Suopo village stupa
autumn blaze, Suopo
Qiāng watchtowers of Suopo
Suopo village dwelling
People’s Park dancers, Chengdu
After spending 83 hours on a bus to get there, I was prepared to love Chengdu. Gratefully, it wasn’t a hard task. The city was eminently likeable, not least the Tibetan enclave where we found lodgings at the auspiciously named Holly Hostel.
Growing up on a diet of leanly-timed rain-water showers I felt appropriately guilty as I treated myself to an inordinately long judicious scrub in the hostel shower room.
Sleeping was another matter. After an average of three to four broken half-hour sleeps per day, for four consecutive nights, seated above the rear-axle of a dilapidated Xinjiang bus, I was stymied! My body clearly did not recall how to respond to tender treatment: a bed and clean linen. Horizontality was anathema. My head swam and my legs twitched. There were only two things for it: a walk and a Sichuan hotpot.
Sichuan hotpot (huŏguō), the ultimate food experience
I couldn’t be entirely sure, but to my eyes it appeared that the man across the aisle from me was sliding a glazed chicken’s foot out from within a food-grade vacuum packed sleeve. The package, which was large and covered in Chinese script, was so thick that it was practically bullet-proof. It wouldn’t have looked out of place in the survival rations of a high altitude exploration team.
No sooner had the object been removed than the plastic sleeve was flung unceremoniously onto the floor. Had I not known better I would have said that the object the man was holding was a gimmicky rubber chicken’s foot, the type you find in a show-bag. Rubber this was not. That foot was real, and he was about to let it have it!
Let me get this clear. I have nothing, absolutely NOTHING, against chicken’s feet. They’re perfectly sensible body parts, and play an essential role at the end of scrawny legs and pert feathery bodies. Nor are they bad eating. I should know. I’ve only fond memories of chomping chicken’s feet in Hanoi. They go particularly well with a bowl of hot congee in the morning. Continue reading