Phil and I are big fans of the HBO series Treme about life and rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. We like the clips of music and food, we enjoy watching the characters reconcile with the emotional and environmental tolls of the storm and we like to attempt to wrap our head around what it is like to witness and experience a natural disaster of such size.
The storm that hit Chengdu this afternoon was not even close to hurricane size, but its torrential downpour, lasting a good four hours, left the city with flooded roads and parking garages, flights delayed or rerouted, trees down and power out through parts of the city.
Phil and I barely witnessed the Chengdu storm because we were busy, running, outside, in the rain, with the Chengdu Panda Hash. This week’s run brought us out to Luodai Ancient Town 20km east of Chengdu. A community of the Hakka ethnic minority, and apparently the largest in southwest China, this town used to be a bustling village with traditional Hakka architecture, but as with many places in China, has been Disney-fied into a tourist attraction filled with souvenir shops and carnival game stalls.
Despite the plastic touristy feel to the place it does make for a pleasant half day if your bored and want out of Chengdu (we seem to be doing a lot of these trips lately). The biggest highlight of this ancient town is the easy availability of the wide range of Chengdu snacks in one place. Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods even hit Luodai for some rabbit head in his episode on Chengdu.
The hash was nice enough with a mixture of countryside, cement and Luodai tourist alleys. What’s more, the rain held up right until the end of the run which gave a pleasant cool down to the afternoon.
We returned to Chengdu to congested traffic jams, flooding man-holes, cars stalled out in 2-3 feet of water and we wondered, “did we experience the same storm?”
Returning from dinner there were fire trucks outside of our apartment complex pumping water – never a good sign. Phil and I quickly learned that the parking garage below our buildings had flooded, submerging the parked cars with water. Owners were literally trying to push their cars back up the ramps. We had no power or water in our flat but felt lucky as many of our neighbors were outside trying to save their cars and dry them out. We pitched our camping tent on our balcony and armed with headlamps and water we slept part of the night on the balcony as it was cooler than sleeping inside.
Experiencing the aftermath of a sizable storm makes you wonder how it must have been to cope with an actual natural disaster – especially as they seem so plentiful in the States this summer. For example, the biggest inconvenience to me was that I couldn’t shower after the hash and I had to walk up 21 flights of stairs as the elevator was out (actually we just found out that we won’t have water for close to 48 hours – I’m a bit more inconvenienced now!). I could only imagine if my actual livelihood was in danger.
This gives me a good excuse though to get out of town, Tuesday I head to Hong Kong and Thursday to Shanghai!