For our first full day in Chengdu, yesterday, we spent the majority of the day wandering around the city again. We went into some giant electronic stores, found our way over to the university again, and enjoyed the subway.
At night, we decided to check out Jinli Street – a street near the Tibetan Quarter of Chengdu filled with trinkets, street food, and other vendors. We spent a couple of hours wandering through there enjoying the “Chinese” look I was expecting before I came to China. The stone roads, red lanterns, tiled roofs, overhanging trees, waterways set with beautiful covered bridges – the whole scene screamed of the Ancient China look I was expecting. It was absolutely beautiful!
We sampled the street food as we passed (amazing!), did some shopping, got a Dairy Queen blizzard (but bypassed the Starbucks), watched a shadow puppet show, sat on one of the said bridges, and enjoyed the warmer weather and beautiful scenery. We never wanted to leave.
But eventually we decided it was time to head back to the hostel and we started making our way back through the more modern looking city streets of Chengdu. One way you know we’ve been living in North China is that 35 degrees Fahrenheit feels like a nice day to us now here in Chengdu compared to the negative degrees we’re now used to. One way you know I’ve adjusted to life in China is my complete ambivalence to a monkey attacking Duncan during our walk to the subway. Well, actually, the monkey didn’t attack; he just kind of latched on and wouldn’t move. We passed a guy who had a pet monkey (like in Shanghai at the beginning of this grand adventure) and when Duncan’s shoulder got close enough, the monkey wrapped his little fingers around folds in Duncan’s jacket fabric and perched happily on his shoulder. Five months ago this scene would have been much more shocking to me but last night when it happened I just kind of moved out of the way so the monkey wouldn’t get on me and watched and waited until I had handed the guy a few kuai and the monkey nimbly moved from duncan’s shoulder to his outstretched hand and then back to his owner. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures.
We spent the rest of the night talking to some Americans in the hostel and comparing our experiences teaching. It was great fun!
Today, we woke up early and had breakfast with our newly made American friends before setting off to see the pandas! It took a while to get there (a walk to the bus stop, two different buses, asking directions several times, and another mini-trek to the front gate), but we eventually made it to the Panda Breeding Preserve where they were playing Kung Fu Panda outside the main gate. I don’t know what was funnier – the movie playing or the crowd of thirty and forty year old men watching the movie.
We spent a couple of hours just wandering around the preserve watching the pandas eat and mess with each other. The cubs were the best. They were all sitting in a crowd (some on the bamboo set out for them to eat) munching on their breakfast and playfully stealing it from one another.
After watching the giant pandas, we found the red pandas! I’ve been anxious to see them since I first learned about them. Though they weren’t as active as when Duncan first saw them, we still had a lot of fun just watching them waddle about and be absolutely adorable. As we were watching them, one red panda got right up to the edge of the exhibit and reared up on his back legs, effectively standing up on his back two feet. We thought we was preparing to make a jump out of the exhibit and toward us and the four us backed up simultaneously, not knowing what to do, when we realized the feeders had arrived and the pandas were just excited to get their breakfast. It was exhilarating, frightening, and hilarious all at the same time.
After watching all of the pandas, the giant pandas and the red pandas, for a while, I can completely understand the desire some people have to pay money to hug a giant panda. In the winter time the price is about 2,000 Yuan to rub a giant panda’s belly but in the summer time the price has been known to go up to $1,000 US dollars. I would never be able to justify spending that much money but I can understand the inclination. We’ve also decided that a red panda should be our next pet and companion to our cat, Desmond.
We returned to the hostel, ate some lunch, and took a nap before heading back out for our evening wanderings. The day started out pretty gloomy (a mixture of smog and rain clouds), but by the afternoon the sky was blue and the sun was shining. Along with the change in weather, our moods increased even more and we were thrilled, once again, to be in Chengdu together.
Our wanderings took us over to the University again and we found our way to a park that Duncan used to frequent during his time here. Though we were disappointed the teahouse in the park was closed for renovations, we absolutely loved wandering around in one of the many beautiful parks Sichuan is famous for.
After the park visit we walked along the river until we decided to get dinner downtown at a restaurant so I could have a true Sichuan food experience – another Chengdu fame. We had of the best meals I’ve ever experienced in my life and the whole experience made both of us ecstatically happy.
After dinner we found our way to the river again and were astonished by the beauty of the city.
To end our night, we had a drink at a bar on Little Bar Street – a dream come true for me after hearing so much about it.
Chengdu, though a lot different than what I expected (mainly because Duncan and I are pretty laid back), is turning out to be a great city and I could not be happier that we are here. We’re here for four more full days and are hoping to visit at least one nearby mountain as well as several more parks within the city.
We created a lot of happy memories already here in Chengdu and, the way this trip is going, many more are on their way.
Thank you for reading,