Last post of 2015! Not sure it will go live while we are still clocking in 2015, but at least I have started.
Update: Didn’t make it. 😦 – it’s January 4.
A lot has happened in the past few months. I will make a more “life updates” oriented post after this. For now, I will focus on the reason why I know a lot of you read us: to travel vicariously through our tales and through Cameron’s amazing camera pictures. If you are into traveling, get a good camera. Just do it. It does the job for you. Luckily, most smartphones have great cameras these days, but eventually you kind of outgrow them and the lenses are never powerful enough.
Winter break started about 10 days ago for us. We never start traveling the very same day we are done with school. It’s too stressful to wrap up everything you usually have to do, make sure you’ve packed the day before, and get yourself to the airport on time and stress free. It just doesn’t happen. We decided to take that afternoon and evening to pack in peace, and relax at home.
If you’re thinking about traveling in China, winter/Christmas break is a fantastic time to do it. Since it’s not a Chinese holiday, there will not be hordes of people everywhere you go, and that includes transport, accomodation, and attractions. I wouldn’t say prices are rock-bottom cheap but they’re not inflated as in the weeks prior to Chinese New Year, for example, or insanely expensive as during Chinese New Year itself. Yes, it will be cold, but you’ll get to see some cool stuff without a million people competing for selfie space around you. Think about it!
Our first stop was Chengdu. The capital of Sichuan province has been known over time to be a place of abundance. It’s also an area where the land is pretty fertile, so it hasn’t suffered as other parts of China have over time when it comes to food. Sichuan is also known for their delicious and super spicy food. Last but not least, Sichuan is the place the giant panda calls home. Food and pandas alone are reason enough to make your way to Chengdu. But there is a lot more you can do around. We might have to go back at some point.
Chengdu is one of the largest cities in China and while the city itself is nothing extraordinary, we quite enjoyed it. It’s kind of designed as a spider web, with an actual core or center and everything else spreading out from there. Traffic can be quite bad, however, taxis are plentiful and pretty cheap. There are two Metro lines, but we didn’t try them out. In general, people were helpful and we enjoyed the exploring we did in town. We did see a fair amount of expats (I believe a lot of multinationals have operations in Chengdu), which was interesting. I remember reading in one of my Chinese history books that people from the south of China are prettier. It’s true. The further south you go, people are better looking. Their face features are different.
I spent most of the time rather sick (I’ve pretty much had an ongoing sinus infection since October, and have run out of our cold/cough medication stash twice. Over the counter medication is hard to find in China, and even then, their versions of things do not work as well), but for the most part I was able to do everything I wanted. Chengduu was cold-ish but not unbearable, and pollution was nothing we aren’t used to in Shanghai.
All right, let’s talk about pandas!
The giant panda is considered a national treasure in China, and they take their preservation efforts very seriously. There are two reserves in Chengdu: one in the city, which is also a breeding center, and one outside the city where you can volunteer and help. We went to the closer one – very affordable, clean, and generally orderly. When you see pandas outside of China, you normally find one or two (my previous experience seeing a giant panda was at the National Zoo in Washington DC, where they have two). Here, you can find some extended panda families, with bears that are related living in close proximity. The cubs stay with their moms for a few years, so that also helps to keep the population high and the cuteness factor off the hook. They’ve also done a great job at documenting the life history of each panda, including where they’ve been born, if they’re related to other pandas in the reserve, etc. For the most part, they are in areas that resemble their natural habitat. We managed to catch a few cool moments, like panda brothers playing, cubs climbing a tree (they can climb FAST!!!!!), and later pandas napping on trees. Cuteness overload. How could anyone possibly want to hurt those adorable creatures? Look. At. Their. Faces. I want to hug them.
After Chengdu we took a short trip to Xi’an in Shaanxi province. More on that on the next post!
With pandalicious love,
We took hundreds of pictures of these cuties. We can’t put them all here. But look at those furries!!! Aren’t they adorable??