The Adventure Continues On: CHINA!

It was nice to get away from all the drama of the past couple months. In April I spent nearly two weeks in Southwestern China & Hong Kong. Flew into Chengdu, met up with friends a day later, and then we overnight trained it to Kunming. Afterwards, we flew to Shenzen and walked over that beautiful, beautiful border to Hong Kong.

Chengdu was an unexpected delight. I got in a day before my two friends did due to their lack of understanding numbers and dates, but it worked out really well. I stayed at the Sim's Cozy Garden Hostel, and it might have been the best hostel experience I have personally ever had. First, I booked a 3 person suite because I assumed there would be 3 of us, and since there wasn't was just going to eat the cost. However, since the hostel was not full, the staff was so sweet that they just put me in a single room for the night which was much cheaper. And having a huge double bed with my own bathroom was a nice way to start my trip. Woke up bright and early and decided to walk around the city. Just took a map and asked them to point me in the direction of town. Now, if I had been smarter I would have done the Panda preserve this day as I learned it was definitely an early morning activity, but instead I had a wonderful day of walking and sight seeing. I stopped by the WoLin Monastery, one of the 4 largest buddhist temples in China and had tea for a few hours while reading my book in their tea garden. Beautiful weather, incredibly nice Chinese people... couldn't have asked for a better day.

Sim's Cozy Garden as seen from my room ^^
WoLin Monastery Grounds vv

My friends showed up that night and we walked around and drank a bit (gotta love that Tsing Tao) on some street corners and set off the next day to wander around town a bit more. We spent the next night at the Sichuan Opera at the recommendation of Sim (the Hostel owner) and he swore by it so much that he said if we hated it, he would refund our ticket price. Well, the man from Singapore did not lie. The Sichuan Opera was incredible, and perhaps the word Opera is a bit strong. It's more reminiscent of a 1920's vaudeville act with Chinese flair than a boring ol' Opera. There were fire breathers, and puppeteers, and bands. Excellent experience in an outside theater with tea & peanuts at your seat, and offers of ear cleaning and massages while you waited for the start. We spent our last day renting bikes and biking out to one of the people's parks in the main area of town and finding food. My counterparts might not agree with me, but Sichuan food is some of the best food I have had in the world. The spices they use are just otherworldly and delicious. I had these cold noodles in a red spiced glaze twice in my 3 days, and still crave it. They were just at street food stands, and super cheap.

No Trip to China is complete without a viewing of Mao^^

The Sichuan Opera ^^

Funny Grass Signs are the Park vv

We booked an overnight train from Chengdu to Kunming that totaled 22 hours. We chose the soft sleeper cabin, and in my mind there is no better way to travel in China. The three of us had our own 4 person cabin, and enjoyed the unbelievably surprisingly gorgeous countryside views of China. The only thing that ruins it is the sporadic factory dotting the hills and fields, but eh, such is China.

Kunming is almost tropical. It's fairly close to the border of Laos and has red dirt and palm trees everywhere. It's a small city, but has been rated the most liveable in China (Chengdu being #2). We stayed at the Cloudland Youth Hostel, and while no where near as incredible as Sim's Cozy Garden Hostel, it did offer clean rooms, free wi-fi, a convenient location, and a decent restaurant. We stayed in a dorm since their private rooms were all booked, but it wasn't a terrible experience.

We did a tour of a number of Kunming's parks and did some hiking in the 3 days that we were there. Kunming is vastly green and mountainous and is truly beautiful. We even went up to the tomb of the man who wrote China's national anthem, and it was much more lavish than the tomb of the man who wrote the Star Spangled Banner, I can tell you that (his grave being in Rome, NY and has very little fanfare surrounding it).

After spending a significant amount of time in these two cities, I would never again recommend Beijing or Shanghai to anyone. Those cities are great don't get me wrong; they're worldly, beautiful, and the epitome of China's future & history. However, if you want something that's distinctly Chinese, a place where English is around, but not enough to be used, cleaner air, natural beauty, and has an abundance of traditional culture, head to another part of China. I mean - this guy looks relaxed doesn't he?