After the public transport fiasco from the previous day, we got up early once again and made sure we had the correct bus for the Giant Panda Reserve. This time the journey was successful, and we got there before opening time to ensure we saw the pandas while they were active.
The reserve isn’t far from the town, only roughly forty minutes by bus from the city centre. As the rest of Chengdu, it’s laowai-friendly and super clean. The ticket entry price is inexpensive; only 50 Yuan each. We went straight to the main adult panda reserve when we got there, which was the best idea! The pandas get fed first thing in the morning, so that’s when they’re most active (in the afternoon they mostly sleep). We watched them munching on bamboo, play fighting, rolling around on the ground, and climbing trees. A couple were more lazy than others and were sprawled across branches, but mostly they were lively.
After this enclosure, we headed to the red panda enclosure, which was a highlight for me, just because they were so cute! They reminded me of red racoons with bushy tails. They were being fed different fruit and were chasing each other, play fighting and were generally energetic. I could have stood and watched them for hours!
The best part of my day was seeing the smaller pandas. They were in the Moonlight Nursery and were the most adorable and fluffy animals I have ever seen. Some were fighting, some were climbing trees, some were fighting in the trees. They were making the funniest noises as well! Something that resembled a small dog.
After seeing the rest of the panda enclosures, we walked around the reserve. There’s a lake with swans and ducks where you can buy some overpriced food and coffee if you so feel the need. The city being so nearby, we decided to find food and coffee there.
After a quick rest and energy boost, we attempted to find the People’s Park. Being Chinese New Year’s Eve, there was a market there alongside dancing and other traditional Chinese performances. Of course it was full of people. After a quick look around, we sat in the outdoor teahouse to enjoy some tea in the sunshine. We watched the people on the boating lake, so decided to join in on the rent-a-boat front.
Disastrous would be an understatement. The lake was crowded with Chinese who had no intent of letting anyone through easy. We fought boat after boat to get anywhere, eventually joining the current of rowers to a tunnel. We were lodged in from every angle, with the Chinese being a-typically unfamiliar with the concept of queuing. They barged in from each direction to force their way through the pile-up of boats that had by then accumulated. Miraculously, we made it through to the end of the tunnel and had swapped rowers. I now had the pleasure of watching the other two struggle with the oars whilst documenting every moment with the help of my selfie stick – always one to help, of course!
A few moments later, it seemed that one of my friends (the French one, conforming to stereotype) had batted so many people and vessels out of the way that she managed to snap her oar in two. We weren’t overly sure what to do, so hitched a ride from someone else’s boat to the side of the lake, docked and ran. We ran away, leaving the boat, the broken oar and the 100RMB deposit behind. And we never looked back.
We had arranged to join the owners, staff and guests of the hostel for a traditional Chinese
New Year dinner. We arrived back at the hostel and sat down to a magnificent and well-prepared Chinese dinner. It was lovely to be able to celebrate in this traditional style – the Chinese tradition is to get together with family around a table and eat and drink until their heart’s content, which we did.
The rest of the night involved alcohol and bad singing in the form of KTV – something I shockingly had never taken part in within the first seven months of living in China. It was fun, mainly because of too much alcohol consumption, which I think is necessary for these kinds of events. Good fun nonetheless and a pretty decent end to the day!