This will be a shorter-than-usual travelling post since it actually happened over 2 months ago at the start of April! Once I landed back in China and started teaching back in Shijiazhuang, I got itchy feet and started planning my next trip away. I knew it would probably be my last for a while, both because there were very few holidays left, and because I was once again skint, and trying to save money. I decided that Chengdu would be the place of my next adventure – the main draw being the pandas of course! So I caught a flight late on Friday and after arguing with a taxi driver, arrived at my hostel and started chatting with the people there.
I had a long weekend in Chengdu but had made no concrete plans before getting there. I decided to spend Saturday just exploring the city – doing the classic getting lost on purpose which is so much fun. I ended up shopping, exploring the monastery near my hostel and spent most of the morning at the Jinsha archaeological site. Whilst it’s probably not to everyone’s tastes I had a fantastic time exploring the grounds in the sunshine, looking at the deer and of course seeing the artifacts on display. Home to some of the most delicate gold work I’ve ever seen, it was a great place to spend a few hours. They had a temporary Roman exhibition there too which was very strange! I couldn’t tell whether or not what was on display was real or a replica. It was also interestingly organised – thematically not chronologically. Because I had got there early, I managed to spend the majority of my visit with very few people around me.
The next day I decided to do a day trip to the mountains on the outskirts of Chengdu. As is typical with mountains in China, it was a lot of walking surrounded by a lot of people. I had to queue for ages to get my ticket inside but once I was through it was really nice to get back to nature, breathe clean air and imagine how China looked before it was modernised. There was a huge lake where I took a breather and had an ice cream before taking the shuttle up to the rest of the mountain. After exploring a temple at the top and enjoying the view down, I decided against walking to the absolute top as it was still quite a way away. Instead I ventured back down and headed back into the city and Jinli Street. Jinli Street is a great place to explore at night, full of little shops selling things and food shacks and bars. I sent a postcard home from there and got a henna tattoo on my hand before heading back to the hostel to get a good nights rest before seeing the pandas the next day!!
I woke up early to see the pandas – I was going on a national holiday and expected the crowds to be huge (I was right). Because I was up early, I got to see the pandas being fed – indeed I spent an hour at one of the enclosures watching the workers clean up and put down fresh bamboo before the panda ambled out and enjoyed a second breakfast. Each of the enclosures had information on the pandas inside. The one I’d spent longest watching had the same birthday as me! The adult pandas were kept alone but the younger ones were together. Once I’d forced my way to the front of the crowds it was genuinely amazing to watch the incredible creatures interact with each other and play fight like real children.
The research base I visited was absolutely huge! I spent just under 6 hours exploring the different enclosures and seeing the pandas of different ages. I ended up leaving mainly because I was hungry – the hostel provided me with free breakfast but it wasn’t much and I couldn’t find food inside. Plus my feet were absolutely killing me after so much walking! Since my flight wasn’t until late, I made my way back to the airport and chilled there with my book and homemade food given to me by the staff before catching the shuttle bus to the airport and heading back to the Shiz.
Chengdu captured my heart and I can’t wait to visit again!