<Side note: These posts are from a trip I made in 2012 and lived in a gorgeous city named Chengdu for 5 months. Nevertheless, its memories are fresh and warm in my mind and I’d love to share them with you sprinkled amidst our other travel stories. >
The Panda sanctuary was one of the only tourist spots I visited all by myself in China. But well, I just had to. So off I went early one morning, having the subway station and the name of the place written down in Chinese (and several instructions from my friend and guardian in the place, Summer
- to carry water and food and
- make sure my phone is fully charged and
- the approx. taxi fare to the place and
- to not trust even the tour guide 😀
I got off at the subway and with some initial help from her on the phone to find the taxi stand, I was happily at the Panda Sanctuary at 9:30 AM. I found the English tour guide, a pleasant young man who, while of course, aware of the pandas and the sanctuary and able to answer my never-ending stream of questions about them, also made sparkling conversation about India and China, and panda jokes.
[“what is the one dream of the panda related to the camera that can never come true?”
“It can’t have its picture taken in colour” :|]
The first thing that took me by surprise was, in fact, the sight of several peahens and peacocks calmly strutting around the place completely ignoring the human crowd! I don’t know if anyone else realised the unlikely co-existence of the national animal of China with the national bird of India. 🙂
The pandas of course, as expected, were little balls of furry cuddliness. The most delightful sight for me was that of the baby pandas climbing the tree, occasionally slipping but then checking for an alternate branch and going on.
Watching them eat was also quite interesting to see them actually peel the bamboo before they eat it. After the Kung-fu panda movie, however, watching the red pandas repeatedly brought about the image of Master Shifu and almost undeservedly lent them a wise air though admittedly, they do have a ridiculously cute face.
After a walk around the Museum, the guide bid me farewell and I decided I’d wander around a little more by myself. I revisited the places we had already covered, went in and watch the short movie they had made on Pandas and then strolled by the swan lake. Somehow black swans seem to be determined to be the mainstay of my trip to China. Here too there was a whole bunch of them that I found gorgeous. While munching on the cake I had brought along, I decided to take the walk around the lake. Sometimes a solitary walk with the view of a vista of swaying grass, bamboos lining the path, peacocks strutting around, tulips blooming cautiously like they are ready to catch in some of the sunlight …the whole package is what one finds so peaceful. As often as we cancel plans because we have no one to accompany us, once in a while, a walk like this reminds you that you make pretty good company too.
Destination Jinli street:
Jinli is perhaps the most touristy tourist place in Chengdu. It’s a street lit it up beautifully with lanterns and all sorts of shows and stalls that together make up a lovely evening. I first watched candy making with liquid caramelised sugar syrup. It is really a gorgeous work of art and the gentleman even had a wheel of fortune which one could spin to choose the animal/bird he’d create.
To my utter glee, a tea house at Jinli Street was having a face-changing performance. That was something I’ve wanted to experience at ChengDu since I had arrived here. So we took a ticket and plunked ourselves in the first row. The 3-part performance started with a long spout teapot kung-fu performance. There were some acrobatics and all kinds of quirky movements to pour tea with a spout about 3 feet long.
It was followed by the traditional tea ceremony. 2 minutes into the ceremony, I was wondering how it was ok for the lady to spill so much water while making tea ( though even the spilling water was done with dance-like hand movements). Only then did I realise she had spent the first 2 minutes just showing the customary movements to wash the tea cups! It was, of course, full of graceful hand movements and a tradition that seemed to embody cherishing one’s leisure.
The last bit of the show was the most awaited, face-changing show, and boy was I impressed! It had been a long time since something managed to get me wonderstruck! I expected sleight of hand; I expected mock gestures to change the mask. But this was absolutely incomprehensible. Without even touching his face, having his hands in clear view, his face masks changed in less than a second leaving us rubbing our eyes in disbelief while making us more determined to notice how he does it the next time. In vain, though. There wasn’t a single time I could even see the mask in the act of shifting to the next one, leave alone figuring out how he does it. I sure was glad we managed the first row seats and it was definitely a memorable performance 🙂
Thoroughly satiated that I had finally seen the performance, we went on to enjoy the walk through the street trying some food of which I liked the pineapple rice the most. I even got myself a pretty souvenir with made of a painting inside bead with cherry blossoms on one side and my Chinese (named by my Chinese friends) and English name on the other.
Old style ear cleaning with tools was one more thing that this place was popular for. The ‘tools’ however looked very reminiscent of dentist’s implements and I decided I could live without trying this one.
That aside it’s a very pleasant place to wander around bright red lanterns, small streams, delicious food and a relaxed vibe in the place that together make up a lovely evening.
Up next: Mysore- the one not on your package tour!