第三个星期的话题：Eat, Sleep, Repeat
I’ll be posting on Emily’s behalf throughout the summer, as WordPress is blocked in China. Enjoy – Kelly Kesinger, UW Study Abroad.
We visited a symbol of Sichuan province and of China last weekend: the giant panda! We visited the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. There were several pandas out eating or sleeping, including two cubs. There are also red pandas (or “little pandas,” as they’re called in Chinese) at the research base. As I’m swamped in essays to write and vocabulary to memorize for class at Sichuan U, I’m rather envious of the panda lifestyle: eat, sleep, repeat.
Overall, I was very impressed by the research base, and by that I mean, much more impressed than I have been at many other tourist sites in China. I have been to several in Beijing, China, and the Harbin area, and for a couple of reasons I am often not eager to go back. First, they are typically slammed with people. This was especially true of everywhere in Beijing. The combination of summer weather and the season’s deluge of tourists makes for a very sticky, crowded atmsophere. Additionally, the sites tend to be very gimmicky, which can certainly be true of not just China but destinations around the world. The trip ends up being less about appreciating the scenery or the history and more about buying the souvenir or touching the lucky tree that will bring you your soulmate (yes, this exists in the Underground Forest near Jingpo Lake). Finally, Chinese sightseers have no aversion to stairs, and so some tour guides will lead you on an hour or more of stair climbing. It may seem like a lazy complaint to have, but talk to me after an afternoon spent like that in the summer heat or monsoon rain.
All that to say, the Chengdu Research Base was welcomely different. It looked new and clean, and was busy but not packed with visitors. The animals all seemed relaxed. The pathways around the exhibits were overhung by green tunnels of tall bamboo plants and the souvenir shops didn’t disrupt the environment. Most importantly, the purpose of the research base and exhibits seemed to be to appreciate the endangered species and educate people about the breeding process that keeps them from extinction. I give all A’s to the research base.
Appendix 1: On the subject of tourist attractions, if you are going to the Great Wall of China, by all means take some extra time and go to one of the sites that is further from Beijing. At the closer ones you will find throngs of sightseers but further away are much more peaceful sections of the Great Wall.
Appendix 2: I have to admit that some tourist gimmicks are entertaining. At Jingpo Hu near Harbin, there is a man who jumps off a huge waterfall twice a day for the tourists. I got a picture with him after his second jump of the day.