Monday, September 22, 2008

What to do in Chengdu?

I wish someone would Internet slap me for all of my poorly titled blog entries. My corniness/intense nerd habits seem to prevail here in China. At any rate, you can deal with my corniness or stalk someone else.

With all the updates I fear you might be lost as far as time frames go again, so to put you all back on track the events of this post took place on July 24, 2008. And yes, that date is almost two months ago. I'm trying here people ...

We arrived in Chengdu around 9 a.m. on the 24 and the whole first day I basically just walked through town and poked my head around. It wasn't anything too exciting - pretty much a typical city in China. It started to rain while I was out walking so after a few hours in the rain I treated myself to a little Starbucks and then met up with Jon at a park in town, which again wasn't anything too spectacular.

The big thing we did try to do on day one was get our permits lined up to go to Tibet. I'm sure I don't need to tell any of you about all of the circumstances surrounding the China/Tibet relationship and what that meant as far as visiting the region. I've really been looking forward to seeing Tibet and even making a trip to the Everest base camp and so when the area was reopened to foreigners early in the summer Jon and I decided to make that the grand finale to our travels. After talking to different people at our hostel and at nearby travel agencies we soon learned that Tibet was only "open" and not really as open as we had been expecting.

Of course this will set me on a whole other rant about the relations between China and Tibet, which then inevitably turns into a conversation about minorities in general, which eventually leads me to talking about China's relationships with Taiwan and Hong Kong. All of which is long and best done in discussion form so if you care to talk about these topics give me a shout out and we can talk when there aren't so many watchful eyes.

So the "open" Tibet meant that in order to go to the area we would have to go through a travel agency/tour group. Have I mentioned before how much I hate tour groups? I detest more than I detest most things on this earth. In fact my list would probably go something like: war, global warming, inconsiderate people, illiteracy, poverty, starvation, tour groups. With tour groups there's no room to do the things you want to do, you are merely shuttled through, told what to take a picture of and then ushered off to another site. I have a tendency to linger around, poke my head places I shouldn't poke my head, wander off the beaten bath and take too long to soak things in. These are not traits that are welcomed by a tour group.

So that was strike one against going to Tibet. Next up these folks tell us it would be a five day trip and give us a list of things we are allowed to see. Most of the big sites are on there but there were still other things we had hoped to see and do, namely the Everest base camp. Strike two.

We decide to put all of this aside and ask the big question, "How much is all of this going to cost us?" I mean Tibet was part of the plan and now that it was "open" we wanted to go. The travel agencies all had a different answer for us. They hemmed and hawed a lot and eventually we got numbers that ranged from 8,000 to 12,000 RMB. To put this in USD that would be about $1,200- 1,800. That might not sound terrible, but it should be mentioned that that was how much money Jon and I had set aside for the whole summer - all of our travels and adventures, plus the Olympics. We just couldn't blow it all on five days in Tibet. Both of us had enough money saved up to pull it off, but it wasn't how we imagined spending that money.

We decided to mill it over for a bit, debate if we wanted to still do Tibet or not and then come back to the travel agents if we decided we did want to go. After a day or two of thinking it over we ultimately decided not to go. Yes, the money was a big deal but it wasn't the deciding factor for me. I really couldn't justify going to Tibet and not getting to do it my way. My deep hatred for tour groups couldn't be dismissed and I had to admit that spending a few extra days in Handan seemed like the better option.

So with that decision made we decided to enjoy the rest of our time in Chengdu and prepare for our earlier-than-planned return to Handan.

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