Chengdu Pandas

PandaSounds like a football team!
They were large balls of fur but other than that no resemblance to football. It was hard to believe that these adorable creatures have been around for so long, other creatures like the sabre toothed tiger, etc have since died out, but the panda remains.
Thanks to the hard work the research centres do. They have managed to successfully breed more generations and when you see what the newborn pandas have to put up with in the wild you can see how they could easily become extinct.
First time mums are so rough with their newborn they often don’t survive, and if they do, not for long once they encounter the big bad world.
At Chengdu Breeding centre they keep the pandas in as natural habitat as they can. No cages just large pens to roam and climb. The trick is to get there as soon as it opens 8am. Just in time to see them eat breakfast, especially if you go the opposite way round the park to the tourist buses.Their was just us, Sanji and Nils (a couple of guys we met at the hostel) and up to half a dozen pandas eating bamboo, 2 Pandasthem not us, we forgo breakfast in order not to miss anything.
They are amazing to watch and as long as you’re quiet they aren’t bothered by you being there, just a deep ditch and bit of wire separating you. They are quite rough with each other when they play and reminded me of watching Rob and Jono when they were little. Sneakily trying to push each other off the climbing apparatus when the other one wasn’t looking. It just needed a third one to say ‘ow’ regularly and we could have been at home or on a long car journey with our own kids.
The older pandas are very lazy and just eat or sleep, obviously we haven’t reached that stage yet!!
In the nursery we saw the very young, the smallest was about 6 months old and they just roll about unable to stand up, they are so adorable you just want to pick them up, reality is they are behind glass just like the nursery for newborn babies in a hospital. It really makes you want to volunteer there, unfortunately you need the correct qualifications, this isn’t something you can just say do you need a hand! 3 pandasThese people really know what they are doing which is why the Research Centre have successfully bred so many pandas.
Soon the tourists arrive, mostly Chinese talking loudly on their mobiles ignoring the Do NOT DISTURB signs and then the school bus, children all watching us the ‘foreigners’ (very few of us around at this time of year, most places we go we are the only western people obviously quite a rare species) rather than the pandas, often think walking around, this must be what it feels like to be in a zoo! people just staring at you. So getting busier now time to go, a very enjoyable morning and well worth the entrance fee. found our own way there rather than an organized trip so saved money, at least enough for a few drinks in the bar,so can’t be bad.

Other than the pandas life was fairly uneventful in Chengdu. As usual we spent our time and money experiencing the local food. There is a large Tibetan population in Chengdu so loads of monks walking around (not supposed to beg but do then you see them buying ‘Bai Jui’ the local ‘lethal!!! spirit with your money, so don’t Red Pandagive anything.) Many men and women in Tibetan costume and of course lots of restaurants.
So we had a special Yak dish with meat potatoes and bread, delicious and very filling. We declined the Yak butter tea. Another dish we had to try was the Sichuan Hotpot that the area is famous for, spicy or not spicy? Spicy of course which promotes everyone in the restaurant to turn around and look at the westerners, especially when the food arrives. Can they really eat hot food!!!!! When a large vat of bubbling fat full of chillies turns up i think oh dear! (thats the polite word) then the waitress turns up with a platter of meat and veg, so we just look at her. What do we do? So she puts a variety of things into the pot and gestures for us to wait until they are cooked, soon we are tucking in, at first the taste was great but after about 15 mns you become aware of how much oil/fat you are eating, I’m glad we tried it but its not a dish i would want to eat too frequently.
Other than eating which we do a lot of, the Bambooother things to mention are our visit to the Bamboo Park, The bamboo’s were massive and loads of different varieties (hope you are still looking after our black bamboo Rob) It’s so nice to escape the crowds and wander around with jumping out of the way of cars and bikes. I can hear the countryside calling!
One thing i had been looking forward to was going to the old part of town. We found our way only to b disappointed by the lack of it, Behind the Shangri-la the map said, ok is this it. It is so sad that everywhere in China they are knocking down the old hutong districts and replacing them with new replica style buildings. There where some quite derelict shacks (through the open doors could be seen a slab of a bed a table, chair and very little else…) the alleys were packed with washing lines, cooking areas and open fronted shops that sold everything you might need, if you are prepared to remove the years of dust. People young and old were going about there daily life, playing chinese card games, Mah jong, gambling with what little money they had. I didn’t take any Bamboo gardenphotos as i felt their life had been intruded on enough. The whole area was no bigger than a couple of british streets and all around was building work going on. Out with the old in with the new, what happens to these people…………….
We had visited some nice streets, with old fashioned buildings and great stalls selling local souvenirs but now, this area felt like a street in Disneyland.
China wants to be seen as modern and somehow western but maybe things are moving too fast, I am so glad we have visited now who knows what original things will be left in 10 or 20 years.

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