Finally, I was able to travel outside of Ningbo! I watched all the other international students take weekend trips to Shanghai for weeks, but after raising some funds I was finally able to book some trips for the winter break. I am apart of the Home Stay department in VAV, so I realized doing home stays would be the most affordable way for me to travel this winter without completely breaking my bank. With Home Stay, international students are invited to domestic students homes for their desired period of stay and have the option to go sightseeing with a new friend who is familiar with the area.
Before coming to China I always knew I wanted to go to Sichuan province. Not only did I want to see pandas, I really wanted to visit Jiuzhaigou, a scenic spot in the north of Sichuan. Luckily, my best friend here lives in Chengdu and she invited me and two of our other friends to stay with her for five days.
After two flights we finally made it Chengdu. The boys went on a separate flight than my friend and myself and when we all met up with her parents at the airport, one of the boys had bought her parents a really nice bottle of wine. I suddenly felt like a huge idiot; I had forgotten the importance of bringing a gift to a Chinese persons home! After mentally kicking myself the whole car ride, we arrived at my friends apartment. It was super fancy and lavish so I was excited about being more than comfortable for my week stay. I had my first homemade meal! It was ridiculously spicy, but pretty good.
The very first day, we headed to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Of course, I was freaking out because I love pandas and I couldn’t wait to finally see some up close! We spent the whole afternoon at the park admiring the pandas and even got an up close encounter with a red panda. At this park, the red pandas can roam freely so you can expect to see one walk past you in their area of the park!
For dinner we headed to a hotpot spot in the city. Sichuan is famous for its hotpot so I was excited, but also afraid, to try this authentic meal. Luckily, my friend only ordered us the lowest level of spicy out of the three. We had so many laughs that night and the food was delicious!
The next day we headed into the city to have a look around the mall so it was a pretty relaxing day. We met a new friend and of course, ended the night with another round of hotpot!
On the third day, we visited Leshan to see the world’s largest stone carved Buddha. Even more fascinating than the giant Buddha itself were the tiny stone carvings in the walls that looked way more ancient than the Buddha, which were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. After climbing down, we visited a city square and enjoyed the nice weather. At night I finally saw the dancing aunties I always read about who come out for some Zumba like exercises in the middle of the square. The boys joined them and of course stole the entire show. It was good fun!
That night we took a speed train to Mt. Emei and stayed in a hotel at the bottom of the mountain. The next morning we bused about half way up the mountain and then started our icy climb up to the top. I was so excited, because it was my first time experiencing snow! It was only light flurries, but I was just happy to finally see it. I had on three layers of clothes, two hot packs on my back and all my snow gear on, so I was ready embrace the 14 degree weather. After seeing mountain monkeys, walking up iced steps, and a cable car ride later we finally made it 10,000+ feet in the air! At the top sits, a Golden Buddha which gives Mt. Emei the title of the four sacred Buddhist mountains of China. The air up top was so clear and I could look out at see a sea of clouds which was simply breathtaking.
After the trip to Emei we were extremely tired, so we pretty much did nothing. For the next few days we stayed in town and did simple things like go to a black market and buy new glasses, as Chengdu is known in China for being the best place to buy them.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go to Jiuzhaigou as it at the edge of Sichuan; a plane ride away from Chengdu that we didn’t prepare for. Now that I didn’t get to go there, I have one more reason to come back! Sichuan is fantastic for those who love spicy food and scenic spots. I will definitely have to come back again in the future!