17th November – 2011

Er-Mei Mountain Overnighter –

This mountain resort is a good day’s bus ride from downtown Chengdu. We got to the outskirt of Er-Mei in the afternoon. The accommodation is a bit disappointing. The room is small, and was probably occupied by some heavy smokers the night before.

Being in China, and knowing change room probably take a bit of bargaining, chances are, the hotel staff would just trying to pacify us by promising IF anything come up, they would let us know. So we just washed up, went to our pre-arranged dinning room for some local meal.
Travelling meals served are not too bad if you do not set your sights too high. Beers are very reasonable, for a mere RMB $5 you can get a large bottle of local brew. You must specify you want it “cold”, or the server would inevitably get you beer with room temperature.
Local rice brews are fairly potent at 52% proof, with an acquire taste, either you like it, or hate it. Many come with a fancy name and an expansive looking bottle.
The China as you and I remember it, do not exist any more, at least in the medium and big cities. Sadly I did not have a chance to visit some back woods country side.
Especially in and around tourist area, there are plenty of eateries opening late. Prices are not inexpensive in some cases. This shows that consumers are willing to spend, and ready to spend.

My impression is that, once people have a taste of free marketing, freedom of movement, it is very difficult to switch back for the collective good. I just hope that the younger generation there would remember how their parents had tolled for them to get to where the country is at today. Because in China, they expect in 10 to 20 years time, the number of seniors reaching retirement age would increase 10 fold, just like North America.

Yet, the social security system is way behind, the little Kings and little Princess who grew up as the only child would have to learn to take care of their aging parents.

If sharing was not a strong point when these 30-40 something generation grew up.
We will just have to wait and see how the generations interact in 10 years time.
We walked across a large front entrance area into a brightly lit theater for a show.

The show was surprisingly well rehearsed and executed, with local favor sitcoms as well as acrobatic and Kungfu (Wushui – ) demonstration and dances. The two hours went by quickly.

The name of the event in Chinese was (功夫峨嵋晚會) – Kungfu Ermei Entertainment Evening. The theater in Chinese is called (靈秀苑)

18th/ November/2011

Today is a free day; we did not do much in the morning, just trying to recuperate from the last few days of looking at temples, getting smoked by incense, or being rushed by a bunch of tourists.

We had a leisurely breakfast, a stroll over to HuHouCi Temple (武侯祠) at the south west of downtown Chengdu. Again we just walked around the site, being dazzled by the varieties of souvenirs being offered by local vendors.

I came away wondering if all these stuff being offered are not made by some factories in Shenzhen, Oh well, being tourist and all, I just feel that at the end of the trip, some or all of us would buy a bunch of stuff during the trip that we would never use, use it once, or as a gift to friends and family – that we would never remember bought. 

Anyways, we went over by taxi to the world famous Chengdu Panda Research Center after lunch. I think of the three taxis we hired, one or two probably took the scenic routes. I paid RMB $88 for my cab, others paid more.

Oh, well, it is nice to know that we all chip in promoting local economy! 

Pandas, yes, the site is big and well designed. Unfortunately a lot of the research areas are closed to the public. Those that opened are no different to zoos that housed pandas the world over; you are a good 50 feet away from these lovely animals over some fences.
They chewed on their bamboo leaves, napping, not a worry in the world, makes you wonder may be being a panda in your next life is worth considering, but then, may be not, because the lab researchers got to decide who you can “go with”, who needs that? 

Pandas are cute and cuddly from afar; and I regretted that I didn’t bring my real telephoto lenses. Because the amount of tourists that crowded around the fenced in areas were just too much to bear. We left after a bunch of picture taking sessions, as did other tourists.

I think the next pandas I see would probably be from the tube. Good bye, pandas!

19th – 22nd- November

I don’t remember much about flying from Chengdu to Jiuzhai. The Jiuzhai Airport locates about three thousand feet above sea level. This airport pretty much caters to tourists flocking to this area during seasons. The sky was blue and bright, even though by that time I was already in China for two months, I must admit that it was the first time I saw blue sky so brilliant, air so brisk and clear. Temperature was a cool low teens.

The tour guide who was supposed to be there to pick us up hadn’t showed up on time. So we waited patiently for him. We didn’t have anywhere to go, nor did he, because there is only one way in, one way out of the airport.

At last he showed up very apologetic, mentioned some mixed up in the local office. We were just as happy and ready to get on to our journey, and off we went for a 45 minutes ride to our hotel – aptly called “Sunshine Hotel”

Because this area is classified as environmental sensitive, and electric resources are scarce, so all the hotel would only provide hot water and air conditioning amenities between 8:30 pm to 8:00 am everyday. No body is complaining though, because who is going to stay in the hotel during day light hours anyways.

The first evening we were invited to have a sample taste of local cuisine in a typical Tibetan restaurant. The hostess for our group was most entertaining, skillful in mandarin,
and very humorous. After a sumptuous dinner of yak meat, potatoes, sweet tea and soup, we went out onto a court yard to participate a local Tibetan dance.

The dance centered on a bon fire, all participants held hands and danced around the fire under a very tall flag pole. Some of us had too much local brew, and became a tripping hazard! 

We then moved over to a very large performance center with a raised platform facing audiences from two adjacent sides. Each audience is presented with a small cup of local wine (by the way, this local brew is very mild and has a sweet taste).

The show comprised of Tibetan songs and dances performed by local artists, it also had a couple of audiences participate games; one of them is particularly worth mentioning.
A mock wedding.

Tibetan males has rugged good looks, and manly in demeanor, one of the traditional mate selecting games during festivities periods involves two competitive male suitors doing a strength and pain enduring test pulling away from each other using a yards long fabric with a endless loop. Each end of the yarn is looped around the males groin area, the two men then tries to pull his opponent away from his starting position, bare hand and feet on the floor, you literally had to pull away like a Spiderman.

It involves determination and how much pain you can endure – where it hurts the most on your body when being hit – like by a soccer ball. 

The winner will have a mock wedding ceremony with one of the dance performer. And a hand sewed Tibetan style hanging ornament. The winner that night was not particular big, strong, or good looking, but he won. He got his lady and five minutes of sweetness and glory.

We went back to the hotel after the show was over, hot water and heat was on. 

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