Sunday, July 10, 2016

Chengdu, China: PANDAS. ALL PANDAS.

Since Parker's joined my trip, I've renamed my China trip as "My fancy China trip."  Not staying in hostels for a hot minute has reminded me a little of a former life I used to live. #dramatic

Our fancy Chengdu hotel

Anyhow, from Xi'an, it was onto the city of Chengdu!

What It's All About:
Chengdu is a city in the center of China, and it is all about pandas. Seriously. Only pandas.  I'm not sure if any of you recognized the name, but it's where the Giant Panda Breeding Center is - and appropriately, every single thing in the city of Chengdu is panda-themed.  Their post offices are even called the "Panda Post."  Again, if there's one thing Asians love, it's a good theme.

Central China is also known for its spicy cuisine, which Parker was excited for, while I was obviously excited for PANDAS.  Chengdu didn't disappoint, and I don't know what I was expecting, but let me tell you that the Giant Panda Breeding Center is basically just a zoo crammed to the brim with pandas. Like, imagine a zoo where every enclosure is full of pandas. I'm sure there's breeding and science-y stuff going on too, but we sure didn't see it.


Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Flew from Xi'an to Chengdu, checked into our fancy hotel (byeeeeee hostels), and then headed to a part of town with a couple fancy pedestrian streets that translate to the "Wide & Narrow Alleys" (宽窄巷子; Chinese to English translation is about as literal as it gets here).  These streets were filled with snack foods, entertainment, and more shops.

Chinese people sure know how to pose. Pose credit goes to the older lady who posed here right before me.

A nice fuzzy shot of the streets

An array of the snack options - I believe these are rabbit heads?

And then we immediately got to snacking

These are some spicy cold noodles that are supposed to be known here. "Cold" may be aggressive, it was more "room temperature."

Snacks snacks snacks. China is not so good for the waistline.  Also, we've uncovered a pattern on snack streets - where Parker chooses all the meat sticks/main courses to snack on, and I only seem to like dessert and beverage items. 

Then we had a beer

Then we had fancy tea at a teahouse garden

Our fancy teas, green tea and chrysanthemum. I also looked up how to drink tea properly - you're supposed to hold the saucer with one hand, then use the other one to hold the cap on the tea at an angle so that you're not slurping up the tea debris.

Then we bought panda postcards and mailed them by Panda Post

Then we stumbled across a restaurant with a snazzy lobby that everyone and their mom was taking photos of, so we joined the party.

Fancy Starbucks, 2nd installment
From there, we walked over to the People's Park - in China, you will always see groups of older women doing synchronized dancing. It's a community thing. I could seriously watch this all day. 

I happened to catch Parker walking by, but what I was really trying to take a photo of was this woman who is wearing a fanny pack/waist belt with a built-in platform for her baby to stand on. Amazing.

Later that evening, we were walking along the river near our hotel in search of a drink when we found a crazy waterside club/bar with a super long line outside.

We maybe skipped the line and wandered in (WHEN IN CHINA) and were seated at the bar anyway. Every table seemed to be playing a series of crazy drinking games involving tons and tons of shots. Even the people who seemed to be on dates had trays of shots on their table. This bar does not play.

Post drinks, we wandered by a street guy doing henna tattoos, which he claimed would "last for weeks" (spoiler alert: they didn't). Parker and I made an agreement that we would choose each other's tattoos (without being able to see what it was beforehand), and where they would be placed on each other.  I maybe made Parker get his on his chest.

Our new tats. Parker's says "Too fast to live, too young to die" in Gothic font, and mine is a big gun that says "kill you" (Parker said it made him think of me immediately. Thanks, Parks).

There were tons and tons of raucous outdoor bars filled with people by the waterfront. It was an awesome atmosphere. If only we didn't have to get up early for the pandas....

  • Next day, panda day! You're supposed to get to the center early, because the pandas are apparently more active in the morning when it is less hot.  Luckily, we went on a fairly overcast day, so it wasn't ridiculously warm.

They should really work on making the name less of a mouthful

And the building is shaped like a giant panda!

Our first panda sighting! He seemed a little sad.

The pandas we saw kept trying to claw their way indoors. I think that's where they get fed, maybe?  It really was like a giant zoo.  And similar to zoos, the whole thing made me a little sad for the pandas.

I swear this panda is staring right into our souls.

Pandas don't really do much, besides lay around.


Panda friends

I cannot understand how this is comfortable

  • And then there was a long line to see some of the panda babies. Except people in China don't seem to know how to use lines. Nevertheless, we finally got inside.

Eeeeeeep a panda baby!!

Ok, maybe she's just gently bottle-feeding the baby panda...

Oh man, pandas are ugly when they're little.

This is a super super newborn baby pands. Even more pink and rat-looking.

But then, we came to a part that didn't make us sad - red pandas!!  They had this huge enclosure where it seemed like they could roam freely - and you could walk in and out of it!


There was also a pond with tons of huge fish.

And to top it all off, there was a cafe inside the zoo where stuffed pandas were sitting in the chairs. Like, you could have a drink/coffee/snack with a stuffed panda. I want to be disdainful of this idea.

  • Pandas are great, and I loved getting to see so many of them - but if zoos make you sad, you're probably not going to fall head over heels for the breeding facility.  Did you know, Parker doesn't even really like pandas.  Monster.
  • From the panda park, we headed to another bustling pedestrian street called Jinli Street - there is seriously one (or a couple!) of these in every Chinese city. They're always full of shops and eats and tourists, and the buildings are always laid out in a "I look old but am actually very new" kind of style. I love these streets.

But first, a lunch of spicy mapo tofu!

Jinli Pedestrian Street, complete with Fancy Starbucks, Installment #3.

All Chinese tourists

Stinky durian fruit

I think these are cooked pigeons

Parker bought a giant fancy painting from this man, who basically looks like the most authentic Chinese artist ever.

A pretty lake near the street

Eggs stuffed with rice

  • In the cab home from Jinli, we noticed a "hair & scalp treatment" place near our hotel - so we ventured over there in hopes that we could get our hair washed.  Getting your hair washed is a thing in Asia, btw - I think I described it in my Taiwan blog, but basically someone washes your hair and puts lots of amazing products in it, and then massages your scalp and neck, and then styles your hair. It's usually very cheap and incredibly amazing. I like it when people touch my head.  Anyhow. The salon did do hair washing - not only that, they did this thing where they soaked our hair/head in Chinese medicine before washing, claiming we'd get all these health benefits and the best night's sleep ever (seriously, I did sleep like a rock that night). It was AMAZE.

When styling our hair, they asked Parker how he'd like to do his. He told one of the hair guys that he wanted his hair to look just like his.  So the guy is meticulously styling Parker's hair like his own. It took a long time. I can't believe this guy does this every day.

Parker and his hair muse.  I loved it. I told Parker he looked just like Johnny Bravo.

With our new hair and scalps full of Chinese medicine, we headed over to have hotpot for dinner - which Chengdu is known for

I think you can tell which side is Parker's (spicy), and which side is mind (bland).  Great last meal in Chengdu.

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • All popcorn in China is kettle corn. Don't order popcorn thinking it will be a delicious salty treat, because it will be sweet.  You've been warned.
  • There are only about 1,600 pandas left in the wild. They're not too great at breeding, plus their habitat keeps getting destroyed.
  • Visiting a sight on a weekend vs. a weekday makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE in China.  On weekdays, major sights will see tons of Chinese tourists. On weekends, it's like the world is ending, with 100x the volume. Seriously. 


  1. This made me laugh really hard....and out loud

    The old Connie was not this funny....stay away from your old life


    1. I'm unclear whether or not to be offended by this comment...

      But I'll take the compliment - thank you!

      Sad news for you (and me) though, I'm headed back home soon....but no worries, I will try my best to maintain the humor