One reason we stopped again in Chengdu was this incredible hostel, one of the best we have stayed during our 10 month travel. Comfortable, squeaky clean and quiet rooms with AC, TV & DVD player, two big and airy inner court yards, a competent travel desk, a big terrace to enjoy the superb food or a late night drink and lots of cozy communal space, are just a few features that make this place irresistible. For us, two adorable very young cats, an extensive book exchange, the free DVD library and WiFi in the whole building made it even more difficult to leave this oasis.
Moreover, we were both rather tired of traveling to a different place every day, which was pretty much the case since we have arrived in China, except our four days in Yangshuo. Not to talk about the fact that Heidi’s cold was not getting better and Gilles was also getting sick. So he decided to crash there for a few days to rest and enjoy doing nothing, which Heidi reluctantly but finally accepted. We settled down here, read a lot, ate a lot and spent a lot of time online consulting travel forums to plan our new itinerary.
A lot of travelers here in Chengdu had to rearrange their travel plans completely, after the nearby Tibetan border, the west of Sichuan and the north of Yunnan were closed for foreign tourists.
Besides, we started to like Chengdu, despite being China’s fifth most populous city. Yes, its main boulevard, Renmin Lu, is choked with traffic, but once you get away from the main drag, it becomes unusually quiet. Once the noisy buses are gone, only a few cars are left and the silent fleet of bikes and scooters all with electric motors noiselessly pass by, no roaring mufflers. Unfortunately, we missed the speedy service of Chengdu’s soon- to-come subway by 2 years: it will start in 2010.
Strolling along the tree-lined promenade of the Brocade Rive, there are restaurants were the city’s wealthier residents wine and dine. Sometimes, only a few meters from what looked to us like a handful of homeless people camping out in the park. We hardly allowed ourselves such heretic interpretations, but after we met a Canadian couple who told us that they saw people begging in the street of various cities, our observations seemed correct. The socialist system is not even flawless in this aspect. Heidi’s experiences with China’s medical care are described in a previous report: it is cash or no service / treatment, quite simple!