There were 2 reasons I went to Chengdu. To get to the National Park Jiuzhaigou in northern Sichuan and to see the giant pandas. Everyone I met insisted I stay at Mr Panda's Hostel. I heard he had the best beds in China and could arrange anything I needed. So, I took the recommendations and booked 2 nights at Mr Panda. It was a great suggestion. It was an easy metro ride and walk to the hostel and the staff were fantastic! They eagerly got me anything I needed. Kid even arranged to have a Resiter mobile phone charger sent to the hostel and negotiated the price! I love this thing! I can charge anything with a USB cord. I have many hours of train and bus rides ahead of me and now I can charge as I ride! No more worries about depleting my charge on a 30 hour train ride. I have been pleased that it will charge my iphone at least 5 times on one charge. Fabulous invention for a bargain price of $14!
I decided to explore the Wenshu Monastary a few blocks away. I wandered the temple enjoying the social activity more than the sight itself. I have seen a lot of temples and they are all starting to look alike. I noticed the locals came to talk with friends, share a meal or practice tai chi.
As I was leaving, I met a man from the Netherlands, Jan. We briefly chatted about traveling China until his bicycling group was ready to move on. Later that night, I was lost in downtown Chengdu, wandering the streets and I ran into him again. Jan, offered to help me find my hotel. I offered to buy him a drink and we ended up at a great little bar a few blocks from my hotel. We laughed and talked about life, travel and politics around the world. I will miss the global perspective and ideologies when I return to the USA. The conversations require you to stay current on world events and people really want to know your opinion and enjoy sharing their own opinions. It is not mean spirited but an educational sharing of ideas and perceptions.
When I returned to the hotel, Kid was ready with a suggested 16 day itinerary. He had difficulties getting transportation reservations since it is the school holiday. Jiuzhaigou buses were sold out for the next 8 days. I had to add that to my list of places for my second trip to China (along with Tibet and Tiger Leaping Gorge). Kid suggested I make a decision and book the tickets immediately as only 1 or 2 tickets were left for most days. I had to buy a flight from Guilin to Xian and buy a first class sleeper from Chengdu to Guilin. It was more money than I wanted to spend but it was that or cut out Guilin also. Kid was so nice to arrange everything and only charged me $6 fee! China is easy travel. I had heard so many horror stories and I don't understand why. It is no more difficult than the rest of Asia. Having them arrange all of this meant I could have free time to see the city and make friends. All my tickets were purchased and I went to bed happy to have a plan.
|Newborn male panda|
Then I went to see the feeding of the Giant Pandas and toddlers. The suggestion to go early was fantastic. I had a front row spot to see the cute little guys playing with their mothers. I think pandas are the most interesting bears. So cute!
The Giant Panda Research Center is beautifully landscaped and worth spending some time enjoying the area. As I wandered through the bamboo walkways, I ran into my friend Jan and his bicycle group. They were getting ready to leave for a 3 month bike trip around northern China. As I said my goodbyes, Jan and I decided to meet back at the bar for drinks before we both left town. When we met up, he told stories about his bike trips through Asia, EU and the USA. I shared my experiences in Asia. The bar closed early and kicked us out at 9 PM. We both had to call it an early evening as he had an article to write for his hometown newspaper and I was tired.
Tomorrow, I leave for Guilin. A short 27 hour train ride. My chance to try out first class sleeper.