A Travellerspoint blog

Chengdu, China

Mahjong and rice wine

We stayed with Kai and his wife for our first three nights in Chengdu. We had a fun exchange of cooking lessons; they taught us how to make ma po dou fu (spicy tofu dish) and we taught them how to make banana bread. Kai also gave us a very important lesson on how to play Chengdu style mahjong. Betting money on mahjong games is so popular in Chengdu that there are now specific rules that make it harder for cheating (lucky for us it makes the game extremely similar to the rummy card game that we already know how to play!) During the game we had to discard mahjong tiles, so we practiced yelling out the Chinese words for each number so ended up learning how to correctly pronounce 1 thru 9!

The city of Chengdu exists in part due to a 2,000 year old irrigation project that divided the Minjiang River into two and then multiple rivers that in turn irrigated the farm lands that fueled the growth of Chengdu city. With Robin’s interest in water, we decided that we should visit the World Cultural Heritage site in Dujiangyan. Two buses, a metro tube, a high speed train ride and one more bus later we arrived … but it was well worth it. The river was so beautiful and the gardens and temples surrounding the UNESCO World Heritage Site have been well kept. If you do end up visiting this place, we’d recommend staying for a few nights and walking up into the mountains; there are endless trails and temples to explore.

While planning our Tibet tour we met a few couples over email that we considered traveling with. In the end, our schedules didn’t allow for it but to our surprise we bumped into one of those couples at a ‘dumpling making’ party we attended. As luck would have it, David and Karin were super fun drinking and traveling buddies! We celebrated our meeting with 500mls of Chinese rice wine and several beers that we were awarded for ‘Most Creative” and “Most Beautiful” dumpling creations.

Chengdu is home of the Xi Ong Mao Ji Di Panda Research Base. We made it there bright and early one morning to watch the giant pandas munch away at their morning bamboo feeding and learned that they don’t actually eat the leaves (they eat the stalk)! We watched as the big pandas piled on each other and were amazed at how skillful they were to first peal the bamboo with their back teeth in three quick strokes and then bite off the ‘tasty’ inner shoot. The park is huge, with many different panda enclosures (we were told about 60 pandas). In the kiddy corner we watched some panda cubs attempt to climb down a tree. The awkward attempts to go down face forward gathered quite the crowd and received a well-deserved applause when the panda eventually made it down safely.

In the afternoon, we walked around Jinli lu (snack street), which is a newly renovated ancient street known for the many different snack vendors that line the alleyways. We enjoyed some unusual Chinese snacks (pineapple rice being the favorite) and found a teahouse to watch a Sichuan Opera performance. This style of opera is known for the face changing “bianlian” which turns out to be pretty funny and enjoyable because of the actor’s interaction with the crowd.

We also enjoyed some home cooking while staying with Derek and his wife “Monkey” for a few days. Derek’s family has a simple motto; “drinking is encouraged.” Since there are endless choices of rice wine in the store, we were very excited and curious to try what Derek termed “the good stuff.” We quickly realized that with our amateur taste buds, the 150rmb bottle was about as nasty as the 15rmb bottle, but well worth the taste testing. Derek is a freelance web designer (living near the High-tech zone in south Chengdu) and his wife is an architect who loved to bake, so we the four of us had a lot in common.

We borrowed Derek’s bikes and rode our way around the city. We only got a few blocks before stopping at Encounter (an outdoor clothing store that appeared to be China’s version of REI) so we stocked up on some warm Quechua clothes for Tibet and stored them in the store’s lockers while we headed out for our bike ride We must have doubled the amount of clothing we were carrying by buying a Quechua fleece set (top and bottom), some heavy wool socks, a wool base layer, and a blow up pillow. We headed north east from the High-Tech zone and found a greenway bike path along the river that snaked through Sichuan University and River View Bamboo Park. The pic below juxtaposes the old and modern style of buildings (with construction cranes that are everywhere in China).

While exploring the city we couldn’t help but notice little baby bottoms peaking at us through the enormous slit in their pants. We met an English girl who was working in China and she explained how most toddlers in China do not use diapers and instead just have the children squat when needed (this was an unusual site to see along the busy streets). This is such an interesting way for potty training kids and we have to admit that seeing how many people there are in China, the fact that most people don’t use diapers is probably a major benefit the environment and great fun for tourists like us :)

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 09:11 Archived in China

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very interesting! Love the photo of the UNESCO Heritage Site!

by megandibiase

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