If Jeph Jacques (Questionable Content) hadn’t mentioned it was Friday yesterday, I would’ve said that it was Wednesday. Perhaps Thursday. No, Wednesday. If I hadn’t seen that, there’s a good chance it could’ve been Monday next week before I knew that it wasn’t the previous Friday.
I guess I’ve had a busy week roaming around Chengdu. Having a bike again has been exceptionally useful, otherwise I wouldn’t have got much beyond the local area, and I would’ve been reduced to relying on taxis to get me to more distant locations.
So, what’s my impression of Chengdu? As I said in an earlier post, it’s kind of a pompous place which wants to be the capital of somewhere, probably 四川国 (actually 蜀国 would be more accurate). After Fuzhou, the city seems rather modern, within reason. In Fuzhou, the old areas were very evident once you got a few floors up above them so that like Kashgar, for instance, you only had to go round the back of the new buildings to find the old ones still there. But here in Chengdu, old isn’t that old. There are blocks of flats which would be of the same generation as those opposite Fujian Normal University (no, I don’t know what generation they are; 30 – 40 years old?), but there are no hutongs per se even where there are 巷 (xiàng; “alley”). There might be some genuinely old parts out there somewhere.
The place is much more geared up to tourists, and international tourists at that. I’ve seen more foreigners here than I probably did in all my time in Fuzhou. The tourists stick out like sore thumbs largely because most of the ones I’ve seen have been bunches of lard arses. The expats are also obvious because they aren’t dressed in holiday casual and they look better acclimatised. I guess a lot of the tourists are hoping to make the jump to Tibet where they can get some of that spiritual goodness and show their solidarity with the oppressed indigenous people. (I just don’t buy into the whole cuddly Tibetan myth. I saw a group of three monks walking up towards Tianfu Square last night. They seemed to be off to a rumble rather than the contemplation of higher truths.)
But the places where tourists might go are limited to a few principal traps such as Wuhou Temple or Dufu’s Cottage. For the expats (and really the one who are on foreign salaries), the places they might go seem to be all around the university. I must go to the Shamrock some time, although I expect they’ll charge the sort of prices which will leave me bankrupt after a pint. I suspect it’ll be the sort of place where you’ll find the wealthier expat alcoholics eroding their livers.
Speaking of foreigners, after tea last night, I went in search of a source of cold beer and found a small branch of 红旗超市 just near the school gate. I hadn’t noticed it before. While I was in there, some foreigner entered – French, perhaps – with a Chinese girl. He wanted to buy something to drink, but didn’t seem to know what he wanted. “You always want something different,” she said, although I don’t know whether she was complaining or making an observation. Her job seemed to be to explain to him what he was looking at. Mostly tea.
I guess the next stage in my adventures is to explore the areas between the 1st and 2nd Ring Roads (aka Outer Space). Probably far fewer pictures because once you’ve got the sites, the rest tends to be same old same old.
Meanwhile, Pope Lunatict, or whatever the mad old duffer’s name is, declared that the one True and Universal Church is the, er, one True and Universal Church. The old boy may be 908 years old, but he’s still as sharp as a sphere. From what I was reading, it seems he likes dressing up in all the paraphernalia, which may be why the Eastern Orthodox church is sort of all right, ‘cos they’re into that whole dressing up thing. The Pope wants to dress up in the same ostentatious outfits. I bet he gets the cardinals together; they raid the clothes chest; and they play at dressing up for the afternoon.
The Queen, who has to play at dressing up as part of her job as well, may or may not have had a hissy fit about some photographer allegedly asking her to try royal casual. Unfortunately, the source of this news was the BBC, which may now be closed, the principals executed, and their heads displayed on spikes above the gates of London.
As for this afternoon’s adventure, I have an idea where I’ll go. More about that when I return.