Chengdu, We’ve Arrived!
“Dǎdì! Dǎdì! Dǎdì! Dǎdì!”
(打的! 打的! 打的! 打的!)
Repeatedly shouted at, around, and across me throughout my first twenty minutes in Chengdu.
Standing in the 11PM pitch black outside the Chengdu train station, I’m assailed by a mob of cheery, but intimidating, taxi drivers. I’ve never heard this expression for calling a taxi, and am suitably baffled to near tears at the awkwardness of not understanding these two syllables, and, probably more pressing, the pressure to stay awake after nearly twenty hours worth of Chinese long-distance slow train.
Moments in which I wish I wasn’t a tourist.
Needless to say, a quick call to our lovely proprietor at Mr. Panda Hostel, we get English instructions, a laughing translation, and arrive in less than 15mins in a warm, softly-lit hostel reception.
The next morning we hit the local park.
I, personally, love seeing and (sometimes under pressure) doing what the locals do in their day-to-day lives – even if its just strolling in the park, taking the wild rickety buses across town, or getting hawked at at the local food markets.
In a large clearing of a park in Chengdu, the local geriatrics congregate for jazz dancing, couples dancing, line dancing and fashion catwalks in the afternoons. They’re mostly pensioners with not much else to do; their sons and daughters work and their grandchildren have school. So they meet in this small open square and enjoy each other’s company with just a strip of worn red carpet to serve as a catwalk, a garage junk-jumble collection of instruments, and a fuzzy (but loud) PA system.
Boy do they shake it, though.
This man can do things with his belly I never thought possible…
“The Old Man Dancing (Vigorously)”
We have a cheeky go at line dancing (although I admit it took a shed-load of convincing to show the elderly population of complete lack of co-ordination), but with Jakob showing off his dance moves and charming up the local grandchildren, how could I refuse?
The Dating Classifieds, Chinese-style.
Outdoor in Chengdu central park there’s lots going on, and finding a life partner is one of the activities.
We walk around the (intently) milling crowds of 40+ classified readers, who feign nonchalance as they scan the simple paper profiles pegged to make-shift display racks of cheap string. The matchmakers give some good promotional chats and I cheekily listen in to their happy conversation; it’s a communal get-together of mild flirting, show-casing and giggling, jet-permed ladies hide behind shades as they walk in pairs between many Chinese men.
It’s a great way to find love.
I think I’d prefer this to match.com…
[A Musical Interlude]
In the afternoon sun, a stroll around the maze of pagodas reveals groups of elderly musicians with an amazing variety of instruments – including the Erhu, the Chinese answer to the violin.
I’ve wanted to do this all my life, and I work up to courage to approach a group of old men playing Erhu under the quiet shade of the dark wooden pagodas; a terrifying feat.
This quiet gentleman lent me his, and told me a little about his daughter in the UK. I was a little too embarrassed to try in front of them all, but it was incredible.
Park Trip Checklists:
- Find two or more couples getting wedding photography
(+10 points for cosplay photography)
- Achieve terrified laughter from the local children, minus points for crying
- Do all the activities signposted for children
- Do all the activities signposted for the elderly
- Join in on the local classes: painting, dancing, and ESPECIALLY the asian-special: stained glass picture making
- Get a boat trip on the lakes and chase the locals
- Try all the sticky sweets and lollies on sale
- Go home and nap before dinner
What a pleasant day’s touristing!
To top it all off, our park day ends with a goodby from this happy lad with his Spongebob Squarepants (海绵宝宝 ) Balloon.
Over and out from Chengdu!
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[A Musical Interlude]