Chengdu – Paradise in Heaven
We have been pleasantly surprised by China. Yes, it has incredible places to visit, but it's also the nature of the people, so different from what we expected. Today we strolled around the city of Chengdu - Paradise in Heaven? That's stretching it a bit far.
After a morning of washing and writing, Tim found a vegetarian restaurant in the heart of Chengdu for lunch a short metro ride. We walked through a vibrant shopping centre, with young ladies enticing pedestrians into their shops with clackers. I can’t think this marketing technique works, I didn’t notice hordes of people fighting their way through the shop doors. The sound was rather off-putting.
From the map, it looked as if the veggie restaurant was in a shopping complex with three floors of food halls. On the third hall, we gave up our search and chose a seafood noodle bar instead. After placing our order we discovered that cash and credit cards were not accepted. We needed to put money onto the shopping complex’s own card. Thankfully a nice young lady helped us.
We have noticed that QR codes are used everywhere. Even to pay for our washing we were supposed to pay via aiming our mobile at the squiggly box. China is quickly becoming a cash-free society, using the App WeChat facility to extract money from bank accounts. Tim read an article about cash-free; the benefits are that there is less street crime, however, the amount of cyber-crime is rising.
We have now visited four cities in China, a few more to go, and what we have also noticed is the number of electric bikes that possess not just the roads but also the pavements. The riders seem to follow their own rules (not as bad as India though); traversing zebra crossings at any angle to ride up roads the wrong way.
This behaviour doesn’t bother the many policemen standing on most street corners, not with antagonistic presence though, they seem more like the old-fashioned bobbies checking that everyone is safe (or an I disillusioned?). Street cleaners are also everywhere with manmade brooms keeping the pavements and roads near enough spotless, missing the occasional cigarette butt spoiling the pristine walkways. Too many people smoke here.
People do come across very placid here and this doesn’t seem to be from a place of fear. They go with the flow, for example, if there is a huge crowd trying to get on the train, it is done in a relaxed way, not the aggression that can arise in other countries.
After lunch, we came across the main square. I imagine this is packed in the summer. A decorated notice stated that “Cheng Du is really the nicest city and Paradise in Heaven” with more than 4,500 years’ history of civilisation here. Chengdu residents are very proud of their city.
We enjoy walking around for a few hours, and along our stroll, we came across Wenshu Temple. Within its complex were tea shops, a way of serving the community and raising income to be a self-sufficient Buddhist complex; adhering to the Zen principle of “a day without doing is a day without food”.
The Wenshu area was stunning, with a tall thin Pagoda protected by two statutes of lions, gardens with small twisting paths, curved bridges over a stream and various wooden structures with hipped-gabled heavy roofs. I could hear a low hum in the background, like a drone. Tim was adamant that it was air conditioning, but I am sure that it was Buddhist monks chanting in unison.
As we turned the corner, inside a large temple, monks were chanting, but at a different tone; one of them continuously drumming a damaru. A few followers were lighting candles and bowing down in front of the Temple. Would Buddha want this adulation?
Another foreigner was standing watching, and later, as the three of us wandered around the back of the Temple, we got chatting. Chris is from San Francisco and has taken the wise decision to leave his unfulfilling job and go travelling. He has already been around a bit of Europe and now is on his way to Australia to follow one of his favourite Latin-jazz bands - Cat Empire, before exploring SE Asia. We stood chatting for quite some time and then realised that the neon lights were illuminated and it was getting late. We swapped details; who knows, we may meet up again. We hope so.
One of the many benefits of travelling is that we are more open to connecting with people we have just met, and we do meet so many interesting people in this Paradise in Heaven.