From the moment I arrived in China I felt like I could live here for a few years. Beijing is definitely at the top of my list of cities I could live in; also on this list are Stockholm and Bern. Although there is this crazy busy culture that far surpasses New York, I feel a peace here that I did not feel in Russia or Mongolia.
On Saturday morning I met with Yang, my dear friend Xiaomeng’s best friend, who lives in Beijing. I spent the day with Yang, her friend Yang, and the Spaniards. We spent the day exploring Tianneman Square and the Forbidden City. Afterwards we went to the Hutong market, where I bought beads for my parents. In the evening we went to a fantastic restaurant where we got a private room for the five of us. We had to order about 300 RMB worth of food to get the private room, which turned out to be around 15 dishes split between the five of us. I could not believe how much delicious and fresh food there was on the table. The tastes and smells were incredible and not like anything I had ever had. I am not usually a huge fan of duck, but the Peking duck was so delicious I kept eating it although I was already satiated beyond belief.
The following day I found a Chinese Catholic cathedral which was so packed people were standing outside the church since all the aisles were already filled with standing people. I saw half of a Chinese Mass and then I lucked out and participated in an English Mass after that. After Mass I had lunch with a German girl, Katrin, that sat in front of me in church. She was actually Protestant but couldn’t find a Protestant church so she decided to attend one of the two Catholic churches in Beijing.
An hour after I had lunch with Katrin, I finally met Ray at the airport, after three long weeks away from him. I was so happy to finally be able to share travel experiences with him. We immediately got on a flight to Chengdu, making it quite a long day of flying for Ray.
Chengdu is a great city. Today we had a typical Sichuan lunch filled with many spicy dishes. Some of our dishes included ox meat with noodles, spicy chicken with mushrooms, soy beans with prawns, and spicy beef with veggies. Later we walked to Renmin park, took off our shoes, and sat in a teahouse overlooking a lake drinking bamboo tea. All sorts of peddlers flocked to us since we stood out from the 99% Chinese crowd. They wanted to give us massages or clean our ears with five-pronged steel instruments. I sort of feel like a celebrity here; a few cars stopped in the middle of the street and people rolled down their windows just to look at me. I guess it is still new from them since most foreigners weren’t allowed into the country before 1980, and a city like Chengdu is not really popular with non-Asian tourists.
Ray and I went down a hutong, a small Chinese side street. Many hutongs are disappearing as cities become modernized. We went into a tea store where jasmine tea was brewed for us so we could sample it. The saleswoman brewing the tea for us poured some of it on a clay pig, which is done to share the tea with the pig, since it is a symbol of good luck. After that we went to a Taoist temple and watched part of a ceremony. It was a beautiful experience, cut short by our busy schedule, since we had to leave for the airport to get to Jiuzhaigou.
Unfortunately, a few minutes before landing in Jiuzhaigou, the plane had to double back to Chengdu due to bad weather in Jiuzhaigou. The plane ended up landing in Chengdu, but then we were able to take off again about a half hour later and arrived safely in the Jiuzhaigou mountains.