We spent our first day in Chengdu exploring town. We also met up with my friend Dan Lewis, who spent the summer in Chengdu and who I know from his visits to my school as part of the ELT Edge English Week team.
Virtually every city in China has a big statue of Mao, but I think this one in Chengdu is one of the biggest.
This is Dan Lewis, the friend we met up with in Chengdu. He performed at this restaurant on a regular basis.
Chengdu is famous for its pandas. Pandas live in a very particular climate, and are probably the pickiest eaters found in the animal kingdom. They eat a very particular variety of bamboo that primarily grows in Sichuan province, and the majority of wild pandas live in Sichuan. Chengdu is home to a panda breeding research center. We visited the center on our 2nd day in Chengdu, and one of the things I most remember is this hilarious video talking about panda reproduction at the center. As the wikipedia panda article states, pandas apparently lose their desire to mate when they are in captivity. The scientists at the breeding research center have tried things like viagra and panda pr0n (videos of other pandas mating) to get the pandas to mate. The video talked about this in extremely clinical language...something to the effcct of "the scientists show pandas a motion picture of other pandas displaying amorous behavior" (I specifically remember the phrase "amorous behavior", which I thought was pretty awesome). One of the other really interesting thing about Pandas is their diet. They eat about 20 pounds of bamboo a day. Bamboo has very low nutrition, so the panda is eating pretty much anytime its not sleeping (come to think of it, that sounds a bit like how some people live...).
Pandas apparently enjoy wrestling. Which explains why the WWF symbol is a panda.
OK, the gown looks a little fruity, but they made you where it if you wanted to hold the red panda. I think you can also hold the Giant Pandas at the breeding center, but it costs about ten times as much.
After visiting the Panda center in the morning, we visited the Leshan Grand Buddha in the afternoon. I was under the impression that it was the biggest Buddha in the world, but after checking the Wikipedia list, I just learned that it's the 6th biggest. However, the oldest of the bigger Buddhas was built in 1995, and the Leshan Grand Buddha was completed in 803 AD after 90 years of work...so I still think it's more impressive :). At 233 feet, it's almost twice as high as the Statue of Liberty. It's carved directly out of a cliff face. I wasn't able to get a good picture of the whole thing (you have to pay extra to go on a boat to where you can actually capture the whole thing in one photo), but here's a photo of the whole thing courtesy of Wikipedia:
After our two days in Chengdu, we left in the evening on a sleeper train to Xi'an. The landscape along the train route the next morning was amazing. I was feeling particularly lazy and didn't feel like getting out of bed to take pictures, but my cousin Tim took a bunch, and posted them at his blog, so check 'em out if you like awesome landscape photography.
I've been two Xi'an two other times, so check out those posts if you want to read about it. I won't be posting about it this time (I didn't really even take any photos). After a day in Xi'an we took another sleeper train to Beijing so that Tim could catch his flight back to Japan, and then Mari flew out a couple days later, and I returned to Seattle for the summer a few days after that.
That's it for my posts about my Summer 2007 Travels. I've still got some more stuff to post about Summer 2008 (including the Olympics), so keep reading/subscribing if I haven't lost you yet.