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April 11th 2013
Published: April 29th 2013
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We set off very early the next morning for the Chengdu Panda Breeding Centre, about a 3/4 of an hour taxi drive out of the city. We had to arrive early as pandas are only active early in the morning when they wake up and eat, then eat some more, and maybe if they feel like it, eat a little bit more! The rest of the day they have to stay pretty inactive to conserve energy - there aren't really a lot of calories to be had in bamboo.

Sadly there was yet another hill to get up and my asthma coughing and wheezing (not having been helped by the city smog) was getting really bad so I had to take it pretty slowly. We first went to have a look at the panda kitchen where staff were making up these kind of panda cakes - mostly roughage - I know this because we were encouraged to have a taste! And then we went to look around the enclosures to see if we could see any of the pandas. And suddenly we spotted our first panda munching away on some bamboo and oh how very cute she was. We carried on walking around and kept spotting these gorgeous creatures. The younger ones were the cutest, balancing precariously on very thin branches up in little trees they had managed to clamber up. Their parents were munch, munch, munching on the bamboo, breaking off sections with their paws then munching the soft end bits. We stopped for ages watching a couple of youngsters playing together. Soooo cute. We found out a bit about the breeding programme at the centre. Although they are working on breeding captive pandas their more critical work is attempting to breed those pandas who will be able to be released into the wild. They have to have no obvious human contact which involves the staff having to don panda skins sprayed with panda urine and poo to make it smell right. It's hoped they can then breed the pandas in such a way that they don't become reliant on human beings and are able to fend for themselves in the wild.

While we were walking round the site we saw a sign that read 'The greatness of a nation and moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated' a Gandhi quote. I found this quite ironic considering some of the sights we'd seen at the market places and the way the animals were treated there! Another sign said 'In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; we will understand only what we have been taught' this time a Baba Diom quote. Again ironic considering the Chinese propensity for eating anything that moves and every single little part of it! I think the Chinese have quite some way to go regarding conservation and environmentalism, but at least some strides are being made if somewhat selectively and very slowly.

Further on we found the red pandas. These little balls of loveliness looked like they had been dipped in some black paint up to their armpits. One of them came right up to the edge of the enclosure, took one look at Sarah and stood up on it's little hind legs with its front legs stretched up in front of it, just as she took a photo 😊

It took a while, but eventually we'd all had our fill of cute, fluffy pandas and went to the cafe for some much needed brunch. The hoards were starting to descend and the pandas were, on cue, starting to settle down for a sleep so we were very glad we'd made the effort and got up early for once.

Back in Chengdu my coughing had gotten so bad Dennis decided enough was enough and carted me of to see a doctor, only this involved going to the largest hospital in the region for some reason and after quite a bit of traipsing about to find the right department we were eventually sent to A and E. After registering we sat and waited for my name to be called, the only westerner and lots of stares! The doctor I saw was very thorough and she insisted on me having a blood test, a chest X ray and medicines administered by an IV drip in a room full of other patients sitting in chairs also having various medicines pumped into them. I also had to puff on this peace pipe inhaler system thing hooked up to a charger. It was really good of Dennis to stay with me as it took hours to get the drip stuff into my system. At one point the needle came out of my vein - they don't secure them as well as I'm used to in the UK so was using my hand to look at photos on my camera hence it came out - and my hand started swelling up. I had to have the drip reinserted in my other hand then! Eventually after a long wait I was finally declared fit enough to leave and hoped all the medicines would get me fit enough to climb about on the Great Wall of China in a few days time. Bloody asthma.

And so it was again time for the travellers to set off for another sleeper train, this time heading for Xian. This wasn't to be one of our better journeys. The carriage we were in had a massively squeaking bunk that kept us awake all night. So it was a VERY bleary eyed group that swung into Xian, but still determined not to miss anything of this fantastic trip to China.

Additional photos below
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Peacock at the Chengdu Panda Breeding CentrePeacock at the Chengdu Panda Breeding Centre
Peacock at the Chengdu Panda Breeding Centre

Heeeeelp, heeeeeeelp shouted the small children trapped in a prison. Oh silly me it's the peacocks.

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