CHENGDU – GUILINBy
The hostel staff can organize anything for you from a grand expedition into Tibet down to a simple stroll of the panda breeding centre. I have opted for the latter.
The breeding centre is located a half hour ride by private van from Sim’s. It is a very large space surrounded by lush, thick bamboo forest. It is a magical place. The quiet paved paths lead the visitor from one area to another through a tunnel of bamboo created by the bamboo growing up and reaching over to the other side of the path.
Today the pandas were a bit on the tired side – like us when the weather is too hot and humid! And this morning was both! Despite the weather, the huge pandas were up-front, cute and playful – almost posing in cheeky adult fashion.
There are several panda groupings of various ages to see. If you visit, and I suggest this is a must-see, bring your camera and a lot of memory cards, you do not want to miss anything.
Nearing the end of your visit to the breeding centre, you will pass windows reminiscent of a maternity ward where newborn pandas are being attended to. Today, the two incubators each had a fluffy occupant being gently looked after by a masked and gowned attendant. Nearby and in the same room were three other pandas, about 30 cm long and playful in their wooden playpen.
In this area of the nursery, there are guards carefully watching over you and making sure that, despite the numerous signs, no photos are taken. This is a shame, since these babies are the stuff of precious memories.
At the nursery, one can have their photo taken with a panda for about $150 Canadian dollars, or about 1,000 RMB. This is actually a great deal because you can bond with your own young panda for 10 minutes! While you and your panda get to know each other, a member of the staff will fire off about 10 -14 photos for you using your camera. NOTE TO SELF: Make sure your batteries are charged! I would have given in to the offer had I been told earlier, but the small group I was with was leaving. Next time I shall know better!
It will be tough to leave this unique spot, I have grown quite fond of it’s rustic charm, comfortable bed, cozy pillow, western floor and western toilet facilities!
Arrangements have been made to take me to the airport for a 9:50 p.m. flight to Gulin. I’m not sure why, but the flights to Guilin from Chengdu are all late-day flights.
This flight tonight takes me from the bold masculine landscapes of Sichuan to the very feminine lands of southern China’s beautiful karst mountains.
A the point I am writing this, the day is over, and much longer than was expected or hoped for! The nightmare was just beginning… cue the scary music!