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June 1, 2006 – A journey to Chengdu, China in Asia

City of Hot Peppers, Teahouses, and Pandas

Back in muggy China again after a pretty scary, bumpy plane ride from Lhasa over some pretty high mountains (doesn't help either if you've got the plane crash scenes from the television series, "Lost", playing over and over in your head - especially the guy without his seatbelt on that hits the roof inside the plane).

Wavered between traveling further around Sichuan province or going somewhere else. Found out that there are actuallly quite a few Tibetan towns in the province (e.g., Kanding, Ganzi, etc.). Thought about visiting those towns along with more scenic spots such as Emei Shan and Jiuzhaigou/Huanglong. But both Rick and I were pretty satisfied with what we've seen so far, in terms of Tibetan culture and natural scenery. Plus, checked with a couple of travel agencies. They all said that Emei Shan isn't really visible right now, since the mountain is pretty much clouded over.

Wandered around Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, the next few days. One thing noticeable is that there seems to be hardly any smokers and spitters here. People also seem to be more fashionably dressed and have more leisure time. For instance, lots and lots of locals were milling about the malls, shopping areas, and movie theatres during the weekdays.

just a normal weekday in the shopping area of Chun Xi Lu

Chengdu is known for quite a few things. One of them is their spicy cuisine. Lots and lots of spicy food is served from a majority of the restaurants, snack stands, and street food vendors here. They use many different kinds of red hot chili peppers in all different kinds of shapes, sizes, and levels of spiciness. They also use these small, round little black peppercorns that numb your mouth if you accidentally bite into them. The peppercorns even showed up in some of the "zhong zi" or bamboo leaf wrapped sticky rice dumplings, that were being sold for the Dragon Boat Festival (5th day of the 5th lunar month, which was May 31st, 2006)!

skewers of meat or vegetables dipped in tubs of spicy sauce/oil and then served - these snacks are sold all over the city

ma pou tofu and red chili pepper and peppercorn crawfish

Don't get me wrong, I'm a lover of spicy food (favorites are Mexican, Thai, Korean, Shandong Chinese, Sichuan Chinese, Indian). But, I think I've burned a hole through my stomach. May have to resort to some bland food for a few days.

Chengdu is also known for the many teahouses that are scattered in groups all over the city. The most famous ones are located in People's Park. People's Park is a great place to take a stroll. The park offers some nice shade and respite from the mugginess and increasing warm temperatures during the day. Have a tasty cup of tea right afterwards.

entrace to a teahouse in People's Park

I think this city loves their pandas. You see pandas everywhere - on murals on hotels, on pole markers, paintings, t-shirts, and so forth. The Giant Panda Breeding Research Base is located only a few kilometers away from the city. The base is also another great place to take a relaxing stroll by bamboo groves, in addition to viewing pandas (that is if they do come out, as they are very shy animals).

panda faces on pole markers

this funny guy was pretty rambunctious - looked like he/she was on a rampage in the enclosure

while this guy was doing what most pandas usually do - busily concentrating on the bamboo

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