Tuesday, August 7, 2018

PANDAS! Four days in Chengdu.

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We left Xi'an on the morning fast train...first class seats this time...two lovely seats with a huge window for the ride through the mountains...and all for $18 each...smile.  Upon arrival we checked into our city center hotel.  Once again we have a room with a see-through shower...grin.  The Grand Dorsett is near the city center and a lovely hotel.  The staff greeted us with excellent English and our room was grand...and once again a see-through shower.
We came to Chengdu for two reasons.  PANDAS of course being the first and then the ability to catch the overland train to Tibet.  We were scheduled to join a group tour the following morning for a full day outside of the city visiting the Panda Research Center first.  Up early and breakfasted we were stood up by the guide.  Making alternative plans we headed to the Chengdu Zoo and Botanical Gardens instead.  It ws 92^ with 98% humidy and it was miserably hot.  The metro station is next to the hotel so it was a snap getting down into the cool underground and riding a really lovely modern train system.  One transfer and we were at the zoo in rccord time.  Being a Saturday there were lots of kids and they were more fun to watch than the critters.

They sure to love the goldfish and that is what the zoo called them.

 Here's something you don't see often.  A flock of peacocks laying on the ground...and one looked like it has already had enough for the day...and it was only 10AM.
Another interesting sight...a male baboon being groomed...at least we think that's what was going on.
And again, an unusual opportunity to see a baby leopard in the making...and making...and making.  This guy went for it four or five times.
 Spotted adult "wood" deer.  They were the size of elk and very elegant.
 The pandas had had it too.  It was so hot in their enclosures.

 It was an old zoo with antiquated cages...some were simply cement boxes, and there didn't seem to be a happy animal in the whole place.  After a couple of hours we had had enough ourselves and jumped back on the metro for the botanical gardens where we thought we night get some releif.  The metro and bus ride were easy and we reached the park within a half hour.  It was a beautiful garden, about 130 acres in total, with really gorgeous paved walkways and lovely trees.
We wandered around in the shade...not that it helped the heat much...and enjoyed the setting

Our transit back into the city center was high-noted by an eight year old on the train taunting us with his rubber snake that dad had bought him at the zoo.  We had some great laughs with the very animated little fellow.  We spent the afternoon in the coolness of our room enjoyed some American television and a nice nap before heading out in the evening for dinner.

Our next day was supposed to be a group tour to the pandas and Leshan Giant Budda but because of yesterday's snafu we were given a private tour...smile...karma.  Our drive met us at the hotel and after picking up another couple nearby we headed out to the Giant Panda Research Center.  The place was mobbed, as is just about every tourist site, and the lines were ridiculous waiting for a momentary glimpse of the cuties.  On top of all this is was unbearably hot and humid.  However, this has been on my wish list for decades and we decided to make the most of it.

 The park has two panda programs.  The Giant Panda.
And the Red Panda, though only remotely related to Giant Pandas and more closely similar to raccoons.  We never got to see one.  They were either too high in the trees or secluded.

The Giant Panda is classified as a "true bear" and although separate from other bears, it is classified as one with opposing thumbs like monkeys, and a marsupial pouch like kangaroos.

The park is huge with lots of bamboo covering the paved walkways.  Each enclosure area is reached via these walkways.  Even in the shade it was hot.
 This was the line to see the nursery.  It took us almost an hour to get in and this was one of two shade arbors.  The rest of the time it was in the blazing sun.  The park averages 100,000 visitors a day during July and August.

Although there were beautiful outdoor enclosures with loads of activity equipment, trees and bushes, the animals were all indoors becuase of the heat.  The air-conditioning made the windows fog up and the noice inside from all of the chattering tourists and the from the guard loudspeakers telling people to be quiet and keep moving.  It was actually quite comedic.  The bears seemed oblivious.  Hopefully the glass what sound proof.

The babies of course stole our hearts.  Here there were the newborns ranging from 1 to 3 months.
We walked another myriad of bamboos laden paths to the next complex where the adults where housed.  Only two were outside and this was the crown surrounding the enclosure.
The only reason I got this shot was because I am over six feet tall and could easily aim my camera over everyone's heads.  These guys were two year-olds and very playful.

Inside once again the glass was pretty fogged up and each enclosure had one adult...this is mating season and the genders are kept separate to guarantee genetic control.

Even though the park is devoted to pandas an interesting thing to see where huge peacocks high up in the trees.  A first for us and very interesting watching them pick and eat leaves 40 feet above the ground.  Since they are flightless this meant they had to climb all that way up and balance themselves on those tiny branches.

Near the exit gate was a lovely man-made pond with black swans.

We left the park and drove two hours south to the city of Leshan on the banks of a tributary to the Yangtze River.  There we had lunch, boarded a river boat and cruised down a bit to view the Leshan Giant Buddha.

This monument was carved 1300 years ago and is the largest free carved Buddha in the world.
Interesting is that only the face, hands and feet have any detail.  The rest is rough rock.  To make this statue all of the rock was removed.  The statue is one solid piece of what remained.

At the end of the day another two hours found us back in Chengdu and in our cool hotel room for the night.  For the next two days we laid low, got our paperwork together for Tibet and Nepal and watched a few films and TV shows.   On our last day we visited the Chengdu Museum..well done exhibits displaying the history of the city.  The most interesting exhibit was on the shadow puppets and marionettes.  Early evening saw us at the Chengdu North Railway Station to board our 40 hour train to Tibet!

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