Our time in the high altitudes of the Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (where it is culturally and ethnically Tibetan) drawing to a close we packed the car and started driving down the mountain to the major city of Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province.
Our Chengdu adventures started with a trip to the People’s Park to view a Chinese Opera. This is very different to a European Opera, we heard music from a Chinese orchestra, very high pitched singing and horns, shadow puppets, a scene from a comedy play, as well as a quick change performance and finishing with Bian lain which is very fast mask changing and fire breathing!
We were most impressed by the Bian Lian, the performer would be wearing one coloured mask and in the blink of an eye it would change colour.
As part of our tickets we received a meal of noodles, wontons or dumplings and unlimited tea which was poured from a very impressive teapot with an 1 meter long spout which ranged from precise pouring at the start of the performance to about the level of precision of a watering can by the finale.
The next day we decided to tackle some shops. We visited the Global Shopping Centre, one of the largest I have seen. So big that it contains an ice rink, a hotel and an entire waterpark inside it.
After the incident with our wheel on the side of the mountain where we sheered our studs we ventured off to find some more spare studs to fill our supply. We went to an Infiniti Motors dealer first who have a model based on the Nissan Patrol. After talking with their service department they had studs that were similar but not quite the same as ours however they were very helpful in directing us to an auto parts market where we found a small shop in an auto parts market that sold Nissan parts! Stud bolts in hand we walked away victorious!
In Chengdu there was one experience we heard about which was to try the Chengdu Hotpot. We arrived at the dinner that was hosted by Navo and were greeted by large boiling pots of spicy and mild broth in the middle of the table. We picked out plates of vegetables, beef, chicken, sausage, fish, and even cow stomach from the counter nearby and added them to the broth, allowing them to simmer and cook. The meal got spicier and spicier as the broth simmered away but it was incredibly tasty and we highly recommend it.
Afterwards Navo took us to a teahouse nearby and we found our new addiction for the road, Mahjong! We learned the variant of the rules that they play in Chengdu and we found ourselves playing till the teahouse closed. We later purchased a Mahjong set in the Xi’an market so we can play anywhere on our trip.
As we left Chengdu we woke up early to visit the Panda Park nearby. We saw pandas all the way from babies to full size adults and even some red pandas. We are still trying to understand how Pandas survived so long when we learned they are very picky eaters, eating only about half the bamboo they are given, they only absorb about 16% of the bamboo they eat and they have two children every two years and only one is nurtured while the other is abandoned.
We continued our drive to Chongqing where it took us a long time to find our accommodation in this very populated city but we got to fulfill a dream that I did not know I had, to sleep inside a shopping centre. Well we weren’t right inside the shopping centre but we were in the apartment building next door to one of the largest shopping centres in China.
Our drive took us to Zhangjiajie National Park, a large national park filled with large stone pillars that are said to have inspired the look of the film Avatar. It is an incredible place to walk through and they also have a cable car and the worlds tallest glass elevator to take you up and down from the summit. The elevator was a bit of a let down due to the view being blocked half way down but the cable car is a very pleasant way to get to the top with stunning 360 degree views the whole way up.
With the large stone peaks of Zhangjiajie behind us we continued our drive to a very large dam…