Long journal ahead! So much has been happening on this leg of our trip I will try my best not to miss anything!
Once we arrived in Chengdu, after our 25 hour train ride, we all spent some time relaxing before trekking out for tea. Many of the group decide to try the famous Sichuan style Hot Pot! As I’ve turned vegetarian for my time in China I opted out while Sam opted in. While I was enjoying some vegetable noodles made fresh by the most lovely Chinese/Muslim chef around Sam sent me a picture of him eating a ducks foot and cow intestines.
Lovely. Although strange to some the Hot Pot style of meal does offer the usual chicken and beef but if you’re feeling adventurous, like Sam, you can try a range of traditional Chinese dining options.
After tea settled Gemma, Stacey, Shannon and I went to the Blind massage business set up around the corner from our hostel. Gemma and I chose to get a neck, shoulder and back massage to make up for our hot cupping ordeal while Stacey and Shannon went for the foot spa treatment. Gemma and I watched as the girls squealed and screamed in pain and laughter as the 2 blind masseuses got stuck into their foot massage. One included punching the foot whilst laughing out loud. The girls said afterwards their feet felt good, surprisingly. No pain, no gain. Gemma and I went into our massage with trepidation. We lay down on the massage tables face down and prepared ourselves mentally. Some parts of the massage were great! The shoulders were relaxing and I especially loved it when my masseuse started to sing! However some of the pressure points made my head feel like it wanted to explode! I did however feel very relaxed and fluid like after my massage. Thumbs up.
The next day after a great sleep from my massage we got up early to go visit the Chengdu Panda Sanctuary. This sanctuary is home to over 100 pandas successfully bred in captivity and the centre is hoping to release some back into the wild successfully one day. China “rent” out their national treasures, the pandas, to zoos in other countries to care for and attempt to successfully breed. Two of these pandas are the famous Wang-Wang and Funi currently residing at Adelaide Zoo!
We saw a group of teenage pandas kicking back and enjoying their bamboo. Fun fact pandas are actually classified as carnivorous creatures but have evolved over the years to survive on a diet almost entirely made up of bamboo which they eat for 14-16 hours a day! The rest of the day they take rest and sleepy I save their energy. After this we saw the CUTEST baby pandas playing, chasing the keeper who was sweeping the leaves up in their habitat and curled up asleep high up in the trees. At Chengdu Sanctuary you have the opportunity to volunteer your time (and money) to take a day with the pandas to learn more about them, clean their habitats, feed them and even get up close and personal for a bit of a cuddle! Noreena on our Dragon Trip tour did it and she came back to the hostel later in the evening absolutely beaming with happiness and showing us all the videos and pictures she took of the amazing pandas. Very jealous!
After the pandas we visited the township of Leshan which is home to the Big Buddha of the mountain. This Buddha is 1200 years old and was carved out of the mountain and made up with bricks to scare away any invaders of the land. He is a big Buddha indeed! We got to visit him by boat but you can also choose to hike around and up the mountain for a closer look!
Our 3rd and final day in Chengdu we visited WenShu monastery, a beautiful and one of the oldest temples in Chengdu. It had a peaceful feel to it with the most colourful and gorgeous statue tributes to Buddha. Here we observed the people giving prayer using incense sticks and giving offerings of fruit. It was such a privilege to take some incense ourselves and give prayer at this peaceful spot. Here we made a friend who followed our group through the temple asking the boys for their email addresses so they could teach her English! Here is a cute photo she made our whole group take, which another lady, with the cutest baby jumped into as well!! The Chinese people really love us westerners. It’s hilarious!
Next up Xi’an! We arrived after a 15 hour train trip which was a breeze compared to the 25 hour one from Yangshou to Chengdu! Again we hopped onto bikes and this time we got to ride around the Ming Dynasty walls of Xi’an City. This was so much fun! The whole circuit in total was 14kms long. These ancient walls were built in order to keep out invaders. Sascha even told us that the protectors of the city used to lure the invaders into the inner gates, close one side and shoot them from the wall above. Quite a bloody history here.
After our ride once it became dark we walked to see the Bell tower and the Drum tower. These towers used to be used to signal the coming of the day for the people to awaken and go about their daily routines of work and chores and the drum tower to signal the end and time for bed. The drum tower was also used to signal coming invaders as it held the highest point in the city and you could see the entire surrounds so no surprise attacks could ever happen.
After learning a bit of this now huge towns history we made our way to the Muslim quarter and Silk Road markets to have some street food and haggle for goods. I had my eye on a scarf to warm myself as China is so cold right now (ending of winter) and because of the pollution to cover my face. In most of the large cities it is sometimes known to hit hazardous levels. It can get to over 500 and safe levels are usually at 60 or below, no that’s not fog that’s pollution! Crazy).
The next day we were up early to visit the “8th wonder of the world” the great Terracotta Army of the first emperor Qin (pronounce Chin) the great emperor who united China and began the first dynasty known as the Qin dynasty. Crazy to think these warriors were built and placed here, at his final resting place, more than 2,000 years ago and were only discovered in the 1970’s by 4 farmers who were building a well. The legends say emperor Qin’s body still rests here 100m below the surface at the bottom of his inverted pyramid mausoleum, surrounded by rivers of mercury and thousands of precious gems and pearls that were placed here to act as the night sky. Meanwhile his eternal army guard him forevermore. Interesting to see that most of the excavation has ceased as they’re waiting for technology to evolve in order to better preserve the findings. At the moment all the Warriors are a brown colour but underneath the dirt they are buried in the micro-climate is keeping them so well preserved they still have their original paint on them. Archeologists wish to preserve the rest and so they wait.
That night, our final night in Xi’an, we had the opportunity to visit Star Sun home for handicapped youths and adults. Here we were able to volunteer our time to spend with some of Xi’an’s most happiest people I had met. We painted, did puzzles, played basketball and chased each other with water guns! One man that Sam met was called Zhangkaize. He was really amazing at picking up sports and repeating what Craig and Sam would do with the basketball. His compassion for the others and the way he protected his friends was great. He wiped their faces which were wet from the water guns and stopped one cheeky boy from bullying the others by giving him a swift but soft kick up the butt! He then asked his teacher to translate to us that he understands everything just fine, he just can’t control his body movements very well due to his physical disability. This was astounding as his basketball skill was great and he didn’t let his disability stop him. Here is Zhangkaize with his new found friends Craig and Sam!
Well that ends Xi’an and a very busy last few days! We are now currently on our coach bus to DengFeng which is the closet village to the Shaolin temple. We will get to witness a KingFu show and learn a little bit ourselves! Until next time, thanks for reading!!
Sam and Kirsten X