After we boarded we quickly realised that repeating 'soft sleeper' more than 5 times when booking our ticket did not work but instead landed us in the hard sleepers which have 6 beds per pod. As the train started to leave we looked at each other with a little disbelief, we were the only two in the 6 bunks, we were pretty happy that we wouldn't have to worry about sharing the space, happiness soon turned into tiredness and we slept for the next 4 hours. My sleep was interrupted by laughter and a lot of talking (more like yelling in China), the noises seemed quite close, rather then the muffled conversations coming from the pods next to us. I looked around to see 3 staff members sitting on the bed across from me and one even sitting on my bed - too bad if I wanted to stretch my legs out - I awkwardly gave a 'hello/what are you doing on my bed?' smile to them and then continued to gaze at the bunk above, praying Justin would wake up soon. Once Justin woke up the staff members either got the hints or had to do some actual work and moved on. The rest of the trip went pleasantly and thankfully, we had no more visitors.
We arrived in ChengDu station close to the middle of the night and walked to Henrys International Youth Hostel, after foggily checking in we climbed into bed and resumed sleeping. We didn't wake up until 10:30 the next morning and by the time we sorted our stuff out and let our family know we were alive, it was closer to 11:30. We headed to reception to ask for the best way to get to the Panda Conservation Centre but Frank (an awesome staff member at Henrys) told us we would be better to see the Pandas in the morning before our flight as they're more active in the morning and today we could do a few other sites in ChengDu.
After the Monastery we had a lasagne from Pizza Hut (don't judge, we have been craving one since Malaysia) then we headed to Kuanzhai Alleys, or as Frank called them 'Wide and Narrow Alleys' which is pretty much what they were, chic alleyways lined with local food and cafes. Afterwards we decided to walk to Peoples Park, this, was by far the most bizarre experience. You can hear the park before you see it, the overwhelming sound of 50 different Chinese songs mixed with yelling/laughter fills your ears quickly. Once you enter, your eyes are the next thing to be overwhelmed. We have been to a bunch of parks in China, and we knew that people go there to practice various hobbies (T'ai Chi with or without swords, Ribbon twirling or even dancing) but this was something else. There were people filling every single space of the huge park doing something. One man, was doing some sort of activity, lets call it a tango, whatever it was, his hips were gyrating so hard I'm surprised something didn't slip from its place, it was fantastic. Leaving the park perplexed we headed to the shopping district (not that we can fit anything else in our backpacks) before arriving at the Sichuan Opera which Frank had organised for us.
The Opera is not really what you would expect if the term was taken in western meaning. Chinese Opera is more of an acrobatic show, with some fire blowing and a little bit of singing. The show was pretty amazing, I'm a believer in magic, so I was gobsmacked whilst Justin - the realistic thinker - kept saying "How did they do that?". We caught the subway back to Henrys for our free beers (nothing better than free beer that would normally cost you 80cents!) before tucking ourselves into our king single.
I better go, we have a flight in a few hours and we just realised we have no confirmation email, sometimes the little details slip...