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May 31st 2006
Published: May 31st 2006
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Where would you be...Where would you be...Where would you be...

Panda breakfast - Giant Panda Breeding Research Base Chengdu.
Our arrival into Chengdu, a city in South Western China (pop 4.1 million!) was one of the easiest so far. After a relaxing one hour flight from Xi'an, we boarded a shuttle bus to the city centre. Chengdu is the capital of the Sichuan province, famed for its spicy cuisine and also..... the home of the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, hoooorah!

The first thing we noticed about Chengdu was its relaxed pace. After the frantic activity of Beijing and our whirlwind tour of Xi'an it looked as if Chengdu would be a really chilled place to spend a few nights. The Lonely Planet described the rooms at Sam's Guesthouse as "tired" but I don't know what kind of room the reviewer saw but it certainly wasn't what we got! For 120 Yuan a night for a double, our room, which was actually in the nearby Rong Cheng hotel was exactly what you would expect a Chinese hotel experience to be like. The beautifully ornate 400 year-old building, former lodgings of salt dealers and merchants had a courtyard tea-house, a hanging garden and a bridge over a fish pond. It was like something out of a movie set! Silken clad
Sam's Guesthouse - ChengduSam's Guesthouse - ChengduSam's Guesthouse - Chengdu

Courtyard view of our 400 year old hostel! Our room behind the tree on the left.
hosts poured tea at all times of the day and night and our room, complete with replica antique furniture looked over the bustling courtyard below. Flasks of boiling water for tea were delivered to our room each morning, perfectly completing the whole experience.

We spent one day walking around the streets of Chengdu, taking in the sights and smells and paying a visit to the Wenshu temple, located about 1km from the city centre. This is known as one of China's best preserved Buddhist temples and houses many beautiful temple buildings, a vegetarian restaurant and two tea-houses. We also sampled some fiery Sichuan cuisine including noodles in a spicy sauce, Kung Pao chicken with fried rice and double boiled pork, all local specialities available from street vendors and small cafes for less than 5 Yuan (50 cents).

On Tuesday morning, we hopped on a bus from the hostel to the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, a 30 minute ride from the city centre. The morning is supposed to be the best time to spot the pandas as they are feeding, washing and generally larking about. The Base is a hugely important centre for breeding pandas as they are in danger of extinction due to deforestation and their reliance on particular types of bamboo. They also only mate in one three month period of the year and are supposedly fairly picky about their partners. The research base is home to about 40 pandas living in panda luxury, with their favourite bamboo in abundant supply, a nursery area for their babies and no shortage of attention from tourists and panda-keepers.

We had hoped to see a few pandas but were surprised to see that many of them were going about their business only a few feet from us. I think we spotted about 15 giant pandas and 5 red pandas. The adults were playing with each other, mess fighting to wake each other up, bathing and chewing on large amounts of bamboo. The younger cubs in a separate enclosure were equally active, pushing each other around and climbing up trees with a speed you wouldn't believe. They were all absolutely gorgeous and we wanted to take one of them home with us (erm, well I did, Patrick wasn't so sure about the idea!!). That one being Mei Mei, a red panda (or lesser panda as they are called here)
Mmmmmmm Bamboo!Mmmmmmm Bamboo!Mmmmmmm Bamboo!

Young panda - doing what young pandas do best.
that I fed with apples. He was only six months old and had no complaints about hopping up on my knee to munch some fruit! I want to go back already and live there among the pandas.

There's probably more to tell about Chengdu, but it can't top the pandas so I think loads of photos of the furry lads is a better idea!

On to Chongqing tomorrow, also in the Sichuan province where we will hopefully have time to have a killer spicy hotpot before boarding our Yangtze river boat at 10pm.

Stay tuned....

I heart pandas.

Additional photos below
Photos: 14, Displayed: 14


Panda NurseryPanda Nursery
Panda Nursery

"Hey, I think I'll climb this tree"
Panda NurseryPanda Nursery
Panda Nursery

"Hey chill out man, I can do this."
Panda NurseryPanda Nursery
Panda Nursery

"Redner, maybe I need a bit more practice. What are you guys laughing at!"
When push comes to shoveWhen push comes to shove
When push comes to shove

How to get a panda away from your bamboo!
On your own!On your own!
On your own!

"I preferred it down here anyway"
Giant, Giant Panda!Giant, Giant Panda!
Giant, Giant Panda!

I love this stuff!
Panda DeargPanda Dearg
Panda Dearg

"Who are you callin a lesser Panda!?"

Is Cat about to deliver a giant panda?
Ta Daaaa!Ta Daaaa!
Ta Daaaa!

As if by magic, a red panda appears.
Mei Mei and CatMei Mei and Cat
Mei Mei and Cat

Catherine plots panda theft whilst plying Mei Mei with apples.

31st May 2006

oh my god thats so unfair. i hate you both. red pandas are stupid anyway, i'd never want one on my knee ... sob sob. Bet when I make it there, they'll be "hibernating" : (
31st May 2006

Bring us back a red panda Kat!!!!!!! You both look very well and content in these pics you know. Miss yous xxx
31st May 2006

Fabulous journey
Really enjoying pics and commentary - perhaps a change of vocation for you both... Shame you didn't take me along as a baggage carrier..
5th June 2006

I want one too
8th June 2006

That looks so cute... specially the tail.
15th June 2006

found you!!
hi lost the bloody link for the last 2 months have now spent last hour reading all and loving every minute detail and foto, keep going. miss you loads. are the pandas nicer than chockos? mua!!!!
16th July 2006

The Panda breakfast looks fecking ace! I know where to go for breakfast if I visit China! =¬)

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