Bob: We’ve arrived in Chengdu, China.
Despite jet lag we got Zippy put together with a couple of problems that were solved with a little patience and some muscle. Lucky was particularly helpful, supervising and giving encouragement. We went riding around town today, and it is crazier than Beijing, more like Baku, Azerbaijan. We attract quite a bit of attention on the tandem, something they appear to have never seen.
We were starving on arrival and went wandering for food around our backpacker hotel, which serves mainly Western food to the less adventurous youth. We saw a hutong (alley) and it reminded us that the best food we found in Beijing was in hutongs. We saw an inviting pile of vegetables and were drawn by a cute girl working the street in front of her family’s three table fandian. We pointed at some noodles and green beans. They brought us paper cups of boiling water, for sterilization, and I ordered a beer for us. Both no name dishes were wonderfully spiced (dried juniper berries in the green bean dish) and the heavily hopped Chinese beer was just as good, and cold, as I remembered it. Total cost for dinner and beer, $2.19
From Claire: I’m hoping our taxi ride from the airport was the most adventure we’ll have on this trip. Sure, Bob was having fun in the front seat–he had a seat belt. Zippy and I clung together for dear life in the back seat of the van. For the driver to have hit a bicyclist on our way from the airport would have been very bad karma all around.
It is odd how the very distinct smells (all except one) are somehow comforting because now they’re familiar from our first trip. Mostly food, but also some incense and lots of other unknowns. And my ears perk up to the language, trying to pick out recognizable words. Already, I’ve found there is an accent to deal with, so that’s why, once again I’m not picking up much of what people are saying. I feel a lot more relaxed this time, we got a good night’s sleep last night and Zippy is back in one piece.
Bob: While Claire was in a grocery today, reacquainting herself with the joys of shopping when none of the packaging is readable, I stayed with Zippy and had a conversation with a Chinese man. He was middle aged, a bit soft looking, in white t-shirt, black shorts, black socks and black shoes. He asked for a light for his cigarette. I think he was testing me, because he immediately produced a lighter when I indicated I didn’t smoke. Odd to shrug my shoulders in apology for not smoking! Then he asked my age. I knew because it happened so often on our Silk Road Crossing in China. We each drew out our ages on a bench, and used finger counting. He was 53, and showed shock that I am 65. Then he wanted to see how hard my legs are, a reaction to Zippy as usual, and even went so far as to make me flex my arms for him, and he slowly traced my large veins down my biceps and forearm. I suspect he doesn’t have such good circulation. He complained about the pollution (bad) in Chengdu, between deep draws on his cigarette. He was just curious about me, and not shy about it; Chinese seem to be so shy that they pretend not to see you, or get very personal. All this was sign language, helped along by Claire when she arrived.
Then we had an exciting ride back to the bingwan. Now it’s time for dinner. What unknown dish will we have tonight? I’m ready for that cold pejo!