Frankly, I didn’t really know if there was anything to do in Chengdu besides see pandas. You see, I hadn’t really bothered to do any research on the city. I’ve always found that research kind of has this way of totally ruining the surprise, you know?
Plus, I was traveling with a friend to Chengdu. And what are friends for but to tell you where you’re going and what you’re going to do once you get there?
What’s that you say?
That’s not how friendship works?
Huh.It turns out that there are lots of things to see and do in Chengdu.
There are tons of pretty temples.
And pleasant, shady parks.
And a couple cool, old-timey looking neighborhoods.
Plus, Chengdu has some of the best food I’ve ever had in China. And, that’s saying something, as I have eaten lots of food in China.But, despite all that other stuff, Chengdu is really all about the pandas.
Chengdu’s taxis are bamboo green with pandas stenciled on the front hood.
The shops stock everything from panda tea to panda cigarettes.
Even the wi-fi has been pandafied.
On my first afternoon in the city, I spotted more than a half-dozen toddlers and not a few full-grown adults in panda-themed get-ups – including one woman who was wearing a smiling panda sweatshirt and black sweatpants that had smiling panda patches on each of her knees.
At first, all the panda-themed stuff can seem a bit, well, much.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of being excessive. Maybe you’ve noticed?
But it’s like Chengdu is the parent who posts way too many pictures of his kids all over Facebook. (Not that I know anyone who does that. I’ve just heard that happens sometimes. Ahem.) After a while, you’re like, “Okay, Chengdu, we get it. You have pandas. And they’re cute. But do you have to be all braggy about it?”Then I went to the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, home to the largest captive-born giant panda population in the world.
And I totally got it.
In fact, after seeing the pandas in person, I think Chengdu should brag a bit more. Maybe they should require all residents of the city to wear panda patches on their trousers. And have every single sign in the city shaped like a panda’s head. Because, seriously, wouldn’t you much rather take instruction from a sign that looks like this?To say pandas are cute is an understatement.
I don’t even think there’s a word that’s been invented to describe how adorable pandas are. But if there were a word it would sound something like this: EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOO EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEUUUUUUUUUUUUEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!
Because that’s pretty much exactly the same noise that came out of my mouth the first time I spotted a panda at the park. My friend was standing a few feet away from me, and I was trying to get her attention. But my mind went totally blank, and I couldn’t remember her name. Or my name. Or really anything useful, like words.
Now, I’ve seen some adorable animals in my day. I grew up on a farm, people. I used to dress up baby goats in doll clothes.
Have you ever seen a baby goat in a dress before?
Well, I’m not going to say that your life lacks meaning.
But maybe it does kind of a little.
As amazingly adorable as a goat in a dress may be, pandas don’t even need clothes to look adorable. But, I think we can all agree that pandas would be even more adorable in costume. Just imagine how freaking amazing this little guy would look in a pair of denim overalls:
Right?On the day we went to the reserve, it was pouring down rain. Like crazy tropical storm amounts of rain.
And, you’d think that the pandas would look all wet and soggy and really kind of sad in that much rain. Because that’s exactly how I looked in that much rain.
But even when sopping wet, pandas look like big, puffy, black and white balls of love and cuddles.And don’t let that humble look on their adorable little faces fool you. These guys knew exactly how ridiculously cute they were because, man, were they hamming it up for the audience.
This pair rolled around like a pair of over-sized kittens on a wooden platform.
This one climbed very slowly face-first out of a tree, which was probably the most riveting ten minutes of my life. I mean, sure, it may not sound so spectacular, but when’s the last time you climbed face-first out of a tree?
And these two just slept. But, seriously, when you’re that adorable, even sleeping is something of a show.
Which, is kind of amazing when you think about it, because I have an ability to be cranky pretty much all the time. Just ask any of my family members. Or anyone who has ever traveled with me. Or anyone who has made the mistake of trying to talk to me before, say, noon. I am extremely good at being irritable. I’d even consider it one of my more consistent qualities.In addition to oooing and awwwing over the pandas, there are a whole bunch of buildings at the Base, including a research center, a veterinary hospital and something called The Panda Kitchen, where you can go in and ooo and awww over other stuff. Like what pandas eat for lunch.
But, for some reason, almost all the buildings were closed on the morning we went.
The few buildings that were open were something of a disappointment. There was the nursery, which just had a bunch of empty incubators. These were almost painful to look at. I mean, can you imagine how cute this thing would be if it was stuffed full of baby pandas?
Even the Panda Museum was closed for renovations. But you could sit inside the lobby and watch a rather graphic video detailing panda copulation.
Even though almost all the buildings were closed, which means I’ll probably never know exactly how much bamboo to prepare should I ever have some pandas over for lunch, I still wasn’t that cranky about it.
It was like I was on some weird panda high.Besides, the bathroom was open, and it just so happened to be the most spectacular bathroom I’ve seen in China.
It was, of course, panda-themed.
And the stalls featured fancy self-cleaning toilets and wall art.
There was even a little basket full of lotions and potions at the sink.
I suspect this was there so you could spruce yourself up a bit. You know, should you be feeling unattractive after spending the day with some of the most adorable creatures on the planet.
Unfortunately, there was really no amount of lotions and potions that could stop me from looking wretched after being rained on all morning. I guess I don’t really have what it takes to look as pretty as a panda.
But you can’t blame a girl from trying, now can you?What’s the cutest animal you’ve ever seen in person?