[travel] Chengdu day 7, with pandas

Yesterday was one of our loveliest days here in China. We had a relatively early start for the panda sanctuary, Chengdu Panda Base. That drive was fairly long, forty-five minutes through a tremendous amount of semirural traffic. The Panda Base itself is very nice, quiet and calm amid the development of the city. It’s a wide expanse of hilly bamboo, a lake, several ponds, and a number of panda enclosures for both the giant panda and the red panda.

We walked slowly up through the hilly paths tuntil we arrived at the juvenile panda enclosure. Four pandas about two years old were sprawled across and around a climbing structure. They are almost stupidly cute, something in their shape and behavior is so incredibly appealing. One fellow was eating his bamboo while watching us watch him, two more were sleeping, a fourth lolling on the structure minding his own business.


We watched them for a while, then walked up the hill to the baby panda enclosure. These fellows were about eight to nine months old, also playing on an elevated structure. They were dead cute, too, little guys.


At this point, we’d made a significant donation to the sanctuary in return for the right to photograph holding one of the baby pandas. This was intense, a little weird, and terribly sweet. I’m of two minds on the whole wild animal thing, but the opportunity was too much to pass up.


We walked on to the adult enclosures. In one we saw a mother and baby. In another, we saw a panda who looked like he’d hit a hard night at the bars and hadn’t found his way home. It is so easy to anthropomorphize these animals, who look like nothing so much as giant teddy bears. Still, when you look into those eyes, someone is looking back.


After that we visited the red pandas in their enclosure. One of the Chinese names for the red panda translates as “firefox”, which may be of interest to some of you browser users. This was especially fun for , who had done a report on the red panda in school last year.


Then it was back to the giant pandas so Mom could have her photo taken with one of the adults. That was pretty funny, and she seemed to enjoy it.


We visited the swan lake next, which was full of swans, carp and lotus flowers.


After that it was down to the panda museum, where I learned a few things I hadn’t know before. For example, Theodore Roosevelt was involved in a taxonomic dispute over whether pandas were bears or not, and shot one in Sichuan back in the day. Also, according to legend, one of the ancient emperors of China had trained pandas fighting with his armies. This was accompanied by a rather improbable painting of a panda attacking China’s enemies.

From there, we were off to another sumptuous lunch. More kung pao chicken (this is the home of kung pao, after all), along with a number of other lovely dishes. Then we went to a silk embroidery factory, where we saw silkworm casings, a classical style brocade loom, a working embroidery line, and lots of lovely silks and antiques to buy.


After that, our programmed day was over — the lightest day of this whole trip. Everybody but me went off to shop in the Tibetan district here, while I visted the editorial offices of Science Fiction World. See here for a description of that: [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]. We reunited at the hotel for an early dinner and an evening of laying low.


I have to say that visiting the pandas was an incredible experience. If you ever get a chance to come to China, I strongly recommend a trip to Chengdu for the opportunity. Hopefully this will be a lifetime memory for .