Sichuan Tour. Day 2, May 15, Chengdu to Dujiangyan

I lived up to the Lazybones culture the next morning. After a meal of ‘pao’ and ‘tau jiang’ opposite the hostel, followed by a mug of freshly brewed coffee (yes, like the coffee-geek that I am, I brought with me a pack of fresh coffee beans, a Hario mini grinder and … an Aeropress!). It would be almost noon before I was ready to leave.

The all-day restaurant directly opposite Lazybones. It was cheap and good.

Only for the serious coffee geek -- Aeropress, Highlander beans (from Sg btw) and Hario mini grinder

It was quite easy heading out to Dujiangyan. I simply followed the Ying Men Ke Ou Lu a couple of kms from the hostel, all the way to my destination. Didn’t even turned off once.

It turned out to be a dull ride. Nothing much to see, plus, I had to share the road with a fair bit of traffic. Just before Dujiangyan, however, I caught a glimpse of snow-capped peaks way in the distance; my pulse fairly jumped a bit.

Flat all the way to Dujiangyan. It pararells the elevated railway and the expressway

As I rolled into town, I kept an eye out for some decent digs to roost for the night. Dujiangyan is not a particularly attractive town. Its only claim to fame is an ingenious irrigation system that some brilliant Chinese engineers constructed after taming the Min River – 2,500 years ago! Clever fellows. No wonder they’re such accomplished dam builders.

One of the many irrigation canals in Dujiangyan. Notice how high the water is?

A bright yellow building caught my eye; it had the words ‘7 Days Inn’ screaming in big bold letters across a bare wall. It was also the only hotel around that advertised itself in English. The yellow-uniformed receptionist quoted me 177Y for a room, no breakfast. Too steep for just a night’s sleep. I moved on.

A girl sitting outside a shop called out to me, and although I didn’t understand what she was saying, she couldn’t be offering anything else except a room. I decided to check it out. The entrance was at the back, a little doorway with a sign that probably said ‘hotel’ in Chinese. It looked a bit shady, but her brother was there and said why not have a look first? I half expected a lady of the night to come strolling down the stairs at any moment….but thankfully, it wasn’t that kind of joint.

Hotel entrance cum lobby cum...

..Internet Cafe

60Y was the asking price for a clean, no-frills room; with squat toilet, of course. After I checked in, I went looking for dinner, which was at an interesting looking little diner nearby. It was my second experience with Sichuan street food. All the raw items are laid out in bowls and you simply picked what you want and they’d be cooked for you.

Mandarin is not my preferred spoken language; English is, followed by Hokkien (or Fujian) dialect, which incidentally is a corrupted version of the real thing, being a Penangite and all. And so, I struggled a bit to convey my dinner requirements, but with a bit of gesturing and prompting, I ended up with a decent dinner. I was also to learn that the Sichuanese are very liberal with the use of salt, MSG, oil, and spices, especially peppercorns.

Tai Chao Sichuan style...no lack of variety here

Looks good but ... oily, salty and spicy

View from outside my room window...hawkers selling BBQ, fruits, porky stuff etc

The same scene the morning after. No trace of the night before.

It was an uneventful first day of riding but tomorrow, granny gets her workout for sure.

Sichuan Tour. Day 1, 14 May, Chengdu

Chengdu is big. Very big. It is, after all, China’s fourth largest city of some 11 million people. I was quite impressed with its modernity. But most of all, I was impressed with its provision of bicycle lanes in all its thoroughfares. On the other hand, this isn’t surprising because the bicycle used to be a major form of transport for its citizens. Today, bicycles still rule; except that the Chinese have gotten lazier – it’s all electric now, and it comes in every shape, size and colour.

From the airport, I breezed into the city in a van pre-arranged by the hostel I was staying in. The driver was waiting for me with a scribbled piece of blue A4 paper with my name on it, ‘Michael Khor. Lazybones’.

A bit excessive in the name-calling, you might think, and not the kind of welcome one would expect but… he wasn’t labelling me actually; that was just the name of the hostel.

Hot, balmy and humid it was not (that would be where I’d just come from). The Sichuan weather was sunny with a very agreeable temperature of 22°. Lovely. Didn’t even need air-con in the car.

Lazybones didn’t look too promising from the outside. Located right in the bullseye of the city (which is arranged in a circular manner with 3 major ring roads circumscribing it) on a busy 4-lane road, this was downtown Chengdu.

For slackers, backpackers and cyclo-tourists.

The chill-out area

But inside, it is a welcome oasis from the chaotic streets outside. The local staff are very friendly, speak decent English and sport very funky names – Rogge, Kaye, Sunny, Ivy, Violet, Laura and, the boss-man himself, who goes by the name of … Mix???

Green and orange seem to be the colours of choice here. Not too bad actually. So was the single room I was boarded in. It felt more like a Balinese budget resort, but it was clean, cosy and comfortable.

Rooms are predominantly green while corridors are in Balinese orange

After putting the Surly back together on its 2 wheels, I went looking for food. There was a Sichuan style BBQ 2 doors away and it looked very promising. I ended up enjoying different meats and vegetables. This was my introduction to the ubiquitous Sichuan chillies and peppers – zingy, zesty stuff that’ll liven up your tastebuds with never-before-experienced senses. The low-alcohol Snow beer was a perfect complement.

Tomorrow, I head out to Dujiangyan, a flat 65 km ride to the north-west.