Whoops this is an extremely overdue post and I hope my memory will serve me well because I do not have my itinerary with me. I’ll just probably feature those that are mention-worthy 🙂
My year-end vacation destination last year was Chengdu and I went with Alph and his family. It was an 8-day trip with Jun-Air travel agency (spent my Christmas and New Year’s there) and the destination was chosen by Alph’s father because he’s a fan of scenic views and China has plenty of them. It was my second time to China but my first time experiencing extreme cold weather at negative temperatures (the coldness I described in my Beijing post is nothing as compared to this) and *drums roll* snow! Other than Chengdu, we also went to nearby cities like Sichuan because it was where the main highlight – Hailuogou – of the trip is.
We departed Singapore after midnight on Christmas Day and if I remember correctly, the Air China flight took about four hours? Once we touched down in the freezing cold Chengdu, we had our breakfast in a random hotel and then set off to our first item on our itinerary instead of going to the hotel straight to unpack our stuff. Thus our time in the plane was our only sleeping time but as you know, the seats in the economy class are cramp and never comfortable so I could barely sleep. Imagine how tired I was on day 1 and I had to brave the cold until I finally got into my hotel room at night.
The first place on the itinerary we visited after touching down was the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Because we came directly from the airport/our breakfast, we didn’t have time to change into thicker winter wears (didn’t want to cover myself in thick clothings in Singapore!! It was SO WARM), so navigating around the panda base in the cold was a torture!! I had to use my hair as a scarf and ear muffs because the cold caused me slight breathing difficulties. But it was definitely fun to breathe out cold air 😛
Anyway, I have never been to our River Safari but I guarantee you that after going to the one in Chengdu, you’d never want to go to the one here unless you don’t mind spending so much money just to catch a glimpse of only 2 pandas. Over in Chengdu, there were so many pandas – infant ones, adult ones and also the red pandas (another kind of panda breed which are more ferocious to humans). We couldn’t touch or play with the pandas (taking pictures alone with the pandas could cost more than SGD200) but we could see them very clearly from outside of their enclosure. I spent a lot of time standing at an infant one because it was so adorable, acting like human baby and constantly asking its caretaker to carry it. Seeing how fluffy and clumsy it was was already enough to make me coo. 😀
Then there were the adult ones, which technically did nothing but laze around with their furry tummies facing up while munching on bamboos. Thanks to Bf’s awesomeballz DSLR camera, we managed to capture a few clear shots of the pandas eating. They look so contented with their bamboos and even closed their eyes while savouring them. 😀 I read on their brochure that they have adoption services for giant pandas… but seeing how sacred they are to the Chinese, I doubt such service even exists. Perhaps “adoption” just refers to caring for and feeding the pandas using monetary means (while they still continue to stay at the base).
Of course every tourist attraction will have a souvenir shop but the items were not pricey at all (duh because it’s China) and I lugged a lot of panda plushies back for my friends. I believe you’re able to find big panda plushies there which are less than half the price of the ones found here. Good idea for blogshops? Hahaha.
Before we left we went to see the red pandas which hid immediately when we were approaching their enclosure. We were told not to go near them too because they are unfriendly and fierce creatures, though they can be shy to humans at times. But I’d rather spend more time looking at the black and white pandas than to watch them hide in their shelters any time. 😛
It was one of the highlights of the trip other than playing with real snow and it kind of raised my expectation for the trip from the very first day. Unfortunately it didn’t meet my expectations in the end and I will elaborate more on that later.
We visited a jewellery manufacturing company after that (typical in travel tours) , had our early dinner and went back to our hotel early to unpack and rest. I can’t remember the name of the hotel but it’s smacked right in the middle of a shopping district and it did not have a building on its own. It looked really small and you wouldn’t be able to tell that it’s a hotel without noticing the banner until you set foot in its lobby. Its lobby is extremely narrow and all of us had to literally queue to get into the extremely slow lifts (or sometimes only 1 because the other lift was always NOT working. So frustrating la). And whenever we returned to our rooms at night, we would ALWAYS find name cards for social escorts (or prostitutes) on the floor, slid under the door by some young boys exploited to do this dirty job. This was not allowed because I had personally seen them getting pulled out from the lift by hotel personnels, but they managed to sneak up so many times. Shows a lot about the hotel’s security huh? Also, I had quite a number of bruises from falling on my knees in Chengdu, and one of them happened at this hotel. I couldn’t see the ledge between the lobby and the road and I just tripped over it
Nearby the hotel were many shopping malls and eateries but we never got the chance to go any of them because they were closed by the time we returned (boring). BreadTalk was just behind the hotel but we only discovered it on our final day there -_- It could’ve saved our hungry stomachs because the hotel food wasn’t nice and sufficient for us.
I’d say that this is the most fun day of the trip even though it’s not really the main highlight, because I finally got to touch and play with snow! We went to Chengdu XiLing Snow Mountain (yes it’s up on the mountains! The snow never happened on the ground level.. Cheat my feelings), took a bus to a very very snowy place. Bf and I spent more than 2 hours playing with snow and building our failed snowman.
We still purposely bought a shovel there just for this purpose and then we didn’t know what to do with it after we left.
I wanted to do snow angel since a long long time ago after watching one character doing it in Powerpuff Girls cartoon. SO HAPPY I MANAGED TO DO IT THERE!! There’s a video of me “flying on the ground” in action but of course I’m not going to show it here.. Hahaha.
Then we also went to another part of the place to ride on a sleigh down a snowy slope!! DAMNNNN FUNNNNN and I was seated at the most front (there were about 10 seats in total I think?) because no one else dared!! ALL THE HUMJI KIAS ESPECIALLY MY BOYFRIEND!! Also, we tried Go Kart (but in motorbikes) in the snow!! Sadly no skiing because we didn’t know where the booth was?? And I heard it wasn’t free so..
I really really enjoyed my time there!! There only. The rest (other than the pandas) were meh. Bf and I kept throwing and stuffing snow into each other’s top -_-
We had dinner at another random hotel and so coincidentally the tour agency we went with had a special occasion so we, having nothing to do there, celebrated with them. They bought many many sky lanterns and fireworks for us, I think even more than NDP. What we couldn’t do in Taiwan (lighting sky lanterns) were accomplished there! Hahaha. And it was also our first time setting fireworks on our own!
The onset of boredom started then. We woke up super darn early because the driver feared that we’d be stuck in traffic jam if it was later but we ended up shopping at a ghostly town because the roads were too misty. -_- Ghostly because it was barely 8am and many of the shops were still closed. But we still managed to shop a bit (very important to me. No shopping no fun!!) at some Tibetan-looking shop. Got a number of hauls from there.. mostly were stuff which we knew we wouldn’t use like kids’ xylophone – you know the very colourful one? Was just reliving my childhood memories. We also had tangyuan (glutinous rice balls) at a rather old-fashioned run down store. It made my cold tummy warm 🙂
After having lunch we finally headed to Sichuan (Moxi Town to be exact, a rather rural part of it). It was a very very long ride, I think about 6 hours?? Had plenty of sleep on the bus and even had so much time to train my Pokemons and had their levels increased by 10… (okay off-topic)
We accommodated at, according to our tour guide, one of the better hotels there (can’t remember the name but there aren’t many hotels in that old town. After a simple Googling I am pretty sure the hotel’s initials are BC). I can’t verify his claims but when I stepped into the hotel, there was a very strong “old” smell, like rotting wood. It was still bearable but it just didn’t make me feel comfortable at all. It didn’t look run down though. We had our dinner there and guess what? We were the only ones (the tour group) in the restaurant! It felt really eerie and the food also tasted terrible and that was our dinner for 2 consecutive days. Luckily Bf’s parents bought some cup noodles during the day so we didn’t had to go to bed with an empty stomach. But I took comfort in knowing that there was free Wi-Fi which was very important for me because my results were about to be released then!
One of the programmes on the itinerary at Moxi Town was some Tibetan dancing-cum-singing performance at night. Dragged our feet there because the place itself already made us very sian. All shops were closed and there was nothing to do at all. The venue was pretty near to the hotel so all of us walked there together as a group, led by the tour guide and his assistants. Then we arrived at what seemed like an abandoned temple with some of the performers ushering us to our seats (there were also other tour groups around) while shouting “Zhaxidele”. Apparently it’s means happiness and good luck in Tibetan language. We went in, sat down, waited patiently for the show to begin and then the most unexpected thing happened: BLACKOUT. The place turn pitch black and it really looked creepy like some horror movie setting!! The performers tried to divert our attention and fill the awkward silence with random Tibetan songs. We waited for another half an hour for the power to resume but nothing happened, so we headed back to our hotel. The entire Moxi Town was in complete darkness then. We had to use the light from our mobile phones to find our way back to the hotel, which was fortunately not affected by the blackout.
So later in the night, we ate our cup noodles, watch some TV shows and I went to take a shower. Then as I was about to apply body shampoo, the lights went off!! IT WAS THE HOTEL’S TURN TO GET A BLACKOUT WTF. I had to stop bathing (thank goodness I hadn’t started washing my hair yet!) and I felt so disgusting and filthy because technically I hadn’t started bathing -_-! Oh I forgot to mention that when we checked into the room, we found a torchlight on the dressing table! NOW WE KNOW WHY!! Blackouts are not uncommon in that old town…. But what to do? We couldn’t do anything but to force ourselves to sleep. What a terrible, terrible night!
On the following day, the power came back but there wasn’t any TV reception and the Wi-Fi was not even working!! Then blackout happened again in the late afternoon. So irritating. I hated that place. A lot. Not trying to sound spoilt but we paid to relax ourselves, not to fret over silly issues like this!! If I have volunteered to help out in some third-world countries, I wouldn’t even mind about the blackout but OI, WE PAID MONEY FOR THIS LEH!!! NOT CHEAP SOME MORE.
Woke up feeling extremely grumpy because we slept through the night without air-con. Luckily it was winter otherwise our faces would be blacker than Bao Qing Tian. We had breakfast at the hotel which tasted as vomit-inducing as dinner and then we took the bus to Hailuogou (HLG). Whenever I mention this place to anybody familiar with China, they’d assume that I’d be going to Jiuzhaigou too but sadly it wasn’t part of the itinerary. 😦
We took HLG’s hired coach up to the mountains. As we ascended further, the windows turned misty and you could easily estimate when you’d be arriving at the place just by looking at them. We reached the place and was told by the tour guide that we had to pay to take the cable car to go further up to the mountains (where HLG was. We were only midway), which was really ridiculous because we had paid everything necessary to the tour agency. Even if it was a separate charge, we were not informed at all beforehand!! All of us argued that the cost of the cable car tickets should already be included in the amount we paid but the stubborn tour guide just refused to budge. But what could we do? Suck thumb lor! We couldn’t just stand there and do nothing. There was literally nothing there. Not even a single snow.
Went up and felt no more than a sense of disappointment. I was expecting an experience like the one at XiLing Snow Mountain but it turned out to be another boring trip. Indeed the mountains were really beautiful but other than admiring them there was nothing much to do except to camwhore. Hahahaha!! And Bf being super humji didn’t dare to go down the mountain slope to touch the snow -_- Our stomachs then started to rumble so we went to find food! WE FOUND DELICIOUS BEEF SATAY!! Damn nice we ordered more than 5 sticks. Hahahah!!! Or maybe we were just hungry………….. And we had a hot cup of strawberry drink (it’s rather popular in China with nata de coco and it comes with bendable big straw). Whoa we felt so warm and fuzzy inside!!
When night came, we returned to the abandoned temple again to watch the Tibetan performance because they didn’t want to refund our money. It was.. nothing fantastic. Ha. -_-
Checked out of the Moxi Town hotel (finally) and we were en route to Chengdu. But since it was a long journey, we stopped by at some places along the way.
The other places we visited all had got to do with seeing snow. And for the first time in my lift I saw a snowflake! It looked exactly like how artists always draw them!! Really really beautiful! We also supposed to go to a hot spring but once again, we had to pay additional charges to go in! RIDICULOUS RIGHT?! How could an agency include something on an itinerary and not make it compulsory by collecting the entry fees beforehand?! Knowing that we had to pay again (now we wonder where the money we paid for miscellaneous charges went to?), we of course didn’t want to go in anymore la!! Walao eh! So we wasted our time drinking hot tea in a coffee house and watch wild monkeys watching us and our food while waiting for some people to be done with their hot spring. Sickening!!
Then we were brought to another hot spring place for foot bath (泡脚). Entry fee was cheaper and we didn’t had to remove all our clothes so we agreed to go in. The feeling of getting your cold feet warm was priceless but you risk getting your trousers/pants wet which would make you feel even colder once you are done! And we even bought hot spring egg to snack on! Yummmmmy 🙂
For dinner, we had an option to dine at the hotel we were staying in for the night and a steamboat restaurant. The tour guide sugar-coated his words to make dining at a steamboat restaurant seem like a better idea and that we’d be able to experience the Chengdu cuisine. We had actually paid a certain sum of money for that dinner which everyone believed was supposed to be in the hotel (more expensive than steamboat, in other words). Some gullible and more outspoken people in the tour gave him the green light so we went ahead as already planned by the tour guide.
At the steamboat restaurant, I didn’t eat much as I wasn’t used to their choice of food and most importantly, it was a CANDLELIGHT dinner!! The area had a blackout oh my god… Seriously I’m never going back to that place again. Not even for the pandas. No matter how cute they are. No, no, no. Then after the meal, the bus didn’t drive to the restaurant doorstep to pick us up because according to the tour guide again, “the driver would need another 40 minutes to make a U-turn here”. What the hell man… if that’s the case, why didn’t you tell the driver to set off EARLIER then??? What a dimwit. Because of him everyone had to walk in the extreme cold and darkness to the meeting point (not very near ok). And the best part? THE BUS WASN’T EVEN THERE YET WHEN WE REACHED UNTIL 10 MINUTES LATER. Kanasai bunch of idiots. They made my boyfriend who was already down with a fever, even more ill!!
The bus finally came and not even a word of apology from the tour guide nor the driver (go and die la still want to earn tips from us). We were driven to our hotel for the night and it was the best we had been to in the entire trip. It was like any 5-star hotel, clean and very presentable and all the lifts were definitely working. We even had bellmen to help us with our luggages, unlike the first two hotels we’d been to. But sadly we were only there for a night -_- And remember I mentioned about my bruises from falls? I got my next one there, in the wet toilet, and it hurt like hell. HURT!!! Because my knee hit the cold hard ground flat. I cried so bad and I couldn’t walk properly for the night. My knee swelled a bit and Bf helped me up even though he was sick himself. So many mishaps in this trip -_- Ok also partly due to me clumsiness but still… my other trips were fine.
Day 6 – omg yes my misery is ending. Just send me back to Singapore already.
My skin (especially my legs which are already very dry to begin with) was starting to crack even though I had been consistently applying lotion. I guess cold weather is not for me. We continued our journey back to Chengdu and it was another 5 hours doing nothing…
Upon arrival in Chengdu, we were taken to a theatre to watch the highly talked about face-changing show (变脸show) coupled with other equally terrific performances. The venue was flooded with Caucasians especially and there were subtitles flashing on mini screens on both ends of the stage for people who didn’t understand mandarin. The face-changing performers even went to the audience and changed their faces in front of them! But no one could see how they did it because they were too fast.
And we were back at the hotel where young boys slide name cards under room doors..
In the day, we went to Huan Hua Xi Park which apparently is the largest park in Chengdu. Since it’s a park, there isn’t much activities for us there. We walked around and saw people feeding fishes, so we bought fish food from the booth manning the pond and joined in the fun!
We then left the park for a shopping district (?) which didn’t have anything interesting to buy. As you can already see from this travel journal, there wasn’t much shopping done because of the same reason 😦
At night, we caught Zhang Yi Mo’s 4D show but I felt that the one I watched in Beijing was much better. Nevertheless it was still a great show 🙂 Here are some pictures. There are more but I’m really lazy to resize everyone of them lol.
It was New Year’s Eve and I was not with my parents for the very first time. I texted my Mom to wish her as I watched the countdown on television at night.
Day 8 – final day in Chengdu
Woke up early in the morning to see flowers at the Visitor Centre of San Sheng Hua Xiang. I’m not a fan of flowers so we got back into the bus after like 30 minutes of walking? Yawn.
For lunch, we had steamboat again which was a little better than the candlelight one. After we were done with our meal, I saw the scumbag tour guide beckoning Bf’s father back into the restaurant. He had a piece of paper in his hand and I could immediately tell what he was up to. Well apparently many people were unhappy with him mainly because of what happened in HLG (having to pay again for the entrance fee when we’d already paid, bringing us to a steamboat place that blacked out, the bad vibes he gave me.. ok that’s probably just me) so he decided to make the master of every family agree not to report any negative occurrence to the agency when we returned to Singapore. How? By making them sympathise with him lor, that he needed the money to support the family lor and other bull crap. Win already lor play dirty zzz.
Then we were brought to a medical centre which specialised in foot massages? Hahaha I don’t know what exactly the place was but they did not allow foot massages on anyone below the age of 21! Poor Bf’s brother didn’t have the chance to experience the shiok massage because he was so-called underaged.
The final place we went to before we headed to the airport was some random shopping mall. I (finally) bought something useful after 8 days – a winter coat for myself, and even got my eyebrows shaped, which was my BIGGEST regret there. I could tell the lady was very inexperienced and I ended up having the length of my right eyebrow shortened! And now it’s taking a long time to grow back…
I was so glad to be back in Singapore (how often do you see someone on vacation dying to go home lololol). My dearest parents picked me up from the Changi airport near midnight *sheds tears* and they commented that I lost weight. That pretty summed up my experience in Chengdu.
Bye Chengdu, I doubt I will ever see you again.