A Month in China (Part 2): Chengdu


When we last left off our heroes were hopping a flight from Beijing to Chengdu. For those of you who aren't super familiar with Chinese geography, Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province (if you're from the States you've probably eaten food that claims to be Sichuan or Sechuan but trust me it's not even close).

Map courtesy of Ice climbing in Shuangqiao Valley, Sichuan, China

Sichuan province is famous for a few things. For one, the food! Of all of the cuisines I tried living in China, Sichuan was my favorite hands down, bar none. Almost all of the dishes that I love include Sichuan pepper as a spice. Sichuan pepper comes from a plant in the citrus family (so not related to traditional peppercorns) and causes a sort of numbing spiciness with citrus undertones and is absolutely fantastic and probably unlike anything you've ever tasted before. Enough about food, the second thing that Sichuan province is famous for is the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. This is basically the headquarters of Chinese giant panda breeding and is most likely the top tourist destination in Chengdu.

We only scheduled one day (two nights) to be in Chengdu, which was a huge mistake; I really loved the town (if you can call a city of four and a half million people a town) and want to go back. Obviously the pandas were on our agenda. The other stop was a town about 90 minutes away by car called Leshan. Leshan is famous for the Leshan Giant Buddha. When the Chinese use words like giant they really mean it. The Leshan Giant Buddha is the largest statue of Buddha in the world. It stands at 71 meters (~233 feet) and is literally carved into the side of a cliff. In order to get to both places in a day we hired a car (~$200, we probably got ripped off because we don't speak enough Chinese but I still think it was worth it for 12 hours of driving).

The car picked us up first thing in the morning and the first stop was the pandas. I had never seen a panda before so when we walked up to the first one the first minute of so was pretty surreal. Now I'm a pretty manly man, flexes muscles while typing, so when I use the term cute I'm not playing around. Pandas are the cutest things I have ever seen! I basically just want to go up to them and hug all of them. We got there first thing in the morning so it was feeding time, meaning piles of bamboo for the munching.

The next stop was the young pandas. There were a couple areas where there were multiple youngsters in the same pens and boy were they rambunctious.

The last stop was the red pandas. These little mouth breathers were just the icing on the cake of an adorable morning.