Our lengthy day of travel behind us, we woke up early this morning for a walk around our nameless Chinese tourist town (which seems primarily centered around serving as a base for visitors to the national park nearby and to the airport). After another delicious Chinese breakfast (baozi, rice porridge, eggs), we headed off for the famous Jiuzhai Huanglong airport.
From there, we jetted away to
Our first stop after leaving our hotel was not the panda reserve, but lunch. We learned yesterday that a romantic date over a bottle of wine is not the Chinese way – here, people prefer hustle, bustle, shrieking and shouting. We proved this theory true at lunch at a restaurant that was “seat yourself” in name only; in reality, it was a cross between the NYSE trading floor and the running of the bulls in
Well-fed, we decided to burn off our enormous meal at Renmin, or “People’s”, Park. A quick preface is in order. In our week and a half of adventuring, we have seen some strange things, and indeed, the extraordinary has become ordinary. Monks on cell phones? Why not, ni hao. Unpaved mountain roads? Sure let’s see what this minibus can do. Cab drivers breaking out in operatic song? Hardly deserving of mention. (yes, this happened on our way in from the airport this morning). Even so, the People’s Park was quite the scene. Imagine the space of about two football fields, throw in a few trees full of chirping (shouting) cicadas, and then throw in the following with no boundaries therein:
- Troop of line-dancers, nearby boombox playing deafening Chinese pop.
- “Dance floor” with ballroom dancing, accompanying unidentifiable “dance music.”
- At least 4 karaoke machines. Amplified and amateur at best.
- Two adjacent operatic/dramatic productions, each with its own crowd of onlookers. Adjacent= within 20 feet of one another. And yes, microphones.
It was the single loudest thing I (Amy) have ever experienced. Oh and also there were children playing (shoeless, I wanted to drench them in hand sanitizer), dudes playing what they might describe as tennis against a wall, a guy flying a kite so high we all nearly blinded ourselves trying to spot it, and of course, women playing mahjong and men playing chess. I’m still waiting to see a woman break into the chess scene. I digress. You might be confused about the date and time over here, let me clear that up: we were at the park on a Thursday from about 2:30-5pm. Apparently when you have a metropolitan area with 15 million people not everyone has to work, and the idle know how to make some noise.
After some tea in the park, we sought peace and quiet on the 8 lane city streets. We wandered up to a neighborhood with some of the old Qing architecture, and, you guessed it, found a place to snack. We sat down at an outdoor café and ordered some snacks with the old “we’ll have what they’re having” technique. Never fails. We ended up with edamame, boiled peanuts, pickled ginger, mushroom with
We spent the next couple of hours walking around, critiquing Mao’s attire in the massive sculpture in the center of the city (really Mao? A double breasted overcoat in this humidity?), and generally exploring the streets. Unwilling to pass up the chance for more