7,150 km so far.
We can probably just go home now, since seeing the Pandas at Chengdu’s Giant Panda Research Base was the best thing we’ve done in seven months. I very much doubt if we’ll see anything more amazing in the next seven…
A Peek Inside Chengdu China’s Panda Research Base
We got there early, with a little group from our hostel. About five minutes after arriving I was almost moved to tears by how beautiful the giant pandas are.
They were so close, and their eyes so expressive, I felt immediately connected to them and present in the moment, in a way I haven’t been for the last few weeks.
I thought it would be a little sad, seeing all these Giant Panda Bears in captivity, but actually, I was very impressed with the Panda Base.
The enclosures were natural and spacious, and the animals seemed to be loving their comfy little homes.
When we saw the babies being cared for by a keeper, my heart almost stopped. They were the most adorable thing I have ever seen.
It was not hard to understand how someone would be willing to part with a great deal of money to cuddle one of these.
It is very hard to understand how someone, when confronted with such innocent beauty in the wild, would decide to kill it and make a coat or a rug or a trophy. But then, some people are assholes.
The Red Pandas are not as magnificent as their giant cousins, but they are no less cute.
Their enclosures weren’t really enclosed, since there were holes in the fence that allowed them to cross from one side of the boardwalk we were on to the other. As I crouched down at a safe distance to take a picture of one, he just happily walked right up to me, gave me a little sniff, and kept on going.
In case you’re not aware, Giant Pandas are endangered, mostly because humans have been encroaching on their habitat for centuries. If you want to know more or help with the panda breeding programme, the WWF Giant Panda information page is a good place to start.
If you’re one of those people who would never support a wildlife cause because “I’d rather give money to cure cancer” then consider this:
The human species has asserted itself into every nook and cranny on this earth. We are doing just fine, thank you. It’s going to take a lot more than a few diseases to wipe us out.
Meanwhile, we are doing a great job of wiping out some of the most magnificent species on earth. In the last few weeks, I’ve seen places where there’s no room for any animals besides humans, and the animals that can live by scavenging our garbage. It’s not pretty, and it’s not the kind of world I’d like to live in. But it’s a pretty good indication of what the world will be like if we don’t protect wildlife and their habitats.
I am in full agreement with Ghandi on this matter:
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated.
Besides, organisations like WWF work on human rights and environmental issues that directly affect people all over the world, so it’s not just about saving a few cute animals.
Is a human life more precious than the life of this panda? I’m not convinced that it is.
Anyway, Pandas, you guys. They are amazing. And no, I didn’t cuddle one, because I’m not big on the exploitation of wildlife for my own entertainment. But I am big on breeding programmes, animal rescues, and public education, so thumbs up for the GPRB.
If you still want more adorable panda time, you can get lost in panda videos at ipanda.com
A Taste Of Sweden In Chengdu
Stephen’s note: We made a pit stop at Kaffestugan, a specialist coffee shop that also makes Swedish home cooked food. Run by Daniel, the Swedish chef, and his wife, who pours the coffee, the cafe is near Sichuan University. I had read on a blog I would be able to buy beans there, so was a bit disappointed when we discovered this was not true.
The disappointment didn’t last long as the coffee they poured was incredible.
They specialise in hand drip coffee, and they were experts. Plus, we indulged ourselves with home made Swedish waffles, which were delicious.
To top it off, they directed us to Mocoway, a roaster not too far from them, where I was able to buy beans. I was tempted by the three Cup Of Excellence roasts they had, but attempted to stay on budget by just getting their espresso blend, which I have yet to try.
They’ve Got The Whole World In Their Mall
After the Giant Pandas, we also visited a Giant Mall. It’s not just a mall, it’s the New Century Global Centre. It is the world’s largest enclosed space, with hundreds of stores, a massive water park, a 1,000 room hotel, and a skating rink inside.
There are so many acres of marble in this mall, it is ludicrous.
The message from a place like this is clear: consume, consume, consume. Buy status. Buy happiness. Buy love. It is so sad to me that this is what it means to be an advanced society. And once again, we’re pretty confused as to how and when Communism gave way to Mass Consumerism.
Needless to say, we didn’t buy anything, except a tiny loaf of raisin bread and a couple of Beard Papas cream puffs. So not vegan, but so delicious.
We continued the theme of conspicuous consumption tonight by going to Peter’s Tex Mex restaurant for dinner. It was more Tex than Mex, but pretty decent compared to that Mexican food we had in Slovenia.
We spent a bundle on dinner, but the desire for a little Western food and drink was too great to ignore. A taste of home is a special treat and sometimes we just have to give in to the craving. ♥