Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chengdu and the Wenshu Monastery

23 October: Up at 6:45am, we were out early to take the airport bus to the airport. No worries about any taxi driver ripping us off. It was a sunny day, yet cold day (9 degrees celsius), the best of the days we were there. Too bad. We caught the 8am bus and 50 minutes later we were at the airport. The bus driver, after asking if we were at the correct terminal, told us it would be the next one. Well, he was wrong! We had to back track to the first terminal. A woman told us to go back outside and catch a small golf-cart shuttle. I didn’t see any outside and was worried we would have to lug our bags to the other terminal. A couple of people said to walk. Finally, a shuttle arrived and we hopped in. We had plenty of time at the airport, but it’s best to get to the airport about 1.5 hours before the flight, as the desks close 30 minutes prior. I like the idea of the extra time to find the correct counters and gates.

Another smooth flight (1 hour, 10 minutes) and we landed in Chengdu. We took the shuttle bus to the city and transferred to a taxi to our hotel, the Crowne Plaza. It seemed to be in a good location. Our room, #1217, faced the front street. I loved the large lobby and the flower arrangements. One, near the elevators, was of Anthuriums, a beautiful display. I joked with the bellhop asking if there was an arrangement in our room and he told us we could take one. Of course, we didn’t.

The service was wonderful at the hotel. Everyone was very friendly. Some waited at the doors, opening as you came and went. They also bowed slightly and gave their greetings. Our room was very nice with two beds, a safe, desk, nice bathroom, robes and a mini bar.

We spent the afternoon at the Wenshu monastery. By now we were starting to get our monastery and temples mixed up! The area was nice, as it was set in an area with old buildings and shops. Inside the monastery is a vegetarian restaurant. We enjoyed the mushroom dumplings and deep fried pumpkin with red bean paste in the center, which was coated with sesame seeds. Tea was also served. (34 RMB).

After walking around the area, we had a hard time catching a taxi. It was rush hour and people were heading home from work. It took an hour to crab a taxi. We kept walking thinking the next corner would be a better spot to hail one. As we walked into the hotel lobby, we met up with Fiona. We were about 20 minutes late but she accepted our apologies when I told her our struggle to get a taxi. I met Fiona on Trip Advisor. I had hired someone to guide us, but his price was outrageous. After several emails with Fiona, I asked her if she would be our guide and she agreed. I think she was one of the nicest that I hired on this trip.

For dinner, we just went to the back side of our hotel to a small alley way that was filled with small restaurants and some shops. We dined at one restaurant on the corner and had just a couple of dishes: an egg and tofu mixture, thick and almost soupy, and sliced pork with mixed vegetables with crispy rice at the bottom of the plate. A sauce was poured on top at the table. Fiona treated us to dinner saying as host, she should pay for the first meal.

After dinner we had fun with some of the cooks at a small restaurant. They had a food stall at the entrance and we took photos of a little boy. He was so cute sitting in his little chair. The parents tried to get him to say hello but he just stared at us. I showed the parents the photos I took and they smiled. We really enjoyed our encounters with the Chinese during our trip and they seemed to enjoy us too.

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