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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)

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