Panda, Panda, Pandas!

We left Zhangjiajie and travelled by train to Yichang and unfortunately we had to stay the night as we couldn’t get a connection straight to Chengdu. But the next night we were in Chengdu for Sechuan food and pandas.

We awoke pretty excited as today was Panda day! In northern Chengdu there is a Panda research base that has single handedly increased the Panda population to the point they are no longer endangered. The facility started with 6 rescued pandas in the 80’s to 180 today due to successful breeding techniques. 

We unfortunately had picked a public holiday to visit the park but were given the heads up by the guy at the hostel to go early and we should beat most of the crowds. So we caught the first bus out and were soon in the park walking towards the enclosure. The park is massive with the enclosures really large and full of trees. The first two enclosures we came across the pandas hadn’t been let out of their air conditioned sleeping quarters but they were encased in glass so we got out first views of the bears and Wow they are something. Their colourings are so distinctive.

We walked on to another enclosure and found a group of sub adults sitting together eating their way though piles of bamboo shoots. They were using as little energy as possible chowing down on their breakfast. They use their eye teeth to peel the shoot and their molars to chomp. Before they finish one stick they have another in their other hand waiting. Apparently they only digest 17% of the food they consume so have to eat about 50kg a day of bamboo. 

We walked around some more and pretty much saw all the pandas in the same sitting or laying position beside their piles of bamboo. If they had finished they were sleeping near by. I don’t think they are the most active of animals.

Not so for the Red panda. They are the size of a border collie and have very similar facial markings as the giant panda but in red and black. They also have the most distinctive black and red striped bushy tail. They look half panda half raccoon. Which we found out they are related to. They were patrolling around their enclosures marking their territory. Or sleeping in the trees.

We also got the pleasure of seeing baby pandas. These guys were adorable. They had been plonked out on wooden stages to get the morning sun. The bigger ones were at the stage of commando crawling but most were just asleep. We found out that pandas have a 50% chance of having twins but in the wild the mother picks the strongest and only nurses it, therefore the other dies. The park has been able to save the other baby and swap them in and out with the mother which has contributed to them being able to increase the population so quickly. 

By this stage the crowds were out of control. But we had seen everything so headed home. On the way we got off at the zoo because there were massive amounts of food vendors lining the streets and we got some tasty noodles and dumpling soup.

After that we walked through the people’s park. Another really well done park with beautiful gardens and a lake filled with people in little boats. This was very entertaining as it was kind of like dodgems on water. Some of the boats were powered by tiny inboard motors and some were just row boats. There were crashes everywhere but they didn’t go fast enough to cause any harm. We were originally going to the park to drink some tea in one of the tea houses. We had a bit of a picture in our minds what the tea houses should look like such as linen tablecloths, bone china and a lady in traditional dress pouring our tea in a tranquil setting. Stereotypical I know and the reality was nowhere near that. Packed in like sardines on plastic tables and chairs with a plastic urn beside your table filled with water to refill your cup. We decided to skip the tea house.

For dinner that night we went to a traditional Sechuan hot pot restaurant. Famous for its spiciness. You pick your meat, vegetables and noodles and drop hem into a cauldron of boiling spice. Like a fondue. We went for half hot and half not so hot. You also get a bowl of cold oil filled with fresh garlic and coriander and soy sauce to dip the ingredients in after it had been cooked in the boiling oil We had a little bit of trouble at the start losing our meat in the cauldron and our noodles were so hard to get out of the boiling oil with chopsticks. But we managed and it was delicious. The hot one was a little too hot for me but Tim loved it. S

Cuteness overload. The enclosures just had a big concrete wall surrounding them with the path higher on our side. So we actually got to get within about 5 metres from them.

You can see here the size of some of the enclosures. Top left is a concrete structure were they sleep in air conditioned comfort.

Some of the poses they were in were just looked staged. You could watch them for hours eating their bambo.

Two of the babies. We watched them for about 10mins but they didn’t really move, even with the crowd making lots of noise. 

The red Panda. You can really see the similarities to a raccoon.

Amazing climbers.

I couldn’t resist buying a panda hat.

I’m on a step! Watching our delicious noodle preparation off the back of a motorcycle.

The rows and rows of food bikes. And a local who caught us in the act.

In a lot of public places you will always see large groups of people dancing. I think it starts with a few people and their speaker and then people just get up and join and try and learn the steps as they go. I don’t know if they give the instigators a few dollars but we have never seen money exchange hands.  It’s really great to watch. These guys were all dancing the waltz.

Our not so romantic tea house.

This was amazing! The lady draws anaimals on the slate with toffee and puts the stick in and let’s it dry and hey presto you have the most amazing lollipop ever. Of course I got one. You spin the wheel and get which ever animal comes up. I was hoping for the dragon but got the chicken. It looked too good to eat but that lasted all of 2 mins. It was really tasty toffee.

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