An American in Chengdu

Tour | November 4, 2009

Saturday I went on a day tour with most of the doctors from my spoken English class. On the agenda were the Dujiangyan irrigation project and Qingcheng Shan, the holy Taoist mountain I visited during the recent holiday. Dujiangyan is the kind of place all Chinese people read about in history class. It’s certainly impressive, but I don’t know that you get much more from going there than you would from reading about it. Unless you count the bonus thrill of walking across rope bridges while your fellow pedestrians stomp vigorously to sway them.

After Dujiangyan the bus stopped at a building that was clearly unconnected with a scenic spot. I guessed we were there for lunch, though it was a little early. Instead, we were herded into a room and given a sort of live infomercial about a set of knives. The practiced salesman, easily identified by his microphone headset and badge, demonstrated a potato peeler that could shred boards and peel your vegetables in two directions, not just one. I stared at him incredulously and thought about the extra sleep I could have gotten if this hadn’t been on the agenda. The obvious solution was to take a nap, which I did, though I was temporarily awakened by the sound of a knife hitting a metal pipe. I can report first hand that no, the knife did not chip.

Back on the bus, I asked Grace, who had arranged the tour, whether she’d known in advance about the knife stop.

“Oh yes, it’s normal on Chinese tours,” she said. “But this will be the only stop. Some tours have as many as three, but I told them we wanted no more than one.”

Grace’s seatmate asked whether it’s the same on American tours. “No,” I said, “Americans would be very angry if this happened.” They laughed.


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  1. And to think I grumble when the Chinatown bus to NYC stops in Baltimore for gas.

    Comment by Carmen — November 11, 2009 @ 12:00 pm

  2. PS- seen this?

    Comment by Carmen — November 11, 2009 @ 12:07 pm

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    About me

    I've come to Sichuan in search of adventure, fluency in Chinese, and awesome vegetarian food. I have to concede that the baby pandas are very cute.
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