15 October 2009

Despite our very short time in Chengdu, we packed lots in! Early in
the morning we caught a Taxi to the "Cheng Du Research Base of Giant
Panda Breeding" Facility (woo... that was a mouth full). This center
is the largest breeding center in the world, having successfully breed
more Panda's than anyone else. The park covers thousands of acres,
with forests (bamboo and others) covering much of the land. There is
also a large very picturesque pond in the park, in which ducks, swans,
and coy fish are fed by the visitors. We had the opportunity to see a
newly born panda, which was very cute in its attempts to stand upright
and walk, and a pair of very active "sub-adults", which climbed and
played for the whole hour we watched. We then proceeded to visit the
Red Pandas, a panda that looks similar to a much cute raccoon. We
then visited the adult panda's, who weren't as active but were still
very cute.

In the afternoon we headed back to the old city area near the Buddha
Zen Hotel, where we explored the Manjushri Monastery and ate lunch at
its vegetarian restaurant. The restaurant serves vegetarian dishes
that resemble meat dishes, i.e. Tofu in Kung Pao Chicken instead of
the chicken. That evening we were met by Winnie, with whom we caught
a bus to a local Hot Pot restaurant. When eating hot pot you order
raw meats and vegetables which you then drop into boiling pots of
soup. We had two soups, a spicy red soup and a white mushroom soup.
After the meat/veggie is thoroughly cooked, you can then dip it into
one of several dipping sauces. It was a fun experience (though
expensive at 300 Yuan total).

Immediately following dinner we walked down the street to the park
where we caught a Sichuan Opera (200 Yuan each). Prior to the show,
the artists dress and put their makeup on in dressing rooms that are
open for the audience to see. We sat in the front row, which provided
great views of the show, which was divided into several different
sub-parts, giving the audience a sampling of the different art forms
from the region. This included a face changing show (where the actors
will quickly change their masks without the audience catching the
transition), a singing puppet show (where actors dance around carrying
large puppets which are supported and controlled by sticks), a hand
shadow show, the playing of traditional instruments (including the
ehru, which resembles a 2 stringed violin), and the traditional opera.

- Scott