We awoke to a 5:00am wake-up call and then gathered as a group by 5:30am. A tour bus took us to the Beijing airport. I couldn’t get any readings (fixes) from the GPS for most of the day. (See the success story at Starbucks below.) Geography Professor mentioned casually that I could get into trouble for ‘measuring things,’ so I’d like to not draw attention to myself. I’m carrying around a tablet PC with a GPS receiver sticking out one end and attached by a long cord. It looks kind of silly. I look like a dork, but when I have the locations of where I am, I and I think others will be happy for this small sacrifice.
We flew out of Beijing to Chengdu on an airline that I do not know. It was a great flight and the Beijing terminal was very modern, not at all like the terminal I flew into in 1996. And it wasn’t the international terminal all set for the Olympics that I flew into the other evening.
Our Tour Guide for the Sichuan Province part of the trip met us at the airport and we boarded a bus. She gave us an introductory talk about what we would be doing in Chengdu. She mentioned that when she was waiting for us at the baggage claim she noticed that many of the Chinese people there remarked at how happy they were to see our (American) group coming in so soon after the May 12 earthquake. They thought of it as a vote of confidence and support. Tour Guide also told this funny story about what she felt when the earthquake occurred (it didn’t hit Chengdu hard at all where we saw no earthquake evidence). She said that when the earthquake happened she thought ‘some naughty boys were playing the firecrackers in the house,’ and she was going to get up in the morning and go and tell them to stop it.
Once in Chengdu we stopped to have lunch. It was delicious and very spicy hot. Apparently, the Sichuan style of cooking is to use a lot of known, local, simple ingredients and make something really yummy and special. That was what we had. A variety of small dishes came out, for each of us to sample, and they were so good. It was a little like having tapas. Another humorous thing that Tour Guide said was that in Sichuan Province, with all the spicy food, the women are thought of as ‘spicy girls.’ I think she thought of herself as a spicy girl, herself.
Fed and happy, we went to the Wide and Narrow Alley shopping area. This is on Jinli Street. As I said I could not get a reading of where we were, but it was a new area opened up for shopping and strolling. Some homes are there in the ‘alleys’ and some of the former homes are made into shops. One notable building is a ‘church’ built by French people in the 1830s but all the windows had Star of Davids and it was an obvious synagogue. It will soon be a restaurant. Since this area is relatively new there was information on the Wide and Narrow Alley on Google Earth. But perhaps when I get more time I’ll investigate this street and its significance.
Then we went to the Dufu Thatched Cottage Museum. This is well-known and in Google Earth. Dufu was a Chinese poet who lived in the 700s. He is comparable to Shakespeare and highly revered. This thatched cottage is a place he wrote only briefly in his life. The grounds were beautiful. It seems as though Dufu’s works are co-opted throughout the ages and he the current party can find communist leanings in his writing from over a thousand years ago. Certainly.
Latitude 30.647627, Longitude 104.047428
Hopefully this is the last of these shopping jaunts, for next we went to another shopping spot on Qintai Road. I just rested at Starbucks and DID get a GPS location. Probably because I could sit still for awhile in order to get a fix on the satellites. (See Google Earth link for the days adventure spots). Anyway, this was another ‘alley’ for shopping. There will be plenty of shopping opportunities along the way, to be sure. Oh, and though this was Starbucks, the coffee was divine. Much more flavorful than the American brew.
Latitude 30.646595, Longitude 104.043257
Then we walked two blocks to get on the bus to drive one block to another eating establishment. None of us were hungry but when you put terrific and beautiful food in front of me, I can’t help myself. I wouldn’t want to be rude. Again, the food was spicy yummy.
Latitude 30.670017, Longitude 104.076658