November 07, 2006

Pandas in Chengdu

To view all 54 photos for this entry in a slideshow, press HERE.

Giant Pandas
Red Pandas
More Pandas
Children in the Park
Betty and Petri
Wong Guang and My Feet
In Huanglongxi
At the Temple

The train ride from Xian to Chengdu was different from the train out of Beijing. The bunks were not as wide. There was not TV in the berth, let alone for each bunk. It was not as clean. There were cockroaches, although it was not overwhelming. The speed of travel was very slow also. It took 17 hours to travel 800 kilometers, as compared to 12.5 hours to travel the 1000 km. from Beijing to Xian. The good thing was that it was cheaper. We arrived about 6 in the morning and went to the Mix Hostel, which is quite nice. Each city we pass through, that is further from Beijing, gets cheaper. We took the deluxe room, which is actually in a hotel across the street. It cost less than half what we were paying in Beijing and it is a whole lot nicer.

Sunday, 5 November:
After checking in, we took a very long walk through Chengdu, a large industrialized city. Chengdu is the capital of the Sichuan province. It is nice and the people are as friendly as every other Chinese city that we have visited. The downtown is very modern.
Near the hostel is a large Buddhist temple. It was very nice to visit. We burned incense. The temple was crowded, because it was Sunday. Most Chinese get Sunday off, so they go to temples and parks and generally kick back. It was a great day for us to be out for a walk. We did not find any cool alley ways, like in Beijing. Still it was nice to see all the people out and about. We stopped by a couple of parks, and stopped for tea along the river on the south side of town. The green tea is very good here, and I am beginning to like it. The tea places do like to screw the naive westerners like me. They try to charge us two dollars per glass but we won't pay that much. We have been coughing up $1.25 - but today we learned that the common price is less than 25 cents. Since our language skills in Chinese are poor we have problems sometimes with the vendors. They will play games, the trick is to say no and offer much less. From the tea house on the river, we walked to a great little shopping and eating area next to the Wuhou Ci temple. We had lunch here. Wow, was it spicy! We got back to our room and rested before supper. Then we went to bed early.

Monday, 6 November:
Chengdu has the most outstanding Panda research center in the world. This is where we headed in the morning. You want to arrive early when the bears are out. And were they out! You can see them up close and personal. You can visit the baby bear nursery, and we did just that. Besides the giant panda they have red pandas. It was clear after viewing the red pandas that panda are only distantly related to the more common brown and black bears. I am not a big nature buff, but I really enjoyed visiting this center.
I always like to point out the unusual, the serendipity of travel. Once again it struck in this park. Before I had seen the red pandas and while I was viewing the giant pandas, I happened to ask a woman standing next to me, if the pandas were really bears. She gave me an answer, then said "You really look familiar, have we met before?" I stared hard and it came to me; yes, we had met in Argentina. I called to Betty to come over; "There is someone here from the English group in Buenos Aires." We were really surprised. Some folks know her as Petri and others as Usva. She hails from Finland. We asked her if she knew Pavii and Santre. Sure enough she does, and she will visit them in Thailand before returning to Finland. I mentioned that we too planned to visit them in Chang Mai.
In the afternoon, we got massages. They only cost $2.50 each for 90 minutes of foot pampering and a bit of a full body massage. We felt great afterwards.
In the evening we visited the Sichuan Opera. It was very different from what we saw in Beijing and Xian. The highlight was the fire breathing. But the mask changing and traditional opera skits were very good.

River Banks of Huanlongxi

Tuesday, 7 November:
Today we visited Huanglongxi, an ancient city 40 km south of Chengdu. Very touristy, and still we enjoyed it a lot. There was an old temple with two banyan trees said to be thousands of years old. We liked the temple, where we burned incense and ask for grandchildren. The waterfront along the river was charming. We sat and played cribbage there all afternoon.
This evening we took it easy. We did go to a great bar district just a few blocks from the hostel. I had gotten a taste of it the night before after the opera. So, I brought Betty over tonight. The restaurant that we ate in was not as nice as from the night before. So we went over there for a beer. The name of the bar is Solo Fun. If you make it to Chengdu, you might want to check it out.

China is a little more wired than I thought it would be. We have been finding more wireless connections, which is our preferred method of getting on line.
There does not appear to be broadband in people's homes. So, most connections are 56k lines. It makes a lot of what we do in the states impossible. And this is to say nothing about the server blocking or censorship that we have heard about, but that we have not actually seen. We even listened to MPR today.

Tomorrow we are off to Chongquing and an excursion on the Yangzi River.

Posted by bill at November 7, 2006 10:52 PM

Great to be updated about your travels!

Posted by: Daniel at November 11, 2006 11:12 AM

Your trip is sounding more and more scrumptious. Thank you again for the taking the time to write the narrative and send photos of your adventures. Yes, the internet is a great resource, but it is the operator we love. Mickie
PS I am going to pick The Bookman's Wake today.

Posted by: Mickie Turk at November 11, 2006 12:22 PM

I am so jealous of your trip. I love pandas. Saw them often at the San Diego Zoo. And Red Pandas are my most favorite animal in the world. They look like a Disney creation - too cute to be real. Love the updates.

Posted by: Rochelle at November 11, 2006 01:56 PM

Hi Bill,

What a coincidence! I remember Usva. She came to the meetings a couple of times and she was really nice. What I didn't know is that she knew Paivi and Santeri.

I'm glad you and Betty are having such a great time!


Posted by: Laura at November 11, 2006 02:38 PM

love the Pandas ! I also think it is so great that you burn insence & pray for Grandchildren!!That is the best part of our lives will throw the "demand " for you in the Universe !!
Is your daughter still with the nice person ...friend of Dain ???
How lucky the Granchild would be , you are sooo much fun to be with !!

Posted by: Lise at November 13, 2006 08:18 AM

QuÈ bueno saber de ustedes y que se han ido a China!
Fascinantes los osos pandas!
Un abrazo desde Montevideo.

Posted by: Laura at November 30, 2006 06:31 PM