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Wrong Turn to the Real China

CHINA | Tuesday, 19 August 2014 | Views [822]

The Real China

The Real China

CHENGDU IS A MODERN CITY.  JANE TOLD US it has grown enormously her 24 years into one of the five largest in China.  She is the best guide we have had so far, the kind of kid you’d like to adopt, and she is full of insights into Chengdu.  Chengdu’s industry is high-tech so the air pollution isn’t nearly as bad as Xi’an what could be? — and there is enough oxygen so we have recovered from Tibet.  Our hotel is convenient to a supermarket, convenience stores, Pizza Hut, Burger King, KFC and enough Sichuan restaurants to sizzle ones innards.  The pedestrian areas are bustling with more people than you could imagine, with many well-dressed attractive ladies.

jane

    Jane at an un-named village off the beaten track

Other than the Panda Reserve and the “wide and narrow alleys” of Kuanzhaixiangzi Alley, Chengdu’s other attractions are actually quite a distance away.  It took us two hours to drive to Bifengxia yesterday and about the same time to reach the Grand Buddha in Leshan.  At 71 meters tall and carved into solid rock, it is China’s Buddhist version of Mt. Rushmore.  

buddha

    Leshan Grand Buddha from the river

The sky was pretty clear this morning but we were looking directly into the sun from the boat so the photos are less than I hoped.  Leshan’s Grand Buddha is a World Heritage site but it’s a long way to go for so little to see.  We opted out of the march up the cliffs, chain gang fashion with a thousand Chinese tourists, for a closer look at the face.  In fact we were the only laowai (foreigners) we saw all day.

jjj

   A glimpse of the real China on market day

We got off track driving to the ancient Qing Dynasty town of Huanglongxi, which gave us a glimpse of “the real China,” something the government would probably prefer to keep hidden.  Not that it was bad, just not what the chamber of commerce would put in their brochure.  We just missed the weekly market but got to see and meet a few of the local characters, which was a highlight of our trip so far.

huan

      Huanglongxi Ancient Qing village

Huanglongxi was another surprise.  The ancient Qing city is still populated but keeps its  historic character despite having every device ever conceived to part tourists from their yuan.  Walking the streets may not have been truly authentic but it was very entertaining.

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Easter Island, 2012

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