Thursday, February 7, 2013

Misery in Chengdu

Day 12 (2nd November 2012)

There was no pain, just the urge to go to the loo. Since last night, I have been to the loo about four times already.

My original plan was to go to Leshan Giant Buddha in the morning on a weekday, like today which was a Friday because I have read how crowded the place could be during weekends. From there, I would proceed to Baoguo Village in the late afternoon and stay overnight there. Then, I would go to Emei Shan on Saturday and return to Chengdu in the late afternoon.

Now, my plan has been disrupted. I could only pin-point Bon Bon Chicken as the cause of my misery.

With this new development, I began to have doubt whether I could visit the places that I have planned. What would happen if the urge comes while I was on the way? There would be terrible consequences! There was a sharp drop in my mood to go out or to move around.

Hence, I decided to stay another night in Chengdu. I tried to book another night but was told that the standard twin and double rooms were fully booked. Only the dorm beds were available.

It was already 10:00 a.m. By now, I also realised that if I don't take any food, my condition would be more stable. I decided to take my risk of travelling out but instead of Leshan, I would be going to Baoguo Village, the starting point for Emei Shan. I did not want to carry a backpack climbing up and down Leshan Giant Buddha.

I went off to Xinnanmen Bus Station. I asked for a ticket to Emei Shan and the ticket price was only RMB30, not the RMB44 or RMB47 I was expecting. Strange! Has the ticket price been reduced? Not likely because the price of everything has gone up, not down. I decided to check to see whether I was indeed given the Emei Shan ticket. Emei Shan has three characters to its name, but the ticket has two characters for the destination and the writing for the two characters was the same for the last two characters of Emei Shan. I thought maybe, they decided to use two characters for Emei Shan instead of three characters. This was a possibility. Nevertheless, on boarding, I still asked a fellow passenger whether that was the bus to Emei Shan and he nodded his head. Great! At about 11:00 a.m., we were on the way.

The direction signs on the road all seemed to indicate that we were going to the correct destination. We reached there in one and half hour. The time taken should be two and half hours to reach the destination. Something was not right!

After alighting, I decided to take a taxi to Teddy Bear Hotel. The first driver shook his head and ignored me after I handed him the business card of Teddy Bear Hotel for my destination. It was the same for the second and the third drivers. I knew by now I was possibly in the wrong town so I asked the third driver whether this was Emei Shan City. No! It was Mei Shan. He offered to take me to Emei Shan but I declined and went back to the bus station and bought a ticket back to Chengdu Xinnanmen Bus Station.

Not knowing what time the bus was departing, I asked a young man for help to explain to me the gate and time of departure. He understood me but just could not explain it in English to me. In halting English, he said it would be announced over the public address system. As we were talking, he said he would ask for help from the staff at the station, and he walked over to the two ladies manning the X-ray machine (and they were not in police uniform like everywhere else). One of them helped and guided me to the gate and said the bus would be leaving immediately. It left at about 12:50 p.m.

At about 2:30 p.m., we reached a bus stop near Xinnanmen Bus Station and everybody was asked to alight. Oh no! I didn't know the place and I thought I would be wasting precious time to get to Xinnanmen to buy the bus ticket to Xinnanmen. With my Garmin, I got the direction right and within a few steps, I realised that it was actually just across the road from Home Inn, a place which I knew was close to Xinnanmen. I had seen it during my exploration of the streets near Xinnanmen Bus Station.

At Xinnanmen, I emphasised the "E" when saying the destination of Emei Shan. This time, the price was RMB44. The bus was leaving immediately and I had no time to check the ticket nor took a photo of the ticket before it was collected (and not returned). I was sure I had bought the correct ticket this time. We left at about 3:00 p.m. and the bus was expected to arrive at Emei Shan by 5:30 p.m.

We arrived early at Emei Shan bus station at about 5:00 p.m. The Teddy Bear Hotel brochure has an instruction advising guests to take a taxi from there straight to Teddy Bear Hotel. In this particular bus, there were a few tourists, including Chinese and westerners. While most of the passengers alighted, the few of us seemed to hesitate, not knowing where to go. One of these Chinese tourists was talking to the driver and the driver later asked us where we were going. He then pointed to us the direction of two waiting vans. I asked a Chinese tourist, whom I heard speaking English to her western companion in the bus, whether the vans were going to Baoguo Village. She said yes and told us to pay RMB5 per person only to the van driver.

I showed the driver of my van the Teddy Bear Hotel and he seemed to ignore it. After about 10 minutes, we arrived at Baoguo Village but there was no Teddy Bear Hotel in sight. I have again not followed the advice given in the brochure. The driver brought us to a hotel where he could possibly be earning commission for doing so. I declined to accept the offer of a hotel tout there. I was lost and decided to call Teddy Bear Hotel for help while taking a random direction. Actually, Andy, the owner of Teddy Bear Hotel made a declaration in the brochure saying that he would come and pick up guests who could not find the hotel. The lady who answered the phone could not understand me and asked me to give the phone to a passerby to describe to her my location. By that time, I was already on the main street. The passerby was of course puzzled by my action but took the call anyway when I pushed the phone to her and asked her to talk to the person on the other end of the line. I told her to tell the other person that I was wearing blue, while pointing to my jacket and saying blue.

I stood there and waited. I was expecting a car to come to fetch me but instead, a young woman approached and greeted me as though she knew me. I knew instantly she was from Teddy Bear Hotel. What a great service, sending someone on foot to show me to the hotel. We walked back to the hotel and chatted a little. The hotel was possibly about 150 meters away only.

On reaching the hotel, I was shown to my room but it has not been cleaned. Bella, the receptionist who came to fetch me earlier apologised and requested me to wait 30 minutes for the room to be cleaned. I told her there was nothing to apologise for she has given me such great customer service already. For the whole of this time, my stomach has been relatively calm. I have not taken any food or drink, so I decided to order dinner while waiting.

As expected, the food and drink were expensive at the hotel. Later, I realised that the prices for everything was expensive in Baoguo Village, just like Jiuzhaigou or Luodai or other tourist spots but the hotel room was cheap. Food price was actually not more expensive than outside.

The room was even better than Starway Snow Lotus Hotel in Jiuzhaigou at RMB188/ night (more during high season) versus Teddy Bear Hotel which was only RMB80/ night. Traffic Inn in Chengdu, with no private bath went for RMB110/ night.

After dinner, my stomach started to give me problem again. I later approached Bella to ask whether the hotel has medicine for upset stomach but was advised that there was a pharmacy close by. I asked her to write me a note which I could show the pharmacist my problem.

I soon found the pharmacy. Luckily, the pharmacist speaks some English. I paid, if I remember correctly, over RMB70 for the oral rehydration salt and two types of medicine. On the way back, I bought some wild kiwi fruit and oranges from a street vendor.

I was tired. My butt needed a rest after the long journey from Jiuzhaigou and another five hours today. I was in no mood to do anything, to take photos or to stroll around. Lying on the bed, I fell asleep and did not bother to brush my teeth even after I woke up an hour or two later. It was really a bad day for me.

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