PANDAS.

  The next morning we woke up bright and early for the Panda tour, but there was a big problem: my stomach hurt the second most it has ever hurt in China. (Trust me, you DO NOT want to hear about the first time I got sick). I guess something with the dinner didn’t agree with my stomach. I was up all night in and out of the bathroom and I could barely get out of bed. But it was our last day in Chengdu and I was determined to see the Pandas. I took one of the pills my doctor in the US gave me for stomach issues and forced myself onto the bus. The bus ride to the pandas was physically painful. Every bump made my stomach feel worse and worse. Our van was full of westerners with very interesting stories: a British man studying kung fu, a young Australian couple, a couple studying abroad in Hong Kong- I tried to partake in the conversation but the more I talked the worse I felt so I kept my mouth shut.

By the time I got to the park I was starting to feel a little better. The sight of cute 2 year old pandas is enough to make anyone feel better. We arrived bright and early during feeding time, so they were all out and about. I could have stayed there forever, watching them eat bamboo while rolling around on top of each other. One even got stuck upsidown between two logs of their little platform and was too tired/lazy to pull himself up. After watching the young pandas, we went to see the red pandas. The red pandas are so much cuter than I would have thought! I always imagined red pandas to look like foxes, but the way they walked and held their tales reminded me of a big fluffy cat! The word for panda in Chinese is “bear cat” and the red pandas are definitely the real bear cats. Apparently they are ferocious meat eaters… watch out. If you didn’t already know, giant pandas used to also be ferocious meat eating animals, but for some reason switched to a diet of bamboo, which has barely any nutrients. That’s why they’re so fat, lazy and have to eat all of the time- becuase they have to eat tons of bamboo to get enough nutrients to get through the day.

While the young pandas were very active, the older ones would sit against a tree with bamboo surrounding them, scarfing down shoot after shoot. The panda reserve places piles of bamboo around the edge of the fence so that the giant pandas will sit in clear view of their adoring fans. The way the pandas sit is very funny: they lay on their back propped up against a tree with a pile of bamboo on their stomach and more surrounding them. Probably the funniest thing I saw all day were the young pandas that apparently like to sit in trees. I had no idea the young ones could even get up there! There were multiple young pandas sitting in high trees, in what looked like very uncomfortable positions- but I guess it was comfortable for them.

Eventually I asked my tour guide about holding a panda- extremely expensive, almost $200, but you get to hold it for five minutes!!! I was a little worried about how expensive it was, but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t do it so I followed the bus driver to the place where you can hold them. When we arrived we discovered that they had closed early for the day! About an hour before we got there. They were going to open back up in the late afternoon, but only hours after the bus was scheduled to take us back. With how sick I was feeling, I wasn’t really up for waiting around by myself for almost 4 hours to spend $200, and then find my way home on the bus, which is an hour and a half. At least my parents are really interested in coming to China so maybe we can do it together! –One more reason to come back to China right? I have to admit, on the bus ride home I did regret not staying. But my stomach was upset and I had a free ride home- Next time right?

After taking a nice long nap to cure my stomach pains, Nate and I decided to run down to the Tibetan quarter to explore and try and find some cheap rain jackets for Emei Shan. We took the bus down to the Tibetan quarter and somehow stumbled upon an old town! We wandered around for a bit, Nate tried some street food (my stomach still wasn’t up for much); people screamed “HELLO!” at us at nearly every turn. I replied with “ni hao” and got compliments on my “excellent Chinese”. Really? After exploring the old town we eventually found the Tibetan quarter which was mainly a bunch of shops selling golden statues, Buddhist robes, beads, etc. They were monks at every turn- I tried to snap a few photos but they were too busy staring at Nate and I, it would have been a little awkward to “pull a China” and snap a blatant photo, especially since they are religious figures so I try and be a little respectful. The golden statues, however, were absolutely amazing! I can’t imagine anyone being able to buy them except maybe temples and very rich people. There were so many shops I can’t imagine any of them getting much business, but the objects are probably so valuable that they make a good profit off just one item.

We attempted to find some rain gear but it was all so expensive we eventually gave up- and by expensive I mean hundreds of US dollars. Definitely a giant, resounding NO on that venture. Let’s just hope it doesn’t rain? The bus ride back was also a giant failure- in my sickly state I left the reins to Nate in regards to navigating us back. He seemed to have the bus system down pretty well, so I didn’t question him when we got on the bus… until forty minutes later he realized that we’d been in going the wrong direction. We made it all the way to the bus depot without him noticing we were going in the complete opposite direction. So, what could we do? We got on the bus heading back which took over an hour. My face may or may not have turned green at some points, I can’t say for sure since there were no mirrors on the bus. However, I did have an excellent plate of spaghetti at Sims, and I got to talk to my little (my sorority little sister) on gchat while enjoying the stray kittens running around the patio.

Next stop: Leshan and Emei Shan!

I hope you spend hour gushing over my cute pana photos. The rest of the photos will be in a second post, wordpress will only let me upload so many photos unless I pay money. Lame.

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About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I currently live in China where I'm studying for my master's degree!
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4 Responses to PANDAS.

  1. I can’t quite believe I spent 2 years in China and never got to see a panda. Oh well, guess it’s one of many reasons to go back.

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  2. Penny Vederoff says:

    You are clearly a long time “panda pal”! I must admit that the red pandas are really unusual – Sort of like a raccoon with a red fur coat on. Do the pandas smell? How old are they before they become spectators & loose their energy for activities? Are the red ones a lot smaller than they black & white ones? (I can’t believe I have all these questions about pandas. Good grief! It must be your wiring.) Do the Chinese sell stuffed pandas when you go to the panda park? You must tell us more…

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    • Richelle Gamlam says:

      The pandas don’t smell very much at all- they might when you get up really close but I didn’t smell anything and I was pretty close to them. I don’t know at what age the pandas are when they become fully grown, but I would assume that’s when they slow down a lot because they are HUGE. The two year olds were a bit bigger than golden retreivers (and A LOT FATTER), but the adults are HUGE. The red pandas ae a lot smaller, about the size of what I would assume a raccoon to be- a little bit bigger than my cat Teddy. Nate has some better pictures of them because his camera has a better zoom so I’ll put them up once I steal them from him.

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  3. Pingback: Sichuan | Richelle Gamlam Photography

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