CHD: DuJiangYan - The Ancient Irrigation System

Early in the morning, cousin and I were to get ourselves ready for our day trip to visit Du Jiang Yan and Mt. Qing Cheng. As we agreed with our driver last night, he will be coming over to pick us up from the hostel as early as 6:30 am. We went down stairs from our room to the hostel lobby once we got ready to meet our driver. Through the dark stairway, we walked down from the staircase passing by the inner courtyard of the building which leads us to the lobby. I was surprised to found that the receptionist boy was sleeping on a sleeping chair next to the reception desk. I was hesitating and stood there for a while, thinking if I should wake him up to open the door for us as it was locked over the night.

Checking my watch, time was running late as our driver should be arriving in minutes, I left with no choice but to wake the little guy up to open up the door. He was looking at me with his blur eyes when I shook him up on his left arm. After getting to know that we would like to get out from hostel, he took the key and open up the door for us. We responded to the little guy with a big thank you and waived good bye to him and get out from the door steps. Seconds later, he locked the door back and headed straight back onto his 'bed' and then we found both of us were standing alone at the side of an empty street without a single soul.

Waited, and waited and waited for many minutes, we were constantly fighting against the bone chilling autumn wind and our driver just did not seem to be arriving. Without a clue, we then decided to give him a call to confirm if he was on his way. I dialed the number and the driver pick it up moment later. He was talking in a very fast tone and his voice was in a very strong accent of local Sichuan slang. Though I can both speak and understand Chinese, but the Sichuan slang proved to be too hard for me to catch what he was trying to say. The guy in the hostel sort of over heard our voices from inside and he then turned up from nowhere, standing right next to us asking for my mobile phone. God must be by my side, he was truly our savior for that morning. He picked up my phone and started to communicate with the driver and ended the call after a few sentences. He explained to us that the driver was on his way to the hostel but was not able to locate the hostel location. He then had explained to the driver the direction to the hostel and assuring us that not to be worried as the driver is on his way. I felt so grateful to him for being so helpful to us, someone who wake him up from his sweet dream. Thank you so much, mate!

We then waited for another 20 minutes before our driver turn up. He picked us up onto his bus with other passengers who were already on board as it seems that we were the last 2 to be picked up. We found ourselves seats right at the end of the bus and I was sitting next to a woman in her mid 40 (I think). It was about 1 hour drive to DuJiangYan. On our way to the site, we were exiting from the city moving towards DuJiangYan town. Along the journey, our little tour guide (his name is Xiao Yang if not mistaken) was greeting everyone of us with his little joke about why a Sichuan dog will barks at the sun. He then further brief us about the site, the irrigation system and about the disastrous 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. He had done a pretty good job trying to keep everyone of us entertained and attended to all our requests throughout the whole journey.

The little tour guide - Xiao Yang.

We arrived at the site around quarter past 8. It was still too early as the site will not be opened till 9 am. We were dropped off at the South Bridge which was located next to the main entrance. We decided to walk around nearby places to look for breakfast as well as checking around the buildings next to south bridge which was sealed and closed off after locals were evacuated out when the earth quake hit in 2008. The structures of the buildings were badly damaged and they will be demolished and rebuilt soon.

South Bridge

 Hawker selling roasted corn and potatoes by the road side.

Different view of south bridge.

At around 9am, we gathered at the agreed gathering point which was next to the entrance gate to DuJiangYan site. We took the ticket from Xiao Yang and head straight into the park.

"Du Jiang Yan (都江堰; pinyin: Dūjiāngyàn) is an irrigation infra-structure built in 256 BC during the Warring States Period of China by the Kingdom of Qin. It is located in the Min River (岷江) in Sichuan province, China, near the capital Chengdu. It is still in use today to irrigate over 5,300 square kilometers of land in the region. The Dujiangyan along with the Zhengguo Canal in Shaanxi Province and the Lingqu Canal in Guangxi Province are known as “The three great hydraulic engineering projects of the Qin Dynasty”. A paragraph taken from  [].

It is all about the ancient Qin governor, Li Bing who was taking charge on building a dam (the current Du Jiang Yan irrigation system) to stop the annual flooding issue which was caused by the fast flowing spring melt-water from the local mountains that burst the banks of the Min River. He then proposed to construct an artificial levee to redirect the a excessive water to the dry Chengdu Plain which made Sichuan as one of the most productive agricultural land in China. The irrigation system proved to be a real success and which represents a truly genius ancient construction. The fact is that this system is still in used today and very much functioning as efficiently as it was for the past 2 thousand years. You may refer to the link above for more detail about the irrigation system.

The site consists of three important parts, namely Yuzui, Feishayan and Baopingkou; they were all designed to automatically control the water flow of the rivers from the mountains to the plains throughout the year. Xiao Yang was leading us walking through the sites to all the "must see" scenic route and to make sure that we will all arrive at the exit gate on time for our next destination - Mout. QingCheng.

First scenic site - the Fei Sha yan. It is a spillway that diverts the sand and stones of the inner river into the outer river.

We then crossed the bridge over spillway and reached the JinGang Dike. Looking back from the dike, we can see the Bao Ping Kou water inlet. Like a neck of a bottle, it is used to bring water into the inner river from Minjiang. At the same time, Baoping Kou controls the amount of the intake water due to its reasonable location.

A closer look at Bao Ping Kou.

To safe time walking from one to the other end of the JinGang Dike, we opted to take the tourists cart which transfer us to the YuZui in 2 minutes. It costs about RMB 10, not too bad of a choice as we need to save some energy for hiking at Mount QingCheng later. We arrived at YuZui in no time. YuZui, like a big fish lying in the Minjiang River, is a watershed dividing the river into two parts: inner river and outside river.

To go to the exit from the site, we need to cross the AnLan cable bridge which bring us to the opposite bank of Minjiang river where the exit was located at.

The bridge was about 4 feets wide and everyone of us had to queue up to cross the bridge as there are a maximum load the bridge can support. As we walked towards the middle of the bridge, it started to swerving from left to right and we could hardly balance our body :). That reminded me of my childhood time where I used to follow my mother to the plantation farm where we needed to crossed a cable bridge like this too. Old memories started to flow in my mind.

Crossed the bridge, we then took a rest at a nearby resting area while waiting for other tour mates before we head for lunch.

Slowly, one by one, everyone arrived at the exit gate and then we boarded our bus and head for lunch right away. It was about 11:30 am before noon. I wish that I could have spent a little more time at the site but as we were joining a day tour, we had no choice but to follow it's crazy tight timeline.

CHD: Chengdu - The True Master of Carefree Lifestyle!

It was early in the morning of 25th September 2010, if I still can recall correctly. Together with my cousin - Seyton as we all used to called him, we took a cab to the airport 05:30 in the morning. Together, this two very exciting lads boarded the 9am flight bound to Chengdu, China. This trip was planned sometime ago (about 1.5 years before) and both of us were so happy that we both were able to make it at last.

Our plane landed at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport around 2pm. After going through routines like security custom screening and collected our checked in baggage, we head straight out from the arrival hall looking for transport to down town Chengdu. After a quick check with the information counter, we decided to catch a airport bus bound to city. As usual, we always choose for the one of lower cost as we have to work under a very tight budget. The bus fare was around RMB 10 if I still can recall correctly and this should be the cheapest transport you can get to the city center from Shuangliu International airport.

The journey to the city was taking about 35-40 mins by airport transit bus. As we were approaching the city, we were caught in a traffic jam and our bus was crawling slowly towards the city. We found ourselves stuck in a very bad traffic jam and our bus barely moved for 10 minutes. The driver was getting very frustrated and shouted at all the passengers on board that he gonna to dropped us all off the next junction. He claimed that we were all about 15 minutes walk distance to the agreed drop off point - TianFu Square from the junction ahead. Without a choice, we were forced to get down from the bus at an unknown street off Shuang Long Men. Look as blur as we could have been, we started to walk towards the TianFu Square as directed by the driver. As we walked and walked, going through 'Hu Tong's (small roads) for about 30 mins; I started to question if we were on the right direction. I then tried to grab a local to ask for direction to TianFu Square. He confirmed that we were on the right direction and TianFu square is around 20 minutes walk ahead. Without further delay, we walked towards the given direction. The only thing on my mind during that moment was to reach the hostel as soon as possible to drop off  my heavy backpack. Oh my gosh, my back was really hurting!

After almost an hour walk from where we were dropped off by the driver, we finally reach the famous TianFu Square and I was so relieve~"phew", at least we know that we were on the right direction to the hostel. After another 15 mins walk, we finally reach the hostel - Lazy Bones Hostel. We quickly check-in to the hostel and grab the key to our room and drop the heavy backpacks and head out to start our journey for the first day.

Chengdu, as described in most of the travel books, it is a very "laid-back" city that emphasizes on culture and relaxation. As a result, there are lots of parks of green spaces in the city center thus making Chengdu being ranked as one of the most livable mega-cities in China. And when we talk about Chengdu's culture, the first thing that pops up would be their Tea Culture. In Chengdu, tea drinking culture is seen as part of the daily lifestyle of the locals. This is comparable to the coffee culture in most of the western countries like US. Tea houses are plentiful in the city, drinking tea and playing Mahjong is the way how locals relax. To get better understanding of their tea culture and ways of relaxations, there is not better place to go but to the People's Park (Ren Min Gong yuan).

As it was only quarter past 4, we decided to head to the People's Park which is located at the west from TianFu Square. We entered the park from the eastern gate. Right at the entrance, there was a monument built in memory of the SiChuan armies killed defending their land from intrusion armies from Japan.

We were walking towards the west gate along the garden path. There were plenty of tea houses within the park and as to experience the Chengdu tea culture, there is no better way than having a cup of tea at one of these tea houses. It costs us RMB 36 for two cups of tea and a pack of melon seeds. We were relaxing in the park with a cup of tea in our hands, truly Chengdu style!

After the tea break, we continue to walk deeper into the park. We then reached at the community area where most of the locals were doing leisure and sports activities such as singing karaoke, dancing and some even practicing Chinese calligraphy art using a big brush and water to write on the floor. Man, that was just awesome!

We went out from the park from the western gate to our following desitnation, the Wide and Narrow Alleys (Kuanzhai Xiangzi - "Kuan" means wide, "Zhai" means narrow and "Xiangzi" is the alleys). It was about 15 minutes walk away from the park. Here, you can see the historical remains of the old Chengdu City which is now mostly renovated and reopened with lots of restaurants, bars, coffee shops and souvenir shops selling touristy items.

Just a little history about the alleys - "The Wide and Narrow Alleys are an area of ancient streets preserved from the Qing dynasty (1616AD-1912AD) in Chengdu. The Wide and Narrow Alleys are the epitome of the old life of Chengdu City. The historical and cultural area is composed of three parallel ancient streets and complex of courtyard houses. The three ancient streets are Kuan Xiangzi, Zhai Xiangzi and Jing Xiangzi. Wide and Narrow Alleys, together with Daci Temple and Wenshu Monastery are the three historical and cultural blocks under protection.".

After dinner, we decided to head back to hostel for early rest as we have booked a trip to the DuJiangYan Dam and the Mt. QingCheng. It was another 30 minutes walk back to hostel. This round we opted to take a different route from where we came from earlier. Walking passed some small and dark alleys with some old shops with red neon light on stating there massaging service. Well, don't get me wrong. This ain't the red light district in Chengdu but one of the lanes in Chengdu where massage services are offered by the blinded one. No comment on this as we did not try it out :).

First day in Chengdu, with a tired body due to lots of walking, I was heading to bed with a smile on my face, "Welcome to Chengdu!", a soft tone that was whispering to me...

Map below marks the places we been through on our very first day at Chengdu.

View Chengdu - Day 1 in a larger map

Penang Food!

It was about 2 months after our wedding in late July 2011. Looking back at last couple of hectic months where both of us were so busy doing preparation for our wedding, we were indeed very much exhausted. So a weekend getaway was our top priority and there we decided to go for a culinary trip to Penang while celebrating my coming birthday together!

Penang, this is a place which is famous for it's street food (or hawker food as some other would like to call it). For this post, I ain't gonna document much about the journey or places we visited over there at Penang. The main focus would be solely on the food, as every food lover will definitely find this post mouth watering :)! Well, here we go ~~ Bon Appetite!

So, let's get started with something light first.
First stop, we dropped by Penang road where it is in fact a famous road for it's street food. There were so many hawker stalls lining up by both sides of the road, serving great local Penang food ranging from porridge, noodles, rice dishes and desserts! It is definitely a place where your stomach will be "fighting" against all the available food and it will only stops when your stomach is full and can fill in nothing more!

1. The pork porridge.

2. Fried Carrot Cake with shrimps and cockles!

3. Penang style prawn noodles (Harmee).

Next, we move on to Ayer keroh. This place is famous for not only the Chinese temple (Kek Lok Si) but also for it's Assam Laksa (rice noodle in sour & spicy soup)! This is the type of noodles soup that you are either love it our you hate it. Well, for such an Asian tongue like me, this noodles soup was like food from heaven for me :)! One mouthful bite of noodles with chuck of shredded fish fillet, together with a good twist between sour and spiciness, it was all well balanced up with the sweetness of the fermented prawn sauce. A perfect combination I would say! So it will always ended up with bite after bite and you will keep asking for more! It makes me feel hungry by just looking at the picture itself :).

4. Assam Laksa

Prologue: Chengdu, China

It was almost one whole year past since my last visit to the city or Chengdu, China. With lots of stuff going on all these while, been giving myself too many excuses for not updating new post to this blog :).

Well as for this round (my trip to Chengdu), it was kind of different to the rest of my previous trips though; mainly because I was traveling with a new travel partner - my elder cousin brother, Seiton. I can still recall that the first time I traveled with my cousin was 18 years ago. Back then, I was a 10 years old kid. My cousin was traveling west to the capital (Kuala Lumpur) for during his school break. That was the first time with my parent's permission, I was traveling west together with him and that marked our very first trip traveled together (I can still remember every detail of the trip bro!).

And now 18 years later, we planned another trip together and this time our destination was Chengdu. Reason behind that we chosen Chengdu was that we were looking for a trip with more exploration rather than sight seeing in the city. We were not paired together for the whole journey of this trip but rather half of it. My cousin joined me for the first half of the trip (5 days) and I was traveling alone after that. Our planned travel itineraries included places like LeShan Buddha, ErMei Mount, DuJiangYen Dam and also the most famous travel destination in nearby Chengdu - the JiuZaiGou Park. But due to poor planning, we were hit hard by the long break holidays in China where most of the hotels were fully booked. Tours to some of the places mentioned were fully booked and that hit hard on our planned itinerary though. Well, I guess I better keep those details to coming new posts.

Just to mark the start of my coming new posts, here I present to you the picture of the famous LeShan Buddha as the entry to my coming blog posts about my trip to Chengdu.

Welcome to Chengdu!

BEJ: Olympic Park @ Beijing

After visiting the Great Wall of China (Badaling), we took a returning bus backed to city which dropped us off at the same station we came from on that morning. It was just around 3:30pm in the afternoon and we have got no more plan for the second half of the day. I took out the travel guidebook we bought earlier at Wang Fu Jing Bookstore and trying to look for places to go.

I flipped to the page that it was writing about the Olympic Park and without a second thought I pointed to Elaine that we just go to the park for a walk and photo shooting as well :). Boarded the underground's train, we were heading straight to the Olympic park station which is located right at the entrance to the Olympic park.

We arrived too early at the Olympic park station, my clock was just 5 minutes to 4pm. Well, as the stadium's light will only be turned on after sunset, we have nothing much to do but just simply walking around the park waiting for the sun to go down when the lights will be on. That was said to be the best moment to snap a couple of photos of the stadiums as the lighting was designed to make the stadium appears as 3D right in front of our eyes especially the Aquatic Stadium - The water cube.

After moment of slow walk loitering around the park, we were constantly battling with the strong wind which blow right on our face with the winter chill. I could stand it no more thus we headed to the nearest Mac Donald for a cup of hot coffee and some chips :). Wow, that was like resurrecting my body from the frozen death out there.

Tick ... tick ... tick... wait... wait ... wait ... Yes!!! My watch beeps for 7pm finally!!! We headed out and below are those stadiums that were dressed up with the beautiful lights and presenting their very best right before our eyes!!! Brilliant concrete art works from the Chinese.

As sun sets, the temperature started to drop lower and lower. Worried that it might be snowing again as predicted by the weather forecast we read that morning, we decided to head back to Xuan Wu Men (the area we rented our apartment). Before we walk down to the undergrounds to catch a train, we caught a old couple with westerner's look and asking for their help to take a picture for both of us. My first instinct was to communicate with them in English but to discover that they don't really get what I meant until I show them my camera and pointed to the stadiums as background and repeating the word "photo ... photo" :). Opps, I found out that I was speaking English to Russians LOL ... But well, with my very limited knowledge of sign language, they finally got what I meant and took a beautiful picture of Elaine and Myself as below.

Спасибо, mates!