Fiona MacCarthy

China Part 4 Chengdu

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On Tuesday of our 2nd week and with 3 exciting destinations experienced we headed off to visit the giant Buddha whilst en route to the city of Chengdu where we would stay 2 nights

Our notes described this part of the trip as

“amazing Leshan Giant Buddha. A World Heritage site, the Leshan Giant Buddha is a statue of Maitreya (a Bodhisattva usually represented as a very stout monk with a broad smile on his face and with his naked breast and paunch exposed to view) in sitting posture. Facing the river, the Buddha is beautifully captured in its solemn stillness. It is 71 meters high, has 8.3-meter-long fingers, and took 90 years to carve. You’ll arrive into Chengdu in the early afternoon or evening depending on traveling time (approximately 4.5 hours). Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province, which is most famous for two main things – the pandas living in the mountains and the food. Its hot, spicy dishes are considered by the Chinese to be the best cuisine within China."

The Buddha which we viewed from the river was difficult to photograph in the late morning sunshine and our boat did not stop to allow us to climb along with the many pilgrims / tourists. The view from the river is however possibly the best as it towers above one, so natural and at ease despite its size. It was like a gentle giant with its gaze outwards ignoring the camera clickers.

Approaching Chengdu by road I was struck with the intensity of cultivation in neighbouring fields with a variety of rice, polytunnels and trees, the quality of the roads and the amount of activity.

The panda sanctuary was reached early morning and would recommend as early as possible as it got fiercely competitively busy later in the morning. Getting into viewing position at the pens requires a less than conventional approach where national ways of posing for pictures takes a lot longer than I normally observe and where queuing is noncustomary.

I loved this part of the trip as besides introducing me to the red panda in real life and seeing 3 week old red and also traditional pandas in their incubators in an environment where a team of people were committed to helping these creatures to gain numbers.

Observing the juvenile pandas was a lesson in slow motion antics as they engaged in even slower motion play. Not forgetting that these are largely solitary creatures in the wild due to their need to have access to a lot of food.

The older pandas fitted the mould of sit and eat without the playful curiosity of their younger siblings.

Food Chengdu

First hotpot lunch nearby our hotel, I was unnecessarily greedy piling my plates high. It would have been wiser of me to take some of the many dishes and then return as one could to the fridges to build on what I had learnt from my 1st course. Skewers of food were priced at approx. 17 to the £1 and plated food were extra. It was an inexpensive meal.

The hot, flavoursome and spicy tastes were delightful

A 2nd hotpot that evening in a restaurant with a Chinese only menu was even hotter and the pot was split into red hot and a strange lighter colour (some would say saner) half.  Learning what ingredients to use in making up ones own personal dipping sauce was solved by observing another customer. Id have to be here a long time to get this right but do love the idea and did enjoy the opportunity to do it my way and then use for dipping what we had share in the cooking of. Splatters of sauce suggest colourful tops of a reddish hue and no pastels / white. Next to us was a group of young Chinese male and female and I was astounded to see that when they left their table that one of the women was ion white top and shorts and showed no signs of splattering. Quaint skills which missed me by. Wearing a bib as offered seemed to age regression theraby- no way Jose.

The following day after the panda sanctuary we enjoyed a simple noodle dish after which I sampled some skewered scorpions (in pictures).  I considered the bigger and black scorpions but having observed the male part of a Chinese couple pose for pictures by his girlfriend / wife and the expression on his face I was discouraged. Large battered shell with little meat and that’s my summation of the little ones. Do suggest try and tick the box of strange foods that logically will never replace chicken beef or sheep (mutton or lamb).

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