29.09.2009 30 °C
19 hours train journey (16+3 hr delay) and the five of us were in Chengdu; Nadav, Susanne, Jochem, Nick and Sonia. We had booked a room together with Jochem and Susanne at the Mix and requested a pick-up which did not show up due to the delay, so instead we went to the Dragontown, the sister hostel of the Loft. Whereas the Loft's the coolest hostel, with a great cafeteria, common areas, and super neat rooms, the Dragontown was more simple but still in a nice location, so we stayed in a dorm there, even if we decided to hang around the Loft most of the time!
Chengdu's the reference point from where you can go visit many important sights in Sichuan, but the city itself doesn't have that much to offer. The first day we didn't do much other than settling down and having an idea of what to do during our stay. We went to pick up Nadav at the Loft in the evening and had dinner together at a Chinese restaurant near the hostel, as always, the food was yummy! We went to Chengdu principally to visit Leshan's Buddha, which is the biggest in the world, so we told our Xi An buddies to come along as we thought it was pretty worth it. They were convinced about it and the following morning we got picked up by a van that took us to Leshan in 3 hours. The Buddha is right by the water, where the rivers Min and Dadu meet, and was built to calm the river's waters. To reach the sight we had to go inside a park, the Grand Buddha Scenic Area, so we walked a little until we reached the point where the Buddha's sitting...and it's definitely massive; 71 m tall, with ears 7 m long...that wasn't a joke at all, we were all really impressed by its size. After seeing so many Buddhas in Thailand, Myanmar, and now China, we think we're done, we got our dose :-)
A lunch and a ride after and we were back in Chengdu. It was getting close to dinner time and Nadav took us to a dumplings place where the five of us ate for 37 yuan i.e. 3,70 Eur!!! So having spent so little in dinner meant we could allow ourselves a little treat; we went to a place near the Loft called "John's Massage". Susanne and Nick had a chinese body massage whereas the rest went for a foot massage. We knew this place from the previous night and the foot massage had been awesome, however this time was different. Jochem got a girl who was very good, and Nadav and I got a man each...well, mine in particular had a bleeding nose so he had cotton inside it to stop it running, however this kept distracting him and I never managed to relax during the whole 60 minutes! So Nadav, who couldn't relax either as he had a man doing his feet, started to talk with them and we ended up chatting about music and Michael Jackson; they requested us to sing "Heal the World" so the three of us went on singing Michael for a while until it was time to go home.
The next day we already had our flight to Shanghai, it was a pity to spend such a short time in Sichuan as we would have wanted to visit the Bamboo Forest and other National Parks, but we got a huge deal on the ticket so we had to leave. As our flight was in the afternoon, we went with our Xi An buddies to see the Panda Breeding Centre. Chinese people consider the Panda a sort of national hero and are doing everything they can to ensure they don't extinguish. We originally thought that Pandas are extinguishing because we human beings are destroying the bamboo forests where they live and eat...however we found out that the Panda is a lazy animal, that should be carnivore but prefers bamboo, then bamboo forests die naturally every 25 years and they're not able to migrate somewhere else, so they starve to death unless a farmer rescues them! Furthermore, they're too lazy to reproduce so it's actually not our fault that these creatures are disappearing...still, they're very cute! The park was really well made, as it's set in the middle of a forest and there's enough space for all the Pandas...we got to see adults, babies and young 1-year old that were playing all the time. The centre allows you to hold a panda for a couple minutes and take pictures for the price of 1000 yuan i.e. 100 euro, which is supposed to be a help in the research and investigation for the survival of these animals, but still it's 2 minutes! Either way, Nadav, who loves these buddies, decided to go for it and cut back his budget on other things to hold a panda...the pictures were great and he looked so happy to hold the cute animal that we were all touched. We also saw the red panda, which has nothing to do with the giant black and white, but looks more like a racoon...poor babes, everyone prefered the giant pandas...to hold it you only had to pay 100 yuan, in other words...he was the loser panda for those who don't want to give out money for the Giant!
Around midday we were back at the hostel, had some quick lunch and said good bye to Jochem, Susanne and Nadav. It was great to meet them and be able to hang out with them for a good 5 days, so we hope to see them again soon! Thanks guys for sharing some good laughs; Nadav, we want the videos!