Arrived in Chengde

After another couple hours on the road, we arrived at our hotel—the Chengde Puning Temple Hotel. It’s an amazing hotel of the same architecture of the surrounding Puning Temple complex, and equally ornate. All the hotel staff were dressed from head to toe in colorful, traditional garb; the lobby had sculptures and the ceiling and walls displayed traditional Chinese murals. Our rooms, like the entirety of the enormous hotel complex, were straight out of ancient china, with traditional furniture and a view overlooking a central courtyard complete with a small pond and flora. We were placed with roommates (mine was Tony), and we got settled in before deciding to go for a walk with another kid, Ben, before dinner.

Arrived at out Hotel in ChengdeHallway outside our roomWe had an hour or so to kill so we decided to wander around town to see some sights. Three of us, Tony, Ben, and I walked out the lobby and started heading down an adjacent road. The hotel was almost a part of the Puning Temple; it was definitely built to resemble the architecture but the hotel was so expansive, it was hard to tell where the hotel ended and the temple complex began. As we walked along, we passed various souvenir shops on either side. After a few hundred feet, the stores dwindled and it was becoming obvious we were entering a more residential area. The farther we got, the more deteriorated our surroundings became.

We were suddenly in a different world, just down the street from our hotel and a major tourist attraction was another part of China: the widespread poverty, generally unseen by tourists. We were walking in a small neighborhood, and suddenly there were no people running up to us to sell us knickknacks and colorful wooden jewelry, these people had nothing to sell. Instead, we passed a man sifting through one of the many piles of trash alongside the road, contributing to the overwhelming smell that suddenly hit us. The gutters and sewers were nothing more than a long ditch dug on either side of the now dirt road. We passed the public bathrooms which had a pile of used paper in one corner, and were housed by crumbling bricks and a sheet of metal as a roof. Many of the buildings had a rubber sheets on top of them, to keep the rain out, and bricks, planks of wood, and sometimes just miscellaneous trash were thrown on top of the rubber to hold it down. I couldn’t imagine how these people could survive in the wintertime. A few stray dogs were wandering around and we even encountered a group of hens and chickens plucking through a large mound of trash.

We reached a sort-of town center as there were about 20 people gathered around make-shift counters which held fruit, and other types of food. Practically everyone turned and looked at us out of curiosity as to why we had come there, and after awhile, went back to what they were doing. Tony actually bought some grapes, and after some confusion, the woman handed us some more grapes because he had evidently given her too much. Something I will never forget is the methodical but resounding cry of this woman who was selling tofu on the street. Every few minutes, she would belt out something I could not understand (which didn’t sound anything like tofu but was an unworldly sound) but was obviously an advertisement that she had tofu to sell—a huge slab on a wooden cart which a few flies were hovering around.

We finally reached this intersection in which there was an overturned, dust-encrusted chair which must have been there for years…just left there, right in the middle of the intersection. Beside the chair was a huge piece of rotting wood, amid mud puddles in this dirt intersection. It was such an inconvenience to passing carts, mopeds, and even old rusted trucks who all had to go out of their way to avoid these pieces of trash left in the middle of the road.

This small community, and those who live in it are among those left behind in China’s economic transformation which has brought such wealth to the country; as we walked along under looming cranes from an adjacent construction site of high-rises only a few hundred yards away, I realized that not everyone is coming along for the ride.

walking in chengde
walking in Chengde
walking in Chengde

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One Comment on “Arrived in Chengde”

  1. Dad Says:


    An interesting discovery, and beautifully said. Not everyone is coming along for the ride. I recall one of your economic courses looks at the rural economy.



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