Wednesday, July 15, 2009
How I spent my summer vacation
Nothing has tasted the same since Sichuan hot pot. It was like dunking meat and vegetables into a lake burning with hellfire and damnation, then eating it. I believe I started hyperventilating after some particularly spicy bites, and between strangled breaths squeaked in broken Chinese for someone to bring me a goddamn coke. But then the horrible heat passed, and left with it a set of taste buds forever changed. But, you know, if you're going to burn off your taste buds, might as well do in the place that's world-famous for its impossibly hot peppers.
Most people go to Chengdu to see the pandas at the Giant Panda Research and Breeding Center. And sure, we saw the pandas, but my big goal was the food, the infamous heat of the food. We stayed at the greatest hostel ever, which offers its patrons Sichuan cooking classes. I paid extra to get a one-on-one lesson with a local chef, and it was amazing. Many things about the approach and methods of Chinese food make sense to me now, and I feel like I'll be able to replicate something authentic when I get back. But other than all that deliciousness, Chengdu was a really nice city. Very laid back and mellow, with an awesome Taoist monastery and temple, a Tibetan market area, and a lot of outdoor teahouses everywhere.
Before Chengdu, R and I spent a week as tourists in Beijing, running from one overpriced attraction to another. It was exhausting, but mandatory.
And THEN, after Beijing and Chengdu, we went to Qingdao for a few days to relax -- Qingdao is the beach town famous for beer (Tsingtao). It rained much of the time we were there, and R had a cold, but we had a nice time anyway.
Now R has gone home, and I have six weeks left of my contract. I am done with China. I have seen all the things I felt were essential for me to see, and am now ready to leave. I've picked up an extra summer class to earn more money and occupy myself. It's hot as hell here, and muggy. This last bit here, it's all about gritting my teeth and getting through it. After the semester is over, I will go to Thailand and lay on a beach for a couple weeks.
(BTW, the entire photo set where these pictures are from can be found on Flickr.)