Chengdu China - Farcical Twenty Begins

I'm rather fascinated by short-form storytelling. Prior to this whole traveling the world thing and trying to make it as a digital nomad, Sheila and I were both frequent presenters at Ignite Phoenix. The format is simple: Deliver a five-minute presentation while 20 slides auto-advance behind you every 15 seconds. No clicker. Not starting over again. Just you. And about a thousand people watching.

I miss it, and I'm afforded limited opportunities to do something similar now that I'm living abroad. There's a defunct Ignite chapter in Bangkok. Same goes for Pecha Kutcha. The closest thing (and one I quite enjoy) I can find is Random Thainess, and I'll probably do a talk there in Ignite-format just because I can. 

To help scratch that itch and to generate more content on the blog other than simply our weekly podcast posts, I'm trying a little experiment. Photo essays are all the rage in the world of travel blogging because they are easy. Hey, I get easy. I'm deeply lazy at my core. But I don't want this to be too easy, so I'm giving myself some Ignite-style constraints. 

I'm using Sheila's vast Flickr collection as my base. I'm selecting 20 of the best images from a given destination and am re-sharing them on our Instagram feed as well as making a Google+ Collection on our mostly ignored G+ Page. When that's done, I'm going to assemble a blog-based Ignite talk using those slides in that order. What's so hard about that, you ask? Everything, if you're trying to assemble a cohesive narrative designed for on-page consumption in a single sitting rather than the catch-as-catch-can nature of social media shares. No re-organizing. I'll take them as they come and make a story about it. Oh, and reading each block of text should take 15 seconds each. Which means, if you read at the same pace I speak, each post should take 5 minutes to consume. 

I'm calling these my Farcical Twenty series. Well... assuming I do another one. Or until I come up with a better name. Shall we?

Chengdu, Who Knew?

A funny thing happened when we arrived in Chengdu China. The traffic noise, even from tuk-tuks -- handicapped tuk-tuks none the less -- was noticeably absent. That was... odd.

Instead, a faint clacking sound was ever-present. We later learned this was the sound of non-stop Mahjong being played. I'm not saying it's a requirement, but the State exhibits a lot of influence in China. Bring out your yuan!

And that constant breeze we felt, keeping the air here cleaner than any other Chinese city? Fans. Human-waved fans keeping the smog at bay. Did I mention the State has enormous powers in China?

Tourists are required -- yes, required -- to get in on the action. Instead of paying hefty entrance taxes, we're forced to buy postcards en masse. And the obligatory postage, of course. It's for a good cause...? 

Just how serious are the officials about those suggested activities? Pretty serious, as ancient writings from prior dynasties spell out for all to see. At least they've stopped the public flogging!

But while the state looms heavily in the distance, there's plenty of room left for traditional Chinese lifestyles. Well, so long as the giant river creatures don't eat you. See below. Oh, damn. It must have just moved out of the frame.

History literally comes alive in the Sichuan region. Yes, that's how you spell "Sichuan". No, I don't care how your favorite take-out place spells it on their menu. And by "literally", I meant "figuratively". Not about the menu being spelled incorrectly. That's true. 

And speaking of giant bamboo... (Wait, weren't we talking about bamboo? I feel like we were talking about bamboo. If not, we should. They make ladders out of bamboo in China. Ladders. In 2016!)

The people of Chengdu are also fascinated by the color red. Now, I don't want to go so far as to say that's also a State-required thing. More likely, the government co-opted everyone's favorite color. Which is rather effective, right? 

There was, however, more than a little evidence of State-sponsored cloning campaigns. Or at least face-shaping campaigns, because I saw more real-life versions of "Chengdu Girl" than I've seen Santa Claus in the malls around the holidays.

If you know anything about Chengdu, you likely know about the legendary hotness of Sichuan peppers. No, not Szechuan peppers, dammit. Sichuan! Didn't we go over this already? Try to keep up. There's food to eat! 

Please note Sheila is not feeding this Panda bear Sichuan peppers. Nor is the bear locked in a cage. Yes, there are bars in a single room where the bear interacts with humans. But the rest of the time, it's free to wander. And not eat Sichuan peppers.

Odd as it may seem, Chinese tea does absolutely nothing to kill the burn or numbing effects of those Sichuan peppers. It's quite tasty in its own right. Because China. Assuming you haven't blasted the requisite tastebuds into oblivion before the tea is served. Because Sichuan.

If you get the impression we're a little crazy as you read this farcical post about our time in Chengdu and Leshan China... you're spot on. Then again, these are the friends we hang out with. Now who's crazy, Amber & Eric from With Husband In Tow?

Even though the economic policies may be quite different between our two countries, there's always one constant: Disaffected civil servants, bored out of their skulls as they perform their duties. Well, perform may be too strong of a word.

And there's really no excuse to be that bored, especially when there are wild lions roving around the Leshan Giant Buddha grounds. No, wait. That'a a tiger. And it's made of stone. So clearly not doing much "roving", I guess.

One thing I like to do after narrowly escaping with my life after a wild (stone) lion (tiger) attack (it's made of stone, man)? Enjoy a well made Old Fashioned. Or four, apparently. And the bartenders at Niccolo Chengdu make a great one. Or four, apparently.

Of course, all that drinking makes me thirsty. And there's no better way to experience the hidden tasty places in Chengdu China than with Lost Plate Food Tours, uh... tour. No joke here. They gave us an incredible show! 

After all that excitement, it was time to reflect on the mixing of the legendary China with the modern day China. And I probably should have worked on that joke better, because it played in my head better than on text.

Alas, our wonderful time in Chengdu China, courtesy of Niccolo Chengdu, has come to an end. All attempts at being farcical aside, it was an epic week. Thanks again, Niccolo Chengdu! Who knew we'd have such a great time! (Did you see what I did there?)

OK, I'm mostly happy with how that came out. I'll probably tweak it and continue. Of course, a little encouragement never hurt anything. It's pretty easy to leave a comment, y'all.