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Published: November 14th 2014
Monk in the morning sun8 Days with Shu Fey-Wednesday: Chongqing and the Pandas
Flying Goose Pagoda, Xi'an, China
Before leaving Xi’an we took a quick trip to the Flying Goose Pagoda. Originally this pagoda was built to house precious Buddhist texts brought back from India by Xi’an’s most celebrated pilgrim, Xunzang in 645AD. He translated his stack of holy books from Sanskrit to Chinese. This Buddhist temple was in the best part of Xi’an and ended up being the cleanest, best kept temple we have visited. Since many of its patrons are well off, even when there was a fire 10 years ago, they were able to raise funds to rebuild without any problem. Even though it was smack dab in the middle of the city, with a Starbucks right outside the gate, it was as we have found at every one, a very peaceful, serene place with monks praying, studying, and working at various tasks around the temple grounds. The smell of incense was as prevalent as ever as a few worshipers were out early praying and bowing to the four directions of the planet.
One more stop on the way to the airport, the Jade Museum and Store. A short lecture and
Zoo, Chongqing, China
demonstration on the various types of jades from transparent to opaque and looking at the beautiful stones. On into the store with glass cases full of jade objects from $500,000 horses to $20 charms. We leave a half hour later with a small jade pendant ;-)
Time to head to the airport for a buffet lunch and our 1 hour 40 minute flight south to Chongqing (pronounced Chung ching). The Xi’an airport boasts some beautiful shops so we did a little browsing before we boarded China Eastern airlines to take us to Chongqing.
We grabbed our bags from baggage claim, took them to the curb and lined them up for the truck that would, once again, take them to our next lodging, the Victoria Cruises, Riverboat Katerina. Chongqing is a very modern city of about 7 million people with a first class zoo right in the middle of the city.
In through the old stone gates to a beautiful open space and straight ahead were magnificent, Giant and Red Pandas. It was feeding time for the Giant Pandas when we got there and surprisingly we got to see all six of
them that live at the zoo. The keepers (just for us) brought the baby Giant Panda into the enclosure so we could see him. In typical baby fashion he ran to a huge tree and began to climb it, stopping at a V in the branches to have a little apple snack and play around. So fun to watch. In the next open enclosure were 4 Red Pandas. These were much smaller than the Giant ones and instead of being black and white were red. The really looked like gigantic raccoons. While the Giant Pandas were lolling around the red ones were frolicking around and having a grand time together. Some scientists believe the Red Pandas are not really part of the bear family but actually part of the raccoon family. The afternoon was cool and all the Pandas were enjoying eating bamboo shoots or apples. In the meantime the baby Giant Panda took to climbing as far up in the tree as he could get and wedging himself into another V in the tree. The guide told us that many times the babies (maybe 150 pound babies ;-) get themselves up a tree but can’t figure out how to
get down. When they are smaller a zookeeper will get a ladder and go up after them. This baby was too high and too big for that. The zoo keeper/guide assured us he would find his way down.
Next stop our new home for the next 4 nights, the riverboat on the Yangtze River. When we arrived along the river there was a long dock parallel with the river. Our group headed straight to the riverboat, through people selling things, down a long length of concrete steps and onto a somewhat flimsy but fine floating pontoon walkway out into the river to another floating dock where our boat was docked. The ship is basically is a mini cruise ship with many same facilities. Our cabin was small with twin beds but more than adequate, every room had a balcony and even a bathtub! Next, on the Yangtze River and the Victoria Katarina
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