Sparky Travels

November 15, 2009


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Although the hostel hadn’t confirmed it, I had requested a pickup from Chengdu airport to save riding a number of buses to get to the hostel. As soon as I stepped out of arrivals there was a guy with a sign for Sim’s Cosy Garden Hostel. Within the hour I was dumping my bag in my dorm and heading down to the bar. Beer in China is 7 times cheaper than in Malaysia so I got stuck right in. The hostel is centred around an oriental garden and is both large and well equipped. The bar/restaurant is always busy and there is a snooker table, table tennis, darts, dvd-room, roof terrace and various other facilities. Most of the night was spent drinking and chatting to the various nationalities hanging around the bar. Chengdu is the gateway to Tibet and also a stopping point for those coming from Mongolia and Nepal into China. I was able to pick up lots of tips and recommendations while sitting with my new friends including a Pole and a hyper guy from Quebec. A number of people in the hostel are working in China or planning to work there and it also seems to attract people with no plans who are in no hurry to move on. I played cards late into the night on the balcony with a multinational cast of Italian-Germans, English and Scots before finally heading to bed.

I woke up on the morning of the 11th with a weird feeling that I seem to remember being called a hangover. I headed out into the cold with two tops on, jeans and my flipflops along with a couple I had met the night before. We grabbed lunch in a local restaurant where after much pointing we managed to get some typically spicy beef & noodles. Then we had a stroll through the city past the large Mao statue in the main square.

Chengdu with Mao

Chengdu with Mao

We headed into a bar to escape the cold and then headed by bus back to the hostel.
An early start was in order today (12th) as I went on a trip to see the famous Panda centre just outside Chengdu. The hostel have a cheap deal to go and see them so there were about 20 of us all waiting for our minibuses at 7:45am. I had flipflops on again since I’d decided against my trainers due to the mould they had managed to grow in the months since I’d last worn them, but I soon regretted this decision. The Panda centre is pretty much a zoo with only one species and there are various enclosures for the different sizes of panda: adult, sub-adult, juvenile etc. It wasn’t too busy and we got to see feeding time for most of the pandas. We also got to see newborns in the incubators and very young bears being bottle fed but no pictures were allowed of these. You could get your picture taken holding a baby panda but at £100 it was out of my price range. I could have done with having a zoom on my camera here but no such luck so my pics don’t really do them justice.

We were back at the hostel for midday and after a nap I went out to explore the city on my own. The traffic in China appears to be a return to the South East Asian traffic madness where stop lights are suggestions and pedestrians are targets. I’d given up on the flipflops and started wearing my slightly cleaned but still mouldy shoes.
The next few days have taken on a similar theme of waking up late, going in to the city on errands (mainly buying warmer clothes) and drinking in the evening. The night of the 13th was filled with drinking games and the night of the 14th was a trip to an Irish bar to watch sports (England v Argentina at rugby, Russia v Slovenia at football) where I encountered more irish and scots including a fellow Hearts fan hiding out in China to escape our dismal season so far.
I’d managed to book a bus to Jiuzhaigou national park in between drinking so thats the destination tomorrow. Its an 11hour bus ride from Chengdu so that’ll be all I do that day, then a day of walking round the national park and a day of travelling after that. Hopefully I can find a way to Xi’An from there that doesn’t involve going back to Chengdu.

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