I have lived in Manila for a longer portion of my life, so though I love the countryside, there is a bit of city in me that I can’t shake off. There is the giddy excitement of a child in a toy store as I enter Chengdu lit up in the evening, and know of good and great things to come — inspiring architecture, a hub of artists, big bookstores, a library I wish every place had, endless cultural options and don’t forget, superb (window) shopping.
It was lucky that when we took the taxi, we passed by some impressive buildings which I captured quickly on my phone. When I realized one of them was the Chengdu Museum, I made sure we’d visit it right after we went to the IFS shopping mall where the bookstore, Page One was located. It is usually only possible to find English books in the bigger cities in China so I always make it a habit to scout for and stake out the book shops.
In the Chengdu Museum, the surprising treasure we found was tucked in the last floor: the puppetry exhibit where Joshua, Jimmy and I went gaga over the delicate, dedicated and distinguished artistry of puppet makers and puppeteers matched by the ingenuity of the people who conceptualized and executed the exhibit itself — a worthy tribute to an ancient art that should not disappear into oblivion. It was so hard to get Joshua and Jimmy to leave the exhibit. I let them enjoy it as much as they wanted but Jimmy tended to selfishly hog the video showing his favorite Monkey King from the Journey to the West.
Some people might find the next museum creepy, morbid or too bizarre for comfort since it showcases animal and human bodies stripped of their skin, baring their insides. Many years ago, I saw a documentary on TV about a new technology of exhibiting slices of body ideal for biology students learning to become doctors. I yearned to see such an exhibit so when we passed by the Mystery of Life Museum, I made sure we went in. The museum is located right underneath the Tianfu Square cheek by jowl with the subway station and numerous shops and restaurants. One of the panels in the exhibit explains, “An adult has more than 100 billion blood vessels. If all the blood vessels are connected from beginning to end, the whole length is 100 thousand kilometers and is long enough to circle the equator 2.5 times.” See, each one of us is really, incredibly, amazingly galactic.
Both Joshua and Jimmy saw how they grew at every stage of pregnancy and there was a beautiful video about human life from the moment of conception to birth.
Almost everybody knows that Sichuan is a food lover’s paradise but because we were with two kids who hated spicy food, my husband and I couldn’t experiment as much as we wanted. During our last day, however, Jason’s friend compensated for our loss and treated us to a magnificent hotpot in probably the most bustling nightspot in town. The hellishly spicy pot had a smaller pot in the center holding a safely neutral soup for the children so we could all have our happiness in a sumptuous bowl of everything including pig’s brain which tastes a lot like tofu.
My bonus that night is finding the Scent Library, a store I have been obsessing about since I chanced upon it in Sanlitun, Beijing a few months ago. I’ve been trying to figure out how to purchase another scent when the opportunity came in Chengdu.
If I had to choose where to live among the big cities in China – Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin or Chengdu, I wish I could live in Chengdu. There’s something about the relaxed vibe and under-manicured greenery that attracts me but also there was much less of the dust which covers the northeastern part of the country. Of course, that’s only wishful thinking because my husband and I have decided we do not want anything to do with traffic which simply sucks out the quality of life in major cities. In the distant future, when the kids are older perhaps. For now, we can’t wait to get to our destination. Dali, Yunnan, here we come!