On Friday morning we arrived in the beautiful city of Chengdu in Sichuan province. Our OCDF guide, Swallow (Liu Yanling), met us and another family from the culture camp at the airport and transported us to the city center. We met some more families there who were on an orphanage reunion tour with OCDF and, like us, wanted to spend the weekend visiting the pandas. After a nice luncheon, we had a Chinese foot massage at a local spa. The foot massage was new experience for us and we loved it. After spending the week walking all around Beijing, our feet needed the help!
Later that afternoon we visited a silk brocade embroidery factory. Silk embroidery goes back thousands of years in China and this factory preserves that traditional craft into the current century. The factory has a gift shop that sells many of their products. We bought two nice embroidered and framed panda scenes for the girls.
In Chengdu, we stayed at the Tianfu Sunshine hotel. The hotel was very nice and has a good Korean restaurant just located just off of the main lobby. We had two connecting rooms which gave us plenty of space.
On Friday evening we tried the Korean restaurant. No English menu, but plenty of pictures so we were able to make good selections.
We went to bed early - looking forward to Saturday's Panda adventure.
On Saturday morning two buses full of very excited children and parents worked their way through city traffic to the Chengdu Research Base of the Giant Panda. The Chengdu Base together with it's sister panda center at Wolong have become very successful at breeding giant pandas. Finally, we arrive at the entrance gate and take the walk through a bamboo forest to see the pandas. We saw several adult pandas before arriving at the Toddler Panda house. Here we got to see China's 2008 Olympic mascot - Jing Jing. We also had the chance to interact with one of the toddler pandas and take a lot of photos (see gallery below). The Chengdu base also has a large population of the smaller red pandas. Click on the above link to the research center's English website to learn more about the pandas. On their website, you can see more pictures of Jing Jing and even listen to the the theme song of the giant panda - "Super Lovely."
After several hours with the Pandas and a visit to the Panda Center's gift shop, we were ready for lunch. Swallow took the group to a great Sichuan restaurant in an historic part of Chengdu. After lunch we walked to the Renmin Gongyuan park. This park winds around several lakes and has many tea houses. We saw plenty of local citizens playing Mah Jong and enjoying their tea. We enjoyed some tea and a popsicle before returning to the hotel.
After dinner, we joined the rest of the group for an enjoyable evening at the Sichuan Opera. As much variety show as opera, the performance combined highly costumed actors, gymnasts, vocalists, and other acts.
The Sichuan Opera's formal title is "Spitting Fire, Changing Face." During the dramatic part of the opera, the performers rapidly change their masks and breath fire towards the audience. See the pictures in the gallery below.
The pace of the performance was fast enough to keep the children engaged and everyone enjoyed the show.
On Sunday morning it was time to head back to Beijing. We really enjoyed our visit to Chengdu and look forward to returning again.
Once again, we need to recognize the terrific job done by our OCDF guides - Swallow and Simon. They made the visit enjoyable for everyone. Even after returning home to Texas, our daughters think of the pandas often and talk about their adventure. After reliving our Chengdu visit, out youngest will often say, "I really miss Swallow."