Day 42

Trip Start Sep 14, 2006
Trip End ??? ??, 2007

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Today we got up at 7am as we were going off to see the Giant Pandas of Chengdu. There is a world famous centre of breeding and research about 10km north west of the city. Both our new and old hostels offered tours there but when all they can do is take you there and back why pay for a tour? I figured out it would be cheaper to just get a taxi to take us the 10km and pay to enter on the door. So while Arjen and Audrey rushed off at 7.40am to get on the tour bus, Steve and I finished our coffee and toast and thought about leaving.

The Sichuan hotpot was living up to its reputation so I nipped down the shop for new loo roll - no day tripper in China can go anywhere without being self-sufficient with loo roll!

We got to the centre at 8.45 and sure enough Arjen and Audrey were just getting off their tour bus. Ignoring the advised route through the complex we just got on with exploring. This was one of those experiences I had been excited about back in England. The first panda we saw was in the adult enclosure and he was lazing on top of a timber climbing frame. The best bit soon followed as we found two 18-month old cubs play-fighting on similar timber frames in the nursery. I took some video so I'll try and get that up into the gallery. They were simply adorable even as they swiped for each other, at one point both rolling off the frame onto the grass below. There was an informative cinema room which talked about the difficulties for giant panda breeding in the wild and in captivity. It really is amazing they've lasted this long and with all the money being spent to revive the species things are still very precarious for China's national symbol.

Some smaller non-tourist buildings were being cleaned and some normally-closed doors were ajar. We managed to steal a few moments up close with some young adults that we could have touched through the gaps in the bars.

The whole tour only took two hours, but I think it was well worth coming to Chengdu for. Our taxi back was with an illiterate guy who could not make sense of our map. Rather than admit this he drove to completely the wrong part of town and took the shine of a really good morning. We finally got back around lunch time and only paid half of what the meter read - his own fault for being a buffoon. What more can you do than give a cabbie a map of his own town and point to where you want to go??

Found a couple of English language bookstores and bought three titles, and spent the afternoon plotting my route from China through to South East Asia.
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