Published: October 25th 2010October 23rd 2010
Pandas - China is famous for them, but if we're honest, they shouldn't exist. They've been around for 6 million years, which according to Darwinians is 2 million longer than most species survive. On top of this is the fact that they don't really like to breed that much, and when they are successful, often they manage to kill the babies by doing what pandas do best - Sitting.
Just outside of Chengdu in China is a breeding centre where the staff encourage the shy bears to get jiggy and when they give birth the babies are partially cared for by humans.
there are about 60 pandas at the centre and they're really happy doing not much at all, I don't really think I've seen so much laziness since we left Cayman. The project is pretty successful, and while we were there we got to see five baby pandas at various ages, they are kept in an incubator, and one lucky lady has the job of cleaning them each day.
As you leave the viewing room for the babies, the clever caring people have set up a shop selling nothing but cuddly toys. So straight after seeing the cute babies you are presented with thousands of cuddly toys. Upon seeing it I knew where Rhian would be headed, I knew she only had about a tenner on her, so I walked in a different direction, it was damage limitation. Whilst Rhian spent every Yuan in her purse I watched a middle aged female panda scratch her arse. More memories of Cayman.
Chengdu grew on us as a town and we started to wander around the Tibetan quarter which helped us decide to go to Mount Emei. It's a holy mountain, and goes from about 500m at the bottom to 3,100 at the top. You can also sleep in the monasteries along the way, so it seemed like a good way to spend a few days.
The day we started to climb the weather was great. The monks however have put a 150 Yuan price tag (GBP15.00) on entering the mountain, and soon after paying, the fog started to descend! We walked up the step (and they were all like the paved steps of a city hall) and avoided for the most part the hordes of Chinese day trippers who criss crossed the mountain on cable cars.
We got up to 2,700m by the end of the first day and stayed at a monastery run by monks. Though we never actually saw a monk, and once we'd paid city prices for our room and some pretty basic food, we couldn't recollect seeing a single monk on the mountain, at any of the temples or the monasteries we visited along the way, What they all had in abundance though, was snack bars, restaurants, accommodation and a couple of buddha statues knocking about for good measure!
The next morning the fog had become so thick that we couldn't see across the courtyard of our monastery and so reaching the summit would have been pretty dangerous so we went back to Chengdu and booked our tickets to Xi'an, home of the Terracotta warriors.