In the morning, we visited the famous Chengu Panda Research Centre to see some examples of China’s most famous national animal. We weren’t sure what to expect from the centre, which turned out to be more like a zoo with just two types of animals – red and giant pandas. Following the visit, many of us were left wondering if what we’d seen was anything different to going to a zoo which had pandas elsewhere in the world, and uncertain about the welfare conditions employed at the research centre. That being said, the pandas were beautiful, and it was incredible to see the one-year old babies and the ‘teenager’ pandas, which are so rare elsewhere, and it was clear the respect and pride felt by the Chinese towards their national symbol.
After seeing the pandas we decided to take a break whilst the rest of the group visited the famous Leshan Buddha; by all accounts this was a great trip and well worth seeing but the six-hour round-trip bus trip rather put us off!
Instead, later in the afternoon I elected to go with two of our friends from the tour to try Chinese massage at a place recommended by our hostel. This was simultaneously the most hilarious (I’m very ticklish) and painful (I had bruises the next day) experience of my life- at one stage I was certain she was going to dislocate both of my shoulders and/or break my spine. All in all, something to try once (perhaps, if you must)!
In the evening, we went out with our tour group, and once again a great night was had by all – Dev taught the barman at our hostel to make the perfect margarita, and the rest of the night was history…
The next morning we were up bright and early for a yummy breakfast of coffee and waffles, followed by a visit to the Tibetan quarter of Chengdu to see the traditional buildings, souvenir streets and restaurants, and for a meal at a traditional Tibetan restaurant, where the meat-eaters sampled various yak dishes, and Dev and I had the chance to try a rare vegetarian hotpot- eye-wateringly spicy, scaldingly hot and absolutely delicious!
After this, we were bound for another night train, which meant another 15-hours cheek-by-jowl with our fellow man. This was a slightly less salubrious train than the last, but we still managed a good six hours sleep and we got to know a very sweet Chinese family who were sharing our cabin, with an adorable little girl who was keen to practise her (very good) English!