Our first day in Chengdu started off in a manic and unpredictable way. Firstly, our plane was delayed by a couple of hours making our arrival in the city significantly later than anticipated. We arrived at our accommodation, the Mr. Panda Hostel, just after lunchtime and decided to head out in search of some food. Being close to the Chinese New Year, there were only a few choices available so we settled on some noodles and dumplings at a local restaurant.
We were pleasantly surprised to find the menus were in English as well as Chinese, making our lunch a lot easier to order than what we are used to in Changsha (asking the waitress if they had our favourite items on the menu is the usual procedure). Already, Chengdu seemed like a much more Laowi-friendly city and generally international.
After studying a map, we decided to check out the Buddhist temple – Wenshu Monastery – nearby our hostel. It was easy to find and we spent a good amount of time walking around the temple and surrounding gardens.
It is still a fully-functioning Buddhist temple, with monks living and worshipping there. We were lucky enough to see them during worship; chanting their mantras. We stood there for around twenty minutes watching them, and all felt so peaceful and at ease by the end of it. We also decided to light some incense sticks provided by the temple for a donation.
While lighting our incense sticks, we were approached by one of the monks who had clearly just been worshipping. He offered us his lighter for the sticks and then proceeded to ask us where we were from, which I answered. A few minutes later he produced a brand new iPhone 6 from his pocket and seemed intent on obtaining my phone number (he was unsuccessful). If this isn’t the biggest paradox I have ever encountered, I’m not sure what is! My most overused phrase to describe these situations would be, Only in China!
All in all, the Wenshu Monastery was interesting to look around, with the usual array of golden statues, and flowers laid out at shrines. The gardens were impressively well kept, with locals walking around or just there to relax and enjoy the sun. We stopped to watch three elderly Chinese men playing Chinese Chess, which was interesting! (and yes, we did ask their permission for this photo).
After wandering around the temple, we decided to investigate the old-style streets nearby. They housed a selection of shops, teahouses and restaurants as well as street vendors selling Chendgu-style street food and their own handmade products. I asked one lady to make me a red bracelet in the good luck spirit of Chinese New Year. We stayed there until sunset, at which time the streets are lit with impressive and gorgeous lights. The area was then transformed into a peaceful and scenic area – a mix of old and modern day china: old buildings meet new technology. I thoroughly enjoyed it! What hit me the most about this area (especially after living in Changsha with its rapid rate of development) was the cleanliness of Chengdu, which will stay in my memory regarding this city. The detail even on the pavement was immaculate; with patterns carved into the stone.
After a while, we went to seek out a hotpot restaurant to see if it lived up to its name in Chengdu. We were no stranger to hotpot, eating it frequently back in Changsha, and it was pretty good in the restaurant that we went to, although the spicy side was EXTREMELY SPICY, so if you’re a spice fan take heed. We asked for the ‘medium’ spice and next time I would ask for ‘a little’ – and if you need more you can ask for more!
Our first day in Chengdu was definitely successful – I’ll be posting about my second day tomorrow!