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Published: October 4th 2012
Breakfast out on the roof terrace in a little sprinkling rain. Marred by putting the HOT milk on my cereal by mistake. I'm somewhat mollified by having dragon fruit on the buffet. It's actually much blander than the name implies.
Let me go back to last night. We were "on our own" for dinner and the evening, but not knowing anything about where to go, we stuck with two other couples and took Michael's advice to go to a restaurant around the corner. He even ordered for us: Peking Duck, a shrimp dish, spinach, and chicken lettuce root. Everyone had all they wanted for about $5 a head. Then we chose to attend the optional cultural show, first dressing in opera costumes for photos. The show featured puppets, hand shadows, costume changing, and face changing, in which masks are changed instantaneously by sleight of hand. It was a good show, although I slept through about half of it, being so sleepy from my night on the hard bed.
First destination this morning was the Chengdu Panda Breeding Center with the largest collection of Giant Pandas in the world. There are about 1900 pandas in the entire
world, 1600 in the wild. 120 of the captive ones are in the Chengdu center. It is a place both for tourism and research, and they have been very successful in breeding, with 4 babies so far this year. Being Chinese vacation week, the place was mobbed with people! I found the iPad to be very useful as a periscope, because I could hold it over my head to take a picture and see what the crowd was looking at. We saw a baby about one month old in an incubator, and we were looking forward to having our picture taken with a baby panda. However, when we heard the price, $230, we decided to go with a toy panda instead. Sorry about that.
Back downtown we were "treated" to a western style restaurant. We could order steak, chicken, or spaghetti. The steak was oddly flavored and perhaps pre-ground, like Salisbury steak? The chicken was mostly skin with a barbecue sauce. All came with French fries that must have been cooked at McDonalds the day before. We had a nice ice cream dessert, though - taro flavor. That was fine, but I think we do better with the Chinese
We thought we had experienced crowds already, but nothing compared to the People's Park and Jing Li Street. At the park, people were everywhere, break dancing, singing opera, playing instruments, sitting at tables smoking, drinking tea, playing mahjong or Chinese Chess,or, strangest of all, having a treatment called "ear picking." Our local guide, Linda, said this is a very "relaxing" procedure in which a picker person uses a "very long, very thin" bamboo spike with a little cotton on the end to clean out your ears while you drink your tea. It sounded painful, not to mention unappetizing, but apparently it is the thing to do in Chengdu. We did not try it, but we did see it all around us. The best thing in the park was all the attention we drew as white tourists. Kids, especially, thought we were very funny, and they would run up to us saying, "Hello! Hello! How are you? I am fine!" I found the iPad to be a great substitute for conversation, as I could take a photo and immediately show it to the kids (or adults), and generally it's a device they haven't seen before, unlike the normal sized
Since we didn't get to Tibet, Michael took us to Tibet Street in Chengdu: many monks walking the street, and shops selling prayer flags and incense. Then we went into a Tibetan tea house and had barley cakes and yak butter tea. Yum on the cakes, not so much on the yak stuff. Too greasy and salty.
Tonight we have a late flight to Lijiang. Everyone exhausted.
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