Monday, November 21, 2011

Fun sandwich

Weekends away are a fun thing, but it's taken us a while to figure out how to make them happen here in China. The complications of living in an out-of-the-way place and relying on public transport in a country where we can't communicate very easily present a new level of complication. However, someone did once said that nothing worth having comes for free. I think it was me.

After school on Friday we burst out and overloaded the school car with adventure-hungry teachers, followed by a taxi (to the displeasure of the drivers) and got to the Yongchuan bus station far too early for the bus to Chengdu. Better than being late (as we were to later find out). We got to the Traffic Inn Hostel in time to make it out for noodles, a pint, and a slightly strange encounter with a chap from Manchester who was partying his way around the world. I already liked Chengdu as it features a river that doesn't smell like poo... a rare commodity in China.

Big Mao
Hao, Mao.
Saturday was spent touristing (is that a word?) around town, visiting temples, eating pizza, and stumbling across a few fine things along the way. We enjoyed some overpriced beer in the "Revolutionary Box Bar", but felt the ambiance was worth it.  We met our teacher travelling companions in the evening for a poke around the Jinli shopping area. I failed to buy anything that wasn't edible, but got my ears cleaned and massaged in a traditional Chinese style... which was actually quite pleasant.

Fine goods for sale in Chengdu... apparently

Most important thing to us in Chengdu was to concoct a plan to meet the Chendu Pandas Hash House Harriers (CPH3) for their bi-weekly hash run. On Sunday morning we decided to squeeze in a trip to the Panda Breeding and Research Center, which I really enjoyed... and I don't usually like zoos. The pandas didn't seem in the least bothered by the hoards of tourists and generally lay around luxuriating and eating bamboo. One of them was trying to climb a tree bottom-first, which was either some kind of game, panda exercise routine, or perhaps a result of a confused mind due to captive panda inbreeding.... but he seemed to be enjoying it regardless. The baby pandas crawled around after their human surrogate mother wearing her blue apron and face mask, crowding around here feet to be fed. It's weird how pandas can recognize a giant Smurf as their mother... but I guess all that's important when you're that age is who's got the milk.

Apparently this is how pandas climb trees

Panda nurse

The hash run was tremendous. Despite having lived in places where I've seen the flour markings of a hash from time-to-time most of my life, I've never been on one. Unusually, the week we came the run was held quite far out of the city, among some farmer's fields. We ran through the bushes and along the dikes between the muddy ponds and quickly got the hand of yelling instructions and searching for the flour marks. During the post-run reverie we realized that there was very little chance of us using any of our planned ways to get home. All the direct buses were long-gone and our backup plan of getting the train to Chongqing would get us there too late to get the bus to Yongchuan. Some kindly fellow hashers gave us a ride to Chengdu East train station and we ran over to the ticket counter. No space on any trains to Chongqing. Whilst this solved the problem of arriving too late in Chongqing, it did leave us stuck in Chengdu with work the next morning. Some of our trademark note-passing, gesticulating, and three words of Chinese got us night-train tickets to Yongchuan... arriving at 4.30am on Monday. Not really what we intended, but we would at least make it to work for 8am.

Hash in the crops 

Chengdu train station looked like the kind of place the space shuttle might launch from.... all white polished things and bright lights. And fake palm trees. When our train boarding was announced in the space-station, the fancy glass-encased escalator took us down to a rickety looking old train full of nocturnal budget Chinese travelers. We loaded up and got what sleep we could as the train creaked along. Thankfully, we made it back to the apartment at 5am, got a little sleep and made it to school on-time. We'll be back in Chengdu again I have no doubt.

Chendgu East space(train)-station