Continued from here
The next morning we decided to head off to the area which is the heart of social life in any town – a vegetable market. We were greeted with shiny raspberries, century eggs, teas, paper thin mushrooms, sunflower seeds still in the flowers, all kinds of chilly pastes, sea-weeds and noodles, freshest produce in bright colours and the most delightful smells.
We picked up a delicious snack that tasted like a spicy kothhu parota to sustain us through the shopping. On the other side of the market were numerous cuts of meat and fresh sea food still swimming in their containers.
After seeing all the beautiful food, we reached back to her house starving. And Summer treated us to a lovely home cooked lunch of -eggs with bitter gourd, julienned potatoes, Chinese Yam, and lotus root cooked with other vegetables. Completely full we then headed to check-in to the hotel to be real tourists for the next couple of days. After a short nap, it was time to meet Michelle at Jinli.
Jinli street is the most touristy spot in Chengdu and while being crowded on the weekends, it’s also a lot of fun and worth the visit. It is the most colourful space – the Chinese lamps everywhere in bright red with golden light shining off of them, the food in delectable aromas and colours, the art you could buy in a variety of shapes and sizes, delicate paintings on everything from lanterns to inside tiny beads of glass.
We were very lucky to have my friend Michelle host us at a restaurant in Jinli with her family – her gracious husband and her son with the sweetest smile. In came the stunning food. It was all incredibly delicious and our only complaint was that we wished we had bigger stomachs to accommodate all the food!
We had a delightful surprise when we realised there were going to be performances at the restaurant. We sat completely entranced at the dance performances – one with the long sleeve, one with a group of 3, one with a lady moving ribbons with utter grace, one with a lady in a shimmery dress.
I was thrilled that there was also my favourite part of Jinli- a face-changing performance that Anand could also watch for the first time – It’s essentially a performer changing the masks on his face without even touching it – inexplicably without even touching his face.
Like all that hospitality was not enough, they further treated us to icecreams. We walked around the space with them catching up on our lives and stories in the past 5 years since I’d been there. In the area, we especially enjoyed the store with the calligraphy instruments where you could try a brush with water that disappears in a few moments and the store with gorgeous silver jewellery. Her son enjoyed the open area where he ran all around on his little scooter. After a while, with our completely grateful hearts and tummies, we bid them a warm goodbye at the end of a perfect evening.
The next morning we decided to head to the ChengDu Zoo, we picked up some snacks from a local supermarket to make up our meals. To its credit, the zoo does have a large number of beautiful birds including flamingoes in flaming orange, it has penguins and seals, energetic simians, noisy meerkats with stunning tails and is definitely a green space in the city. We also had a nice time locating birds in the aviary while we walked along its paths.
The zoo does have a good variety of animals, but we should have learnt our lesson by now that caged animals are saddening no matter what. Also, it didn’t help that it was the season for many of them to shed their fur that made them look sickly. We’d give this a miss if we knew how we’d feel after.
Just as we got out of the zoo, the way out was via a temple complex and we decided to explore it. We had unexpectedly stumbled into the Zhaojue temple and were soon completely lost within it! It was a beautiful place to be lost in, though. It is considered to be the first Buddhist monastery in the west of Sichuan. In addition to the curved roofs and the fragrance of incense that we’d come to expect of Chinese temples, there were also lush green large trees and multiple ponds with turtles spilling out of them amidst sneaky glimpses of the lives of the monks who live there with the chillies kept out to dry. The areas are dramatically named as we’ve frequently observed here too. A couple were called of them are- The Hall of Heavenly Kings, the Tower of Zen Master Yuanwu. The former has 3 white marble statues of Buddha representing truth, wisdom and benevolence.
There are many shrines inside the space each with its own set of deities and saints that are quite a treat to the eyes in rich gold. Photography is not permitted so we’d have to leave that to your imagination. My favourite was the Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva in the “Hall of Perfect Enlightenment” with 4 faces and 1008 hands.
After some rest at the hotel, we headed back out on foot to the People’s Park nearby. It has a little bit of everything – a koi pond, a tea-house with people sipping on fragrant tea, multiple flower gardens, boat rides and a memorial of the Railway Protection Movement from the past. It is the first public park in the Chengdu city. It’s a space one could walk around and relax amidst greenery.
We then decided to take advantage of the fact that we were near Jinli and decided to re-visit it, this time exploring it ourselves. We picked a dinner and walked around enjoying its sights once more.
There was a lady performing ear-cleaning the traditional way but Anand was too chicken to try it! We also were lucky enough to listen to musicians playing live in the open area that day. We strolled around absorbing the sights and sounds and enjoyed the evening trying to take back some of it- even if it was only by picking souvenirs for family and friends back home.
Up next : China: Chengdu : Of flavourful food and foot massages