|From Chengdu March 2010 Jamie|
Jamie and I started out early and had booked a tour (we were the only ones) with the hostel for the Chengdu Panda Research Base. China has a few of these research bases for panda bears, but this is probably the most easily accessible one for most tourists. It isn't the largest, but certainly has plenty of panda bears for you to see. We arrived early, before feeding time, and our guide explained all there was to know about the panda bears. Literally, just ask one of us about a panda bear next time and we'll tell you some obscure facts about them. You can do your own research if you are interested, but these bears are fascinating creatures that have been on the earth for about 8 million years.
We arrived just in time to see them walk out from their cages (GREAT VIDEO of this on our Chengdu 2010 Video album). They were fed a couple of slices of an apple and then promptly plopped down to start eating their bamboo. A panda will eat approximately 33 pounds of bamboo per day and spends 55% of their time eating, 43% sleeping, and only about 2% actually doing something. We saw 4 of the 5 stages of panda development and lots of pandas. They were more active in the morning, which was good, but by the time we were leaving about midday, they were starting to settle down for their one of many naps. The "kindergarten" pandas are probably the cutest because they are small, furry, and cuddly, but we enjoyed seeing the "adolescent" pandas that were just grouped together and eating their bamboo.
The park also has 20 red, or lesser, pandas that are also truly amazing creatures. These are a cross between a raccoon, a cat, and a panda bear. They are more active and and lively and Jamie took a great video of one climbing all the way up a tree.
We are panda fans now as this was a great adventure and the highlight of the trip. It costs a ton of money to pet a panda and even more to hug a panda, but we decided against that. Seeing and learning about them was good enough for us.
After our panda visit, we ate at one of the famous Sichuan hot pot restaurants. This restaurant is similar to the one in which we go to here in Shekou, but it has more Sichuan spices and flavor. It is most famous for being VERY spicy. Jamie and I ordered the wrong thing (of course), so we didn't get to taste the very spicy stuff. It was good though.
After lunch was a 3 hour nap prior to heading out to see the Sichuan opera. The Sichuan opera is a little different that the Peking opera and much more enjoyable. The simply have dancing shows and a stage, hand puppets, and of course, the world famous face changing performance. We were able to get some pretty decent video of these performances. The face changing guy even came out to my seat and shook hands with me as he changed one of his faces. Pretty cool!
We had read about a pretty cool nightlife spot in Chengdu called Bookworm, so we journeyed after the opera to see find it for a quick bite to eat. We began walking, took a 4 block bus ride, got off too early on the bus, and had to then walk another 4 blocks before finding it. Such is the way we travel. The Bookworm didn't disappoint and had good western food and shelves full of books you could read and exchange. Even the menus were cleverly designed in the form of a book with all of the menu items named after famous authors.
Tomorrow is the Leshan Giant Buddha, the world's largest buddha...
TONS of pictures in our Chengdu Albums, so be sure to check them out.