Pandas, Giant Buddhas and Monasterys

Trip Start Jan 31, 2011
Trip End Dec 15, 2011

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Where I stayed
Bagao Monastery

Flag of China  , Sichuan,
Wednesday, March 23, 2011

07:59 Today we are seeing the pandas. They are most active in the morning (when I am least active!) so 630, the alarm went off. It took me about a minute to get dressed, whereupon I took everything down to the lobby and fell asleep again until getting on the bus time. We left just after 7.30 and set off into the traffic. There really are an incredible number of scooters and bikes here.
It's very cold again and we'll have to move further south before it gets warmer. For the next 2 nights we are staying in a mountain monastery with the monks. This will be basic, but I've done basic and I'm not afraid of basic. They make up for it by putting us in hotels with a massive bed after all. I shall be thoroughly spoilt by the time I arrive in south east Asia.

 08:09 Bouncing down the rural roads toward the panda sanctuary cars weave in and out continually looking for a route to get to the front, the bikes and scooters do the same. Everyone leans on their horn vying for position. There are also plenty of overloaded bikes, and trikes with a cart as a back end, stacked full of chairs or bamboo. No one wears a helmet, and with all the manic driving I'm surprised not to have seen an accident first hand.

15:34 This morning we spent several hours watching the pandas, both giant black and White ones, and the red pandas, that look like racoons/cats/foxes. We had an enchanting time watching the teenager pandas play, of which I'll put some videos on YouTube when I can.
The pandas are so cute, we watched them for hours, they seem to strip the outer layers off the stem of the bamboo before eating it and really good paw-eye co-ordination. They don't move a lot mind as they only absorb 20% of the nutrients from the food they eat since they have a carnivores digestive system, yet only now eat bamboo. As a result they spend all day eating and barely move.
The red pandas were much more active and cat like, it was quite difficult even trying to take a photo as they wouldn't keep still.

After a 2 hour bus ride through lots of countryside with yellow filled fields, we arrived at Leshan and went straight to see the grand Buddha. This is one massive massive Buddha, the biggest in the world in fact. It's built into a sandstone rockface, all around the area there are lots of carved nooks with ornate carvings in them. There is also a temple up there with different buddhas in. Th one on the left is for health. Another area we came too had a red and a green carving. The red one means happiness the green means longevity.
16:27 Back on the bus again, we are going to the monastery now.
17:47 We've arrived at the monastery on Emei mountain, its grey and damp up on the hill. There is no heating or air conditioning as these are truly basic guest rooms. There is electricity which has been put in over the walls so you can charge things still.
It's about 2 degrees here, and therefore also in the room, there is a duvet and a blanket, no windows in the back room where I am, and 3 single beds. The rooms at the front have 2 double beds and windows. Maybe we will have to take extra blankets each to keep warm. I may well sleep in my hat tonight and thick mountain socks. Good thing I haven't posted those home yet!

The toilets and bathroom facilities are incredibly basic and I will get photos. We can hear the monks chanting and tapping bells, drums and wooden 'fishes'. There are lots of Buddha statues in several different buildings, all coloured gold with flowers and fruit and other things laid out in front.

The showers have hot water powered by wood fuel. The shower room is a very dark and dirty shed which the only possible way you'd go in is with flip flops on. I think everyone is going to give it a miss quite honestly. You'll see from the photos what it's like hopefully, except feel how cold and damp it is! It's not a complaint, I'm rather enjoying this rugged bit, being in the hotels felt a bit like cheating, but always a nice treat! Being here reminds me a little of Kandy in Sri Lanka, just that cloudy, damp, cool mountain air.

We walked into the village, everyone is looking at us. The village is deserted, all the doors to the restaurants etc are wide open (2deg?) and now we're in a restaurant which is also freezing, with jumper and coat zipped up, but a feast awaits us for only 3 each.

After dinner we walked in another direction and discovered a neon lit town lined with red lanterns. We were all a little confused having thought that the deserted village was 'it'
We stocked up on a few nibbles, snickers being a compulsory buy being the only chocolate we can get here that is familiar, then in the shop next door they had a run on hat and glove purchases, including a pair of woollen gloves for me as my liners aren't enough on their own.

On returning to the monastery about 9pm, I watched another episode of desperate housewives and then at 10 turned off the light.

It was freezing. Really. I won't explain the palaver of my uplayering experimentation, but I will tell you the end result of what I slept in. Under 2 duvets and a blanket, I wore silk long johns, tracksuit bottoms, thick mountain socks, t shirt, fleece jumper, neck warmer/scarf, furry hat (done up tight) gloves, facemask.
Only then did I feel warm enough to sleep.

Best thing: watching the pandas play

Worst thing: early start - if you hadn't already noticed, I hate mornings.

Most beautiful. The monastery with all the golden buddhas.
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cpbirch on

I'm really slow catching up with where you've been and what you've done... Those baby pandas are just too cute. Hope you're keeping well. x

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