CAUTION: Country Under Construction

Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China. The Country of Heaven. The Garden City. Land of Abundance. Sounds like an alright place to spend six months to me. I hardly knew what to expect when I arrived in Chengdu, city of 11 million people, after my month-long orientation in the beautifully rural Guilin (think blue skies and Mario World-like mountains). I left early one clear, hot August morning by train and arrived 27 hours later, sweaty and tired at Chengdu Dong Train Station. Talk about an imposing introduction. It opened just three months earlier and still smelled uncommonly like a new pair of shoes. Passengers leaving the train face a mountain of stairs followed by stark white and cavernous rooms seemingly designed to maximize required walking distance or possibly to accommodate the entire population of China should they all decide to vacation here at the same time. I would soon discover that Chengdu Dong Station wasn’t the only building that smelled like new shoes in this city and is, in fact, a perfect introduction to the desired feel of modern Chengdu -- bright, new, grandiose and ever-so-slightly extravagant.

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