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Brian Cray - Hitchhikin', Trainhoppin', and Wanderin'

Wanderin' the world, at will, by any means

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Century City

Century City

Century City

I familiarized myself more with the city over the last few days. Other than the Big Buddha in Leshan along with Panda Sanctuary there is not much left to see aside from the Dujiangyan Irrigation System. I’m going to make an effort to see all of these, but I hate going to tourist attractions to be honest, so I am not sure what I’ll end up doing.

Century City

Look up at the abandoned skyscrapers popping up all over Century City in southern ChengDu.

I am looking to book a flight from Kunming to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for 400 Kwai and take the train from ChengDu to Kunming for about 250 Kwai. The train is about 16 hours and I think I need to take the metro from Nijiaqiao Station to North Railway Station and take the bullet train to Kunming. Once I’m in Kunming I’m not sure where the airport is located, so I’ll have to figure that out as well. I’m assuming the train station is fairly close to the airport. If not a lot of signs are in English so I should be able to find my way to the airport. I plan on leaving ChengDu for Kunming on January 3rd to make sure I make my flight on the 5th.

 

Anyway, I left the apartment late tonight after a long day of nothing. I took the metro to Century City and got off near the Global Center. I charged my phone completely and ended up using Strava to record my route so I could get back to the metro without getting lost. The metro stops running at midnight so I left myself a few hours of time to explore and get back to Eric’s.

Century City

This is the most active area in the 3-mile loop I walked. Every other street contained little pedestrians and vehicular traffic remained non-existent.

I walked around southern ChengDu, which despite being covered in skyscrapers is completely desolate. Tons of buildings under construction sit vacant with cranes propped 200 to 300 feet in the air. I walked for an hour in a loop checking out the security of the buildings, with cameras and guards at most entrances, this left room to sneak between the walls on the empty streets. I found a street that despite some vehicular traffic lacked any pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk. I walked on the grass, the trees making me incognito to the street eye, and looked through the fencing. I watched a guard standing watch at the front entrance of the building playing on his phone. I walked back about 300 feet away from the crack in the fence until I found an elevated brick platform about 2 feet off of the ground. I stood on this platform and from there I was able to see that security guarded only the entrances of the construction site. I am unsure if security cameras exist on-site, but from this platform I can jump and pull myself up over the barrier gaining access to the site. I want to either climb a crane or just get to the top of an empty building, without any CCTV surveillance, and look down over the city. All the bright lights shining up at me. It’d be a great experience. I am going back to Century City later in the night to enter the construction site. I need to map out the distance and take Eric’s bicycle. I think it might be a 10 mile trip there and 10 miles back, but I am not quite sure. This is just pure estimation. I will take the data off Strava to figure it all out. Until then enjoy the pictures I posted!

Century City

Look at all the empty, colorful, skyscrapers!

Cycling ChengDu

Cycling ChengDu

Cycling ChengDu

The past few days I slept in rather late because my sleep schedule is off. Going to bed at 3 to 5 AM and waking up at noon and 1 PM is really taking a huge chunk out of the day. At this point I am almost a month into the trip. I know very basic Chinese, but because it’s a tonal language I can’t say a lot of the words. I don’t want to live here for an extended period despite really enjoying the new culture and exploring all around the city of ChengDu. I love the abandoned buildings, the bright city lights, most of the spicy foods, drinking tea, playing landlord and Mahjong, but once January hits I am really looking forward to traveling to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to backpack with Chris. We plan on hitch hiking from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore and all the way up through Bangkok. I’m hoping I have budgeted my money appropriately to afford this part of the trip. That is when the real adventure starts.

Now I am just familiarizing myself with the city of ChengDu. Yes, I explored much of the city using taxi’s, metro and buses, but most of the time I generally did not know where we were going or how to get back there because Chris and Sarah did all the coordinating. From cycling ChengDu for the past few days I am finally figuring out where I am and how to get around the city. I am becoming more local as I ride around and explore. Cycling in China is great. They dedicate lanes for scooters, motorbikes, and cyclists to help separate you from the crazy ChengDu traffic.

Cycling ChengDu at night-time is even more thrilling. Aside from the adrenaline rush that comes along with cycling in China the city is so lit up that all the LED illuminate the night sky and you take in a rainbow of colors. Each building has its own light pattern almost like you’re inside a club listening to music. The lights come on at a certain time of night and go off when most people aren’t roaming around the streets.

For anyone staying in ChengDu for a long period I would recommend looking into buying a used bicycle or new bicycle. You can get them fairly cheap at any local bicycle shop and cycling ChengDu is the best route to go to explore the city. You won’t be spending money on taxi’s, buses or metro fares. You’ll be getting great exercise and familiarize yourself with the roads. Not to mention you can use Strava to record your routes so you know how to get back to your origin. Cycling ChengDu is where it’s at guys! I’ll be posting some video footage soon of me cycling ChengDu. You’ll get to see how crazy the traffic is during the day and night-time. Please be careful and make sure you pay attention to all kinds of traffic when cycling the roads in China. Watch for any motorized vehicles. People do not stop for you and will hit you if you aren’t paying attention. This is not America. In China, bigger means get the fuck out-of-the-way because they don’t slow down, they just beep at you and expect you to stop or move. Good luck cycling ChengDu and have fun!

Below are some pictures from cycling around the city of ChengDu. The GoPro really captures great footage even at night because the city lights are so bright it’s able to them up despite not being the Hero 4.

Cycling ChengDu

Culture Park – Martyr Grave Site

We roamed around in all directions day and night. I want to say I cycled around 20 miles or so in the past few days since we rode for about two hours. We stopped at Culture Park and checked out the Martyr Grave Site, which appeared to be a memorial for soldiers who all died in 1949. They did not have an English translation of the significance of 1949, but I’m assuming the memorial reflected the lives of soldiers who were lost fighting for the Republic of China in the Chinese Civil War.

All the parks in China are hubs for tourists of all kinds, Chinese, foreigners, etc. I felt jam-packed in there. We roamed around for a brief 20 minutes. A Chinese mother asked Chris to take a picture with her daughter. That’s the third or fourth time people have snapped photos with him just because he’s German. I laughed.

Cycling ChengDu

Culture Park

We continued on out of the park and took our bicycle and scooter to People’s Plaza to meet up with Sarah. Yet another crowded park, but this time we sat down and drank some tea. I met Sarah’s Chinese friend and we alternated what three people played landlord. Despite sucking at Mahjong, I actually picked up the Landlord game quite easily and did not play too bad considering my newbie status. I won two hands and a few other hands when against the Di Zhu. Dou Di Zhu is fun and takes strategy. I am unable to explain the rules without showing you in person since I need a deck of cards, but just trust my word.

Cycling ChengDu

Beautiful ChengDu architecture.

After People’s Plaza we hit up a restaurant and ate a ton of food for 50 kwai (RMB). Once again I don’t know what we ate, but I enjoyed most of it aside from pig’s feet, which is just a bunch of fat in a soup.

Despite being tired as all hell I followed Chris and Sarah on my bicycle to find a bar downtown and meet up with more of her friends for drinks and shisha. Sarah tried taking a shortcut, but got us completely lost. Being tired my grumpiness kicked in, I don’t know what it is, I guess women in general just have no sense of direction regardless of what country they are born 😛

After countless u-turns, and backtracking we found the narrow road to the bar. I parked the bicycle next to Chris’ scooter and we walked in to the coolest Shu Shu in town. He brought out a huge pitcher of screw drivers, the strongest Long Island Iced Tea’s I ever drank and the fruitiest shisha of any hookah bar I ever smoked. After spending much money, I decided not to drink and just smoke. I sat around observing and listening to about nine Chinese people talk and laugh. I did not know at all what they were saying and felt out-of-place, but when we started speaking English, they felt out-of-place. So it teeter tottered back and forth.

The one girl, Sophie, arrived late and complained about getting married. In China, much traditional ways still exist, even today. Being 28, her family felt she needed to marry a man, due to her losing youth. So a man she knew for over 20 years asked her hand in marriage. The guy loved her since the age of 13 or maybe just became infatuated with her. I don’t know them well enough to be sure. She did not love him. He was not rich. He did not have a great paying job. None of it really made much sense to me. Her beauty engulfed the room. She did not look a day over 20. Her long slender legs, skinny frame, and cute face made her adorable for any man. So I could not grasp why she’d settle for anything less than being happy, but it’s just different in China. Her friends made fun of him saying he was a “Mama’s Boy.” I felt awkward and sorry for her, but it’s not my life, nor my choice.

This brought me back to reality and I realized the differences between China and America. We stayed at the bar late, until everyone finished their drinks and hit the road. Another night cycling ChengDu streets felt peaceful and I fell fast asleep once we opened the door to Eric’s apartment.

Lan Kwai Fong

Lan Kwai Fong

Lan Kwai Fong

For the first time since arriving in China I rode on a bicycle to Lan Kwai Fong. I followed behind Chris, on his scooter, and weaved in and out of traffic. Motorbikes, scooters and bicycles come from all directions so I kept my head on a 360 degree swivel to avoid crashing into anyone. My adrenaline pumped as I pedaled faster to keep up with Chris. Despite all the traffic we arrived in Lan Kwai Fong after a half hour of travel.

We walked around a bit trying to find Sarah. Stores played girly American music from their surround sound speakers. The buildings shined with their LEDs illuminating the night sky with rainbow colors. The urbanized location birthed many restaurants and cafes along with night clubs and bars.

Lan Kwai Fong

Lan Kwai Fong

We met up with Sarah outside of “The Club” and she invited us to “Ya Kun Coffee & Toast.” We ate with the owners of the restaurant for free. They made this scrumptious toast with coconut oil and butter spread between two pieces of toasted bread. I ate from their specialty menu and ordered the curry chicken (Normally 38 RMB). Hands down this meal changed my view on the food in China. Not only did it fill my stomach, but the chicken, rice and broth spices watered my mouth with each bite. I devoured every last morsel of rice and drank every last drop of the curry broth.

This little cafe made me feel comfortable and cozy and the food tasted spectacular, all for a cheap price. We sat around and chatted for about an hour until meeting up with Billa to go to the Thanksgiving Party.

Lan Kwai Fong

Lan Kwai Fong

By this time the night sky loomed over us and the street lights shined our path. Sarah and I followed Chris and Billa as they scooted along to the party. We stopped at the local market to pick up some beer and asked a few people for directions to the apartment. After a few kilometers we made it to our destination and parked our bicycles and scooters in the parking garage of the building. The doorman escorted us into the building and we took the elevator to their floor. Unsure of what door to knock on, we took a chance with the only door decorated in gold party streamers.

After a few knocks, Joey and Devon answered the door and the fiesta began once we put all the beer into the fridge and freezer. Since we just ate not too long ago I didn’t have the luxury of enjoying much of the Thanksgiving foods. However, I did indulge in many beers and a few glasses of spicy wine. People from all over the world mingled in this tiny apartment. Americans, Germans, Swiss, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and other cultures celebrated Thanksgiving. An artificial Christmas tree covered in bright lights and ornaments decorated the room a month before Christmas. I felt at home because my mother always puts the tree up before Thanksgiving.

Abandoned ChengDu

Abandoned ChengDu

I joined Jelte, Chris and Sarah today for a round of go-karts. The price we read online greatly differed from the price he quoted upon arrival. They charged by the lap. Sarah haggled down to 8 RMB per lap, which almost halved the price of 15 RMB per lap. I decided to watch as I didn’t want to spend that kind of money for go-karts. I’m saving the $1,457 USD I have left for Thailand since $1,200 USD of my budget is going towards my flight home, so I don’t want to go over my budget of $4,000 USD.

Abandoned ChengDu

Abandoned ChengDu – Inside of an abandoned burnt down building. Graffiti on the front said, “DO NOT ENTER” in Chinese.

I already spent $860 USD not including the $483 USD on my visa and plane ticket. Also keep in mind I still have much cash in my wallet that I have yet to spend and I did buy a laptop for about $200 USD, which put me under a bit. I needed a new laptop for writing and video editing so it was worth it. My old laptop is almost 8 years old and on it’s last life.

Anyway, they ended up doing 16 laps, which flew by quickly and since we already ventured out this way we decided to explore the area. We walked back down the path we came for the go-karts and noticed an abandoned building. In Chinese it said, “Do Not Enter,” but no one around really cares what you do as long as it’s not a violent crime.

Abandoned ChengDu Bar

Chinese graffiti on the walls of the abandoned ChengDu bar we explored.

We ended up walking through the building, which looked like it burnt down from all the charcoal covered walls and ceilings covered in black dust. In and out of the only room in a few seconds we decided to explore out back. As I turned the corner I nearly stepped in a pile of human shit. People just shit wherever in this country. It’s like a never ending camping trip. I’m always cautious when entering new areas now since I don’t want to step in feces. I braced myself, held my nose and continued walking into the back empty lot.

Abandoned ChengDu Bar

The filthy pool outside of the abandoned ChengDu bar. Somehow fish live in here?

People played badminton next to the abandoned ChengDu bar and an old Chinese man fished in what used to be a pool. Now just a contaminated algae tank with tires and other trash floating around. How fish got there I have no idea? The contamination made me question what lived in the dark green pond? Fish with three heads and multiple fins most likely. Anyway, my eyes locked onto the ChengDu abandoned bar. The building flaked from decay. The old, faded, red roof looked singed from the outside. As I walked inside Chinese graffiti defaced the one wall. I don’t know what it said, but I noticed graffiti in China consists of just the Chinese characters. They don’t really add 3 dimensional effects and it’s pretty legible. It defeats the purpose of graffiti in my opinion.

Abandoned ChengDu Bar

Jelte standing between two burnt timber columns.

I tiptoed through the entrance and entered a circular area with multiple timber columns supporting the rooftop. The center of the building looked like a doughnut. From the second floor I looked through the middle of the concrete down to the 1st level. I wonder if the kitchen sat there for all the customers to see? I walked in a circle looking at all the burnt columns and ceiling and noticed an intricate design through the center leading towards the rooftop. The concrete spread from the center like a flower, with openings shedding light from the rooftop, between each petal of concrete. I walked into the adjacent rooms to find shit overflowing from the broken toilets.

We walked out of the abandoned ChengDu bar and headed around the side lot. We found old man-made concrete mountains with entrances inside. I poked my head in to find a rectangular pool of murky water and abandoned paddle boats in the shape of duckies and other animals.

Abandoned ChengDu Bar

Lookup! The ceiling looks so trippy!

My guess is at one point this place attracted a lot of customers. Between the bar, outdoor pool and paddle boats, the variety shows interest and a strong business model. However, they probably never recovered from the fire that burnt her down due to lack of insurance.

It’s a shame all of this sits vacant to rot and decay and yes, I found a shack next to one of the buildings that looks like someone is living out of it. We continued on down the road until spotting a hotel designed like a crew ship. With nothing to do we ventured inside and took the elevator to the top floor to look at the view over the man-made lake. Looking out into the distance Chris spotted out the abandoned rooftop we trekked up to the one night out in town.

Abandoned ChengDu Boat Hotel

A boat hotel in ChengDu. The Shu Shu’s fish in the man-made lake.

I want to go back there one night and climb a crane.

We stayed on the hotel rooftop for a few minutes and then continued onward following the path around the rest of the park. Jelte stopped to play one of the carnival games. He shot balloons with a toy rifle and Sarah stopped the Ding Dong guy to get some candy. I walked around, my head on a swivel, taking in the culture around me. Everyone in China plays Mahjong, or the Landlord and drinks tea. This is an apparent theme in any part of China. It is so culturally different here it’s not even comparable to the USA, but at the same time, the carnivals and rides are the same in both countries.

The main difference that sticks out is when buildings become vacant in China they just sit and rot away. There is not security hired to keep you out. You might be walking down a path in a park and see an abandoned basement to the side of the path. Nothing is closed off and it’s dangerous. However, the abandoned buildings still exist all throughout town and unlike America, security is not paid to keep people out from vandalism, squatting or exploring. They just don’t care.

Abandoned ChengDu Playground

Abandoned ChengDu Playground

Mahjong

Majang

I spent the whole day confined to a very small room learning the rules and strategy behind a Chinese game called Majang. I lost about 60 RMB in the process of learning since technically it’s gambling. Each game has a winner and a runner up. It’s kind of like rummy, but the difference being you must match your pieces in a row, a group of three and end with a pair. Each player picks 13 pieces, picks up and discards a piece each hand. There are three suits you can choose from bamboo, circles or the regular Chinese characters for numbers from 1 to 9. Each suit goes from 1 to 9 and the objective is to be the first person to get all of there pieces in groups of three and a pair or all pairs to win the game. So once you figure out, which suit you have the least of, you want to discard it. So if I decide I’m going to stick with Circles and Bamboo pieces, then I must discard any Chinese Character number piece and use strategy from the pieces discarded to figure out how to group and pair my pieces to win first. It’s pretty simple, but complicated to get well at and win.

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