My flight back to Shanghai was after 10pm, so I had a good, planned, few hours rest. The journey back was fine apart from the bloke in the seat next to me who wanted an elbow fight for the arm rest. I grabbed a taxi into town (the only way to get to the city after midnight). It turned out to be the angriest, fastest driving taxi I have ever had – he must have driven at about 120mph all the way to town, whilst shouting into his mobile phone! It WAS fast though and when we arrived I happily jumped out and waved him off -still shouting in to his phone.
I slept well, but woke up early, with a very stiff knee – My left knee, which has had the same injury a few times before, is quite painful still, so I rested all day, which was the plan anyway. I did get my laundry done and late in the afternoon, took a slow walk to the metro, so I could get down to a local sports bar to watch yet another Man United game on TV.
It was a good night – United won 1-0 and I ended up sitting with three Man United fans from Taiwan. One of them was planning on a trip to the UK next year and hoped to be able to visit Manchester, so was very happy when I told him all about Old Trafford and what he can see there. It was high 5's all round when United scored too.
On my final morning in Shanghai, I took a walk down to the chemist to get some cough mixture and ran across a talent contest in the middle of town on a big stage. There were dancers, a kid playing a piano and also unicyclists all doing their thing, so I stood and watched for a while before I left. On the way back I also ran across a sculpture show, right on the edge of Peoples park, with some really weird but cool stuff like a massive silver dogs head and a fat woman made from clay! Unfortunately it was then time to leave Shanghai and head towards the airport for my flight to Chengdu.
The flight was on time and after getting the airport bus into town I was all alone in a 4 bed dorm by 8pm. I thought I was lucky enough to get a room to myself, until just after midnight when some bloke walked in and unpacked. I went to sleep soon after and he left first thing in the morning without saying a word. I took a long slow walk along the riverbank and a little of town in the afternoon, but I didnt walk too far. It was just to stretch my legs. I booked my self onto the tour to the Panda centre for tomorrow morning and spent the evening watching a movie. A really nice relaxed easy day.
Up, out and gone by 7.30am. The minibus picked up me and 10 other people and took us out of town, through the rubbish traffic (which wasn't helped by 2 cars swapping bags in the middle of a dual carriageway) and to the Panda Conservation park where we arrived at 8.30. I got chatting to a couple from London on the way and we walked around the first part of the park together, anxiously awaiting our first glimpse of the Pandas. We weren't disappointed as in the 2 ½ hours we were there we saw loads of them. I went off on my own and saw at least 30 different Pandas – up trees, being fed by the keepers and just sitting staring. They are really cool and unreal looking - almost like blokes dressed in Panda suits as they look straight at you and stare back as you take their photos. It was a really great morning and I have placed Pandas near the top of my favourite animal list along with Crocodiles, dolphins and sharks!
I got an hours kip in the afternoon before heading out for the evening. I was rudely disturbed by a group of Mr Johns, who moved in to the room at about 6pm. How much noise do you need to make? How much do you need to say to each other? Obviously a lot and at a high volume. Im not happy that they are here as I was all settled and happy, sleeping easily and without any snoring! They better hadn't snore!!
I decided to get out of their way while they moved in and I headed out into town to try and find et Sichuan opera. It wasn't hard and after buying a ticket and watching the performers put in their make up, I sat in row 5 and was served my Chinese tea out of what looked like a watering can. The opera wasn't like you would expect an opera to be. Its more like an old time variety show, with singing, dancing a bit of a comedy show where a bloke argues with his wife and eventually, for no reason I could work out, limbos under two wooden benches whilst carrying a bowl on his head with a lit flame in!? There was also a really grethand shadow show, where the woman did the normal birds, cats and dogs but also really good shadows of a bord being eaten and swallowed by a snake and my favourite – a panda, with big eyes. The last act was the famous Sichuan 'Face or Mask changing show'. Two performers change their clothes and faces in a split second while hiding behind a chinese fan or a sheet. It was pretty good, even though at one point you could see someone grabbing one of their costumes from behind a curtain and pulling it off. The mask changing was impressive and really fast though.
All in all it was a pretty enjoyable night and I finished it off with a slow walk home on a nice chilly evening, before being hit with the smell like an indian restaurant when I finally got back to my room. I din't sleep too well as I had a sore throat, but I had another good lie in the next morning to make up for it. The 3 women in the room eventually left just before lunchtime and I was all alone for a couple of hours, able to catch up on my sleep.
At about 3pm a new guy came into the room. Luckily, he was a British bloke. Ian, from Sunderland. We chatted a bit about our travels and ended up going in to town to do a bit of shopping. I found a good chemist where I actually got some cough mixture, paracetamol and lozenges and we also took a wander around Peoples Park, watching the locals dance around and play chess, before we got the Metro to go to the pub for a bit of dinner. We got off the Metro at the right stop, but walked the wrong way ending up at the end of the road. After asking directions we got on a bus heading North, but the bus almost immediately turned right and took us about a mile in the wrong direction!! We managed to get off and then tried to get a taxi back, but none of them would take us, throwing us out when we showed them the address and a map. We eventually walked back to the Metro station where we got off and there, about 20 metres away, behind a wall was the pub. We needed a beer by now so sat down had a drink and pie and mash for dinner. Being Sichuan though, the gravy was really spicy, but the food was good and filling and cheap.
After leaving the pub we took a short walk to a different bar to check what football was on at the weekend and have another beer, before the walk home. It was a good night out and a nice change to get out with someone else instead of on my own.
The last couple of days in Chengdu were spent in town. A bus ride to see a traditional street, a walk through the park watching old people do Tai Chi and some army cadets practice their marching, a group of old ladies and gents all having a great time singing around a bandstand before a second bus that didn't go where it was supposed to. Generally a mellow couple of days just relaxing and doing very little. The night was strange though. One of our room mates - a french bloke – lost his rag with the other roommate – an old asian bloke who snored a lot. The french bloke shouted out and launched himself across the room and smacked the bed of the old bloke, who remained asleep. I wondered what the hell was going on, but the next day Paul (the french guy) said he couldn't take any more and apologized. He seems ok now, but it was a bit weird at the time.
Its now my last night in Chengdu – I have had a great, if unusually gentle week. The pandas were ace and the days wandering around town, just seeing what we could find were also good, but aside from the Pandas there hasn't anything amazing. Thats good though as its allowed me to rest my knees and get ready for the next big thing. Tomorrow, Im off to a place called Lijiang, where after a couple of days looking around the town there, Im hoping to get up to 'Tiger Leaping Gorge' and walk the 22kms, along what is a spectacular and sometimes dangerous path along one of the worlds deepest gorges! Cool, cant wait!