Good news for a change, people! Pandas are off the endangered species list due to the efforts of the Chinese, as well as major improvements in the difficult task of breeding the wondrous creatures. Okay, buckle up, it’s time for some cute animals, new adventures, and a city with a lot to offer.
XISHU GARDEN INN – If you are coming to Chengdu, this is the place to stay. For starters, it’s brand spanking new. The staff is kind, helpful, and super nice. There is an in house travel desk, and all of your tour related questions will be answered and sorted out with ease. You have a choice between luxuriant private rooms or the more economical dormitory style option. These people will have you feeling so good that you will be planning your next visit to Chengdu before you leave. In my last seventy countries during the last three and a half years, Xishu Garden Inn easily ranks in my top five hotel stays.
You don’t even have to leave the hotel to see your first pandas.
My spacious private room with comfortable bed and hot rainwater shower ran me a mere 20 euros per night. There is a TV, air-conditioning, plenty of storage, and plugs for charging your electronics.
The restaurant features a 200 degree view of Chengdu. For breakfast you have a wide range of Western options, and there are many traditional Sichuan favorites to satisfy your needs. After a long day touring it’s nice to just go straight to the in house restaurant. It’s also a nice place to meet your fellow travelers since this is a pretty social hotel.
HOTEL MASCOT – His name is Qiu Qiu (choo choo), and he is as friendly as everyone else who works here.
CHENGDU GIANT PANDA BREEDING RESEARCH BASE
The grounds are spotless and beautifully landscaped. China knows how to do parks and gardens.
More choice landscaping.
The park is also a wonderful habitat for the humans who come to visit. There is a teahouse and a restaurant as well.
The grounds are filled with bamboo. I suspect they grow much of what is needed to feed the residents.
Our first glimpse was through the smudged glass of an indoor enclosure. They were up and ready for the fresh cut bamboo waiting for them outside.
There are currently 1864 pandas in the wild. In this facility they have 146 pandas which is the largest population in captivity. They are continually being released into the wild.
This one dashed out and climbed a tree.
Another dove right in.
Another quickly followed suit.
And finally the rest of the gang.
A Veterinarian monitors a newborn’s heart rate.
He’s only a few days old at most and is only 1/1000th. the weight of it’s mother. Pandas are dependent on their mothers until they are six months old. Mothers usually give birth to twins, but only raise the strongest cub. Here the staff intervenes and raises the other. This is one of the reasons the breeding programs have been so successful. They have almost a 100% twin survival rate!
He’s probably a couple of weeks old given the appearance of the black markings.
Mature pandas become solitary creatures.
Well fed and kipped out by 9:30am. Like I said, you have to catch these guys early.
Aside from the bamboo that surrounds him, he has a hanging basket of special reserve.
Often twins will be kept together until it’s time to go solo.
Stuffed toys have led people to believe that pandas are soft to the touch. Their fur is actually a bit coarse. You can actually arrange to pet a panda and take photos with one. It requires a five hundred dollar donation to the breeding program. Money well spent to be sure, but a trifle steep for the average traveler.
He’s down for the count.
This one’s off for a climb.
Up we go.
That’s enough exercise.
This fellow’s still working the basket.
Pandas don’t engage in a lot of activity because their diet is so meager. Most bears consume a lot of meat which is loaded with protein. Bamboo is pretty lacking in the protein department so the pandas have to keep their activity to an absolute minimum.
We didn’t see this sign until after we visited the Red Pandas, so we had a big surprise.
We were shocked to find a reddish elegant version of a raccoon with beautiful contrasting facial markings.
He’s grown weary of the rain.
Now, he and his stylish tail are off to look for shelter.
The rest of us soggy tourist are off to do the same. What a great morning of active panda watching, though.
DUJIANGYAN IRRIGATION SYSTEM – UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE
A NIGHT AT THE OPERA
CENTENNIAL OPERA HOUSE
Many of these instruments will be completely unknown to you and the sounds otherworldly.
Your typical, tall, slender, beautiful emcee
CHINESE OPERA – Sights and sounds that will transport you to another time and dimension like nothing else other than Pink Floyd and drugs.
The jarring percussion and unusual sounds give you an otherworldly feeling long before the advent of synthesizers.
ERHU MASTER – The ehru is a one stringed instrument that emits sounds that are hard to believe. This man is pretty much a Jimi Hendrix of the erhu.
HAND SHADOW ARTISTRY – A dog showed up and consumed the rabbit.
HENPECKED HUSBAND COMIC RELIEF
THE LOCAL SICHUAN FOOD IS KNOWN FOR BEING VERY SPICY AT TIMES – Pack your antacids.
FACE CHANGING – This is achieved through the use of paper masks and an ancient technique.
TAKE A BOW
CENTENNIAL HALL AFTER THE SHOW
GIANT BUDDHA OF LESHAN – UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE
STATUES AND CHARACTERS ARE CARVED INTO THE ROCK WALLS
CROWDS FORM EARLY HERE
PRELUDE TO THE BIG FELLA
The crowd in the background will give you an idea just how enormous this statue really is. On Mt. Rushmore in the U.S. it was only the heads. This Buddha goes all the way down to the toes.
A winding staircase on the left takes you to the foot of the statue.
Between the size and expression on this giant icon one derives a feeling of serenity.
This is a test wall for surface layer repair material for the purpose of effecting restorations on the face of the Giant Buddha.
This is the famous poet who designed the Giant Buddha.
THE POET’S CAVE
SHRINE TO THE DESIGNER OF THE BUDDHA
KOI SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING WITH UNCOOPERATIVE TURTLE
SOLITARY TURTLE WITH REFLECTIONS
ANOTHER WELL POPULATED KOI POND
RECLINING INEBREATED BUDDHA
TIME TO SEEK OUT DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES
You can also see the Giant Buddha by boat for a different angle, but the visit is rather brief with all of them jockeying for position.
MAKING OUR WAY DOWN TO THE BIG PAYOFF
Fiona, a math teacher from Hong Kong, strikes a pose. I traveled to different attractions with her over a three day period. It was really handy having someone who could speak Chinese along for the ride.
Here I am in front of the largest Buddha in the world, and I find this almost as cool as the Great Wall. I will return to Chengdu, and in all likelihood I will visit the Buddha once again.
HUANGLONGXI ANCIENT TOWN
THE NARROW ALLEY ENTRANCE
Like my old neighborhood in Bejing, the streets are flanked with shops, restaurants, and entertainment.
SICHUAN SPICE SPECIALTY SHOP
OUT OF TOWNERS AND LOCALS ALIKE ENJOY THIS AREA
READY TO EAT DISHES ARE EVERYWHERE
THE WAY OF THE DRAGON – UPSCALE RESTAURANT
QUICK BITES – FANCY SPACE
CHINESE OPERA PERFORMER
CHINESE MEN ENJOY SAMPLING QUALITY TEAS
EVEN THE INEXPENSIVE SHOPS ARE ELEGANT
BEAUTIFUL SOUNDS LOOSEN YOUR PURSE STRINGS FOR THE SURROUNDING JEWELRY SHOPS.
STARBUCKS ON RIGHT
PANDA HOUSE – FOR ALL YOUR PANDA PARAPHERNALIA
BANSAI TREE COLLECTION
As I prepare to leave for Shanghai, I realize how much more there is to see here. There are more parks, museums, foods, and attractions here in the city alone. There are still day trips to be taken as well. I think I’ll give myself two weeks on my next visit.