August in China: Doing the Conventional Tourist Thing in Chengdu

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At Chongqing train station, I jumped straight into the local experience with a rather harrowing argument in shrill foreign-accented Mandarin with queue-jumping locals. Dismayed to find the ticket hall packed to the brim at 7am, I grimly joined a queue and hoped I’d catch either the 7.30 or 8 am train. Following the queue into the bowels of the hall, I soon missed the 7.30 and got increasingly anxious. Luckily I was nearing the ticket booth but unluckily, there were way too many people hanging around either asking to cut the queue or outright butting in. When someone approached me to jump queue, I finally lost my temper and yelled that everyone here queues from the end of the queue and that no one has the right to jump queue. If he wanted to cut queue he’d have to ask the person behind me. The stress got to me and somehow my Mandarin got more fluent than normal when I lost it. I shouted that their drive for a civil society in time for the Olympics wasn’t working. The rumbling in the crowd suddenly turned into a hush and as if by magic, the path opened up for me and all the queue jumpers let me through to buy tickets. By then it was 7.45 am and the ticket seller asked if I was sure I could make it. I nodded gratefully, grabbed the tickets and ran out the ticket hall to catch my train, thankful that Chongqing people were nice enough not to lynch this crazy foreign shrew.

In Chengdu, the inimitable Mr Bunglez met me at the train station. It was great to see a familiar face after all that winging it on my own. To my Chongqing train station story, he said that he was surprised I arrived alive. After dumping my stuff at his pad he whisked me off to do the touristy thing. I was surprised to find it a nice change to let someone else decide what to do and where to go even though it was to the overexposed places.

First stop was Jingli, an “ancient” street, where Mr Bunglez whinged about all the bloody tourists who insisted on taking a picture with them  hanging on to the door knockers at the main doors. He cringed when not only did I insist on taking the cheesy picture, I also did it with what I thought was the jaunty foot kick. OK sure, it is teh failz and looks really stupid but I guess that’s the point.

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Even though it’s heavily restored and reminds me of an old lady with far too much cakey makeup, Jingli has a certain charm to it. Mind you, Jingli was a rather elegant overly madeup old matriarch. I liked the delicate styling of the overly lacquered wooden facades.

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There were also the pretty stylings of the walls and doorways. All very atmospheric. We explored the little stalls selling things from chuanshao (barbecued meat on sticks) to handicrafts to cute souvenirs like tiny plush pandas with magnetic paws.

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After dinner, we went to Tianfu Square to check out the Mao statue. I’m ashamed to confess that I chickened out of Mr Bunglez dare to take a picture in the same Mao pose. I figured that I was fortunate enough not to get lynched at the train station already, there really wasn’t any point pushing my luck further.

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At night, there’s nothing better to do than to people watch at one of the many pubs in Chengdu. Mr Bunglez knew the staff at one of the coolest places in Jingli, which is how I got this amazing set of drinks for free. Check out the fantastic sparkler accessory! We were too busy oohing and aahing over it the first time we forgot to take pictures and cheekily asked the staff to get us another sparkler. Everyone in the bar must’ve thought it was my birthday!

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In every Chinese pub, the de rigueur game is dice. I can’t quite remember how the game went but I kept losing to Mr Bunglez obvious experience and finesse, which meant that I ended up losing my coordination so much that he banned me from making fancy dice shakes. We’d lost way too many dice to the dance floor this way.

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And finally after a long day of having fun, the best thing to do is to check into a 24-hour massage/leisure centre. We got there at 1 am and there were still plenty of people milling around in coordinated pyjamas. Some of them were playing ping-pong in them, while others in the same garb were played pool while chain smoking. It was all highly amusing. We ended the day with a great foot massage and watched Kungfu Panda on DVD at the same time. What a way to spend the day!

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