Only Pat was awake much before 10 am this morning, though we’d all woken at various points in the night. It wasn’t really clear when late night noise morphed into early morning noise from the street, 27 floors down.
The view from our window showed, if anything, a smoggier day than yesterday and we could certainly feel the air pollution as we walked around, later in the day. Bikes are everywhere – but many more seem to be parked on the pavement at any one time than are actually in use. Most people seem to use one of two or three brands of hire bike, rather than owning their own – hardly surprising when Ed tells us his Mobike subscription costs him five Yuan a month (under £1) for unlimited use. One can only imagine what the smog would be like if all these cyclists were using cars!
Martyn, Pat and I headed out for breakfast mid morning and found a stall round the corner from the apartment selling eggs, steamed buns (baozi) and dumplings (momo) – very tasty and cheap but my attempt to eat vegetarian food has fallen at nearly the first hurdle as the momo were filled with spicy minced pork. We fancied coffee to get us all moving this morning so walked along to the Starbucks we’d seen yesterday – one coffee cost the same as our three breakfasts!
When Sophie and Harry were ready we headed out again – Ed had told us that if we carried on along Zongfu Road we’d reach Tianfu Square and then the People’s Park – Renmin Park. If student protests are going to take place in Chéngdū, apparently, Tianfu Square is where they happen.
Police and armed soldiers had a notable presence. Fortunately, my only transgression was walking on the grass to photograph a bed of foxgloves but I was reprimanded pretty promptly for that.
The ambience in the People’s Park was much more relaxed and we spend a pleasant hour over lunch in the tea shop by the boating pond. The ‘green bamboo’ tea was more to some tastes than others’ but we did well at ordering food without Ed, helped out by pictures on the menu! More dumplings of various sorts and dan-dan noodles went down well and the enormous bowl of fish soup we shared was tasty, if rather bony.
Cabaret was provided by the men cleaning ears and providing massages to people on neighbouring tables and the friendly man trying to help us improve our chopstick skills who sent a slippery fish dumpling skittering across the table.
Ear cleaning Chéngdū style
Chinese teenagers on the boating pond were behaving just like their Durham counterparts, in Browns’ boats but Chinese parks are full of people of all ages enjoying themselves. We ambled round the more formal garden parts where people were posing for photographs, watched groups of people doing Tai-Chi, singing and dancing in traditional costumes and children feeding the Koi in the fish pond. Parks are noisy places, full of constant chatter and competing music. I’m not sure what the maximum officially-sanctioned level is but all the venues have their own decibel meter!
Some things, like the hundreds of A4 sheets of paper stuck to the fence which might have had details of missing people and the man painting pictograms with water in front of the monument to railway workers in Chéngdū were harder to fathom.
And, of course there were ginkgo trees, and some beautiful, naturalised irises…
After the park, plan A had been to try and find a flower market Pat had seen on ‘Race Around the World’ but we decided to leave that till we return to Chéngdū after our visit to Yunnan and headed, instead, for Wenshu Temple, which seemed easy to get to by metro from Tianfu Square. We followed our noses from the Wenshu Road metro station, through an area of Tibetan market stalls and old looking houses, to reach the temple compound.
Despite the large number of visitors, the compound proved a peaceful contrast to the rest of the city.
After a quick wander through the Lobster Palace market we were ready for a break and headed back to the apartment. We didn’t feel the need for more walking before dinner so went to a noodle shop almost opposite. We tried to use a Translator app to order a mixture of dishes but ended up with five bowls of vegetarian noodle soup, with Pak choi and mushrooms – tasty but lacking the kick of most of our meals so far! We stretched our legs afterwards, picking up ice creams to eat as we walked. Because Ed was working till 8.30 pm and we all have an early start tomorrow we’d decided not to meet up today but to meet him at the airport bright and early tomorrow for our next adventure.