Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Chengdu-Beautiful Pandas!

As we enter Chengdu, we feel complete overwhelmed with the size of the city. We imagined it to be much smaller than it actually was. It was completely ultra-modern with many shopping centers and malls lining the streets. We come to our hostel, which appears to be very laid-back and filled with conversations of travel. Immediately, we get information regarding Tibetan permits and book the panda tour for the next day. The office ensured us that our permits would be ready on Monday. Therefore, we could depart for Tibet by either plane or train. At this time, train tickets were not in existence due to the high number of people traveling to Tibet. Jay inquired about the black market. The hostel said that it was illegal to buy tickets from the black market, but good luck if you can find it. Jay had a mission to find tickets any way possible. Later that evening, we had an intellectual conversation with a couple that we met from Mongolia, Syl and Ben.
The next day we rose early for the Panda tour. About 10 km north of Chengdu, the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, is a research station and breeding ground for giant and lesser pandas. About 40 pandas reside here, but we only saw about half of this number. We were able to see the traditional black and white adult and baby pandas, and rare red pandas. We watched the adult pandas roll around on their ready made wooden long beds and the baby pandas eat their massive amounts of bamboo. These were absolutely amazing animals.
After we returned from the panda tour, we met Syl and Ben for a hike around the city to the People's Park. This is a vast park with beautiful landscaped bonsai trees and gardens. Throughout the park, there are verandas were people sing and dance to music. Jay and Ben partook in this by dancing with some Chinese women. We also has some horrible tea at the tea house located in the park. According to the map from the hostel, this is suppose to be one of the best places to have tea in Chengdu. Boy, are they wrong! As we hiked back to the hostel, we decided to have a traditional Chinese hotpot of the Sichuan region. A hot pot works like this: First, you pick out the food that you would like to cook in your hot pot. Then, a waiter brings you a pot filled with a broth of chillies, Sichuan pepper, ginger, and many other spices. They also bring you chili oil for dipping after your food is cooked to your liking. Parsley and garlic is brought for you to put into your chili oil to control the spiciness. The hotpot simmers and you cook the food. Jay and Syl started the hotpot process by going around to various tables picking and choosing the food to be placed in our hotpot. They chose an assortment of tasty foods: sweet potatoes, potatoes, a vegetable we could not figure out, beef, mutton, tofu, squid, and fish. After about 5 minutes of cooking and eating the food, your lips and tongue start to become numb and tingly. By the end of the evening, we were all red and sweating bullets from this fiery meal. Next to our table, a group of Chinese men are playing a drinking card game and eagerly invite us over. We played this game for about two hours and became friends. Tons of pictures are taken and numbers are exchanged for future visits to China and the Americas.
Due to the massive amount of fun from the night before, we decided to take it easy the next day. We lounged around the hostel watching movies and eating spicy food. Later that evening, we went and watched Transformers with Edward (an extremely helpful guy from the hostel) and his younger brother Will.
The following day, Jay insisted on finding train tickets to Lhasa, Tibet. A staff member from the hostel escorted him to the train station in hopes of getting tickets from the ticket counter. All tickets were sold out. Therefore, Jay and the staff member went on the streets asking around for tickets. Jay was able to find two tickets to Lhasa for Monday. He returned to the hostel displaying his glory in his ability to get tickets. The hostel immediately says that they are unable to give us our permits because we got our train tickets from the black market. Furious, Jay attempted to talk them into letting us have our permits. They stood strong and expressed that they would be unable to do so. Therefore, Jay asked for his money back for the permits and sold the train tickets to some one else. At this time, Jay and I were faced with a decision..."What do we do next?" We think of many possibilities until Jay asks me where I would I like to go for my birthday. Before, I know it we are heading on a plane to Bangkok, Thailand for Pad Thai.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The pandas are cute. Everything sounds beautiful. Wish I was there to enjoy it with you guys.