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Pandas & Crystal Lakes in China | Rod McIntosh


We always encourage our customers (fondly known as Ramblers) to contribute travel tales to our blog on their return, and in this post we’re pleased to introduce Rod and Anita who travelled to China last autumn, and were kind enough to keep us in the loop with their adventures along the way. In this except, Rod writes about their journey to Chengdu and visiting endangered Pandas at the famous research facility, and also enjoying some unusual evening entertainment!
Decorative torn edge

“It is only a short flight from Xian down to Chengdu, and our hotel was in an attractive bohemian style quarter. As this was Golden Week, and today was National Day, we strolled around the old quarter, where there are a myriad small boutique shops and restaurants, not too dissimilar to Covent Garden. The next day, we were picked up early for our visit to the Giant Panda Breeding Research Facility, which did not disappoint. We saw them at play – well, this is a slight exaggeration, as they are not really the liveliest or energetic of souls, and appear to spend most of their time munching bamboo shoots, and lying around. Have made a diary note to try this after one of the tennis matches, when we return to Casa Sonrisa! We did, however, manage to get some great shots of them, which shall appear on Facebook, when we get back to Espana.

panda eating bamboo
Woman river behind

More to do in Chengdu

We also attended a Sichuan Opera in Chengdu. The word “opera” is misleading, as it is more of a general entertainment session, than anything else, only lasting 90 minutes, singing, farce, slapstick, jokes, mime, orchestral manoeuvres (not in the dark), throwing shadows of animals onto a screen, you name it, it’s all there, with ear cleaning and a massage service thrown in for good measure!

It is clear to us that our itinerary has been split into two distinctive parts, the first concentrating on the big cities and major tourist attractions, the second majoring on the beautiful scenery this country has to offer, and taking us to places which are not on the normal tourist route.

Beautiful sights in Songpan

The next day we caught our flight down to Jiuzhaigou, which is up in the mountains and considerably colder. In the town of Songpan, where we were staying, we were very fortunate to witness a performance by a host of youngsters attired in their colourful traditional costumes, in a picturesque area amidst some beautiful flowers. We noted a distinct difference in the facial characteristics of the locals, who were much darker skinned, and had Mongolian and Tibetan features. We were then picked up the following morning, and driven high into the mountains, where the views would have been splendid, if it were not for the early morning mist, which, eventually cleared from the rising peaks.

We took a cable car up a mountain within the Huanglong Scenic Park, and then walked along broad wooden walkways for 8 kilometres through stunning scenery to a height of 4000 metres, before embarking on the return journey downhill, just a tad easier on the muscles! I reckon we must have been accompanied by well over 100,000 folk, spread out along the long meandering path, some casually dressed, and others dressed up to the nines, clearly well prepared for some great photo opportunities on a very special occasion. Many of the kids were wearing most endearing black and white panda fleeces.

Local dancers China
Lake mountains view

The fascinating ubiquitous multi-coloured terraced pools, caused by calcification of the rock, sparkled in the sunshine, and the path followed the course of the river, with beautiful waterfalls cascading down the mountainside – simply spell-binding! I swear that we did not see a fellow Westerner during our 4 hour hike through this enchanting park!

This week is called Golden Week, following National Day, and, judging by the massive crowds everywhere you go, many must take a week’s holiday. Today, Sunday, we certainly struck gold, with a visit to the Jiuzhaigou National Park – wow!

Jiuzhaigou National Park

We walked about 5 kilometres from our hotel and bought our tickets, before boarding a bus to take us through some of the most absorbing scenery you could hope to see anywhere in the world. We were blessed with a day of glorious sunshine, and the topography of the park is nothing short of sensational. Little did we know that our bus was one of a fleet of well over a hundred, which continuously do the 40 kilometre circuit of the park. We were dropped off at the far reaches of the park, and then proceeded to wind our way back between the snow capped peaks, and lush valleys of rushing rivers, shimmering in the golden sunshine, cascading waterfalls, and trees of all descriptions, with their autumnal tints resplendent.

As yet, we have not been across the Canadian Rockies, but I would imagine they are similar to this, with the mountains towering above you, and looking spectacular against the deep blue sky. We walked alongside a crystal clear lake, with the forest, snow capped mountains, and blue sky reflecting like a sparkling jewel on the tranquil water. Again, there must have been well in excess of 100,000 folk, but, owing to the vastness of the park, it did not feel too congested.

Lake and trees
Traveller with local women

A novelty attraction…

Also, again seemingly being the only Western faces among the milling throngs, we have become accustomed to lots of youngsters saying “hello”, then running off gesticulating and giggling. As this area is not on the traditional tourist route, we have been stopped on innumerable occasions by people wanting to be photographed beside us, which is very flattering, I guess, and a wonderful experience, as they seem to be so delighted to engage with us. We were accompanied for a short part of the journey by two teenagers who just wanted to practise their English with us, and they were thrilled when we took their photograph. I think that “selfies” must have been invented over here, and they just love posing for pics, not just with the now conventional “v” sign, but with all manner of ballerina type gyrations, and looking ever so cool!”

BIG thanks to Rod & Anita for sharing your trip with us!