Monday, October 31, 2011

Ya'an

This is one of those posts that got lost in the back of the filing cabinet. It's from a trip to Ya'an that I took a couple of months ago.

The South Bridge was great place for an evening stroll.


My destination the next day was Bifengxia, the largest panda base. The day I visited was sweltering hot so there was little activity among the star attractions. However, the keepers did bring a few out to play for us. I would recommend anyone visiting check the forecast and make sure the temperature will not be above 25 degrees C in the area before making the trip, if you are just going to see pandas.


A lot of the locals living near Bifengxia provide homestays for tourists, and I got a few offers for board and lodging on the bus. They also said they could sneak us into the park for free (it's over a hundred yuan to get in.) I chose not to take them up on the offer.

The panda base is in the middle of a nature/cultural park, which I really enjoyed. They even had some hanging coffins which I thought I had to go to Yibin to see (small, black rectangles on the mountainside below).


There was not much available to eat in the park besides these dicey looking roadside food stands. Some of it was good, most not so.



My next destination after Bifengxia part was Shang Li, one of the old towns that surround Chengdu.

Fortune teller (in red):


Shang Li has the typical small shop, tea house, and souvenir combination that you find in the traditional towns.

River:



I liked that it feels more like a place where real people live than a theme park. Some women were gathering and washing a reddish tree fungus that you could make into a tea to cool you off in the summer. Corn and red peppers were spread out to dry on roads, sidewalks, courtyards, and almost any available flat surface.



I found a guest house run by the Chen family (there are a few Chen family guest houses along the river) and asked for a room for about 50 yuan per night. They gave me a room with two beds, a TV, a fan, and a tiny bathroom about two feet square. There was no towel - I guess most guests bring their own - but they found one for me. I was a little worried about my laptop since there were no locks on the windows, but they assured me it was very safe. The next day I asked them to keep it for me and they just set it behind the front desk.

In the evening they invited me to share their family meal, since I was travelling solo. It was really delicious homestyle Sichuan food - dry fried eggplant, pork and green peppers, and deep fried small fish right from the river. New to me were the boiled chicken feet - they were hard, not pickled or steamed soft like the chicken feet we are used to, so they were a little complicated to eat. My hosts were cracking the feet apart and snapping the tendons with obvious enjoyment, so I just managed as well as I could.



Another Yaan specialty I tried on this trip was da rou mian - 'big meat noodles'. Fatty, spicy, and delicious. I know of a Ya'an noodle shop or two in Chengdu. These would be worth seeking out.