Today was our last day touring around Chengdu, and we visited Huanglongxi Ancient Town, a 90-minute drive south of the city. On the way, we enjoyed a mix of Chinese music of all kinds, Abba (“Dancing Queen”), and Demi Lovato (“Let it Go”). 🙂 It was our third day here, and we have seen fleeting moments of blue sky each day. Kevin, our guide, said it is very rare and “precious” to get to see it, as they have fewer than 10 days per year where there is visible blue sky. And this is the first city where we have seen blue sky. When the forecast here is “sunny,” I think I would call it “hazy.” It’s not pleasant. 😦
Anyway, back to Huanglongxi… I think everyone else in Chengdu had the same idea to visit it today, as the crowds were like nothing I’ve experienced before, outside of something like a Blazers’ game or Coldplay concert! This “ancient city” is a combination of carnival rides and games, shops, and restaurants. There is a small section that is indeed “ancient,” but it’s mostly new structures made to look old, and it is highly commercialized. It is along a river by the same name (which means “yellow dragon”), and a man-made stream runs along the pedestrian street too. Children of all ages were in the water squirting one another with various toys that are sold along the way.
We wound our way up and down the streets and alleys, briefly stopping along the way for a quick peek at various activities (e.g., noodle pulling, ear cleaning) and foods (e.g., fried insects, dried mushrooms, numerous peppers). The sites, sounds, and smells seemed exotic, but it was challenging to take it all in as we had to focus on staying together in the crowd (& keeping up with Kevin!).
After walking for awhile, we stopped for a dim sum lunch where we had the local spicy dumplings, dan dan noodles, and jelly with brown sugar sauce. These were our favorite dumplings thus far, and we handled the Sichuan spice just fine. 🙂 We again sweat our way through a hot meal, and we finally asked for a bottle of cold water to share toward the end.
Kevin said not many westerners visit this place, and we only saw three during our time there today. Needless to say, Abbie and I get some interesting looks when we are out and about. I wonder what people think…I’m sure they know what our relationship is, but I’m not sure how it is perceived from the Chinese side. Kevin said that he is a true “first generation” of the one child policy, as he was born in 1979, the year it was implemented. He shared that his parents had a daughter before him who died of a heart issue. In Xi’an, Anna told us that she is the second of two daughters and that when she was born, her “daddy” lost his job and they were fined the equivalent of 30,000 yuan (about $4300). Today there is no more one child policy, and Kevin said young people don’t want to have many children because they are too expensive. It’s hard to wrap our minds around, and when I see little girls with their parents, I can only imagine what life Abbie would have now if she had gotten that hand dealt to her. Today she said she’s glad she didn’t “have” to grow up here (it may have been when she saw fried scorpions on sticks!), but I can’t help but wonder what all she’s thinking and processing.
Tomorrow we fly to Hefei, the capital of Anhui Province – Abbie’s province. We are ready…