A Panda Anniversary

‘Love as if your whole life depended on it, find your life’s work, and try to get hold of a giant panda’ – Anne Lamott.To mark the occasion of being together for one year, Josh secretly booked flights to Chengdu, China to see pandas – a destination we have discussed since before his arrival in China. He finally disclosed the plans of the weekend on Valentine’s Day and we spent the week deciding what to see and getting excited. We stayed for three nights, allowing nearly three full days in the city. It was refreshing to leave the polluted air of Beijing and enter a clear sky, surrounded by lush greenry and trees.The panda is a fascinating mammal, it is not only a Chinese national treasure but beloved by people all over the world. They are now found only in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Garsu provinces. There are less than 2000 pandas, 70% of which are within the Sichuan province. Therefore Chengdu is a popular destination for people to visit these endangered creatures. Both Josh and I appreciate nature’s wildlife and after our elephant experience in Thailand, it felt only natural to celebrate our first year anniversary visiting pandas. Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is a non-profit research and breeding facility for giant pandas. It was founded in 1987 beginning with just 6 pandas rescued from the wild. It also includes a Giant Panda Museum which is the world’s only museum which focuses entirely on the panda.I absolutely loved visiting these giant creatures, the adults are amusing with their deliberate, lazy movements and incessant picky eating (they eat only a third of the bamboo shoots they are provided with) and the cubs are adorable. We loved the energy of the cubs, their strive for independence and eagerness to play, at the cost of annoying fellow playmates. A panda’s posture is hilarious, legs spread apart and belly out, a position the cubs demonstrate at an early age. We enjoyed wandering between the bamboo shoot forests, visiting the nurseries and spotting glimpses of black and white. Chengdu really play on the dominance of the panda – it is their main tourist attraction – and you will find shops on every corner selling panda-themed knick knacks and attire. You don’t know it yet but a cap displaying a panda image is a simple fashion essential that both Josh and I realised we could not deprive ourselves of. The giant panda is a beautiful creature and I recommend, should you ever find yourself in China, that you take a day to see them whilst they are still surviving.We spent our first full day at the panda base and then explored Jinli Pedestrian Street in the evening. This street is the representative of Chengdu’s leisure life and is known as ‘First Street of the Shu Kingdom’ as it was one of the busiest commercial areas during that time. In order to provide an insight into its former days, the street was restored and opened to the public in 2004. Down the narrow street, we found ourselves submerged in old-world stores selling embroidery, handicrafts and calligraphies. Each of these stores have their own unique style and are surrounded by buildings of tea-houses, shops and restaurants, all modeled on the architectural style of a traditional old town. I loved visiting such a typical Chinese street and enjoyed watching some of the amazing talents of the store owners. We picked up our own ornamental memento, created for us personally at our request.The following day we visited Du Fu Thatched Cottage. Du Fu was a famous poet who fled to Chengdu in 759 to avoid the An-Shi Rebellion. The thatched cottage was built in 760 and during the four years he lived there he composed over 240 poems that are considered to be national treasures. Today it is a shrine to Chinese Literature and a commemorative museum in the form of a traditional garden – another piece of nature Josh and I really appreciated. The gardens were serene and quiet aside from the babbling streams, bridges and pavilions were interwoven and you could barely see the sky for leaves. It was a wonderful balance of both man-made beauty and mother nature.The weekend was amazing, full of nature, inner city perks and giant pandas. Chengdu is a beautiful city with friendly locals and a relaxed atmosphere and it was a weekend worth waiting for.

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