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China - Chengdu - Making our own Caipirinha in the street!

A strange mix of Xinjiang, Sichuan and Hong Kong people, and a European, making caipirinha in a Chengdu street at 01:00 a.m. Tuesday morning


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Before driving back to Jiuzhai Huanglong airport, we went out quickly for a little shopping. Then we saw the first store targeting mainly westerners. The sign said that they apply fixed prices, and charge the same to foreigners as to Chinese. Well, that would be the day… When we went inside, we saw how they can make that promise, very smart. They simply overprice everything and only westerners will be stupid enough to buy there. That’s why no Chinese signs are needed. Chicken or the egg principle. All you need is English speaking staff.

large_1829587_13523143287385.jpgJiuzhaiguo - oversized advertizing screen

Jiuzhaiguo - oversized advertizing screen

Jiuzhaigyo - permanent allweather policeman on the way to airport

Jiuzhaigyo - permanent allweather policeman on the way to airport

Next, we would stay for a few days in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province with more than 15 million inhabitants. With about 8 million in the 9 city districts and another 7 million or so in the outskirts it is one of the bigger urban areas in China.

The city’s reputation of being covered under a yellowish blanket of smog is deserved, but not only from the pollution as such. Its location in a bowl between mountainous areas, and the occasional sand dust from the deserts are contributing factors. Yet, a bit of rain and wind makes a big difference. Chengdu actually belongs to the greenest cities of China, with lots of parks, and many trees along the boulevards. The streets are relatively clean, compared to other cities. All mopeds, scooters and light motorbikes are electric. It has a positive effect of course for the air quality, a disadvantage is that you don't hear them driving, so when crossing a bicycle lane or sidewalk you may have to be extra careful.

Because of its location as a gate to Western China, Chengdu is one of the cities that the central government is heavily investing in. Changing the city from a heavy industry city to a service and high tech center will make a difference for the air quality too. On the south side of the city, a whole new area of offices, "clean industry" zones and residential areas is being developed under the name "High Tech Zone".

Chengdu - green neighbourhood at Century City

Chengdu - green neighbourhood at Century City

Chengdu - Tian Fu square

Chengdu - Tian Fu square

The history of Chengdu goes back to the Bronze Age, when the Sanxingdui culture was flourishing. The city was the capital of one of the many kingdoms until it was annexed into the first version of Greater China under the Qin dynasty in the 4th century B.C. That was also when the name Chengdu was recorded for the first time. Chengdu people are generally friendly, well educated, welcoming to visitors and helpful.

Chengdu - bridge over Jinjiang river with teahouses

Chengdu - bridge over Jinjiang river with teahouses

The reason for staying in Chengdu was because of my girlfriend’s business. Together with a local partner she was to organize a wine tasting event in the Shangri-La hotel for a small group of loyal clients. It was amazing to see how well the people were informed about European wine, and the event seemed quite successful.

Chengdu - western canapes, ready for the wine tasting event

Chengdu - western canapes, ready for the wine tasting event

Chengdu - a small selection of the wines to be presented

Chengdu - a small selection of the wines to be presented

Chengdu wine tasting event - warm snacks for the guests

Chengdu wine tasting event - warm snacks for the guests

That afternoon we went for a foot massage in a little side street close to where we were staying. The place didn’t look like much, just three chairs. We walked in, and there were no clients. A woman was cleaning up the place a guy was sleeping loudly on one of the chairs. The lady woke him up, and somewhat grumpy he got a canister with very hot water, put herbs into it and told me to place my feet into it. After a little while he started silently with the massage. When I tried to ask him in my limited Mandarin, he looked surprised and his distant mood changed completely. We had a very nice talk to the extent possible and where needed my friend jumped in for translation. It turned out that foreigners indeed knew to find his place, and especially he had some Spanish regulars. In the meantime, an old man walked in and took the third chair. We got into a lively conversation with him too. It turned out that he was officially retired from the city government as one of the constructional supervising engineers, and he had been the one to approve construction designs for hotels and other large buildings.

In fact, in his career he had been involved in approving the construction design of the hotel where we were staying. He knew the building inside out and he also had his own opinion about the quality of the food... His wife was an academic teacher at the music university. The man was well travelled and knew Amsterdam and Cologne very well. When we walked out after the massage we shook hands as friends. Like in this case, we found it very easy to strike a conversation with people.

Chengdu has a new subway system existing of two main lines that connect with outskirts quite far out of the city center. It is a very easy system, much similar to the Hong Kong MTR. Even the whole styling and signage is literally identical with the Hong Kong system.
Chinese love to give names to significant buildings. Many of the buildings are also carefully positioned after consulting a feng shui specialist, so that the direction of the building and the way it has been set up is auspicious. Then it gets a name that reflects the purpose of the building.
Next to our hotel was a big office of the Agricultural Bank Of China. Its position is undoubtedly good, because it is next to the confluence of two rivers, which signifies connection and relationship. The name of the building is quite intriguing, because it means something like "Change Your Spirit" building! We could only speculate whether this change of spirit has to take place before or after you have brought your money to this bank... ;)

And last but not least... our Caipirinha night in Chengdu. After the wine show, quite some wine was still left over, and some food too. In addition, we had brought a bottle of Brazilian Cachaça, limes and brown sugar, because we had promised some of last night’s visitors to make caipirinha for them, the national drink of Brazil. The question was, where would we take them.

After a while, strolling around with bags with all our drinks and stuff, we found an outside terrace of a traditional Xinjiang restaurant at, located at an elevated pedestrian crossing of 1st Section 1st Ring Road, next to Xingmei University Movie City. One of us knew the owners. The people of the restaurant joined at our table too, we put all the wine bottles there, as well as the finger foods that we brought. The restaurant people made skewers of grilled meat and provided tea, and one of us got a bucket of ice cubes from a nearby place (ice is hard to find there!). The restaurant only had small glasses, so I decided to make the Caipirinha in a big dishwashing bowl instead, and then pour it into the small glasses. It was a lot of improvising, but we had big fun.

Chengdu - Leftover wines and Caipirinha Party

Chengdu - Leftover wines and Caipirinha Party

Many pedestrians just stopped by, to see what kind of party was happening here, including a few police men. They were very curious to see why a strange white lao wei from Europe was crushing a large pile of ice cubes with a hammer, at 01:00 in the morning with a bunch of Sichuan, Shandong and Xinjiang people sitting around, eating, drinking and laughing. We gave the police guys a sip; they gave us a big smile and thumbs up, and walked on.
It was a memorable, funny night and a great end to our week in Sichuan.

Posted by westwind57 06:25 Archived in China Tagged night restaurant hotel locals wine event sichuan chengdu xinjiang tea_house wine_tasting caipirinha shangri_la Comments (0)

China - Guangzhou - Lost in direction, lost in translation

An unforgettable hilarious adventure in our own hotel

My partner and I were staying in one of the biggest hotels in Guangzhou, Southern China. We just arrived after a long and tiring trip, so we believed we were ready to have a relaxing massage in the hotel spa. What do you do in such a case? Of course you check the hotel's guest services directory.

There was one. In a luxury leather cover and written in Chinese and English, so that was good. When we looked under "massage", there were a few very interesting things that we read. There was an intriguing choice in the massage menu, including things like "Sauna women + massage", "Women attendant massage", en "Ceduxion Foot Massage".

large_1829587_13278194384308.jpglarge_1829587_13278206067602.jpg

If this had not make us curious already, then it got even more interesting at the bottom of the menu: "The guests who accept chinese massage or Thai massage here can free enjoy one of Physical Therapy projects. No tip for technician", and: "The independent physical therapy project expense is not suggested".

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So that decision had been made: we would certainly have the massage here and try to find out what that was all about. But the question now was: where to get the massage? We called the reception desk for help. A very friendly lady took the phone. She spoke English, well at least the greeting.

"Can you please tell us where the spa is, for massage?"

"Yes, we can", she answered. Then silence, and nothing.

So I finally asked: "Where is it?"

"In the extra building, fourth floor, sir"

"In the extra building", I asked. "Yes sir, extra building sir"

So we wondered if we would have to go outside the hotel but as far as we could see the hotel was only one building. Just to be sure we wanted to find out if we needed to come there in our bathrobes and slippers, or normally dressed.

I asked the lady friendly, "Should we come there in normal clothes and change there?"

"Yes" she answered.

Just to be very certain I asked: "Or can we come in our bathrobe and slippers?"

"Yes", she answered with such a friendly voice that I could not be annoyed.

I kindly thanked her for so much helpful information, and we decided to start our expedition. We also decided to go there in our bathrobes and slippers, because it had to be the same building. Maybe a different wing was what she meant. In the elevator, one of the bellboys was looking at us as if he saw two ghosts. We stepped out at the 4th floor, and followed a hallway from where we heard sounds. This had to be it, this was clearly public area.

We walked around the corner, in our white bathrobes and slippers, and then we found ourselves in the entrance of... the Karaoke Lounge! The hostess girls at the entrance first looked at us, very shocked. Then in spite of their training and discipline, one of them started to laugh so hard that we were afraid the whole KTV department would hear it.

"OK", my partner said, "I don't really think it is here...".

Well, I shared her observation, and we decided to make it back to our room, get dressed and then give it another try. Back in the room, I just wanted to have another look in the Guest Services Directory. I flipped it open, and my eye fell on the page with instructions about what to do in case of fire.

Well, that was even more interesting than the massage page. There was a lot of very useful information about not getting afraid in case of a fire and what to do with holes with smokes. Two columns of wise advice, and it should have made us feel so reassured about our safety. We read it.... and read it again.... and kept reading it! Look for yourself:

large_1829587_13278195372666.jpglarge_1829587_13278197322512.jpg

To finish the story, later that night we had a very nice massage in a different wing of the hotel. But up to today, we are still wondering about the independent physical therapy project. It was not suggested, neither explained to us by the massage ladies, so we may never know :)

Posted by westwind57 05:51 Archived in China Tagged hotel fire english karaoke massage guangzhou guangdong chinglish translation confusion canton sprinkler kanton Comments (2)

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