Babies crying, noodles slurping, smoke in the air - I was not sure that I could last at first - a true test of endurance and patience to say the least. Approaching the second evening, I decided to push past the mass amounts of people in aims of having a decent rest. Four people in three seats, people strewn across the dirty and garbage-ridden floor attempting to get some shuteye, off I went to the sink...where I found a man laying there, blocking my path to personal hygiene! On the brink of giving up, I finally pushed past the masses and met a gentleman who helped me to upgrade my ticket to have a bed on the train...and after a well-needed rest, I survived, only to be greeted by perhaps one of China's finest and spiciest cities of all, Chengdu - a city located in a Western province named Sichuan.
I walked around the city a bit and ate some noodles..then settled into a location! The next day I was lucky enough to be brought to a very beautiful ancient town called Huang Long Xi - Translated into English it means Yellow Dragon Sea. It had old buildings, beautifully carved stones in the shape of animals/reptiles such as turtles and fish, and had an enormous dragon emerging from a body of water in two spots. Many children were playing in the water and squirting one another with it - rest assured I did NOT manage to stay dry :) We were lucky enough to enter the older part of town, and I was shown (by my fabulous guide) where the old bank was, where the bartering house was located, and was able to see such places of worship as old temples sporting wildly decorated Buddhas. We even saw two separate movies beeing filmed, WHOA! Everyone here seemed happy, and that of course made me feel happy. I like to experience the simplicity of life and I often find myself thinking that those who have less in this world appreciate more - a small town such as this certainly reaffirmed this belief.
Later that night I experienced the hotpot! I had been hearing all about this, seeing as the Sichuan Province is known for its spicy flavor! The whole city is hot and you'd better believe that food is included in this category! At the hotpot, I was given a bowl of oil, fancied up with the garments of my choice - garlic, salt and herbs! This was to remove some of the spiciness which is soaked up once you cook your food in this pot of boiling water, hot peppers and other unknown (to me) spices and things of this nature. There is also a middle part which is not spicy - I did resort to using it at times, but for the most part stuck with the spicy flavor! (though we ordered the "medium spicy" dish...I didn't want to die right off the bat because I do not have the highest tolerance for spicy food). The different vegetables, meats, noodles or whatever other worldy items you might want to consume are selected from a menu with hilarious and equally frightening English translations. These are the things that you cook in the hotpot!
Tomorrow, I will most likely experience the World's biggest Buddha, but perhaps I will change my mind and visit a Panda or two...only the next 12 hours of this lifetime will decide...talking about decisions...I am getting better at making them, seeing as I have been forced to numerous times throughout this trip, and will continue to have to do so!
Random Side Note: During my day trip to Suzhou, I was applying sunscreen on the side of the road, when out of nowhere a man on a motorcycle riding by stopped dead in his tracks. He pulled over and made eye contact with me. This eye contact continued for a solid 3 minutes or so, even after he refused my offer for applying sunblock for him. My friend Zhou Lu said he had never experienced anything like this before. Instead of feeling uncomfortable, I was happy to show another human being that aliens do actually exist, and even visit their planet from time to time! N