The Pandas and the Buddha . . .

I’ve waited my whole life to see the Pandas, I could’ve gone to a million zoos in some or other country but to see them in the ‘wild’ has been a life long dream, a bucket list cross-out if you will. I don’t know why I love these creatures so much but to be able to see them just naturally playing, eating and relaxing was soul food. They are ancient, innocent and the epitome of a species that should never have survived this long but are a rare beauty because they have. You can almost feel them laughing as they stuff their cute little faces full of bamboo and give evolution the middle finger simultaneously.

Its literally almost impossible for them to procreate on their own, the mothers are rarely attached to babies and they don’t hunt or really do anything other than eat, sleep and relax – I think that’s what makes them the most fun creature on this planet.

dsc00216 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00035 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00062 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00080 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00081 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00082 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00142 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00151 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00156 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00159 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00188 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00190 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00206 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

For a small fortune you get to hold a baby one of these buggers for all of two minutes. It is rationally a complete waste of money but there are few things that are more incredible. I dont know why but feeding this fat little thing honey coated bamboo shoots while it sat on my la was truly an incredible experience and worth every penny!

The main reason to go to Chengdu was the above but an added life enhancer was the giant Buddha at Leshan. This is basically a stone Buddha carved OUT OF A MOUNTAIN 100 stories high. It took almost 100 years to complete and is hundreds of years old.

dsc00438 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)
At the bottom of this shot on the left are his toes!

IMG_0067

dsc00355 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

To stand above this gigantic expression of one mans dream and to think that he started a process to create this that he knew he would almost never certainly see complete resonates with me somehow. To have the faith and self belief to know that your dream is so powerful that even if you are not there to do it, someone will carry it on just to see it finished. Incredible.

This magical monstrous sculpture took my breath away from literally every angle, some of them a single foot path of hundreds of steps to climb down the side of the Buddha and then back up the other side.

dsc00459 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)
Just past his head – those tiny little colored dots – those are people!
dsc00409 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)
Same as the above pic – look at the people past his head!

dsc00417 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00432 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)
This is taken on the way down from the tiny narrow one man line of stairs!

4 May was my birthday and spent climbing to the top of Qingcheng Mountain that has a 1000 year old Taoist temple. Misty wet and surrounded by something that is truly ancient is an incredible feeling. Its barely describable but when you are walking the same steps that millions have walked over 1000s of years is a most calm and peaceful place, rounded off by lighting incense to mark the day and to hope for more incredible ones to come.

dsc00629 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

DSC00636

DSC00644

dsc00649 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00684 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00687 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00690 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

At the top of this mountain sits a pagoda with a view literally in the clouds and with banister after banister of locks from people who have come up to the top, engraved the names and locked them over years onto these poles to show love and friendship.

dsc00700 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

IMG_0117

DSC00720

IMG_0112

IMG_0111

IMG_0110

Lastly there are a few things I have to say about Chengdu.

dsc00489 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00513 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

It has a quaint charm I have found in small corners of China. It has the greatest spicy Sichuan food on the planet (I now own enough Sichuan peppercorn to last a few generations). The people they say are like Pandas, they are lazy and like to sit in the sun, drink tea and play Majong – if you had to say who was winning at life, I really think they are!

dsc00611 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00614 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)
The obligatory marriage market!
dsc00616 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)
One of maybe 50 activities going on in the park from games to dancing to skateboarding etc
dsc00619 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)
100 year old tea house next to the river

dsc00622 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00623 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00624 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00625 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)
Thermas’s of hot water continuously refilled for hours of tea drinking

The Shangri La (depending on when you read this) is massive, as all Chinese hotels are, salute to decadence and luxury and the Horizon Club is magical. There is something completely civilized about sitting on the 35th floor of a building, eating canapes and drinking champagne while looking over and entire city!

dsc00492 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

 

IMG_0039
Every night Champagne and canapes . . .

A panda cake waiting in the room for my birthday from the brilliant team at the hotel!

IMG_0113

Lastly a few places you need to put back on your list of things to do if you haven’t yet.

Jinli old street is a bit touristy, it’s a little cheesy but at the end of it, it has the best selection of street food that is well worth the walk-through abuse you get from markets in China.

dsc00606 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00608 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00598 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00601 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

Peoples park you may think is just a simple waste of time but just seeing the people dancing, playing games and relaxing by meandering rivers really makes you re-evalute what the hell you are doing rotting away in an office every day!

Like all Laowai there are certain things you are ignorant too, how many types of Tofu exist and how many kinds of Bamboo there are. There is a park with 100s of types of bamboo, some that I swear are not of this planet. It’s a small walk through, very quiet and peaceful and quite magical in a way.

dsc00551 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00543 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00532 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00565 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00563 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00553 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

Lastly the face changing show that’s held in the local outdoor theater  it again is packed with tourists and you wont understand half of whats going on but to see Chinese theater in action (plus you can watch the put on the make up / costumes) is really spectacularly interesting, even if you just go for the shadow puppet guy!

dsc00790 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00786 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00776 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00805 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00803 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

If this place is not on your list of China TO DOs then you need to re-evaluate your priorities I fear!

dsc00762 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00764 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)