Posted by: apal1528 | 02/16/2010

Chengdu and a Very Happy New Year

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We arrived in Chengdu after a very long and arduous 43 hour journey. Thankfully, we foreigners were given a priority to upgrade to sleeper when we discovered it would be such a longer journey than normal. I actually have a feeling that going from Beijing to Chengdu we may have stopped in Hong Kong, there’s really no other explanation for 43 hours. One woman was quite perturbed though that we had been given priority. She told me she thought we had given the conductor a few extra bucks, though we didn’t, her fiery Sichuanese rampage was soon quelled when the conductor upgraded her too.

We were SO thankful to arrive in Chengdu only to be greeted by none other than the most precious woman alive, Mrs. Sun, her son, nephew and his wife.

We met Mrs. Sun while she visited the US this past summer, she was a member of the group of faculty that visited Pullman to study the US education system, Will and I were ambassadors for the College of Business.

Ayi (Ayi, pronounced ah-yee, is a term that means auntie in Chinese to address respected elderly women) took the six of us to traditional Sichuanese cuisine, known as Chuan cai. We were overly impressed with the food and as is customary were not permitted to leave until we were literally bulging at the seams. Enough is never enough in China. We were literally floored though when I overheard the waitress declare the bill totaled a whopping ¥1,999. Yes, thats nineteen hundred and ninety-nine yuan. Remember a dollar is ¥6.8, so thats about $48 per person. Also, note that a deliciously filling bowl of Lanzhou pulled noodles is about ¥5 and a plane ticket from Chengdu to Beijing would be about ¥450. 1999 is a ton of money in China. We were amazed and thankful.

We were also thankful that my friend Olivia was in Hong Kong for two weeks and was so generous to allow us to stay in her apartment. For the past week or so we’ve done a lot of chilling and exploring. It’s been nice and relaxing. She lives on a street between the first and second ring roads called fangcao street. It means fragrant grass street, it’s a really nice little neighborhood. There are a lot of nice restaurants and a lot of trees and little parks. I like it there.

Hot pot


Second ring road

Early last week Ayi took us to awesome hotpot. Neither will or I had ever had such authentic or high class hotpot, it was in an old looking traditional Chinese style building. We had our own room on the second floor balcony and it even had it’s own tea table and bathroom! We ate very traditional hotpot dishes while listening to Sichuan opera on the stage at the center of the building. We ate some of the weirdest things- pig throat lining was the oddest. It was thin and crunchy but the flavor was actually really good. We also had duck intestines. You grab one with your chopsticks and submerge it in the hotpot for a no more than 25 seconds, the intestines were actually my favorite. You’d be surprised how much flavor they had. We also had the usual cow stomach, but that’s nothing new 🙂

When Ayi invited us to her house for the Spring Festival we got excited. Knowing the quality of her hospitality thus far, we knew dinner at her own house would be fantastic. Altogether there were about 25 people at her house when we arrived- Ayi has 4 other brothers and sisters and they each have sons, so it was cool to meet them. They spoke pretty good English so we were glad we could be helpful to them seeing their hospitality. I think it would be difficult to have outsiders at such a big family event like Christmas or Thanksgiving, we were very thankful they treated us so warmly.

Ayi’s nephews

Ayi’s niece

It really reminded me how similar we all are despite the cultural differences when they told us they were having a cooking competition for the evening. Each of Ayi’s brothers and sisters along with their spouses made either one or two dishes to be brutally tested by the rest of the family. They were so serious about it they even had a sheet printed out for each person to tally up the scores. It reminded me of the rib cook off we had this last summer at the fourth of July. The food was fantastic. Deep fried spicy buffalo wings, stir fried spicy eel, kung pao chicken, numbing braised beef… there were ten dishes. I voted for the buffalo wings. They were the best.

After the dinner festivities the wine we had been drinking slowly turned to baijiu (the infamous licorice flavored spirit), and that always makes things interesting because the tradition is for every person to make a toast to just about every other person. It was fun. After sufficient toasting had occurred we finally went out to see the fireworks. It was literally a battlefield. The rumble of mortars and firecrackers was incessant and absolutely amazing. We lit some big ones and watched as they rang in the new year. The point being, of course, for the firecrackers to ward of the evil spirits as the new year comes.

It was definitely a sight to see. Anyone who thinks they’ve seen fireworks should come to China for the new year.

Ayi’s eldest nephew

Ayi, Will, and I

That was on Saturday night. On Sunday morning we were invited by Ayi to visit the temple at holy Mt. Emei to worship Buddha there. Apparently going to light incense and pay respect to the deceased is a family tradition for the new year. It was a 3 hour drive and unfortunately it was foggy and rainy so we couldn’t see the mountain. It was cold but it was really meaningful to see what they do culturally as a family.

Lighting incense

For over Emeishan (峨眉山)

All of us

Will left this morning back to Harbin to start up CET again. He’s doing the same program that I did last year.

I’m really glad to be back in China. I’m excited to see how my feelings will change once I get settled in more permanently.


  1. Two thousand yuan for a meal–are you for real?? What a hostess. Sounds like quite an awesome trip so far. You’re so fortunate to get there just as the new year is happening. I hope things continue to stay interesting…I’m sure they will. ttyl

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