Xi'an to Chengdu

Trip Start Jun 15, 2007
Trip End Jun 27, 2008

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Thursday, August 2, 2007

Chengdu - Mix Hostel

The flight to Chengdu was very good and very quick.  One hour to get there as opposed to the alternative option, which was an 18 hour train journey.  I think we have done enough train travelling in China for the moment.  Again, we decided to travel with Rene and Mariska.

We arrived at the airport at 9pm - again we had arranged a pick up through the hostel from the airport.  The smiling Chinese lady greeted us and then told us there was a problem.  She phoned a number on her mobile, spoke for a couple of minutes then passed the phone to Nic.  Nic was then informed by a lady on the other end that the driver had a stomach ache and we had to wait. First question was how did Smiling Chinese lady get to the airport and second who was they guy in the van 20 metres away from us, where Smiling Lady was now stood and why did it look like he was being arrested?  Basically English lady on phone told us a huge porky pie and the driver didn't really have a stomach ache, he had a pain in the neck in the shape of a copper!!
Anyway, after about 30 minutes wait, the policeman went away and Smiling Lady came over and we got in the van with the driver who had obviously escaped arrest.  We still don't know what he did and we never got an explanation.

We spent our first day in Chengdu finding our feet and learning what is available and what sights to see.  First on our list was the Chengdu Giant Panda Research and Breeding Centre.  Sichuan is where most Pandas live in their natural habitat and is therefore the perfect place for a research centre.  There are something like 1500 (hope I got that right) Pandas in their natural habitat and nearly 200 hundred in captivity.  Pandas are now so endangered that any poaching or killing of them results in life imprisonment or even execution!! Remember that next time you are thinking of killing a Panda.
We headed off nice and early to the centre as this is when the pandas are the most active.  Not long in we came across our first sighting of the panda and they are so so cute and interestingly enough very human like in their movements.  We were convinced that there was someone in a big bear suit sitting there pretending to eat bamboo.
The centre also actively breeds pandas and we were very fortunate to see in the nursery two new born pandas, only a couple of days old. They are so small and pink that you would never believe that they grew in to these huge black and white bears.  They were in incubators as they are very delicate in the early stages.  Also there was another cub approx 3 weeks old that had turned black and white and was so so so cute.  We tried to put it our pocket but the thick security glass and armed guard prevented us from doing so.
There are quite a few enclosures to see the adult pandas and as it was still early in the morning we were fortunate to see quite a few mooching around, eating and posing for cameras. They really are beautiful creatures and we are very lucky to have seen them.
At the end we watched an educational film in the centre about the work they do and we learnt some very interesting - and slightly amusing - facts about these animals.
For starters, the Giant Panda finds it very difficult to mate in captivity (obviously doesn't like performing to an audience).  So to get it in the mood the scientists show them rudey films of other pandas.  Genuinely this is true!
Also the panda has a very easy labour.  As they are naturally fat and round it is difficult to tell if  they are pregnant.  They showed footage of a Panda giving birth and literally this bear was walking around and all of a sudden POP! out flew a baby panda. This totally takes the panda by surprise and freaks it out.  Because the panda is unnerved it starts to knock the new born about with its giant paw trying to work out what the hell happened.  However, if the panda has a second birth it is a very different experience - they really nurture the baby during the birth and take very good care of it.
All in all it was a fascinating morning and we are now experts on pandas.

The next day (5th August) we went to see the Giant Buddha in Leshan.  As all Buddha statues claim to be the biggest or largest or weirdest we were sceptical but this one is genuinely the largest Buddha in the world at 233 feet - HUGE.  It is carved into the cliff at the merging point of three rivers and was initiated by a monk in 733 AD to watch over the ships at this difficult passage of their journey.
You arrive at the top of the Buddha and to get to the bottom you have to walk down a very steep and very rickety staircase that is on the side of the cliff.  Very precarious and pretty scary.  Particularly as at the bottom there is a fast flowing river.  Pat did not like this AT ALL!! Because of the amount of people visiting, the queues down the staircase were horrendous and what should have taken 5 minutes to get down took about an hour!!
Anyway, it was all worth it and at the bottom you got a real perspective of how big he is and the effort that must have gone into it.
The climb back wasn't much better but was a little less daunting. 

Our plans for the next few days are to spend more time in Chengdu as we both really like it here and there is so much to see and do.  We will head down to Emei Shan for the beautiful mountains.  Also we are planning a bike tour for a few days into the hills.  There is a company called Bike China (www.bikechina.com) that are based in Chengdu and we have already made contact with them and will hopefully sort something with them.
We then hope to move to Yangshou in the south east before going to Hainan in the south (known as the Chinese Hawaii) before we cross into Vietnam and Cambodia.  This is the plan at the moment but as you have probably guesses our plans are always subject to change.
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pierrelepont on

Not sure if you got my e-mail or not Pat so I'll re-produce it here by kind permision of TravelPod:

Hi Pat,

No wonder you didn't want me to know the name of the village in Lincolnshire where you used to live. 'Norton Disney' - what kind of Mickey Mouse name is that ?? hahahha.
Anyway - just read that you went to another Disneyland, albeit about 6,000 miles away and probably a bit more lively.
Ref our John's travel blog - www.travelblog.org has been down for about 4 days but it's now up and running again
As I said before - click on the link and then 'Next Journal' after you've read it.

What happened to the farm work then - I was going to say 'treat your hoes with respect' but now I can't ahah.

Pierre Le Pont

Link: http://www.travelblog.org/Europe/United-Kingdom/England/Yorkshire/blog-99551.html

redmalc on

Pat, The pics and storys are great, I'm envious of you too! Glad your enjoying it all, If you can get a panda, I'll have 1 too!

Paris Accommodation on

This is a country rich in tradition with the ancient architecture of wear bold ethnic Chinese, with the beauty of architecture is always in harmony with nature that has left travelers in the heart of a mysterious beauty and spirituality . Arriving here, you can see the many temples with the majestic Buddha's holy places and the hospitality of the people here paint the beauty of a long tradition most populous nation gender. the information you share is wonderful for me to know more about life, customs and traditions of Asian people.

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