Friday, September 21, 2007
Finishing off my summer travels (in my usual timely fashion), I'll very briefly write about the end of the summer holiday when me and Danielle traveled through Sichuan on the way back to Gansu. The first destination was Zigong, which I chanced upon an interesting description of (at www.holachina.net). It was larger and more modern than what I had imagined, but it was a likable city with some noteworthy ancient buildings and a fun dinosaur museum. At the Wangye Temple I had my first and so far only proper teahouse experience, which was quite enjoyable but does not necessarily make for a exciting story.
Next we set up base in Chengdu and made a day trip to Leshan, a city renowned for having the largest Buddha statue in the world. It was worth braving the crowds to see the Buddha and the rest of the grounds were both attractive and practically deserted.
Chengdu was the last stop before returning to Zhangye. Three years ago I doubt I had even heard of Chengdu, but it is among the largest cities in China with a population of 11 million. Chengdu has all the hallmarks of modernity one would expect in such a large city, our chief interests being pizza and Western-owned bars with great music. Many large Chinese cities rub me the wrong way but I would include Chengdu along with Shanghai and Xi'an in the short list of big Chinese cities I could live in.
One of my favorite moments in Chengdu was in the square in the evening, with the giant Mao statue paternally watching over us. The square is undergoing major renovation including a stop on the city's upcoming subway system, and is now outfitted with a fountain system that by Danielle's account wasn't there last year. It's a flashy fountain with jets of water that dance and shift unexpectedly, but the real fun of it was watching the locals' immense joy over the fountain. Children and college students (who have their childish streaks anyway) got the greatest kick out of running up to the fountain and running away when the water shifted and sprayed them, with amused adults watching on. I'm not sure Americans could muster quite so much enthusiasm over a fountain, and it's often for the simplest of reasons that I love being around the Chinese.