Wheeling and Dealing
Keen negotiation skills are key in Chengdu as well as all of China. Never pay full price for anything including hotels, taxis and clothes. Most "western" hotels will post room rates that are at least twice what you can expect to pay. The best way to bargain is using the "good cop, bad cop" system where one person claims to really want something while the other complains about the price. Once you get a firm grasp on the prices in China you can use an abbreviated method of bargaining where you offer vendors what you think is fair and then start to walk away if they say no. 98% of the time they'll chase after you and give you the price you want. This process can be a little embarrassing at first but it is completely natural and expected in China.
Sichuan opera is a type of Chinese opera originating in China's Sichuan province around 1700.
The performances today are of a more modern style and more relaxed than the Beijing opera, the performance being more like a play.
The show I enjoyed featured performances of song, dance, musical instruments and acrobatics. It finished with the highlight of Sichuan opera - Changing Faces. In this act, the performer wears many coloured fabric masks which he changes as if by magic. Some performers even change their full costume in an instant.
This was my first experience of Chinese Opera and I thoroughly enjoyed it - a must do thing while you are in Chengdu.
Chengdu is honestly more of a transit point than anything else. From the sacred Qingcheng Shan, Hou Shan, and Emei Shan to Lhasa and all points Tibet, Chengdu is the place to go. It's not that the city has nothing to see. There's some temples and a nice park, The People's Park, and a nice central area of town, though it's nothing really special. It's tough to get a taxi in Chengdu, and, while there are buses, it's not that easy figuring out a new bus system in just a few minutes or hours.
Overall, if you need to go through Chengdu, it's quite pleasant.
Sichuan's recent earthquake brings to the fore, for me, something no one talks about in China: building standards. Absconding from the perceived quagmire of agricultural life, searching for more propitious avenues of earning a living, those whose past has included peaceful-yet-exhausting hours of toil behind a water buffalo now clog cities, carrying the specific tool of their trade in hand each day to lunch. One has a hammer, another a flat-head screwdriver, a third a power-drill with a ratty cable and no plug at the end. Such a crew, with the puerile, callow... amatuer skills possessed, are the ones building today's China. You should see how the bricks go together under the nice, shiny facade... They built the China that collapsed around the lives of those in Sichuan.
There's more to this disaster than the building standards of China, of course. However, I believe that if proper standards were adhered to by properly trained building crews, the extent of the distaster could have been reduced. Not to mention, that China has a tendency to build up. The new apartment buildings are higher and higher making it hard for those to get out- another aspect of this particular situation- many people stayed inside when they possibly should have gone outside.