Seven o'clock Monday morning seemed like an impossible task considering the time change, 23 hours of travel, and my late arrival (finally in bed by 1AM). However, I was possessed by a responsible adult and made it to breakfast. As most of you know, I was allergic to eggs when I was a child so I never really acquired at taste. While I have learned to eat omelettes, scrambled eggs... not so much. Toast and Coke Zero it was.
We loaded up in an old van and headed to Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. I was quickly exposed to Chengdu driving. There is about a 2 second interval between car horns, incredibly AGGRESSIVE drivers, and everyone has the mentality of "get there as fast as you can, no matter what you leave in your wake."
We started to approach the Base and it was very apparent this was a serious attraction here and it was definitely a holiday. So many people and so many vendors. I definitely haven't seen that many stuffed pandas ever and probably ever will, contrary to popular belief. The streets were lined with panda everything.
Thankfully, our tickets were already purchased and we went in immediately. Pandemonium ensued.
Trying to get out of this base/zoo/park was absolutely insane. As we were shuffling like penguins to the exit, I quickly realized why we went so early. The crowd was madness and I couldn't wait to get out of there. Probably so I could breathe and move more than 2 inches at a time.
Once we got back to the hostel, we had a spread of Chinese dishes for lunch. I couldn't tell you a particular dish but most of it was very good. I have decided that when in doubt, load up on rice. After, we had about 2 hours to relax before heading into the city for a walking tour.
I was pretty intimidated by this quick turnover considering how much walking we had already done and being fresh out of my walking boot. Quick recap: I broke my fib and 3 metatarsals im the beginning of July and have been in recovery ever since. I was in a little pain but I decided to push through it and was very happy I did.
We took the train a few stops inside the city. I was incredibly impressed with their transit system and geeked out over the overall design because it was so easy to understand.
We were given about an hour and a half to explore the Kuan and Zhou alley. A lot of shops, food, and once again A LOT of people. After, we headed to Renmin Park (People's Park) where people were enjoying tea, mahjong, wooden boat rides, and dancing. The tea was surprisingly refreshing considering I was dripping with sweat and drinking hot tea.
Dinner was amazing. We went to a place right around the corner from our hostel for what they called "hotpot." It was basically like Korean BBQ but instead of the grill, it was a bubbling vat of oil. You are given a cart of raw meats and vegetables to cook in the oil (chicken skewers, beef, potatoes, cabbage, white gourd, etc). My table had a tomato hotpot (not spicy) but other local students with the program had a spicy hotpot I got to try. It was insane and I was quickly very thankful all the ladies didn't want the spicy one. Like blow your face off... can I have a liter of sprite... I need a fork for my rice... do you have milk... spicy.
Everything was delicious and we went back to the hostel for a drink. Due to our 5AM departure (trying to beat holiday traffic), I had a flaming B52 shot and a local beer. You know, no big deal.