Giant Pandas, Red Pandas and Black Swans

Trip Start Nov 02, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Hello Chengdu International Youth Hostel
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of China  , Sichuan,
Monday, September 24, 2012

It’s a relief getting into the hostel and getting my own room for a few days, I sorely needed a wee bit of space.  I’ve ordered a front rack and panniers to be delivered to the hostel here, as well as spare (folding) tyres and cycle shoes with clips and pedals for them hopefully to make my travels a bit easier.  The bike has been a bit off balance so front panniers should help although I’m a bit daunted by having the capacity to carry more luggage which is why I didn't have them to start with , I will need to make sure I keep my weight down to a minimum.  Once again however, customs have a hold of my parcels and it ends up another saga trying to get them delivered, especially as 'Chinese National Week' approaching, which means everyone in China goes on holiday.  Ideally we want to be away from the hostel and back on the road before it starts but, it turns out it wasn’t to be.

Although I explored Chengdu, visiting the centre and main areas as well as the compulsory bike and camping shops I loved heading out to see the pandas, this was the real highlight of my stay here as I’ve never seen one before.  So, I booked a seat on the tourist bus through the hostel and it was an early start (because the pandas sleep early on in the day apparently) and I loved my day out.  We arrived early and the ‘guide’ took us down to the main enclosure, I was delighted to actually see the pandas lazing around, munching away on their bamboo, they really have 'the good life'.  They are huge animals and I’m mesmerized watching them which I could do for hours.  Jane comes out with me so she can hold one of the babies, but it’s too expensive just to have your photos taken with them so I don’t bother but, to my surprise Jane doesn’t either and just sticks with me around the compound.  We lost the guide within the first ten minutes, but I enjoyed just wandering and taking pictures on our own.

Not only do I see loads of pandas in their environment with a bit of tree hugging going on too, the next enclosure has red pandas in it which aren’t at all like their namesake at all.  They look more like racoons or... oh I don’t know what, but not like you would imagine.  On one of my treks in Nepal, coming back from Langtang, and on my way into Gossainkunda, I was in Red Panda country but due to the snow I didn’t manage to see any, so I’m really pleased at seeing them today.  They are funny looking wee guys with their long tails and white faces, cute even.

Further on we come to a lake which has thousands of gold fish and carp in it and, of all things, black swans… I’ve never even heard of black swans before never mind seeing them so I’m amazed by our find, a real experience that I will never forget. I’ve since been informed that there was a black swan in a Glasgow park for a number of years but they are originally from Australia, wow, the things you learn, that’s what travelling is all about.  So I thoroughly enjoyed my day and was thrilled by seeing all these new creatures great and small, I feel now that I’ve seen a part of China I’d been craving and it's another 'tick' off  my ‘list', pandas in China. 

When back at the hostel I enjoy just chilling out, heading to the bar for a beer, reading or just listening to music, and I meet many lovely people.  One older guy Ken has quite some stories to tell; he’s traveled all over the world and has had such an interesting life, ah one of these days, I find the more I travel the more I crave.  People’s lives and stories are incredible and I would love to be in ‘that’ bracket one day.  I’ve learned so much already, I guess that’s what travelling is all about but I find it funny when people are amazed at ‘my’ story so far, I feel I’ve done nothing yet, I’m only skimming the surface, but in comparison to others I’m now in a different league with the cycling and camping, and I can see how the travel bug gets you, I just never realised it before.

I enjoy wandering and people watching in Chengdu but ,I’m finding Jane’s company more and more draining, it’s all very negative, I could go into all sorts of examples but why bother using my energy on that front!  Jane managed to get her parcel’s delivered no problem but not mine, after several days of phone calls etc I managed to collect them from customs out at the airport, but with another duty to pay.  It looks like I need to watch the value of the items I order, which seems to be why they are held until you pay duty on them.  

When I returned to the hostel with my parcel it was the first smile I got from Jane the whole time we’ve been in Chengdu, she almost grabbed the box from me to go and fit the rack to my bike, I had to hold her in check while I opened it up and had a proper look.  My plan was to take everything to the local bike shop to fit, but with her being so keen to tinker with the bike, saying ‘no’ wasn’t really an option, but boy I wish I had.  Not only could she not fit them properly, she had a tantrum doing it and started throwing tools around, honestly what a nightmare.  I stood back and watched with Ken, and we just looked at each other.  I found I had to continually bite my tongue because I know she is trying to help and is doing her best but, it’s really hard work, they’re will be a bust up I’m sure!  Maybe it will clear the air?

I end up glad when I’m leaving Chengdu and heading once again for the hills (what am I saying)… bring on the next chapter to my adventures and the incredible Chinese countryside and farming communities.
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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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