

We got back about 8 and for dinner we went across the street to a restaurant that Virginia picked out. Joel was very happy to see that it was a local Hot Pot restaurant and was one of the things that the Schezuan Provence is known for and he wanted to eat there before we left. Like many of the experiences we’ve had our dinner ordering was lost in translation and we had to do a lot of pointing and pantomime even with Google translate. We watched the other diners around us and ignored the suggestion to cook our meat in the broth and then dip it into vegetable oil to eat it. There was a middle section of the hot pot that had spicy peppers in it and Joel ate from that while the rest of us ate from the not spicy portion of the pot. It ended up working out and most of us just ate the noodles and broth, and some meat with all of the other stuff added. It was good and a nice way to end a great day.

After we got back to the hotel we listened to the traditional Tibetan singers perform in the lobby (along with a pianist playing green sleeves, ha ha).


Day 6

The next day we had breakfast at 8:30 with food picked over by a Dutch tourist group. Ashley got stuck in a elevator with a group of them that circled her and one even patted her head! Uncomfortable. Yesterday I tried blocking her a couple of times from opportunistic picture takers. There are some people bold enough to just come up and take a picture right in front of her. Most people would be standing behind whoever was taking our picture and take their own as well...we had our picture taken a lot.

We had a couple of hours before we were supposed to be at the train station to head to the next leg of our trip. We decided to go to Jinli street which is a historic market in an older part of town. Getting there the traffic was horrible. It was only 3 kilometers away and it took forty minutes to get there. We ended up only being able to stay for about 45 minutes so we wouldn't miss our train.

This was a great place with fun shopping and cheap prices. The buildings were quaint and every store had something interesting in it. We bought a few things and at the end of the trip we wish we would have bought more there! We didn’t have a lot of time because we had to get to the train station so we could start the long journey to Zhangjiajie.

These candy covered strawberries ended up being amazing and we wish we would have tried them earlier.


We got to the train station and the place was a zoo. All the bad stereotypes of train stations wrapped in one. Crowded, the bathrooms were horrendous and of course no toilet paper, soap or regular toilets (if we are lucky we found you could find a handicap stall that had one). The waiting room didn’t have a seat in sight and so we stood next to a wall with all our bags and Jeff went to McDonalds to see what we could get for food. 

One thing I won’t miss when I leave China is the smell of cigarette smoke and the sound of hawing and spitting (I guess both are seen as normal). When it was time to load up on the train we all had to funnel through and little gate and there is no polite waiting for each other to pass it’s push your way through any way you can with the whole group. There is no “pardon me” or “sorry”. I wanted to say it a few times as I had to push through people bumping and jostling but I realized it’s just the way things are done and nobody apologizes for it. 

We got on the train and it wasn’t a bullet train but it was still pretty smooth but the bathroom situation was a pit toilet and a nasty one at that. Jeff and Joel were sent to scope out food and the bathroom situation and they didn’t come back for a long time (they met some English guys they were talking to) so I ended up using it even though they said there was a regular one a few cars up. We thought we were on a 4 hour train ride but we realized once we started that it was 7 hours!

The food situation was buying a cup of noodles and using the hot water on the train. Public water was a hot water spigot and people would use it for tea and noodles and the fact that you couldn't drink the water unless it was bottled or boiled. 

 When we got to the train station where we were going to switch trains it was night and we had a 5 hour wait. We thought we would go into the city and have dinner or see some stuff but it was late and everyone was tired. Jeff, Joel and I went in a taxi to go check out some things in the town and everything was dark and there wasn’t much to see. We went back to the train station and just kinda dozed in our seats waiting for the train to arrive.


We didn’t board our train until midnight and then we realized that we had a stranger in our 4 person compartment with us. His wife was in Joel and Virginia’s compartment. A little awkward but it is what it is. I had to climb on the top bunk and there isn’t even a ladder and it was up pretty high. There was one foot rest and a handle on the wall and I felt like an acrobat trying to climb up. I ended up not sleeping well or at all on the train because it jerked and jerked, stopped and started and was noisy with creaks, squeaks and groans. It was an old train and it felt like I was trying to sleep through constant earthquakes which kept me on edge and had my heart racing over and over. Once the Chinese gentleman started snoring and I was having to hold the handle out of fear of falling asleep and falling out of bed I got out and then climbed in with Jeff on the bottom bunk and tried to sleep. It was a long night for me and I didn’t sleep. The bathroom on this train was even worse than the last one too. We got to Zhangjiajie at like 6:30 am which was an hour late and for the last 40 minutes of the journey we were sitting on our luggage by the doors waiting for the train to arrive. It was so slow. It probably took an hour to go 20 miles as we were waiting to arrive.

This sums up how we were all feeling...so tired.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

This is amazing! Thank you for sharing your adventures!! Sue Carter