Skyline and lake in Chengdu
It is hard to believe Amber and I have been in Chengdu for six weeks already! We have seen so much and our time here has absolutely flown by. We have explored many areas of the city, sampled all kinds of food and met so many truly friendly people. Whether we were riding a bus, shopping in a grocery store or buying street food – this city has been very welcoming to us and it has been an amazing experience getting to feel like a real part of it. Here are just a few images to, hopefully, give you a taste as well. (That first picture of Amber with our big blue umbrella reminds me of the Morton Salt girl.)DSC_0073The picture below is like something from an “I spy” kids activity book. How many items can you find: one city bus, three umbrellas, two traffic lights, one street cleaning attendant, one shopping bag, one brown purse, one black backpack, one WoWo mini-mart, the Chinese character for “industry”, and one Amber?
Walking on the streets of Chengdu
The Sichuan pepper-corn is the signature ingredient this region is famous for but these red peppers are actually used even more in spicy dishes. We see them everywhere among street markets, either whole, (like these drying for sale) or pounded into a paste.Basket of red peppers drying in the sunStarbucks are a common sight all over town. Most look just like ones located stateside, right down to the pictures on the walls of the Seattle market area.  This one in the Wide and Narrow Alleys, was so unique, however, I could hardly get a picture of it because of all the locals positioning to get a picture of it. Many buildings in this area are decked out in traditional and vintage architecture and this Starbucks apparently wanted to follow suite. If you look through the first entrance you can see the Chinese Characters for “Starbucks Coffee” (just in case you ever find yourself in China in dire need of an iced breve mocha.)DSC_0114 (2)
The entrance of this tiny fix-it shop was adorned with items that appeared to have been awaiting their turn for repair for a very long time – one of which was a black and white checkered barber pole. These are usually seen rotating quickly in pairs – one on each side of a hair salon entrance. In this shot, the passer-by happened to be adorned the same! (It was one of those shots you can only get by being lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.)
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On Chunxi Road there are a whole series of these statues. This one is of a poorly dressed, western looking, tourist taking a cell phone picture of the other statues. It is a very popular place to take selfies – posing with or among the figures. We had just taken such a picture with Amber acting as an additional statue when this young man asked to stand next to Amber to be yet another additional statue for the picture his friend was taking of him! As I said, it is a very popular place for pictures.
Posing with the statues on Chunxi Road
And if posing with an actual statue or an amateur posing as a statue is not your thing, these professionals will be happy to pose as statues with you for a one of a kind, on location picture. We have seen a number of variations on this theme around town but the characters have always been portrayed by young men with a great flair for snapping open their fans in unison and striking a dramatic pose with whomever takes the seat. (I think they would do well throwing fish on Pike street.)
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There is an army of street cleaning staff perpetually sweeping up leaves, litter, and street grime. Every meter of curb, every tile of every sidewalk, every parking stall appears to have an assigned sweeper! For spot cleaning they use little dust pan and broom combinations like you can buy at the corner market. For big areas they use branches tied to a bamboo handle to make a kind of combination broom and rake.  But the most impressive brooms are like the one this fellow is using. It consists of a long pole with a billowing, fluffy, bundle of shredded sacks tied to the end. (I think it looks like an emu on a stick!) Amber caught sight of one being put together one day. The sweeper was carefully shredding an old rice sack, by hand, one half-inch wide by foot long strip at a time!
DSC_0120We have observed that a scooter can be used to deliver virtually anything if you load it right. Just this week we saw a scooter with refrigerator strapped to the luggage rack and one with an industrial sized propane tank laid across the foot deck. This gentleman carries his whole business on his.  He straps that bench with the sharpening stone and water bucket to his scooter and travels from market to market, sharpening the vegetable and meat vendor’s knives. He sat on the bench driving each blade into the stone with great force! Judging from the large stack of cleavers he had to sharpen, business is good!Local knife sharpener at work Just another example of one of the ten thousand places in town to pose with a panda.Panda House, Wide and Narrow AlleysWe really appreciate all of the green spaces and parks that permeate the city. We discover and explore them whenever we can. Many of them have water features or small lakes big enough for boat rentals. It is great to see, in this digital age, couples, families, and children enjoying such a timeless activity like this.DSC_0195 (1)DSC_0069 (1)
Tianfu square is in the very center of the city at the junction of the most modern streets lined with financial institutions and international businesses. The square boasts multiple sculptures, and fountains and below it all – a gigantic underground shopping center.  The most visible and prominent feature is this iconic statue overlooking the entire square.
Chairman Mao statue, Tianfu SquareTianfu SquareIMG_7117
Amber and I are going to miss Chengdu, with its laid back vibe, spicy food and love of all things Panda. But soon we will be leaving for a week long visit to beautiful Hong Kong and then the Awed Travelers are off to Vladivostok to begin exploring Eastern Russia! We will have more details on that later of course, but for now let us leave you with this video. Perhaps you will find this as mesmerizing as we do.