Wednesday, August 30, 2006


If you can catch a glimpse through the crowds, through the fingerprinted glass and through the incubator, you may see what looks like a giant rat, but in fact it is a baby panda. Well at least that what the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base are claiming, and who can blame them after all pandas are big business. Want to rent one for your zoo? You'd better pony up a million bucks per YEAR. What you're not a member of our Panda renting club? No problem, fill out the application form and enclose a cheque for $600,000 and you can begin to rent out pandas immediately!

Still they do look cute & cuddly and a little bit daft. After traipsing through the park for a bit we came across one who was out and about in the early morning. Mind you for ten minutes he sat with his back to the visitors, eventually turning round for the whizz flash of the cameras. A couple more came out, rolled around, ate some bamboo, and went back to sleep.

In another bit of the park, a red panda lurked hiding behind the branches. Sulking at all the attention his famous black and white cousins get, while he has to sit here alone, with barely a camera click to keep him company. Back in the parking lot a maze of panda shops selling pandas of all shapes and sizes (but not colour!). Eek, I just want a coke!

Back in Chengdu my main landmark for orientation was a huge seven storeyed ship-shapped club. Down at the riverside park, old people were doing that old classic exercise of walking around backwards, which helps what??

Next day it was off to Leshan. Here there is a whole lotta buddhas and assorted other statues and carvings. A large buddha, dwarfing tourists appeared round the corner, but that wasn't even the Giant Buddha. Some smaller but still large carvings surrounded the stairs. Padlocks sprouting out the handrail for some reason, must be for blessings or luck I'm guessing. Inside the hall an impressive statue of Guanyin is carved into the walls, while not quite having one thousands hands, probably has more than a thousands fingers! After a bit more of a walk the Giant Buddha appeared. A supersized whopper of a Buddha. Officialy the World's largest standing Buddha at 71m, he's pretty damn big! Unfortunately he's also very popular, meaning the winding queue down to his toes was over two hours, longer than I cared to wait to see some giant toes. I had a look about the rest of the park, the other interesting sight was the hall of arhats at the Wuyou Temple. An arhat being a Chinese celestial being, these were modelled clay and painted each with unique posture and expression. Claimed to be 1000 of them, but I reckoned closer to 500. Still impressive though, but like a few places in China, no photos allowed :(

As I got back in Chengdu walked past an outdoor pub with a giant cinema screen showing Braveheart! Then there was a woman doing some crazy tea pouring, a long stemmed pot is twirled around the body and then poured into cups. Doing tricks like pouring with the spout on the knee, or over the back. Probably cold by the time they pour in it your cup!

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