Chengdu - Pandas and Opera

Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, is another pleasant and modern city, similar to Kunming. After lookng at a few options we decided to stay at Sim's Cosy Guest house, which proved to be an excellent choice, so much that we decided to stay in Chengdu for an additional night!! The first evening we walked around Chengdu, visiting the People's Park and the large statue of Chairman Mao.

The next day we got up early and headed out in a tour bus to the Panda Research Centre, where scientists are perfecting the art of Panda procreation. We first saw some rather sleepy adult Giant Pandas but soon we got to the highlight of the park, the adolescent Giant Pandas. They were being fed when we saw them so they were quite lively and playful. Pandas are skillful climbers, but one had a little accident when we saw them as he tried to get down from his tree a little too quickly and got stuck hanging from a limb. The keeper climbed up to try to help him out but basically ended up pulling him out of the tree and dropping him several metres onto the ground! The Panda appeared unhurt from the experience though.

After this we saw some extremely young Pandas with no hair and a suprisingly graphic video showing the process of Panda artificial insemination. We then saw the Lesser Pandas (the little red ones that aren't so cute) and spent a while waiting for the tour group to get out of the gift shop before returning to our guest house.

In the evening we went to the Sichuan Opera, sort of a variety show of Sichuan music, acrobatics, firebreathing, face changing and short skits. The show was very entertaining and interesting. The costumes and masks were amazing and the face changing was particularly impressive. The performers wore colourful masks, which they could change in an instant simply by moving some other part of their body. They were able to do this several times in quick succesion and even put the masks back on in an instant. They even came down into the audience and performed their tricks right next to us but even so it was very difficult to fully understand how it could be done.

Other acts in the Opera that were very entertaining incuded a comedy, a performance on the erhu, a Chinese two-stringed instrument, and a couple of girls who juggled pots and tables using only their feet.

On our final night we sampled a famous local cuisine, the Sichuan hot pot. Our pot contained two halves, one with fish and mushroom broth, and the other with fiery chilli from hell. This division worked well for both of us. The chilli contained special peppers that make the lips tingle and the tongue numb. It was very tasty however it did come back to haunt Marty on the 10 hour bus trip to Songpan.

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