Tuesday, August 23, 2016

PANDAS!!!!!

On Tuesday, Professor Liu had originally organized for us to travel to a large Panda Breeding facility that was about 4 hours away.  We were to spend the night on the road and then return the next day.  Michael and I were concerned about this for several reasons…..first of all, Ping was going to accompany us and she gets horribly car sick.  I simply couldn’t imagine spending 2 days in a car worrying about her the whole time.   Also, the thought of having to pack up the suitcases again for just one night was almost unbearable.  Finally, Michael was needing to have some “no-science” time and was desiring a day of just sitting and not having to interact.  Consequently, we asked the professor if we could change those plans and instead spend half a day at a local Panda Facility and then have Wednesday free.  He graciously agreed so on Tuesday we headed out for an adventure that we had looked forward to ever since we started coming to China.

Ping picked us up at the hotel and we drove about 20 minutes to the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base.   She stood in line and bought our tickets at this “Panda” themed ticket office….IMG_7262

When we entered, there were lots of people standing in line to ride in one of the small electric vehicles, including this little girl who already looked like she had seen enough…..

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We looked at the length of the line and opted to walk instead, heading first to one of the Giant Panda Enclosures.  The first one that we came to was a “Sub-Adult” male….ie teenager!!!   We were excited to see him out and about and enjoyed a nice long viewing.  He started entertaining us by doing some scratching, reminding me VERY much of my Dad…..I had seen him make those same moves many times before.   And, as a matter of fact, he had the same basic physique!!IMG_7287

Have a look…..

Giant Panda in Action

We were all disappointed when he climbed down from his perch but shouldn’t have worried.  He proceeded to walk behind his play area and take a stroll around his enclosure….IMG_7316 ……stopping to gawk at all of the tourists…..

Panda Gawking

There were people everywhere, especially when there was a Panda on the move……IMG_7320

I laughed as one lady took a selfie with her pointing to the panda behind her!!

Ping had told us that she had never seen Giant Panda’s before and that she was excited to be able to go with us.  I love this photo of her showing her enjoyment…..

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Unfortunately this was the only Giant Panda that we saw outside.  It was starting to get pretty hot and, as the sign noted, Giant Panda’s are Heat Intolerant!!!

We moved to the Inside enclosures and enjoyed seeing the Moms and Cubs.  This little guy was playing around while Mom slept…..IMG_7475

….and this one was making good use of snack time…..

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Looking at this video ALSO reminds me of my Dad when he used to sit back in his recliner and have a snack!!!

As we walked into the enclosure we had to step on carpet strips that had been soaked in a bleach solution.   I know that the idea was to keep germs out but it was a bit disconcerting!!!

The enclosure area had glass walls which were fairly steamy and had lots of finger prints on them.  It was good that we were tall because we could photography over everyone’s head and avoid BOTH of those problems….

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We all enjoyed seeing these glorious animals!!

There were smaller babies in another enclosure but the line was really long and was not moving at ALL.   After standing there for about 5 minutes, we decided to leave it, although I think that Ping really wanted to visit the babies….

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In between seeing the Giant Pandas, we visited the Red Panda Enclosure and had a wonderful time watching these cute, furry little guys.   They are no relation to a Giant Panda and are much closer to a Raccoon or Skunk.  But the best thing about Red Pandas is that THEY ARE CUTE…..

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I mean, how can you not smile when you look at him!!!!

One lucky zoo volunteer got to go inside the enclosure and feed the little guys.  This one was very insistent that he was hungry…..IMG_7388

We moved down a bit further in the enclosure and came to an area where they were actively roaming around the compound.   I pictured them as a model walking on a Fashion Runway, circling the crowd, stopping to smile and let people ooh and ahh and then resuming their rounds.

This little guy came right up to the edge of the moat as if he was taunting us….IMG_7418

They are amazing climbers and we all loved watching one of them shimmy down a tree.  It is fun to listen to the sounds that the crowd makes…..

Climbing Red Panda

As we were walking to another enclosure I commented to Michael that, since they were such good climbers, couldn’t they easily get out of one enclosure and into another one.  As we were discussing this, I pointed to one that was just by the fence on the left side of the path.  As we watched open mouthed, he darted thru a hole in the fence, scooted between myself and Ping and then back thru another hole on the other side……

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We laughed and said that obviously they are not forbidden to move between enclosures, but actually encouraged to do so!!!

We decided that he only did this maneuver to frighten the tourists because he circled a tree and ran thru another hole, onto the path and back into the original enclosure.   This time he truly did frighten a young woman, giving us all a good laugh.  He probably enjoyed it too!!!

We took a few photos with the Pandas……

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and one selfie with Ping……

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Obviously we need to crouch more when taking selfies with  Chinese!!!

We left the facility around 1:00 and Ping insisted that we have lunch with her.  After eating “health food” which translated as a type of porridge we returned to the hotel and relaxed for the rest of the day.

We did venture out for dinner, heading to the BBQ place that we had enjoyed so much.

We were able to order easily but did have trouble getting the red pepper salt mixture that we loved so much before.  They didn’t speak any English and we didn’t have any idea of how to order it.  We actually returned AGAIN to this restaurant on Wednesday night and this time showed them the photo of the plate from our first visit.  It worked and we got exactly what we wanted!!!

This time I took a few more photos, including a few of the women preparing the skewers…..DSC08507

This woman was amazing….. she would take green onions, roll them up into shallow disks and thread them onto the skewer.  All of this was done without taking her eyes off of the movie on her cell phone!!!!DSC08508

We loved our “napkins”……

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….and took a selfie to celebrate Chinese Valentines Day……DSC08513

…now known to us as “the day we saw Pandas”!!!!!

Monday, August 22, 2016

It’s Monday!!!

Keeping with my plan to work one day and sight-see the next, I spent most of Monday in the hotel room.  I did make one foray to Walmart to see if I could find some salt for our travel salt shaker.  I spent a lot of time looking at various powders and finally selected one called “Gourmet Powder”, but alas I was wrong….REALLY wrong.   In retrospect, we think that it may have been MSG!!  We did return a couple of days later and finally found something that said “Salt” on it.

I had one laugh while in Walmart as I passed the fresh fish tank and saw that they had price tags attached to their fins!!!

Just to spend a bit more time out of the room, I walked down one of the side streets and ran into the US Embassy.  I was expecting to see Marines guarding the facility and was surprised that there were Chinese guards instead.  As Michael and I talked about it we wondered if they were there to keep people from getting into the Embassy with the idea of defecting?

Interestingly, all of the shops across the street from the Embassy were for buying Visas and making travel plans!!

As I was walking, I heard a pounding sound and looked all around to figure out where it was coming from.  I found a street vendor who was making noodles….probably rice noodles and found the process to be so interesting…

Noodle making video…

I continued my walk, seeing many street vendors and one shop advertising “Liver Noodles”.   I am not sure what “Cake on Effort” means…..

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….although they did have some gorgeous pastries on display.

This restaurant had a very cool entrance……

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… this Doorway design caught my eye……

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….and this young woman certainly had a load on her bike…..DSC08433

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the hotel is very posh and this is the decoration in each of the six elevators…..

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The lobby is a gorgeous (and much photographed) scene……

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….and if you look you can see the live musician perched under the tree!

I particularly liked the chandelier (if that is what you all it) in the lobby…DSC08522

 

Monday night we were taken to a full Hot Pot restaurant, something that Sichuan  Province is known for and something that we had really been looking forward to!!!!

Max and Ping were both with us and studiously selected the ingredients to be included in the spicy soup…..

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The cooking pot soon arrived, looking VERY red and dangerous…..

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We were each given a small can……

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and were surprised to find that it contained vegetable oil!!!   This was poured into individual bowls and minced garlic and various herbs was added to it…..

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The mixture was completed with a splash of vinegar from this cute vessel…..DSC08444

After I had finished my witches brew, I asked exactly what it was going to be used for.  I was surprised to find out that the hotpot items will be dipped into the oil & vinegar mixture to cool them off for eating!!!  In most cases we have dipped things to add heat but never to cool  it off.

In another change, our beer was served in this shallow dish, making for some interesting toasts as we tried really hard not to slosh it everywhere as we clinked glasses….DSC08445

Our food requests began to arrive…..

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….and were added to the pot one at a time…..

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As it cooked it looked so colorful and delicious…..

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The only hard part of eating this was to avoid the tiny pepper corns (Sichuan pepper) that infested the soup.  Once you ate one of those, you might as well forget the rest of the night because you couldn’t taste anything else!!!

As you took each bit out of the hotpot (using your chopsticks) you would put it into your oil bowl and then eat it from there…..

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It was super yummy but equally as messy and my shirt is still sporting dollops of oil!!

We asked about napkins, knowing that they would be a necessity and were told to look in the drawer on each side of the table…..

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…..such a practical and ingenious idea!!!

Isn’t this a pretty bowl……

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At the end of the meal, the table may have been messy…..DSC08473

….but we were content…..

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

A day out with new friends

On Sunday, Michael had to spend the day teaching so Professor Liu had organized for one of his new students (Ping) to take me out to see the highlights of Chengdu.  She had only been in the city for about 2 weeks so she enlisted her boyfriend, Zhu Ran, to join us.  They met me outside of the hotel at the appointed time and we headed out on our adventure.

Ping suggested that we take the Metro so that I could experience the “real life” of Chengdu.   I had been dying to ride on a Chinese subway so was ecstatic for the opportunity.   I am not sure what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness and modern aspect of the entire event!!    Security was tight and our bags were put thru a scanner as we entered.  Everything had English subtitles and it was easy to see which train you were supposed to be on.  Zhu Ran bought our tickets…..

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….and we were off on our adventure.

Initially there were no seats available and they apologized for making me stand.  When a seat became available they suggested that “we will be walking a lot today….why don’t you sit”.    I sat!!

The only issue that I had with any of the trips was that the people boarding the train don’t tend to let people disembark before they enter the cars so it becomes a bit of a shoving match.

Our first stop was the Manjushri Monastery, but first we had to stop for a selfie….my first using a selfie stick!!IMG_3239

 

The temple entrance was marked by this tall tower…..IMG_7228

Zhu Ran said that it symbolizes long life and that each person must circle it once (clockwise) to bring health and  good fortune to your family.

We stepped further into the temple area and found a large building that housed a huge Buddha.  The room was filled with tables full of women (mostly) chanting the Buddhist Holy Book (the Tripitaka).  They were accompanied by a high pitched beat emanating from a very small drum…..

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The kids told me that, when you pray, you place your hands together in supplication, say something in your head, bow, touch your head to the pillow that you are kneeling on, and then open your hands to receive the blessing.

The next temple contained a multi-armed Buddha.  I commented that it reminded me of some of the Hindu gods and Zhu Ran said that this one did indeed come from the west (ie…India).

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He also taught me that you enter each temple leading with your right foot and exit with your left foot first.  As well, you enter on the right side of the temple and exit on the left.

As we went deeper into the temple, the buildings got larger and the “no photograph” signs became more prominent….IMG_7241

They told me that the Buddha’s each had a special area of interest and I noticed that the Buddha of prosperity, wealth and career was particularly well attended.  Although Ping had told me that she was not religious, she stopped to pray before this Buddha.

The incense pits were doing a smoking business as people attempted to present a pleasing aroma to their god…..

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There was a long line to have the opportunity to touch (or hug or kiss)  the Chinese character that means “Happiness”…..IMG_7244

The Hall of the Heavenly Kings was built in 1821 and the courtyard outside was filled with people doing their morning exercises.  Zhu Ran said that when people are “60 or so” they become less active and start coming to the exercise areas.  So, I guess I only have 10 more months before I have to join them!!!

As we were leaving the temple, Ping stopped to buy she and I a flower to pin to our clothes…..

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When I asked her about the significance of the flower, she looked at me dumbfounded and said “it smells good”!!

Turtles are a symbol of long life and I  loved this little boy’s reaction to a bucket of turtles ready to be sold……

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We boarded another train and got off at our next stop…..the area known as “Wide and Narrow Street”.  This was a huge shopping area but Zhu Ran (always trying to take care of me) told me several times that this was a place to look but not a place to buy!!!   He was right as it was a fairly touristy street mall area.  When I say touristy, I always think of “non-Chinese” tourists, but in this case, I was the only non-Chinese for miles around…...

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I loved this wall and am reminded of the VERY boring Bamboo quilt top that I have at home awaiting finishing……

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Maybe I could overlay some designs like this onto it???

The kids had promised me lots of food to try and the first was this long, stringy, brushy looking stuff…..

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When finished, they looked like this…..

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The flavor was tasty, but it immediately sucked  every bit of moisture out of my mouth and I was desperate for something to drink.

We stopped at a juice stand and Zhu Ran asked if I wanted to drink their favorite drink.  Of course, I said yes and was presented with something that tastes a lot like a flat, watered down coke…..DSC08320

….but it was cool and wet and I was VERY happy to have it!!

We stopped for lunch shortly after that and ordered four dishes…….

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A cold noodle that was wonderful, a Bean curd dish that was also great and a spicy tofu that was ok.  I never got to taste the fourth item (balls on the bottom right) as Ping tried it first and said that it was NOT good!!!  I didn’t argue with her.

We continued strolling down the street with me being as interested in the old, historic buildings as I was the shops…..

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They were determined that I try everything and paid for me to spin the wheel to win a prize…..

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The pointer landed on the dragonfly and I was presented with a caramelized sugar dragonfly…..DSC08344

….pretty and tasty too!!!

We stood and watched the sugar artist at work and I loved the detail that he put into each piece…..

Watch the video here

 

One of the things that I loved about the street were these three dimensional sculptures all along the road….DSC08348

   They were almost always covered up with people taking photos.

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This was one of my favorites and I really loved the mixture of photography and sculpture……

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But my all-time favorite was of this horse “bursting” thru the wall…..DSC08357

However, it was rivaled by this bicycle…..

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I felt extremely well taken care of during our shopping expedition…..one “minder”  in front and one in back, always watching my purse and watching out for me!!

The next stop was to be Renmin Park.  I asked about the word “Renmin” because I have seen it everywhere and was told that it means “Of the people” or “For the people”

Zhu Ran took us down one particularly crowded street and then found out that he had taken us in exactly the wrong direction.  We laughed and turned around to retrace our steps.  When we got to the other side, he asked again where the park was.  I looked at him and laughed and said “let me guess….it really was the other way”!!  He assured me that was NOT the case!!

The park was beautiful and serene and a quiet and cool respite from the crowded streets…..

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We were heading for a particular tea shop, found it easily and took our seats at a table near the park’s central lake.  He ordered lemon tea for us and then apologized as it was delivered, saying that he was expecting something else.  I, however, LOVED what we had.  It was served in a tall glass that had rocks of sugar in the bottom with two dried lemon slices perched on top.  Hot water was added and the most delicious warm lemonade was made……

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The sugar melted very slowly so as more hot water was added, the taste just got better and better.

We sat at the table and enjoyed watching groups of people playing card games and other families in row boats on the lake.  We laughingly watched one father frantically try to row the boat with his wife and daughter sitting in the front, looking at their cell phones!!!

Zhu Ran said that he had two more stops planned for us but I asked him to pick one more and then we would call it a day.  He chose the Jinli Pedestrian Street (another shopping type area) and, at first, I was disappointed.  But, as we walked thru the area I realized that it was more of an artisan and food area and I enjoyed my time there immensely. 

One of the first booths that we passed was a calligrapher.  I am so enamored with the brushes that they use in their work…..

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This artisan is making hand carved combs, painstakingly carving each tine of the comb…..

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They were gorgeous……

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There were various medical craftsmen on hand as well and this gentleman was getting his ears cleaned while waiting for his family……

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The vendors selling ear cleaning would walk thru the crowd with their tools in their hands.  As they walked, they would slap a tuning fork (which is used in the cleaning process) to get people’s attention.  We entered into one of the largest food courts that I have ever seen and was amazed (and horrified) by some of the dishes served.  

I cant imagine what “Three In Mud” is…..

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….but I can probably imagine what it tastes like!!!

I caught this man enjoying his grilled "octopus on a stick”…..

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This was a “Beggar’s Chicken” stand where the whole chicken is wrapped in mud and then cooked……

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The ones on the tables smelled delicious!!

This Octopus (or maybe Squid) hadn’t been cooked yet but made for a fun photo…..

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We had two things to eat/drink while we were in this area.   The first was a drink made from fermented rice…..

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It was refreshing but not a flavor that I was truly excited about.  However, the second food item was magnificent.   It was a plain yogurt, smooth and cold, and served in this cute container…..

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Our final stop was to this “Lover’s area” which was adorned with red ribbons and amulets wishing for love……

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Ping let me take this cute photo of her……

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We caught a taxi and returned to the hotel, exhausted but happy about our day out and about.  I tried repeatedly to pay for parts of the day but they always said no and that I was their guest…I felt VERY pampered!!

That evening, Michael and I met Professor Liu and his student, Max (at least that was her English name) for yet another spicy, tasty dinner.  This was a type of hotpot but here you filled a bowl with all of the things that you wanted in the hot pot……

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and then paid according to it’s weight.    It was delivered to our table in one large bowl…

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And as we dipped further down, we found all sorts of delightful things…..

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The walk back to the hotel signaled the end to a full, rich day!!!

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