Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Giant Pandas !

When you say Chengdu to a Chinese the first thing they will say is "oh, spicy hot pot, its the best in Chengdu and Chongqing". When you say Chengdu to a foreigner the first thing they will say is "oh, Panda Bears". The cultures of East and West collide yet again.

Before November of 2018 the train from Xi'an to Chengdu was a arduous journey of 10 to 14 hours, depending on the train. Now there is a slick new high speed route that gets you there in 3.5 hours which makes Chengdu a great getaway. High speed tickets run about 263 RMB/$C 53.50 and there are lots of departures from the Xi'an North train station. The slow train option is still available and yes, it is incredibly cheap but also incredibly long.

Chengdu is the capital of  China's Sichuan province. At one time or another you may have come across the term Chinese Sichuan cooking. This style can take you on an emotional spicy journey from ingestion to digestion to excretion faster than any Hot Chicken Wing experience you have ever had. To much information?

However my main objective here, aside from my flight to Kathmandu, was The Giant Panda Research Centre which is located about 7 km from downtown. It was time to see Giant Pandas and the lesser famous Red Panda in all their glory. Now the first thing I need to mention is that zoo's usually disgust me and nothing can convince me that the are good for the animals. The research center helped to show me that everyone once in a while, if done right, animals can thrive. Remember this is not a zoo but a government and university funded research center and there is a huge difference. I will not go into detail because I will not do it justice so please click on the link to learn more about what the Research Center is all about.

What I did learn was that Pandas make people happy. These are wild animals and not stuffed play toys and if you decided to climb into the pen with one of the adults there is a good chance that that would be one of your final earthly acts. From a safe distance, like the gorillas in Rwanda, you can admire their playfulness and beauty. I got to the park early enough to watch them happily eat their breakfast and as quick as they started they stop, go for a short walk and drop into a long slumber. The average time spent at the park is about 3 hours, I stayed 5.

I stayed at the Lazy Inn Hostel which I booked using Booking.com. My private room for 2 nights was 211 RMB/$C43 and it included a pretty good breakfast. It was clean, quiet, easy to get to and close to as much street food as I good possibly eat. I use to be a fan of Hostel Bookers, Hostel World and other various sites but  Booking.com is my go to now.  I have an agreement that the first 10 people who book through that website from my links will get $15 off their room. This is a start to my affiliate program and my new focus on creating an on-line travel brand using this blog, Youtube Instagram, FB and other social media, but more on that later.

After the Panda Reserve I took the bus back into town and wandered for a while. My first stop was  Tianfu Square. It is huge and spotless and a cliché Chinese square. There are fountains, a few bits of greenery and plenty of happy, smiling people. In this case there was a massive stature of Mao Zedong staring down upon us like a historical god watching our every move.. It was a glorious sunny day so I sat in the square near a fountain staring at the world around me. With the Stature of Father Mao reaching out to greet me, I had a long mind wander about the real history of China (as much as I know), and how it effects today's society.  Sure he killed over 300 million people with a suicidal policies between 1959 - 1961  including the ridiculous 4 pests campaign. Seriously, 300 million people starved to death...the population of the United States, and he is still revered as the father of the country and the greatest ever Chinese and the death of 300 million is considered not true by most people today.

Chengdu is a huge city and there were many places to explore. I went down to the river, which as far a city rivers go was disappointing. The walk along the river brought me to areas of elderly people playing lively and very aggressive games of majong, listening to music and just sitting around drinking tea, basically enjoying their day. I found a few interesting parks and there was a touristy area where I watch a girl being trained on an ancient tea service ritual. She looked way out of her element but she was giving it her best.

China has been an interesting experience and I would encourage anyone to look past the oddities of the country and embrace it for what it is. When you can look past the things that will drive you crazy you will find a country of warm people, delicious food, a history that is both tragic and brilliant plus it is one of the oldest thriving cultures on the planet. China will lull you in with a warm embrace once you give her a chance.

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