Wild China in Chengdu

After leaving the historical, ancient and traditional cities of Beijing and Xian, we flew onto Chengdu, the most modern capital of the west. The city left a very good impression with me. The roads looked very well organised, the metro system very modern and seemed a little less chaotic than the other two cities we’d just been in. Chengdu also happens to be the capital of the Sichuan province – an area well known for spicy food like Ma Po Tofu and the like. My parents didn’t like the food as much as I did, but still enjoyed.

We had a day tour of Emeishan or Mount Emei, where we took a cable car up to the top before descending the many steps on the way down. Little other alternatives create business opportunities for locals who offer to carry you down in bamboo chairs although you need to definitely bargain your way. Instead, we just took our time with my mum being the most delicate and needing the most support.

We saw plenty of wildlife including many types of caterpillars, butterflies and warning signs of monkeys (though none sighted). This mountain had some really beautiful scenery.

Such as this lake with accompanying place for a flame.

We took a break in the mountain for lunch, but we saw how people brought construction materials down and up with the help of horses carrying bricks on either side of their back. What was really impressive was the way that the animals were able to navigate the small narrow staircases by themselves, weaving in a zig zag pattern from from the bottom back to the top without any assistance.

The next day in Chengdu, we took a trip out to see the Leshan Giant Buddha. It’s an impressive buddha carved into the side of the cliffs with two vantage points – by boat where you get shipped in front of the strong tides of the city river, or by walking down the cliff where you get to enjoy the sights yourself. We lined up amongst all the Chinese people (who we found extremely pushy and wouldn’t hesitate to fill any open gap) and it took probably a good hour to get to the bottom of the buddha after waiting for all the people to go through.

We returned to Chengdu to spend some free time walking around. Our final day in Chengdu before flying out involved heading out to the Panda Base, home to the breeding and safe grounds for the Giant and Red Pandas.

I’m glad we started early, with the idea of seeing lots of the pandas on opening without the crowds. We walked around the various pens where the pandas were either eating or sleeping as well as looking very human like in the process.

Although all the pandas were amazing to see in real life, the red pandas looked really interesting for me because they are appear closer to racoons than they do a real panda. They never really seemed to stop moving unless they were chomping on bamboo, and seemed a lot more active than the giant pandas who would pretty much stay in one spot for a good amount of time.

My sister and I opted to pay an extra fee to get closer to panda, much in the same way that one would pay to hold a koala in Australia. It buys you a a very unattractive outfit to protect the panda (and you!) from transmitting any diseases where you need to don plastic gloves, plastic boots over your shoes and then a blue hospital gown before lining up behind a small curtain.

They have about eight to ten people lining up at any time, and you end up spending about two to three minutes seated next to panda where you get to hug it. The one we had was about a year old, and seemed pretty docile and happy chomping away on fresh bamboo. They don’t smell like apparently koalas do, and their fur, though very thick was surprisingly coarse compared to what you might expect.

I think I could spend just a day hanging around the panda enclosure and just watch them do whatever they do. I do wonder if they would be so popular if they weren’t as cute as they were. But they are. And I guess that’s enough.