2016 - China - Chengdu

February, 2016.

We arrived in Chengdu, China on Lunar New Year’s Eve, not entirely sure of how to get to our hostel. We were presented with a few problems:

  • Neither of us (Andrew and I) can speak Putunghua/Mandarin or the local Chengdu dialect;
  • Neither of us can read or write simplified Chinese;
  • Neither of us knew how to navigate their transit system out of the airport; and
  • Our AirBNB host wasn’t answering us on WeChat (the local messenger app).
  • We were too cheap to cab it to our place, so instead relied on an airport bus that would take us to city center and hop on a bus that would hopefully take us the right way. After 45 minutes of confusion, we found ourselves outside a KFC and a massively shady apartment complex.

    Eventually we found our way into apartment complex through a decrepit staircase and a set of glass doors. The owners undid their bicycle locks for the front door and happily let us in. We settled in for a little bit while playing WeChat translate tag with the owners to figure out what we could do in the city. We decided to cab out to Lan Kwai Fong, which is a popular party district in Chengdu (it’s also a super popular one in Hong Kong as well, but I’m not 100% if theres any correlation). Problem was, we decided not to listen to our AirBNB host, and arrived at a ghost town of a place. So we walked across a bridge into a residential area to find this gem of a restaurant and tasted the finest of what Chengdu had to offer. 

    The next morning, our AirBNB host and their family invited us to make pumpkin dumplings, which was a new year tradition. With neither Andrew or I experiencing this, and also too cheap to buy breakfast, we were inclined to agree. My pumpkin dumplings were subpar at best, but I wasn’t about to show it in front of our hosts who were kind enough to let us take part in their family tradition.

    Our morning was pretty uneventful, as we walked around some of the tourist districts, had beer and fried chicken stuffed with cheese for second breakfast and wandered around the city aimlessly for hours trying to just soak it all in.

    Andrew taking a break in Chengdu. Glute-master 1000. Shot on the OnePlus 2. 

    For dinner, we decided to go with the more adventurous route, through the advice of our AirBNB host in broken WeChat translations, we went to a restaurant around the corner that specialized in a version of Chengdu hot pots. Basically you would go to a fridge with a big metal pan, pick out the skewers you wanted to eat, hand it off to one of the servers. They would boil the food and dump it into the fire oil, and you just eat. Best $23 CAD or 110 RMB meal by far.

    The next morning, we left for Mount Emei which is located in the mountain ranges of Sichuan province. Despite this trip taking an 8 hour roundtrip with us only spending 90 minutes on location, it was definitely a site to behold. However, anyone that reads this should definitely learn from our mistake, and absolutely avoid travelling anywhere touristy during the New Year’s lest you want to be a lemming being shuffled around by the masses. 

    Back down at base camp, we were trying to figure out how to get ourselves back to Chengdu, because you know, why plan when you can react, right? Thankfully, this girl spoke both English and Cantonese and was able to find us someone that could get us on the bus. We bid adieu and ran for what felt like a kilometer with a stranger while running through a red light and catching the bus with a minute to spare. We paid $15 CAD or 75 RMB each to get on the bus, and we were on our merry way back to Chengdu.

    On the bus, there was a strange plastic tub that this little girl was kicking around. It had some odd stains in it, and we quickly concluded it was a piss pot. She loved to kick it around; thankfully it was empty.

    Back in Chengdu, we messaged our AirBNB host for a classic must have Sichuan hotpot place, and her suggestion definitely did not disappoint. I’ll let the photos speak for the meal itself. 

    On our last day, I met up with a friend I had briefly met at a hostel in NYC, and decided to hang out with him before we left Chengdu. Little did I know, he literally escaped the hospital, with an IV tube in his arm, still nursing his food poisoning, just to see me. I had met this man for all but 3 hours, and he still completely went out of his way to show me some of Chengdu’s finest, including pork knuckle and a sweet flour pastry. Rex, you’re a G.

    We said our goodbyes, as he headed back to the hospital with his mother yelling at him on the phone to hurry back, and we headed out to the train station to catch our train out to Chongqing.

    Next stop, Chongqing.

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