Sichuan: Chengdu

31st December was a sad morning.  I got up to read that Ah Kung had passed away.  He passed away in his sleep overnight, hopefully painlessly.  From the pics Tai had been sending, it looked like he was already in a lot of pain towards the last couple of weeks.  I wish I had known him more.  What I would always remember is that he was a man of few words, always hard working and striving, a quiet relentless discipline.  He had had such a long and hard life.  I feel sad to write this and think of it.  Being so far away made it easier.  My memories of him were mostly from the time when he lived in India.  I do believe he is in a better place now and watching us all.

 

That morning, we went to visit the panda sanctuary in the city.  It was perfect way to cheer up, grieve for Ah Kung and the same time feel a sense of calm as I just enjoyed staring at the Pandas.  I always used to wonder, why are pandas so popular?? they don’t look that cute!  But now that I’ve seen them IN PERSON, I do have a new found respect for people who adore pandas even WITHOUT seeing them in person.  They are indeed the most adorable creatures.   Just lying there…in their food…eating…rolling…playing…eating…sleeping.  Basically like a baby that doesn’t cry!    Too darn cute.  we thought we would spend about an hour in this sanctuary, we ended up hanging out several hours till past noon.  And now I always say, Pandas are the perfect example you can get “fat” even being a vegetarian!

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This is a red panda.  I think it looks more like a racoon

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just a random tourist place eatery. 

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Beautiful architecture in the heart of the city.
It reminded me of the Chinese Pavillion at Brussels Expo Site.

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Door obsession in China

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Tom and his grandma.  Tom doesn’t recall his grandparents from his dad’s side.

This grandma is over 90 years old.  She still lives in a walk-up!!!
She also goes to the temple everyday.  She says she’s the oldest one now among the seniors that gather at the temple.
She carries a flip phone and knows which number is used to call who!
Really amazing!   And she is TINY. 

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Mapo Tofu in Chengdu.
Must say, that mapo tofu outside chengdu is quite authentic after all!

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After dinner, tom’s cousin took to watch a strange show.
It was like a talent show… thye had these amazing acrobats!!!
And then a “lady gaga” performance as well!

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We met up with Tom’s cousin Chen Zhiyi

He is SOOOOO NICE.  He didn’t even grow up with Tom but treats him like his own younger brother.
You could FEEL their warmth, hospitality and welcome.
His wife Dan Dan was just as warm.

On the left is a dish “Hakka raddish balls”.  I couldn’t resist but order one.
As expected – big disappointment – couldn’t even compare with the one grandma makes!

 

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Surprised that chengdu has soooooo many man-made greenery area, like this one.
People here love spending time out doors (despite the heat in summer)

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    They took us to the BIGGEST flower market I have EVER been to.
    This is just ONE aisle … there were DOZENS of such aisles.
    IT was like  a village on its own!!
    And the best part – they were SOOO CHEAP!!!!!
    You could buy tulips for same or less than in Belgium!!!
    Dandan explained cos a lot of them are grown nearby, not imported like in Shanghai.

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    I loved this little quote.  I find it so true.  the simplicity of life.
    I bought this vase in white, but now I wish I bought this blue shade instead!

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    In the evening we went to downtown – and it felt just like Shanghai Jing An Area.
    Everything was rebuilt – super clean – modern – and full of BIG brand names – super expensive.

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    Tom’s childhood friend.  It was only my second time I was meeting them but they felt like old friends.

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    this lettuce dish on the left… I think its one of the only times I have seen vegetables eaten raw in Chinese cuisine!
    (other than cucumber of course!)
    And do you spot the Panda on the right?

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    It just so happened the next day, all of tom’s cousins on his dad’s side had a gathering for one othe cousins’ housewarming.   After lunch, all the youngesters went to sing Karaoke, while the oldest went to drink tea in a tea house.  We sang for about a couple hours from 2-5.  We walked back to the restaurant (where the cars were) and I thought we were gonna leave…. turns out we were gonna have dinner at 5 pm.  (we finished lunch at about 1.30!!)  It was really a LOT of eating.

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    Tom’s dad had 4 sisters and 3 brothers including himself.  tom’s dad was second youngest. Tom looks just like his dad, who looks very much like the aunts  with white hair.  All the aunts were SO happy to see Tom.  I could feel their joy and that they saw their brother in him.  The youngest aunt shared a few stories of his dad, it was so  sweet as she recollected some childhood memories.

    I learnt a lot about Tom’s granddad.  He was very smart.  He thought himself to read English and so at some point he could work his way up in the post office job to writing and sending telegrams in those days.  I feel someone should write down these stories, lest they are forgotten.

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    Sichuan food outside of the touristy places was YUMMY.
    They had the pig waist and liver, but still loved the hakka style cooked way at home.
    And POTATOES!!!! It’s the only Chiense cuisine I’ve tried that uses so much potatoes!
    This potato dish on the left was like a mashed potato, with salt and beans – it tasted very very INDIAN!  LOVED IT!

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    It was really lovely meeting tom’s dad side of the family. 
    his dad was the only one who left China.
    When he passed away tragically, the siblings never told his mom, who was by then already very very old.
    it would have broken her heart.  

      I loved seeing Tom hanging out with this family because it’s the few people outside of his own mom who knew his dad closely.
    Life is so precious and so short.  Through crazy turn of events, I got to meet you. 

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