Sichuan, China Birding – February 2018

Chengdu is a very large city. Everywhere I went there were groups of little birds snatching snacks off the ground in parks and a few scattered here and there along the river. There are even a couple of man-made wetlands built specifically for migrating birds in the area. However, as mentioned in my Bad Ideas Blog, I was not able to make it to the wetlands, so my birding was limited to the city proper.

My favorite bird of the month was the Light Vented Bulbul. I spotted it while at the Panda Research Base. It was eating the red panda’s food. It was very pretty and I liked the little tuft of white feathers on its head.

Unfortunately, I did not spot many birds this month, but I’m still pretty happy to be adding three new birds to my life list. Hopefully next month I will be celebrating my 100th unique bird!


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Birding Update – February 2018

Identified: 5

New: 3

Life List: 98


  • Crested Myna
  • Light-vented Bulbul
  • Little Egret
  • Mallard
  • Oriental Magpie-robin

 

Travel Day – Chengdu to Kuala Lumpur

It’s that time. We have maxed out our visas and have to leave the country before the start of the month.

It’s that time. We have maxed out our visas and have to leave the country before the start of the month. After one final night of exploring Chengdu and taking note of the places we need to come back to this summer, we grabbed a ticket for the metro and were on our way.

Grassy park with flower landscaping and panda statues in Chengdu, China

Check-in and customs were no trouble at all. We zoomed right through without any problems. Our flight was on Air Asia, one of Asia’s discount airlines. The plane was large and clean, but there was a strict note on the website, on my ticket, and in the ongoing announcements that no outside food is allowed on the plane. I was a bit worried about this, but assumed that meant they would feed us.

Unfortunately, it was a very Chinese style flight. The passengers rarely listened to directions, talked loudly throughout the entire flight, and paid absolutely no attention to the no outside food rule. To top it off, the airline only provided items for purchase… including WATER. That’s right, I went on a five hour plane ride without water because I was told not to bring any on the plane. What?! I guess I should have read the fine print… or ignored the large print.

I don’t think it will come as a surprise when I say that we were a bit cranky upon our arrival in Malaysia. We ignored the polite greetings from nearly every staff member in the airport, half-listened to the delightfully artsy and charismatic Uber driver, and barely showed our impatience to the kind and giggly hotel clerk. We were tired, we were hungry, and I needed some damn WATER!

Our hotel is in what looked liked a bad side of town. Our room faces a night club that blared music all night. There are ants on our floor. We got two twin beds instead of one queen. Our internet access was spotty. Despite how tired we were, we knew it would be a long and sleepless night.

Then we fell instantly and completely asleep.

We woke up refreshed and with a completely different outlook. The weather was warm and sunny. We had a delicious breakfast at the hotel, complete with real drip coffee. And in the daylight, our neighborhood isn’t really that bad. Heck, we’re in walking distance of an IKEA. We took a long walk around this afternoon, and as of right now, I feel pretty confident that we are going to love it here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This is a brand new country for us, with a whole host of new adventures, and we can’t wait to get out and experience it all!

Woman sitting in front of "I Heart KL Tower, Malaysia" sign

 

 

China Brews

China isn’t really known for their beer and it is obvious why at the first sip. Now, that isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy my beer in China, because I absolutely did. I enjoyed it the same way I enjoy a refreshing Coors Light. Sometimes I just really want a Coors Light, sue me.

China isn’t really known for their beer and it is obvious why at the first sip. Now, that isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy my beer in China, because I absolutely did. I enjoyed it the same way I enjoy a refreshing Coors Light. Sometimes I just really want a Coors Light, sue me.

My favorite brew of China was Guilin Liquan’s 1998 LiQ beer. It was very smooth, refreshing, and a great price at only ¥10 ($1.55). I would also put Guilin Liquan as my favorite brewer in China. I tried two of their crafts. I couldn’t taste much of a difference between the two, but they were both better than the others I had.

On our last couple of days in China, we bunked with a Chinese brewer at the hostel. He was in the middle of a brewery tour in Chengdu. He gave us a list of places to try and talked to us about the growing micro-brew culture in China and how he sees it around the world. It was super interesting to talk to him and we are looking forward to our next trip to Chengdu to check out the breweries he suggested.

I only got a taste for the flavors around me. Please share your favorite China beers in the comments, and if you’re an Untappd user, add us as friends!

Top UnTappd Badges Earned This Month


Brew Update – China

New China Flavors: 9

 New China Breweries: 8

Flavor Life List: 51


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Beijing Yanjing Brewery – Beijing, China

  • Yanjing Beer North American Adjunct

China Resources Snow Breweries – Beijing, China

  • Snow Beer 8.0 P Lager

Harbin Brewing – Harbin, China

  • Harbin Beer Pale

Master Gao Craft – Nanjing, China

  • Baby IPA

Panda Brew – China

  • Outlaw Witbier

Shandong Hande Brewing Co. – China

  • Baishi Royale Lager

Tsingdao Brewery – Qingdao, China

  • Tsingtao Pale

Yanjing Pijiu (Guilin Liquan) – Guilin, China

  • 1998 LiQ American Light
  • 10P LiQ North American Adjunct

Trusted Housesitters

Since we’ve been here, we estimate that we have saved around $200 on accommodations alone. But there are other perks as well. Not only do we have lovable Lucy to hang out with, but we have a bike to use ($5 savings) and a kitchen to cook in ($50 savings). In two weeks, we have saved over $250 by staying here with Lucy.

As mentioned in my Places We Live – Chengdu post, we are currently staying in an apartment in Chengdu, for free, in exchange for dog sitting. I learned about this type of exchange online and was able to get involved through Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects travelers with free house sitters.

We booked house sit a few months ago after sending messages back and forth with our host and doing a Skype interview. We had a lot in common and hit it off right away. She booked us a little after that, then a few months later, we showed up at her door. She introduced us to her wonderful dog Lucy, hosted us for dinner, and showed us the ins and outs of her apartment. Then she left for two weeks.

Since we’ve been house sitting here, we estimate that we have saved around $200 on accommodations alone. But there are other perks as well. Not only do we have lovable Lucy to hang out with, but we have a bike to use ($5 savings) and a kitchen to cook in ($50 savings). In two weeks, we have saved over $250 by house sitting in Chengdu with Lucy.

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With this is mind, I have been working diligently to get us more bookings. I sent out about a dozen house sitting applications last week and have finally booked three more sits! Next up, we’re heading to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to enjoy the company of an adorable pup named Molly.

Scratch Google Sheets

As you can see, we’re coming back to Chengdu too! I applied for a house sit in Chengdu thinking it would be a good layover on our way to Tibet or something later this summer. I told the woman I was currently in town and was able to meet up for a face-to-face interview if she wanted. Turns out, she is friends with my host and lives just down the block! She invited us over for a chat and also the next day for dinner. Her and her husband had lots of fun stories, a beautiful home, and about the sweetest kitten I have ever met. We can’t wait to come back for the sit.

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Maybe I am getting ahead of myself (this is only a our first house sit), but I think this is going to be a game changer. It has already shown to be a great way to save money, provide privacy to get our work done, and boost our social stimulation. Look out world, here we come!

Refer A Friend TrustedHousesitters com

 

 

Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base

Guess what we did today?!! We woke up bright and early this morning to make the hour long trek to see China’s national treasure, the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base!

I read a lot of reviews that suggested we visit as soon as the park opens at 8AM. That is when the pandas are most active and the crowds are smaller. We left at a way too late 7:30, walked to the metro, hopped Line 1, switched to Line 3, got off at Panda Ave, then caught a shuttle to the entrance of the research base. It took us a little over an hour and cost ¥7 plus the ¥55 entrance fee each, putting us at a total of about $20 for the morning. But then, we were in.

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It was similar to Disney World in that everything was brightly decorated, only this time with pandas, and there were large crowds of impatient and excited people everywhere. The park is laid out in loops surrounding the various enclosures. The giant panda areas included a section for the babies, one for breeding, and one for nursing… I think. Each of the enclosures were of a decent size and the pandas looked to be in good health and well treated.

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Although we did arrive quite early, there were very few active pandas. The crowds were a bit smaller in the morning than in the afternoon though, so that was nice. But the crowds were still enough to alter the way I like to explore a zoo. Like the picture above? Here is a shot of me taking it:

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Not ideal.

Our favorite section, however, held the red panda enclosures. The crowds were smaller in this section. I say the people who skipped it missed out. These guys were so cute and active! There were a few different enclosures with several pandas in each, roaming around on the ground or climbing trees.

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There was even one section that was walled off for the guests to walk around in with the red pandas! We did not realize this was the case until I turned a corner and screamed with surprise (and let’s be honest, a little fear). Josh came running to find me standing face to face with a red panda only a few feet in front of me. It climbed up a tree and my shouts attracted the attention of the crowds, but it was still cool.

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We finally had a blog-worthy adventure in Chengdu and it was awesome! The pandas had so much character and the park was very pretty. After another full hour trip home, it was really nice to plop on the couch and look through all of our fun pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Ideas: What Not to Do in China

Since arriving here, I have awoken each morning with so much excitement to explore this amazing city. Chengdu has beautiful architecture, varied restaurants and shops, and a million and one other activities to enjoy. Each night I plan an adventure, and each morning I wake up ready to put my plans into action. T,hen each evening, I come home tired and disappointed. These aren’t just Jen’s Less Than Totally Epic Adventures, these are Jen’s Laughably Failed Adventures.

Bad Idea #1: Coming to China During the Lunar New Year

Do not come to China for the Spring Festival. It would be like going to Utah only on Sundays or to just about anywhere in the states only on bank holidays. The large majority of Chinese are home with their families for the holiday… which lasts two full weeks. That means only one in every 15 stores are open, prices are inflated, and all events are on hold. We are living in an enormous ghost town.

20180220_145634-EFFECTS.jpg
This picture was taken at a very long stop light on a six lane road.

It is difficult to express how strange it feels to walk along a nearly empty eight lane highway between sky scrapers. It’s like a scene from a zombie movie, with the survivors making their way down empty, eerily silent streets. Sure, the freedom of movement is nice, but it’s a little spooky. How is it possible to feel so alone in a place with 14 million residents?

Bad Idea #2: Going to Tourist Attractions Over the Weekend

The only thing worse than seeing none of the 14 million residents, is seeing all of them at once. The few people that stayed in Chengdu for the holidays are facing much of the same problem that we are. The other day, we decided to do something other than cook another American meal at home. We needed to get out of the house, so we went to the only place we knew wouldn’t be closed: the streets of downtown. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones…

20180219_151453.jpg

I made a walking tour with six stops. We made it to four of them before we started to slowly lose our minds. Every square, sidewalk, alley way, shop front, and park were all packed with people. You could hardly take a step without bumping into somebody.

The above picture was taken at what looked like a very nice set of storefronts built into a section of the old city. Unfortunately, the narrow road was so packed with people that we had no time to stop in any of the shops. We could hardly even look at them as we shuffled past. The strangest thing of all was how happy all of the locals were to be there. It was as if this was just a pleasant day trip. The two of us were so keyed up and anxious by the time we got out that we were visibly shaking. Never. Again.

Bad Idea #3: Trusting Maps

China has been in a state of constant construction for many years. They build up suburbs, then ship in whole villages of people to live there. They claim it is to reduce poverty. I don’t know and I won’t comment. The point is that China is very much under construction.

20180220_160045.jpg

After a failed trip downtown, I decided to ride my bike to a park a little farther afield. I have an offline GPS map and a paper map (they do exist!). I was ready for a two hour, round trip bike ride through an impressive neighborhood of new sky scrapers to a non-touristy park.

Instead, I ended up getting stuck in a little sub-village that was so deeply under construction that there was only one way in or out. To get out, I needed to go either North or East. After circling the village for over an hour, I realized that all 12 of the through-roads were closed except for the one on the Southwest side. I never did find my way to the park. I rode my bike for four hours straight, only to come home with a few pictures of buildings and lots of pictures of blocked-off areas the size of a whole town.

Bad Idea #4: Letting Your Bad Ideas Stop You

I’ve had three full days of failed adventures now. My feet hurt, my lungs are tight, and my pride has been wounded. Despite our attempts at nearly all of the top ten sights in Chengdu, I don’t have a single blog-worthy adventure to report. I haven’t missed a single blogging goal since we left three months ago, but in the last week, I have missed two.

But, we are still chugging along. We have another adventure planned for today and another planned for tomorrow. I forced my way through this post, despite disliking how negative it is. But, this post by itself isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of our lives. Yes, we haven’t had any great adventures since we have been here in Chengdu, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t having fun. No matter how tough it gets at times, I’d still rather be out here, chasing my dream and failing, than to have never tried at all.

What not to do in CHina

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Bad Ideas: Chengdu-Style

Since arriving here, I have awoken each morning with so much excitement to explore this amazing city. Chengdu has beautiful architecture, varied restaurants and shops, and a million and one other activities to enjoy. Each night I plan an adventure, and each morning I wake up ready to put my plans into action… and then each evening, I come home tired and disappointed. These aren’t just Jen’s Less Than Totally Epic Adventures, these are Jen’s Laughably Failed Adventures.

Bad Idea #1: Coming to Chengdu During the Lunar New Year

Do not come to China for the Spring Festival. It would be like going to Utah only on Sundays or to just about anywhere in the states only on bank holidays. The large majority of Chinese are home with their families for the holiday… which lasts two full weeks. That means only one in every 15 stores are open, prices are inflated for anything that is open, buses are limited, and all events are on hold. We are living in an enormous ghost town.

20180220_145634-EFFECTS.jpg
This picture was taken at a very long stop light on a six lane road.

It is difficult to express how strange it feels to walk along a nearly empty eight lane highway between sky scrapers. It’s like a scene from a zombie movie, with the survivors making their way down empty, eerily silent streets. Sure, the freedom of movement is nice, but it’s a little spooky. How is it possible to feel so alone in a place with 14 million residents?

Bad Idea #2: Going to Tourist Attractions Over the Weekend

The only thing worse than seeing none of the 14 million residents, is seeing all of them at once. The few people that stayed in Chengdu for the holidays are facing much of the same problem that we are. The other day, we decided to do something other than cook another American meal at home and watch TV. We needed to get out of the house, so we went to the only place we knew wouldn’t be closed: the streets of downtown. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones…

20180219_151453.jpg

I made a walking tour with six stops. We made it to four of them before we started to slowly lose our minds. Every square, sidewalk, alley way, shop front, and park were all packed with people. You could hardly take a step without bumping into somebody. The above picture was taken at what looked like a very nice set of storefronts built into a section of the old city. But the narrow road was so packed with people that we had no time to stop in any of the shops, or even to just look at them. The strangest thing of all was how happy all of the locals were to be there, as if this was just a pleasant day trip. The two of us were so keyed up and anxious by the time we got out that we were visibly shaking. Never. Again.

Bad Idea #3: Trusting Maps

China has been in a state of constant construction for many years. They build up suburbs, then ship in whole villages of people to live there. They claim it is to reduce poverty. I don’t know and I won’t comment. The point is that China is very much under construction.

20180220_160045.jpg

After a failed trip downtown, I decided to ride my bike to a park a little farther afield. I have an offline GPS map and a paper map (they do exist!). I was ready for a two hour, round trip bike ride through an impressive neighborhood of new sky scrapers to a non-touristy park.

Instead, I ended up getting stuck in a little sub-village that was so deeply under construction that, despite the number of bridges and streets, there was only one way in or out. I needed to go either North or East. I circled the village for over an hour before I realized that all 12 of the through-roads were closed except for the one I came through on the Southwest side. I never did find my way to the park. I rode my bike for four hours straight, only to come home with a few pictures of buildings and lots of pictures of blocked-off areas the size of a whole town.

Bad Idea #4: Letting Your Bad Ideas Stop You

I’ve had three full days of failed adventures now. My feet hurt, my lungs hurts, and my pride has been wounded. Despite our attempts at nearly all of the top ten sights in Chengdu, I don’t have a single blog-worthy adventure to report. I haven’t missed a single blogging goal since we left three months ago, but in the last week, I have missed two.

But, we are still chugging along. I have another adventure planned for today and another planned for tomorrow. I forced my way through this post, despite disliking how negative it is. I want to be truthful about the negative side of this lifestyle, but this post by itself isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of our lives. Yes, we haven’t had any great adventures since we have been here in Chengdu, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t having fun. No matter how tough it gets at times, I’d still rather be out here, chasing my dream and failing, than to have never tried at all.