Home > Uncategorized > Too long on the road

Too long on the road

I arrived in Chengdu, Sichuan just before dawn. I’ve never been here before. Whenever I get to a new place, butterflies would flutter wildly in my stomach and I’ll go bug-eyed at everything around me. This time, I stared down at the pavement, dragged leaden legs and thought sluggishly: “What should I do now? Where should I sleep? How do I get around? Why does this city look so similar to the last city? Why is my backpack getting heavier?”

The same old questions to the same new places.

I was tired – soul-weary and mind-numbingly tired of travelling and living out of a bag. It’s a common affliction amongst long-term travellers. Often they pack it in and head home burnt out from travelling. However, I’m lucky to have met travellers who have survived their ‘burn-out’ phases. From them, I’ve garnered a list of advice to keep myself going: 

  • See the non-sights – A place is more than just the sum of its tourist attractions. People live, work and love in non-sights (Spaces where everyday life happens). Visit these non-sights to feel the place’s pulse. Perhaps stroll through its back-alleys, head for its commercial heart or hunt down a local hangout.  
  • Don’t rush – Stay put for at least a week and get involved with the community around your accommodation. Go to locally-run shops, volunteer your time at a local NGO, haggle endlessly over prices at the local wet market… You get the idea.
  • Go in circles – Plan day-trips as if you were drawing a bullseye – your base is at the bullseye’s centre. Your day-trips grow outwards from the centre in ever-expanding circles. In this way, you will get to know places intimately instead of sitting all day long on buses to the ‘must-sees’ and ‘must-dos’.
  • Deepen your horizons – Do some research before visiting tourist attractions. For example, read up on Zhuge Liang’s death and life before visiting his tomb or talk to an old man who’s been through the Lao Secret War before visiting the Plain of Jars. Your visit to the tourist attraction, then, would be more meaningful.  
  • Speak local – Try to understand how the locals see the world and why they do the kooky things that they do. This usually involves some communication. Undoubtedly, language will be a huge barrier. However, there are other ways to get your message across: pull funny faces and accompany it with exaggerated actions or doodle little figures on scraps of paper.
  • Be picky – Do things according to your interests. If you like to cook, take up culinary classes. Better yet, make friends with a local chef and get him to teach you! Never feel obliged to visit or do everything just because it’s in the GUIDEBOOK or recommended by people.
  • Dream a little dream – Take out your world map and day-dream over the places that you’ve never been to; imagine the marvels that might be there; wonder how you might get to those places. Suddenly there’s a new destination and journey waiting for you.
  • Get some downtime – Every now and then, you’ll need to get away from ‘getting away’. Travelling is hard work especially moving around and planning what’s next. Spend some time taking it easy. Do whatever you need to relax: read a book, sleep around or prostrate before higher beings.

I never ignore good advice. Thus I’m staying put in Chengdu until the urge to travel comes back. In the meanwhile, I’ve volunteered my services to a grassroots NGO, found time and friends to drink tea with, wrote for a weekly newspaper and listened closely to a village’s woes.

In time, I would be ready to pick up my backpack to hit the road once more.

Then again… Maybe not.



What to do
Snuggle up to Giant Bamboo-munching pandas. Laze at tea-houses and ingest copious quantities of tea. Take it easy with the Sichuan natives before jumping into the rest of China.  

Getting there
Chengdu has an airport, train station and long-haul bus stations.  

There are many hostels in the city. I stayed at Loft Hostel. 
4-bed / 6-bed dorms: 20 yuan / night (shared bathrooms)  

This is China. There’s food on every corner but can your stomach handle it?

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Unknown
    April 12, 2007 at 9:01 am

    yeah!chengdu,it\’s great~~~


  2. April 12, 2007 at 4:25 pm



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