We arrived in Chengdu to the sun and a blue sky! Wow!
The over-night train was an intetesting one….we were with an older Chinese couple, and as we had the bottom bunks we swapped with them as we thought they may struggle to get up and down. MISTAKE! Our kupe turned into a bloody mothers meeting for the entire trip – we had every Tom, Dick and Harry rock up for a chat, they all sat along the bottom bunks chin wagging very loudly. They woke up at 6am and started the whole thing again – when i woke up there were 6 people in the bottom bunks gassing away….at 7.30am!!!! That’s the last time we swap bunks i tell you!
As you can see by our pictures….and yes we took quite a few (!), we visited the Panda Breeding Centre on the outskirts of the city. Their main aim is to maintain a viable breeding population outside of the wild population (there are aprox 1000 wild pandas left in very small and fragmented forests). So if wild populations fall, there is a back up plan for re-population.
We got there for 9am, as they are at thier most active at breakfast time. We even saw a panda RUN to his bamboo breakfast – we have never seen a panda move so fast!
The baby pandas were very very cute – they were amusing to watch. Scooting around trying to get up, then just slumping back down because the effort was just too much for little legs.
The red panda enclosure was also brilliant – so much space, and they were a challenge to find….until breakfast time! Then they all turned up in force!
Typically there was a lack of information boards until the very end, it was more about how much the structures cost, how brilliant the care for tourists is, basically ‘aren’t we just bloody fantastic’. This seems to be a regular occurance at main sights – not alot about what you are looking at but a heck of alot of information about how great China is as a nation, how brilliant the design of the buildings is, how long it took to build and the cost etc.
We also found it ironic that around the panda base there were boards with famous quotes on….all about how you should care for the environment and everything within it….erm ok, anyone thinking ‘what about all the sharks who’s fins end up in soup? What about the ground up ivory and tiger bone used in traditional medcines?’ Ohhh but pandas are your national treasure – they are exempt from mass killing! Sorry rant over!
Near our hostel there were a couple of streets which reminded us of Covent Garden – lovely shops, tea houses etc. We had a lesson in how to make the perfect Chinese tea. It was great – so much care goes into it, it’s not all about dunking a PG Tips into boiling water! We tried all sorts of tea, my favourite has to be Jasmine, Paul wasn’t such a fan.
We tried the regions famous -‘hotpot’ – a large deep pan with all sorts in it, quite spicy too. We had mutton in ours, and it was delicious….very tender and well spiced. It was a small local restaurant we went into, and yet again we were assisted by some very helpful locals who recommended what we should order, and how we should eat it. We also got a shot of Chinese home brew on the house!
So, our next stop is Shanghai – and we are flying as it was much cheaper than the train. No slumming it for us this time!