I feel like this year has been getting better and better. Maybe I’m growing more as a solo traveler each month, or picking better places, but it seriously feels like that each month is topping the previous one.
At the beginning of July, I said bye to Malaysia and flew to Chengdu! I came because Amanda was doing a study abroad program here, so I came to meet up with her. And this is an area of China I’ve been very interested in visiting. Because duh: pandas and spicy food.
Side note: isn’t it convenient that I’ve timed new places right at the start of each month? It makes these travel recaps so much easier and more organized!
I really love getting the chance to see more of my home country. China is so huge with so many diverse regions, each with their own foods, culture, and scenery. I’m glad I’m starting to explore more of it.
Omg Chengdu… Now, Chengdu is a city after my… tastebuds. This is an area of China that understands that everything is better with chilies and spice.
I was welcomed to Chengdu with an amazing hotpot dinner by my Airbnb hosts. It was the spiciest broth I’ve ever had. We completely over-ordered and stuffed ourselves with all sorts of meats and veggies cooked in the oily, spicy broth, while we chatted and got to know each other. It was the best, warmest welcome I’ve ever had. From the first day, I knew I’d love it here.
But oh boy did I pay for it later – for the next few days.
It kind of went like that for the whole month actually. I wish I could say that I ate more in Chengdu. I wish I had tried every single little eatery around me. But the truth is that Chengdu made me want to eat everything I see and simultaneously, afraid to eat anything. I never knew what would make my tummy go off. So I either kept on going back to the same places, or just eating a lot of corn and watermelon at home.
Honestly, besides what you see above, I don’t think I ate too much else.
Just like with food, I didn’t do too much in Chengdu either.
Chengdu in July was ridiculously hot with high humidity. This made walking around exploring almost impossible, and quite frankly, an unappealing idea. So I’m kinda ashamed to say that I didn’t do all that much aside from sitting inside in the AC.
(Though I almost melted when my AC broke. But sitting inside with the fan was still better than walking around outside.)
I did a Day in the Life in Chengdu, so check it out here!
One thing I knew I had to do though: see the pandas! This was about the only thing on my must-do list. Did you know that all the world’s pandas come from this area of China?? Chengdu is thought of to be the “home of the giant panda”. It makes me proud to be born of the country that boasts the cutest animals on Earth!
I met up with Amanda to go to Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. The center focuses on breeding and conservation of the species. And it was amazing! We saw so many giant pandas, baby pandas, and red pandas. I’ve never seen so many pandas all together at once. We were squealing the whole time and took hundreds of pictures.
You can check out Amanda’s post and photos since I probably won’t get to mine for a while (though we pretty much have identical pictures).
I also had a fun day trip with my Airbnb hosts. We went out to the Chengdu countryside and went grape picking.
And then we went to an old town with a lot of street food and a river. And it was MADNESS. There were literally THOUSANDS of people in the river having the biggest water fight ever. Everyone was firing water guns at each other or just dunking others with buckets of water. We jumped in and had the best time.
It was the perfect way to combat the stifling heat.
And let’s see…. what else did I do?
I went with Amanda and a couple of her classmates to Jinli Street. It’s a historical street with cute old architecture and a lot of street food and little shops. It’s a bit touristy, but still a fun place to hang out. We caught a Sichuan opera, with one of Chengdu’s famous face changing shows.
If you don’t know what face changing is, Youtube it or something. It’s the most amazing thing. The magician wears different masks, and he can change a mask right in front of you in less than a split second, even if you are watching like a hawk. Don’t watch the videos that reveal how it’s done. The magic is in being utterly amazed.
We also went into the city center to see Chengdu’s most famous building – IFS. It has a giant panda climbing on the wall!
We were introduced to the app Meitu by Chinese locals… and loved it a bit too much.
We ate a ton of Tibetan food. The Sichuan area borders Tibet, so there are little Tibetan markets and restaurants. It made me really curious about this region of China. I’d love to visit someday, but travelers cannot visit Tibet independently (only with a Chinese tour group). But for now, I’m happy to have gotten a tiny taste of Tibet too.
And ummmm… I think that’s it. Told you I didn’t do much.
But I loved my time here. Because the best, most unexpected, part of the month was making friends with my Airbnb hosts.
I have stayed in dozens of Airbnbs. Some with just a ghost host, while some hosts become just temporary friends for the time I’m there. But this month, in Chengdu, I really feel like I have found 3 lifelong friends.
I stayed in a cute little apartment with three other single girls. I immediately felt at home with them. I love them all in their own way. Yulla is kind of the mother hen, while Iris is the wanderlust dreamer, and Kiara is the food lover.
We spent a lot of evenings just hanging out and chatting in the living room. A couple of the girls had odd work schedules, so they also had some weekdays free. We grocery shopped together and cooked meals. We all felt free to be ourselves and not so buttoned up. I thought I was going to hate living with so many people and sharing one single bathroom (which I haven’t done since my college days!) but it was really one of my best experiences ever.
They treated me like a friend, and by the time I left, I was truly sad to say goodbye. We all were sad that the month had so quickly come to an end.
This is truly the worst part about travel. You make genuine connections with people in a foreign place, only to leave after a short while, not knowing if you’ll meet again.
But I know we’ll meet up again. I already have plans to come back. But at the same time, I’m sad to think that when I do come back, they may have moved and it won’t be the same again. After all, you can’t expect the people you leave behind to remain stagnant. So I guess all we can do is enjoy the moment for what it is.
But I miss them already. I left a big piece of my heart in that little apartment.
But for now:
What’s going on in August
After a lot of thinking about where I should go next, I decided to go to East Malaysia (the Borneo side) at the beginning of August! I have never been to this side before and I hear a lot about its natural beauty and unique native tribes. I’m basing myself in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah. I’m meeting up with a friend whom I met in Penang (who lives here in KK), so I’ll have a local guide. I’m excited to discover a new part of Malaysia and hopefully introduce it to you guys too!
And then towards the end of the month, I’m headed back to China – but this time, to Shanghai! My cousin invited me to visit and I’ll be staying with her for a week or so (score! Free accommodation in an expensive city!). And I’m pretty sure Disneyland is on our list!
Follow along on my Instagram for real-time updates, as I’ve already posted a few pictures from Sabah!
How was your July? And what are you up to in August?