China Day 9 – Pandas and a Night at the Opera

Thankfully I got a lie in until 08:45. The breakfast was better than in Guilin, but that doesn’t mean much. Agreed there was a wide selection, but most of our group didn’t find the breakfast very appealing. Personally I thought the orange juice was watered down.

Jin Lee Street

Our first stop of the day was at Jin Li street, a place which since ancient times has been used for shopping. Oh joy. As it was a Sunday it was also extremely crowded. The buildings were mostly old timber buildings that had been preserved and there was a stream running through it that had black swans swimming around.

Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)

By 12:00 noon we were back at the coach and on our way to get some food. The food consisted of dishes that the people in the Sichuan province often eat, so contained spices – though they were mild (at the request of our tour guide apparently). As breakfast had only been a couple of hours earlier most people didn’t eat much and we moved on at 13:45. The journey to the Cheng Du Panda Breeding Research centre then took around 45 minutes.

Inside the centre it’s a reasonable walk to get around it all, but there is plenty to see. On the way to the Giant Panda pens we came across a female Indian peafowl, and several other species of bird including more black swans at a place they appropriately call Swan Lake.

Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)

Our first sight of a Giant panda was one sleeping on a wooden platform inside an enclosure. It wasn’t long before we saw a group of them with a bit more activity. In one of the enclosures we saw them feeding the cubs which was a great opportunity for photos as it also made them more playful. As you would expect the enclosure at feeding time is absolutely crowded at feeding time with constant pushing and shoving from other tourists. The path leads round from there to small pens (that are basically like cages) where they keep the cubs normally when not out in the sun.

Giant Panda Cub chewing bamboo

They also have two pens side-by-side for Red Pandas. The Red Panda can move incredibly fast and we saw two chasing each other around the pen. Although they look like cute foxes they are actually quite vicious animals. In a third pen further along the path there was also one that had previously been in a fight and had it’s tail bitten off by his rival.

Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens)

After this we headed back to the Swan Lake so we could take pictures there on the way back to the coach. At this time we realised that the lake was filled with hundreds of massive koi that would have been worth an absolute fortune. This was followed by a very brief stop in the visitor centre for souvenir buying; from there I got a plush panda for my sister.

We got back to the hotel just after 17:00 in time to find that the showers in the hotel were rubbish. Not only did they lack any pressure but they didn’t have any hot water either. We left the hotel at 18:30 to get our evening meal.

Chengdu at Night

This was then followed by the Sichuan Opera performance; again this is not strictly an opera. It was very different to both the Peking Opera and the Tang Dynasty show. This one was in the open air of a tea house’s courtyard and consisted of various acts such as mask changing, music, shadow puppets, and a comedy – so was more of a variety show. The green tea was delivered to people via what looked like a watering can with an incredibly long spout – amusing, yet an effective way of serving people in a crowd.

Sichuan Opera – Fire breathing

The costume changes in the show were done by pulling the costume back through a slit in the temporary wall that had been brought out, and the mask changes done by wearing multiple one on top of the other so they could remove it whilst the fan was in front of their face. When removing a mask they hide it in their sleeves and belts so it wouldn’t be noticed. It’s supposed to be secret how they do that but it seemed pretty obvious to be honest.

Sichuan Opera – Singing

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