Made it to Chengdu! Chengdu is the home of pandas and spicy food. I got a lesson in just how spicy it was my first night there. We went to a hot pot restaurant which was apparently famous for its food. The food was absolutely delicious (although having a giant fish head looking at you from the hot pot you were putting your food in was a little off putting at first). I, however, was at the non-spicy table. Knowing that I was in the cradle of the spicy food, I figured I would be ridiculed by friends and family for not at least trying the spicy food, so I did. I cannot even describe the level of fire that lit my mouth on the first bite. Within seconds, my tongue went numb, my lips were burning and my eyes were starting to tear up. Don’t get me wrong, there was flavor to the spice but I was so overwhelmed by the heat that it was hard to find enjoyment in eating it. One look at the people who were sitting at the spicy table would warn anyone away. They were sweating profusely. Their faces were apple red with heat. Their noses were running and their eyes were watering. At one point, some peoples’ lips started to bleed. Why someone would put themselves through that, I don’t know. What I found to be the most interesting experience of the night was watching the locals eat the same food we were eating. They were shoveling it in as if there was no spice at all. I would not be surprise if their dishes were even spicier than ours. Who knows if they even have taste buds left. I don’t know how they do it.
The rest of our time in Chengdu was spent at two locations: the Leshan Giant Buddha and the Panda Research Base. The Leshan Giant Buddha is a sitting statue of Maitreya. You can look up pictures online for yourself but let me tell you, this statue is massive. What I found interesting was that the Buddha has a drainage system. This system is made up of hidden gutters scattered throughout the head, the arms, behind the ears and in the clothes. The point is to displace rainwater and keep the inner parts dry. Since the project was finished in 803 A.D., I assume this drainage system must work well as the Buddha seems to have been preserved really well.
Our second location, as I mentioned, was the Panda Research Base. I think this was one of the places I was most excited to visit. I mean, come on, an entire zoo-like facility filled with pandas! What is better than that? At the facility, there were both giant pandas and lesser pandas, known to us as red pandas. The red panda looks very similar to a raccoon only with different coloring. They were awfully cute. The verdict is still out as to whether red pandas or giant pandas are cuter. We got to watch the red pandas play but I got to see a giant panda walking on two legs, apparently a rare occasion. Apparently giant pandas are lazy by nature so the fact that one of them stood on two legs for us was a special treat. One thing I did not know was that pandas are very territorial. This is why most of the pandas were in separate cages. I use the term cages loosely though as they were more like small jungles in which the pandas could roam. Being as lazy as they are, I doubt they really wander the full extent of their land. One thing I know about pandas is that they are super cute! I really wanted to take one home with me but the facility told me no. I can wish though, right?
Well, that’s it for Chengdu. Next stop Guilin!
Until next time,