Dusk began, and the city illuminated exposing a different aspect of beauty to behold. This city was new and exciting to me; sensory overload would be an understatement.
Several hours before, I landed in a foreign country where I, with my blonde hair and tall height, was the odd (wo)man out amongst the crowd.
The city was Chengdu. The country was China. I was 22. And this place would soon become my playground.
No one knew, but I was running away from problems back home. I needed a distraction, and the unusual smells and colorfully painted pagodas were a welcomed sight.
I was in awe. I was traveling alone for the first time — let alone venturing into Asia.
I was falling in love with visceral emotion. A feeling we’ll call lust. The new beginnings that Chengdu promised had me lusting for the excitement that was to come.
Then, that feeling was amplified. I met a boy; we’ll call him, B.
Needless to say, when you travel to a foreign country, anyone that offers guidance is much appreciated.
My welcoming hand was B. We met on a rooftop bar overlooking the western section of Chengdu. It was a typical spot for expats to meet up, smoke, grab a drink, and chat about everything and nothing.
B wore a tank top with a tropical scene depicted on it; this starkly clashed with his geometric print bathing suits (we were nowhere near a pool). His hair was a charming shaggy mess with locks thrown in every direction.
There was a charismatic air to B; simply content and excited by life. His British accent accentuated his foreign appeal. B spoke with intellect and exuded a sense of comfort from the moment he began talking. He was, as the British say, cheeky in the way he spoke but he was also the type to go the extra mile for someone who was new in town.
We chatted about where I was from; I was amused by the way B’s interest was piqued when I told him I just flew in from California. He joked around about me being a blonde from Los Angeles — such a cliche.
B offered to take me for a ride through the city that evening.
Electric scooters are the primary mode of transportation for foreigners in Chengdu. Though you may risk your life every time you’re on one, it’s a thrilling way to go about your day. I jumped at the offer.
When the sun began to set, we went out on our adventure. I hopped onto the back of his rusty tan scooter and we sped off into the streets of Chengdu.
The ride with B was magical in every sense of the word.
The warm, humid air blew through my hair as I wrapped my arms around B’s body. I went back and forth between being mesmerized by the glistening city lights against the Jinjiang River and the enthusiasm that B had for pointing out the city’s key features.
We took a ride through the famous Jiuyanqiao Bar Street. Picture: a crowded, vivacious road filled with young kids looking to distract themselves from a long day’s work in the form of a drink, street vendors selling their greasy fried potatoes, and neon lights illuminating signs for KTV karaoke bars.
At one point, we were even stopped by a woman who wanted me to pet her scruffy baby monkey. B quickly warned me that the woman would try to charge me, and I slowly backed my hand away from the monkey’s protruding head.
B continued down the winding streets of my new home city; dodging cars and pedestrians almost as if it was a game.
At one point, we stopped atop the Anshun bridge to witness a sprawling view of Chengdu glowing in multi-colored neon lights. This city — this moment of long-needed wonder — felt like coming up for a breath of air after being underwater for so long.
I’m not sure how long our ride lasted. Thirty minutes? Two hours? Time felt like it didn’t even matter. I wanted to remain in that state of awe forever.
The memory of this night is one of my favorites. For that night, everything I was running away from didn’t exist. It was just me, B, and the exotic allure of Chengdu.