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Chengdu Wheeling

I awoke after a rather unfitful sleep despite the comfortable confines of the Dragon Town Hostel. My guess at the culprit behind my poor resting was the most oily and spicy feast we had consumed the night before. While it had been quite delicious, it had consisted primarily of oil and chili peppers. Probably not a concoction which ushers in a peaceful night.

Despite the lack of rest, I felt good, and we struck out into the city, headed for the bike rental place which was associated with out hostel. We rented two very nice bikes from a the most pleasant and helpful staff of that establishment.

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And on recommendation from the woman at the front desk there, we set off for a very local noodle shack.

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With bellies full of noodles, and some of the best bikes of the trip thus far under us, we raged into the crowded bike lanes of Chengdu. Once again, we found it to be a great city for wheeling. With wide bike lanes, and extensive traffic control (both automated and human) we were easily able to meander all over town. Everywhere the evidence abounded: Chengdu is doing just fine. From ritzy shops to local grocery stores and noodle shacks. People seemed happy, and hard at work doing things. The construction was constantly raging and preparations were being made for an ambitious new subway system.

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We rode by many impressive buildings, both tall and strangely shaped, all smacking of money. We stopped into a local supermarket and found the same fermented bean paste which I had come to know and love from the sunny market in Cranston, Rhode Island.

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We were tired and sweaty when we returned to the hostel for a viscous bit of correspondence, and then we were off, asking people directions to the bus stop. Four attempts later we were on the 300 bus, which might also have been called the slow boat to the Chengdu Peoples Economic Development Zone Airport. On the ride we attempted to communicate with hotels in Urumqi, with little luck. We may or may not have reserved a room during this bus ride; we will never know. But reach the airport we did.

And with stomachs gnawing holes in themselves, we entered the line for China Airlines check-in. The line of desks were shared by a number of different airlines and the queue sprawled well into the terminal. We were able to pass the time, however, by chatting with the charming people around us. Many of which spoke varying levels of English.

Finally, tickets in hand, thoroughly x-rayed and frisked, we plummeted sweatily into the single airport restaurant. We devoured two noodle dishes, which were were sorry to later find the most expensive meals we had yet eaten in China ($30 in all), and got to the plane just as it was boarding. On board we finally began to relax, coaxed down from the excitement of the day by the ridiculously translated English on the packaging of the food and in the announcements given to the cabin.

Everyone around us was transporting vegetables from Chengdu to Urumqi. We saw men stuffing giant plastic bags of greens into the overhead compartments and the woman who sat next to us (a charming and loquacious lady) was carrying a giant cardboard box filled with some variations on scallions and chives. She even pried the box part way open to pull out a stalk so we could have a nibble. They were indeed delicious. And as it seemed, we were heading into the desert, where fresh vegetables were few and far between.

Three and a half hours later we landed in Urumqi.


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