2nd January 2008
We flew to Cheng Du after taking the A330 airport bus to the Shenzhen airport. Chengdu was cold (well, much colder than Shenzhen) and about 7*C. We got to our accommodation by taxi OK after a bit of looking around and a phone call to the hostel. It was down a side street and across from a brothel (according to De and Dave who went for a stroll early in the evening), then went for a walk around the city.
There’s not actually much to see in Chengdu itself, as far as touristy things go. Everything worth seeing is just outside the city.
Apparently the Sichuan women can be somewhat fiery in temperament. Sichuan province is also home to some of the hottest chillies in all of China. Combining these two, the locals call such hot-headed women ‘Spice Girls’.
There’s a central square, featuring yet another Mao statue, and the exhibition of human bodies was on at a nearby museum.
Whilst walking around we discovered an alternative hostel . We had a 4pm noodle snack, involving chillies and soy milk, and didn’t have a proper tea, but got some snacks at a Carrefour (a French Wall-Mart equivalent). We high-tailed it home because De and Dave really wanted to catch the Sichuan opera.
The opera was fantastic, funny, entertaining and most importantly, not too loud. De very kindly lent me a pair of earplugs to ease the volume, such as there was. There were different segments of the opera involving a love story, a comedy between husband and wife in which the wife insisted the husband do various tricks involving a bowl of oil on his head, lit by a candle. There were also acrobatic girls juggling bowls and tables with their feet, and a guy playing an ‘Er-hu’ (?) a two-stringed instrument. He was very good.
The highlight was seeing the face changing, where the performer ‘changes’ their mask too quickly for the eye to follow. We heard later that the hand you think is doing it is merely a distraction from the true change, which involves whipping off a layer of cloth by the other hand and sticking it in the rest/ chest covering. It’s most certainly an art, and quite amazing. Dave captured some of it on video. There was also a puppet show and a guy doing impressive hand shadows against a backlit screen and ‘fire-eating’, involving a flame, a cup of some vaporising substance and a guy in a mask. All ten-minute selections were probably from a bigger performance.