Sunday, August 19, 2007

Emei Shan... and Back Again

After a couple of days recovering from Jiuzhai Gou in Chengdu, we decided to venture out again for an overnight trip to Emei Shan, a mountain about 3 hours outside of the city. We rode the bus there Saturday morning and checked into our hostel around 2 pm. As soon as we arrived at the mountain, we knew that it just wasn't going to work out this time. The Chinese tourists immediately began to stare and make loud comments as we struggled up endless steps in the humidity to make it to a number of Buddhist temples, all of which were nearly identical to the ten or so I have already seen. We halfheartedly walked around for a while, got lost (as usual), admitted defeat, and went back to the hostel. The rest of the evening was spent huddling in the room reading and watching TV.

After about an hour of walking around the mountain, we had both agreed to cut the trip short and head back to Chengdu in the morning instead of returning for some more miserable hiking Sunday afternoon.

This morning, we were both so glad to get back to Chengdu. I've become very lazy during this little vacation, which is mostly due to the many attractive Western qualities of Chengdu. Over the past couple of weeks, I've spoken Chinese only when absolutely necessary; usually I prefer to just speak in English and gesture to people until they understand what I'm trying to say. I've eaten a total of three Chinese meals since leaving Tianjin August 5: it's a cop-out, I know... but I figure after arriving in Zhanjiang, I'll be able to look back fondly on all the chimichangas, nachos, spaghetti, and sandwiches I ate in Chengdu and it will help me survive the first couple weeks of fried scorpions and starfish or whatever.

Basically, Chengdu has provided a comfort zone I didn't think I'd find in just two weeks. There are two main reasons for this: Sim's Cozy Guest House (our hostel), and the food (which I know I've already raved about to no end).

Sim's is without a doubt the most comfortable, COZY place I have ever stayed. It is wonderful and feels like a home away from home. The owner, a wiry, 30's-ish Korean man, is here every day, doing everything from performing managerial duties to bussing tables. His two daughters are usually playing outside in the courtyard, adorable skinny little things with pigtails and clothes that are always some shade of pink. An orange tabby cat roams around begging for food and lets people pet him whenever. Loads of interesting people are everywhere: Australians, Americans, British, Koreans, Chinese, Israelis, Singaporeans (?), etc. Every single detail imaginable has been paid attention to in order to maximize comfort. There's a music library computer for guests to refresh their mp3 players' collections; a cute little bar serving reasonably priced drinks (I got a Bacardi and Coke for $2); the bunk beds in the dorm rooms have soft mattresses and clean, puffy white comforters; the front desk has hair dryers available for free... and the list goes on and on. I kind of wish I could teach English in Chengdu and just live here for a year! It would be pretty cheap... a dorm room costs $5/bed/ night.

And, the FOOD in Chengdu, of course. There's a chain of restaurants we discovered here called Grandma's Kitchen. The flagship is called Grandma's Kitchen; it's kind of like an Applebee's with sandwiches, burgers, Caesar salads, brownies a la mode, etc. There is also the Red Brick, owned by the same people, which serves up delicious and cheap Italian foods.

A few nights ago, we discovered a third Grandma's Kitchen restaurant, called Del Mar. Del Mar is located in an amazingly nice section of the city which looks just like Winter Park Village. BMWs and Mercedes line the street, which contains upscale apartments and cute little boutiques... I even saw a wine bar there! Anyway, Del Mar is a Mediterranean restaurant, which means they serve a mixture of Greek, Italian, and Spanish foods. The menu is very diverse, including such hard to find items as tomato and mozzeralla salad, baked eggplant, and an array of tapas. The only thing missing is a hummus appetizer (which we suggested they add!)

I've written before about Peter's Tex-Mex Grill. Tonight will be the fourth time we'll visit there.. it is wonderful. Last time we went, there was a table full of elderly Southern people. It was so good to hear the accent again. One man was wearing a Krispy Kreme polo, and another woman drawled, "Ah'll have the burr-gurr. Whut comes awn thaat?"In addition to great and fresh Mexican food, there's also Mary Moo's homemade ice cream. I had the Panda Trax last time (the same as Moose Tracks). There is plenty of flair on the walls at Peter's, including little wooden signs with sayings like "Texans Don't Lie," "Texan Stories Told Here," and "Life's Too Short Not to Live it in Texas."

Well, all this writing about food has made me hungry. Time for some Peter's (again!) :)

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