A crazy day in Chengdu...
Chengdu Travel Blog› entry 96 of 136 › view all entries
Watching CCTV-9 (the English Language China tv station) in my hotel room last night, I learned that today (May 12) was the one year anniversary of the Sichuan Earthquake that left nearly 70,000 people confirmed dead, thousands more missing, and millions homeless. This event would play a very interesting role in the course of the day as we shared this occasion with the Chinese people. Second thing I learned was that the first case of H1N1 (swine flu) was discovered in Chengdu the day before I arrived. At that point and time that was still a pretty big cause for alarm, and I was still wondering how this might effect my future travels.
First up today was the pandas.
The pandas themselves are generally very lazy creatures. They sleep, eat, sleep, eat, and sleep and eat some more mostly. Their biggest problem is that the main staple of their diet is bamboo and they don't digest it very well, so they have to eat a lot of it (adults on 10-15 kilos per day). So it is apparently a somewhat rare occurence to even see a panda wandering around active in its living area. We were lucky and saw a few walking around, a few eating, but most were just laying around on platforms, in trees, or the like.
We also saw the red panda which despite its name has little in relation to the Giant Panda other than they both subsist on bamboo.
The day was just getting started though. Back at the hotel a group of us decided to go to the Wenshu Monastery a short walk from the hotel after some lunch. We wandered the busy city streets, marveling not for the first time how modern Chinese cities are. At the monastery we arrived just in time for the commemoration ceremony that was taking place at the exact time that the earthquake struck. I snapped one picture of the large memorial in front of the temple but once the monks started processing into the courtyard, it just seemed too solemn an occasion to intrude any further. We watched for a while as hundreds of monks streamed in chanting prayers before moving off to other parts of the monastery complex. The monastery has a magnificent garden to enjoy and several temples to see and explore.
After leaving Wenshu Monastery, headed by taxi to Peoples Park, a large park about as far away from our hotel as the monastery but in the opposite direction (would have been a 45 minute walk or so). In the taxi heard President Hu Jintao speaking on the radio from one of the smaller villages that was directly struck. Naturally I couldn't understand a word he was saying and other than a guess would not have known who it was other than our driver said his name which I recognized. I could smile and nod affirmative and this was the extent of our exchange but it was enough that we understood why he was talking and the driver knew we understood as well.
At the park we stopped from some tea as we looked around at families and others making their way around the parks many paths and trails.
From the park I walked down to a Chinese massage parlor. Enjoyed a wonderful massage that really worked out the tension for 90 minutes. Also tried some accupuncture as the massage therapist recommended it for a spot near my hip that has also been troublesome for me.
After the massage it was time for dinner. And in Chengdu, Sichuan province, it was time for Sichuan Hot Pot. Went to a hot pot restaurant with the group, and ordered a hot pot course, with one half mild and the other half on the hot end of the spectrum but not all out. Essentially the pot comes out and is placed on a boiler under the table and heated.
The final activity of the day was the Sichuan Opera. I wasn't originally very excited about this but it turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. This is not an opera in the traditional sense, but more like a variety show.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5RiqNtSsXE - Shadow Puppets (I can't highly recommend this enough, it's amazing)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnPQeJ2lN6g - Face Changing Dancers
Enjoy the acts.
After the opera a few of us went back to JinYi for some drinks and then it was back to the hotel for the night. No problems with the taxi on this evening, thankfully.