I am both happy and proud that one of the first things I accomplished on moving back to Chengdu was buying a bicycle. Happy because I really do love riding a bicycle just about anywhere and proud because being a bicyclist in China is an accomplishment. You have to figure out how to buy a bicycle, manage to actually buy one, and then have the chutzpah to ride a bicycle in this:
But while riding in the craziness of a Chinese rush hour is certainly an experience. The real pleasures come from riding down streets like this:
Or even this:
I particularly like this last photo because it captures both the darkness of some of Chengdu’s backstreets and the passion for tea and relaxation that still characterizes this city. Chengdu is subtropical, so when the trees are left alone, they grow thick and luxurious. On older side streets, the result is a thick canopy that leaves the street below in perpetual twilight. Teashops are of course best located in such places where the trees keep the hot sun off you in summer. You sit back with a cup of tea and if you’re lucky play majiang 麻将 (mahjong) with friends. The sound of shuffling tiles can often be heard far down the street.