We were told before arriving in China that it was very difficult to book train tickets in the country. With that in mind we had booked in advance on the internet. One advantage of this was that they had the option for a soft sleeper, meaning that we had an OK bed and only four people in our cabin. We have heard some horror stories from people who travelled on a hard seat or, even worse, standing on an overnight train. The things are packed, so that would be torture.
So packed, in fact, that there were three people in our cabin when we got on our 16 hour train to Chengdu. It was duly resolved, and we ended up talking to the remaining boy, a university student called Ron Peng, for a while before sleeping.
Being a longer train, we decided to experience Chinese train food. The menu had no pictures (surprising) and no English (less surprising), so it was a wild guess. Two bread rolls, vegetables and rice porridge was what we got. Asian cultures don't do breakfast very well. We tried to order tea - failed.
Some after 2.30pm we arrived in Chengdu. As with Xi'an, there was only one main reason for coming here, but that had to be done in the morning, so we were staying the night. Three consecutive overnight trains wasn't particularly appealing anyway.
Sichuan province has had a rough couple of years. The Tibet protests and crackdown spilled over from the West, and they had an horrific earthquake in 2008. It may have affected the state of mind of the people. We saw a woman doing backstroke whilst walking, and we were witness to a little girl squatting at the intersection of a major junction.
This all happened as we strolled around the city. We saw the biggest statue of Mao in China, which wasn't really that big, before heading to People's Park to drink some tea.
As soon as we sat down we were accosted by men putting things in our ears. It's a thing, apparently. These people are famous for...cleaning ears. With my wax problems, I eventually relented, and they got to work. Particularly strange when he twanged a music toner against the long wire in my ear. Think I'll stick to the NHS in the future.
Sichuan is famous for its cuisine, so we decided to try the Sichuan hotpot that evening. Not like your standard Lancashire version, that's for sure. They bring out a dish which is only liquid oil - the darker one is the spicy one - and then you cook your raw meat in that liquid so that it the fiery flavour is infused into it. The choice of meats was interesting. We had beef, fish, battered pork and...cow stomach. The other two had eaten this in Korea, but I have not had this in a long, long time. It looked odd, and was difficult to chew, but pretty good, and certainly nicer than the pork. The hot pot as a whole was probably the nicest, most flavoursome meal I've had thus far in China. I do love a 1Y dumpling, though.
Relatively early night. The reason? Tomorrow - PANDA WATCH.
Love you all