17 December 2011

Nihao! - Part Seven

Part six can be found here. The last two days spent in Chongqing were simply awesome, but it was time to move on.

Day seven: Isaac and I woke up early, said a big goodbye and thank you to Ava, and made our way to the train station for the two hour trip to Chengdu, a small city to the north-west. The train ride was a breeze (everything is so cheap for foreigners that we opted for first-class seats), and Vivian (Isaac's friend) was nice enough to meet us at the station once we arrived and drive us to our hotel.

Something I found on a brochure at the train station. I thought it was rather appropriate for the moment =)
After a quick lunch it was time to explore, in which they took me to one of the coolest places ever!.. although again the name escapes me ha. Something like 'Chingni'? Anyways, it was a market of sorts, much like the one in Chongqing the day before but much cooler. Best of all there was a plethora of gift stores, and being late in the trip my Chinese mandarin speaking skills were at a good enough level that I could get by on my own when shopping. It was awesome =D

My poor attempt to try and take an 'artistic' looking photo.

These guys looked great!
Isaac, Vivian and myself stopped for some tea at a tea house, a common past time here in China. The place was so magnificent looking and peaceful I can easily see why the Chinese love these tea houses. With a group of friends around you, maybe a deck of cards, some tea and snacks, and the day could easily drift by with pleasure.

Taken from our seats. Such a peaceful setting.

Shame about the picture quality.
Isaac and Vivian clearly had a lot of catching up to do so after a third failed attempt to teach them some card tricks, I thought I should leave the two friends alone for a while and make the most of my time as a tourist. By this stage in the trip I knew about 25 Chinese mandarin words and could get by surprisingly well. Words like 'hello', 'thank you', 'no thanks', 'good' and so on were now second nature, and I had managed to move onto longer phrases such as 'how much does this cost?', 'too expensive', 'I don't understand' and my personal favourite 'I think you are a very beautiful girl' (which I used quite a few times with hilarious results ha).

I really love haggling with shop keepers, I don't know why but I find it to be so much fun. With the language barrier it became more of a challenge which only fueled my enjoyment. Soon enough I had a few gifts under my arms, but still had about 6 people left to buy for that I just couldn't find anything for. That was until I met this awesome old guy!

He would of been about 60 years old and if you provide him a name (in Chinese) he would paint on the spot these beautiful calligraphy portraits that represents a message of well-wishes and include the name as well. And luckily for me as soon as he heard me greet him and ask him some questions in Chinese, his eyes lit up with surprise and was immediately my fan, win!

The level of detail with just a paintbrush was impressive!
These made for the perfect gift, I was very pleased. I ended up buying six of these and after I had learned from Isaac how to say 'this is for you' offered him a generous tip for his work and friendliness. I don't think the Chinese are familiar with the gesture of 'tipping' for he gave me a very strange look and I had to insist that I wanted him to have it (and that I hadn't simply mistaken how much I owed him), in which he gave an awkward glance then a big smile once I think he finally got the idea ha.

Interestingly while walking around this market I seen heaps of foreigners (around twenty or so), something I hadn't expected to see what so ever, especially because Chengdu seems even more remote than Chongqing and in Chongqing the day before I had only seen two my entire time there. I didn't say hello to any of them, partly because I thought it was a little too cliche' (Hi, another foreigner, cool, let's form a club) and secondly I wasn't sure if they spoke English (most seemed European). It was a very unique experience to be able to watch how people from countries other than my own (Australia) interact and carry themselves amongst the Chinese.

Alas with my bag full of gifts and my wallet emptied of money it was time to head home. We had dinner together with Vivian that night (she didn't talk to me much, I think she was shy) at a Pizza Hut (while I do thoroughly enjoy Chinese food, it is all we had eaten all week so it is nice to have some Western food to mix it up).

Isaac challenged me to eat this entire pizza by myself. I won!
Afterwards we said our goodbyes to Vivian then Isaac and I decided to make the most of our remaining time here (as we were leaving the next day) so we walked to our hotel, soaking up the Chengdu very lively night atmosphere.

Back in our hotel I turned on my laptop and checked my emails, enjoying the down time. It had been a very relaxing and most enjoyable day. I remember sometime during the day while drinking my tea I had to remind myself that the trip is nearly over. In the first few days it felt like the 9 days I was to be here felt like forever away... but with the end so near I had trouble remembering where the time had gone. We packed our bags to be ready in the morning as the next day we were once again on the move, then went bed.

Day eight: About 1am in the morning I deeply regretted accepting Isaac's challenge to eat the whole pizza... my stomach was on fire haha! Thankfully it passed and I fell back to sleep. About 10am we both awoke, checked out of the hotel, met up with Vivian again and went out for breakfast/lunch at a nearby restaurant.

I was a little nervous that day. Why? Because for the next day and a half I would be on my own in my travels here in China. That afternoon I had a flight to take myself to Shanghai, and the following day I had another flight to take me from Shanghai back home to Australia and with Isaac staying in China for the next few months over summer he obviously wouldn't be joining me any further than we currently were. We spent a while organizing how I was to be catching flights, directing taxi's and booking into hotels without Isaac with me to translate.

On our drive to the airport I was thinking about how my next day and a half would go on my own, reiterating through my head all the Chinese words I knew. I wasn't too worried as I knew a lot of people in Shanghai speak English (especially at airports and hotels) so that was fine, and Isaac would be with me at Chengdu airport to see me off so if I ran into any problems he could come rescue me. No worries!

Or so I thought...

Part eight here. Let's see how my time alone went...


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