Pandas a massive buddha and a journey form hell
11.03.2010 - 16.03.2010 15 °C
I headed over to the floating sign not able to see the little lady holding it, first catching sight of a western guy next to it then the little lady. She asks if I was “Nic-oo-laarss” and a nod of the head from me saw her turn into the crowd sign held high. And a nod and a shrug exchanged between me and the other guy was enough to say I guess we follow her. As we followed I introduced myself to the other guy, Bruce, and kept eyes open for the floating sign, eventually we caught up at the queue to the Taxi’s and waited to be ushered into a cab by the guard (a first time for china ‘Queue Management’). The drive to Sim’s Cozy Garden Hostel (Guesthouse) was the same as all taxi rides so far in China a white knuckle ride of horns blaring, screeching tyres and sharp turns throwing me and Bruce around in the back seats, interesting as always.
Upon walking through the gate of Sim’s, the journey there was pushed aside, a mini paradise presented itself in front of me full of palms, pools and hidden little seating areas, an amazing little place hidden behind a gateway (like Narnia) in amongst a busy polluted city. After checking in and paying I was taken up to my room which lived up to the “Cozy” part of the hostels name with warm wood beds each sheltered by light curtains, with private storage plugs and reading lights, and on suite bathroom. After dropping off my stuff and making myself at home as has been my tendency I went down to the bar to met up with Bruce for food and a long deserved beer after a lot of hours travelling.
Ok so my 3 days in Chengdu ware spent doing 2 major things seeing the Pandas and visiting the Leshan Buddha Both absolutely amazing things and so glad I did them. So I will start off with the panda’s I booked up the tour early of my first morning, for the next day, as the night before I had been chatting to Bruce about doing it and also to an American, Chuck, who wanted to see them. For the rest of that day I just relaxed in the city seeing what there was and how it all worked and personally found it an intriguing city full of so much culture and containing a great mix of modern and ancient life that I felt China should have and what the bigger cities are losing fast.
The next morning I was up with the rise of the sun (yes, I know a very strange thing for me) to let myself relax in the early morning chill amongst the palms and running water of the garden at the hostel before heading to the pandas. At about 830 Chuck, Bruce and a Japanese girl (I don’t remember her name) worked their way down to the courtyard and readied for the day ahead. We then piled into a minivan and drove just out of town to the panda reserve. We pulled up in an empty car bark and walked behind our silent guide to the front gate of the reserve. We were pointed and guided still in silence to the first Panda area. There laid a panda sitting back on a pile of bamboo relaxed without a care in the world slowly chewing and sifting through the throne of cane. 15 minutes of intrigue, photo taking and standing in awe of the animal so delicate in its lifestyle choice we are directed on to the next enclosure. Here we run into a group of Chinese tourists shouting filming and all in all creating havoc around a group of young pandas who unfortunately and at the same time thankfully didn’t take any notice of the rabble. We watched these pandas but only for a short time so we could get away from the huge tourist group and headed on this time to a group of lively feisty red pandas. Now what a different animal they were running around up and down trees chasing each other eating as they pleased on fruit and bamboo. This was until the tour group caught up with us and immediately the pandas scattered which in my opinion is a good sign they haven’t totally succumbed to reserve life and with the cacophony of Chinese growing we moved on to the final area with some baby giant pandas playing amongst trees and water plus a couple of fully grown giant pandas wading through piles of bamboo and chilling out on platforms. After watching a movie about the running and details of the Site we avoided a colossal group of school kids as best we could with a minimal amount of hellos and photos and headed back to Sims.
The next day Bruce and I set off on a little adventure to the Leshan great Buddha. This task was harder than we thought as there were no details anywhere on how to do it but after a bit of bussing and guesswork we made it and forked out the money (the most I’ve spent on a single thing except travel my whole trip) at almost a day’s budget but well worth the money even though we had already spent a lot on getting there. You walk up a set of winding steps inside the grounds before entering the area with the Buddha itself on entering I was shocked at not being able to see the Buddha as it is supposed to be huge and great, until, a small group of tourists moved and revealed the Buddha... well his head. At that point it really lived up to its name, great Buddha indeed. We went down the mountain path winding back and forth along the cliff side moving at the speed of the queue admiring the sheer size of the statue until we reached the bottom of the path and looked up. Wow is the word that comes to mind it was absolutely gigantic and so impressive. Returning to Sims we found a BBQ party in full swing and joined in for some good food and cheap beer.
With what I wanted to do done I relaxed and made some plans for the next few weeks and finally worked out what I was going to do. Finally checking out I headed for the train station to begin my journey to Lijiang this was due to be a nightmare 30 hour journey by train with a 10 hour bus ride after that. Anyway after being on the train for less than 13 hours along comes the train attendant waking me up and telling me there is less than half an hour left, result, Especially as I had spent the Journey between a family (grandparents all the way down to baby grandchildren, babies in china don’t wear nappies by the way just have a slit in their trousers and don’t wipe) shouting, screaming, singing and climbing all around me and sitting these bare assed babies on my bed. After a short agitating few minutes the train slowed into the station and I got off with just a few other people and exited. Here I jumped into a cab to the bus station. There I had to wait 2 hours for the place to actually open but after getting a bit of shut eye on my bag the place opened and I joined the queue to buy my ticket, finally buying the ticket I had less than 10 minutes to find the bus and get on which was managed as it was the only bus at that time of the morning so I got on and got stuck on the back row crammed between a pushed back chair a fat smelly guy and a 15 year old girl who insisted on sleeping on my shoulder which on those bumpy roads I don’t know if it hurt my shoulder or her head more. The bus ride was more or less ...what’s the word...Disgusting I had more babies toileting in buckets and vomiting and then the rest of the people on the bus spitting and some vomiting nonstop as well, all in all I was very happy to get to Lijiang and get some fresh air.
At the bus station I jumped into a waiting cab to my hostel but once again china struck and the cabby wouldn’t take me all the way(of course that is another cabby who didn’t get paid) and I had to walk for 15 minutes following some very rough directions through the old town from the tourist info booth but i got to the hostel and settled in again to another dorm room...