Sunday, October 21, 2007

Not Leaving Chengdu

Back to Zac’s
The taxi is a mad driver this time, he cuts people up and then gets very upset when it’s done back to him. At Zac’s, I find him studying (allegedly!), he says he resisted an afternoon snooze to try to get back into a normal sleep pattern.

After I’ve packed my things, we head out for a bite to eat nearby.

Mr Hinton

Zac takes me to a barbeque restaurant, a very typical Szechuan food along with hotpot. Here you pick skewers of raw stuff and they cook it up for you. Simple. Except the menu is impossible, so Zac pops in and points at things.

The barbeques

The staff are giggling away at the foreigner with crazy hair and backpack!

When the food comes, it’s really quite spicy and a bit salty. They also seem to ramp up the spice as we order more meat, and this time it has the mad tingly pepper infused in it somehow! Delicious!


We have some of the local beer, which almost immediately makes me feel sleepy. As a brew it tastes nice, but Zac says gives you the worst hangovers of all the beers available here.

Snow beer

After, Yi Jun joins us, and as she orders more food, a weight off our shoulders, we ask her what BBQ Panda tastes like. Despite being Chinese, she can’t understand the question, not through lack of English though. Do you mean do the pandas eat bbq?, she queries. No no, we say, strips of tender panda meat grilled up with Sichuan peppers! She yelps in horror, absolutely not, they’re a national treasure and endangered species! This logic doesn’t seem to the Chinese from eating most other things though!

Ordering becomes easy

It’s time to part, with a tearful goodbye to Mr Hinton, who has been an excellent host for my time in Chengdu. Yi Jun’s taking me to the airport, so after a bit of haggling and and argument with one cabbie, we find one who will use the meter and hop in.

No You’re Not Leaving
There’s a bit of a jam going to the airport but it’s no problem, I have plenty of time. When we arrive, there’s no expected departure time for my flight which is a bit suspicious. Speaking to staff, I find out that it is not cancelled but there is an unspecified delay, and so they’re busing us to the airport hotel where we will have to wait however long it takes, could be all night. Not appealing prospect.

Dithering for a bit, I decide to retime my flight rather than arrive in Xian in the middle of the night, so I postpone it a day. “Think clearly!” advises Yi Jun! We cab back to her place, she’s offered me her sofa. It’s not quite as smart as Zac’s. She has her own entrance straight into her room. The flat is shared with two married couples. Hygiene standards are not great.

The sofa looks long enough to be comfortable, but I find that it has a large wet patch which I cover with a cushion. This bump half way along makes it incredibly uncomfortable!

Yi Jun makes references to her friends’ fathers and boss being “Leaders”. I assumed this was just a quirk in translation, but she does actually mean Party Leaders, as in Communist Party. Interesting that the terminology is still there. For a moment I had forgotten China isn’t democratic.

In general, China is how I expected India to be. There’s a mad pace of development here. Things are already streets ahead of India, here they actually spend money on infrastructure – airports are the rival of anything in the west, roads are clean and well-maintained, buildings are clean, rubbish is collected. I’m assuming its not quite so in rural areas, but here in Chengdu (by all accounts one of the nicer cities) it’s perfectly liveable and I feel at home, apart from the whole not understanding a word anyone says thing.

But India’s economy is supposedly booming, so where is the money going? Is the gap between rich and poor much worse in India – is it a few Bollywood-style magnates who are soaking all the money up then skipping the country to the US or UK because they don’t like how underdeveloped their own country is? I honestly don’t know, but first impressions of China are that it is 100 years ahead of India in terms of modernisation and infrastructure.

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