Stop #4: Chengdu.
It seems that we bounce from heaven to hell back to heaven very often because my-oh-my were we in for a treat in Chengdu. A large, spacious condominium with a panoramic view of the city? Scoreee. Not to mention, a DIVIDED OFF shower from the rest of the bathroom??? Pure. Spoiled.
Following the best shower of my life (I even shaved my legs :0), we visited their famous panda base. We arrived around 3:30pm, which apparently is too late, because the panda nurseries were closed and most of the pandas had gone inside to rest. Sadness. We still managed to see some mischievous panda cubs though, rolling around in every direction, and that was enough to satisfy me.
Since Chengdu is in the Sichuan province, we knew we had to try some of their spicy dishes, since they are known for their, well, spicy cuisine. We went to a hot pot place recommended by a local and while it was very delicious, the spice was nearly the death of us. We had to stop eating, not from fullness, but from pain. Even after we finished, the pain of what I imagine burning in hell would be like, moved from my mouth to my stomach.
Bouncing back to heaven, we headed to Emei Shan, a famous sacred mountain. After getting past the difficulty of actually figuring out the buses and cable cars to the top, and the torment of the winding roads (I’m talking 360° turns with roads so narrow drivers need to blast their horn to warn oncoming traffic), we were treated with the most peaceful sunset from the Jieyin temple. By the time we hiked back down to our monastery where we stayed overnight, it was pitch black and we found ourselves surrounded by endless amounts of stars, whose brightness remained unspoiled by light pollution. While we were stargazing, a shooting star briefly lit up the sky, followed by another one. If you can imagine a bunch of girls jumping up and down, pointing at the sky, trying to keep their squealing muffled so as not to disturb sleeping monks, that was pretty much us.
Although simple, we had the best egg stir-fried rice I’ve ever had in my life for dinner. It was probably one of the best dishes I’ve had so far on this trip as well. Who would’ve thought?
After waking up early to catch the sunrise from Emei Shan, we rushed to Leshan to see the Giant Buddha, but it was this day that we got our asses whooped by our overly ambitious itinerary. Being stuck in traffic and underestimating how much time we would take to travel, we arrived to the attraction site way behind schedule. Once there, we also realized that we still had to walk for an hour and half more before actually getting to the Giant Buddha. While we were frantically bickering amongst ourselves, some locals saved us and we suddenly found ourselves on a speed boat to see the buddha in 10 minutes. Lmao. Talk about getting things done.
Still, because we were so behind schedule, we couldn’t get back to Chengdu in time to make it for our overnight train. Even though we spent practically the whole day rushing around on buses… we couldn’t make it :(. It seemed the travel gods were trying to teach us a lesson about planning too much in too little time. Not letting this little blip spoil our trip, we went to a mini mall instead and feasted on the food there from various stalls. Imagine this time a bunch of girls with huge backpacks, hands full with take-out bags, feeding each other skewers and drinks.
Now, we sit in a cozy café on a rainy day in Chengdu, reading and blogging amongst ourselves, having the first real break we’ve had since the beginning of this trip. Luckily, we found another place called Aunt’s home that was able to take us last minute. We honestly couldn’t have asked for better hosts. The cute ladies there insisted on making us lunch and we ate altogether like a family. Their generosity and care for complete strangers truly warmed my heart. Seeing the middle-aged auntie make a silly face and then repeating “derp face“, a new term she learned from Margaret, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing.
While we couldn’t refund our overnight train ticket nor our booked accommodations for the next couple days, we all agreed that the most important thing was that we remained safe and healthy. We had to cross off two cities off our plans, since we are stranded in Chengdu for the time being, but things aren’t so bad. From here on out, we’ll see what the travel gods have in store for us.