Sichuan – Pandas Galore

Our itinerary brought us back to Chengdu for our flight home.  We were to spent the night in Chengdu and fly out early afternoon, which meant we had the morning to do whatever.  And that ‘whatever’ ended up being the main Giant Panda Breeding Center outside city center.

We made sure to get there first thing in the morning since we really only had 2 1/2 hours to burn.  By the time we got there the pandas were just waking up to their morning feeding.  This place has pandas of varying ages – babies to adults.

Juvenile pandas…





They squeal like puppies…

Baby panda head looks to be too big for its body…

And of course the adults…




Something about the way they eat bamboo is mesmerizing…

Different eating technique…

An of course you have the red pandas…

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In all honesty we could have spent all day if we could, but we were happy we got a chance to visit this facility before leaving China.

Sichuan – Scenery

The place Sichuan conjures up images of spicy food for most people, but for some of us, it’s all about the pandas!  Of course there’s more to Sichuan than pandas.  There is the scenic Jiuzhaigou 九寨溝 we had wanted to visit until the most recent earthquake over the summer essentially closed it to the public for the foreseeable future.  So we ended up splitting up our time in China between Sichuan and Shaanxi – Pandas vs. Terracotta Warriors.

While in Chengdu, the tour guide had convinced the sister that Dujiangyan 都江堰 was a must see.  It’s considered an engineering marvel – a ‘dam’ designed around 256 BC to irrigate the plains.  In 2000, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sights along the way…

It was a nice side trip.  If we had to re-plan the trip I’d personally scrap this place, and spend all my time at the main giant panda base.

The original plan was to hold pandas, but we later found out that it was no longer offered after a few pandas had died from contracting illnesses from tourists.  Bummed!  The confusing part was that there were some tour groups still offering ‘close encounters’ with pandas, so who knows what the real deal is.  As part of our tour, we went to the smaller giant panda base in Dujianyan.


There were only 8 pandas!  I think San Diego Zoo has more pandas than this place!

Most were sleeping as we went in the afternoon.  FYI, pandas are active in the AM during feeding time, so if you want to see any ‘moving’ pandas make sure you go in the morning.

Disappointed, to say the least.  Did I just fly all the way to China to see sleeping pandas?!?

Luckily, someone was up…

The evening was spent checking out Chengdu city, which is very metropolitan.  Nice wide roads with modern buildings, putting Taipei to shame.

The way our itinerary was setup was mind boggling thanks to the unforeseen closure of Jiuzhaigou.  Long story short, we were to spend 1 1/2 days in Chengdu, fly out to Xian for 3 days, and then fly back to Chengdu to stay one night before flying home.  Let me just make it clear – I would not recommend this itinerary.

For the next ‘partial’ day, we had planned to hike the giant Buddha @ Leshan as well as taking the 20-minute boat tour to get a different perspective of the Buddha.  Leshan is about a 2-hour drive from Chengdu, and given the time constraint our driver picked us up at the hotel @ 6AM to give us a head start.  Well, luck was not on our side.  We spend 4 hours driving to LeShan thanks to freeway closure.  Safe to say, we didn’t hike Leshan.  We did get on the boat, and that was pretty underwhelming.

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site…


The plan was to leave LeShan ASAP so that we could make our flight to Xian.  The driver was expecting a 4-hour trip back to Chengdu, but guess how long it took us?  A little over an hour *facepalm*.

The travel gods were not on our side for this leg of the trip, but no worries, we made it up when we returned from Xian…

China – Food

November – our annual pilgrimage to see the parents.  Since mom and dad had decided that they would no longer be flying to the US to see us due to the long, tiring flights (more on that later) 2 years ago, we had been making the trip out to Taiwan every Thanksgiving to spend time with them.  Personally, if it were not for them, I don’t think I would ever visit Taiwan.  It is grey, small, and there isn’t really much to see.  One saving grace was the food, until this trip to China.

I never thought much about Chinese food, because what you get in the US is really ‘bastardized’ Chinese food – it never appealed to me.  So I always fell back on Taiwanese comfort food.  Luckily in Southern California you have your pick of decent Taiwanese food, especially my favorite Taiwanese beef noodle soup.  However, after our trip to China, my opinion of Taiwanese and Chinese food has drastically changed.  The worst food in China is better than any food in Taiwan!  Beef noodle soup?  Go to Lanzhou!  That’s where you get good beef noodle soup.  The broth is clear, yet heavenly tasty, and the noodle has a bite to it – not al dente.  It’s O-M-G!  They even hand make their own noodles in the airport noodle shop.


I don’t even want Taiwanese beef noodle soup anymore.  Just thinking about how I can possibly get my hands on Lanzhou beef noodle soup without flying to China is depressing!

Every province in China has its own specialty.  Sichuan is of course known for spicy food and their hot pot.  Chongqing is spicy savory, and Chengdu is spicy numb (literally, your mouth goes numb).  Spicy numb is not really my cup of tea, but the rest of the food was awesome.  For a Chinese, I’m an anomaly.  I don’t particularly care for rice.  When we go out to eat I’ll only eat a spoonful of rice if at all.  However, when we were in Chengdu I actually had 2 servings of rice per meal because the dishes were so good.

All the dishes were made out of very simple ingredients, but the taste was off the charts.

Not only was the food good, it was cheap!

For 5 people, this fish-based hot pot dinner cost a total of $30 US.  In the US, it would run $15 or more per person.  They gave you unlimited free ingredients to add to the stock, but by the time we were done with the fish inside the pot, we really had no more room for anything else.

In Xian, food was much more tame in comparison.  But the variety of food was eye popping.  Walking through the Muslim Quarter was a feast for the eyes.

The lamb kebab was my favorite, and they have their own wide “biang biang” noodles they’ve even made up a character for.

When people used to tell me that Chinese food is the best in the world, I never believed them until now.  I never thought I’d ever say this, but I would go back to visit China just for the food, and I would definitely make a side trip to Lanzhou for the beef noodle soup.  Yum!