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14th Apr 2017 - 20th Apr 2017

Confucius say ‘when man flu become more serious then man get deep husky voice like Keith Richard’.  That’s exactly what happened to Neil when his common cold turned into something more debilitating and his voice turned into a deep gravelly monotone grump.  Not much change there then.

It might not have been so bad except for the fact that our flight from Lijiang was the first we’ve been on where the seatbelt sign was never turned off and delivery of drinks by the flight crew was suspended due to the extended turbulence.  To make it worse, during the final descent into Chengdu the pressure in Neil’s ears didn’t equalise due to his head cold.  This left him with a thundering headache and deafness that lasted until next day……….he went to bed at 8.30pm. 

The following morning the headache was gone, the deafness was gone but the rasping sore throat and ridiculously deep voice persisted forcing Neil to do something he never does – seek medicine – Chinese medicine.   Well, it had to be Chinese medicine as Neil declined advice from one of the receptionists to see a doctor and without a prescription he couldn’t get antibiotics.  He loaded up in a pharmacy with all sorts of capsules, lozenges and ‘dripping pills’.  His nose, whilst not red or sore, finished up feeling like a piece of sandpaper.  Within a couple of days he was starting to get better although his voice took a little longer to get back to normal.  Cheryl being the caring person she is kept reminding him that ‘it’s just man flu, get on with it………..I had it too but I didn’t complain……..much’.

Cheryl decided to choose our hotel based on its silly name. The Lazybones Templeside Poshpacker Hostel is in essence aimed at 30 somethings who want a better standard than a backpacker dive, but still want the friendliness & fun atmosphere of a hostel.   Whilst this name actually makes a bit of sense, we have noticed a number of shops, restaurants, hotels and many more things which have used a strict translation from Chinese that leave us scratching our heads as to what they mean.  People wear clothing like T-shirts etc with the most insane comments on them probably because it’s cool to have an English slogan. We’re sure this also works in reverse when foreigners buy clothes with exotic Chinese/Japanese/Sanskrit adornments.  You may wish to check if your clothing is having a quiet laugh at your expense!

We try to avoid doing too many touristy things at weekends as they tend to be dominated by the Chinese.  We also like to observe real life in a country so on Sunday we decided to visit what is reputedly the biggest shopping mall in the world with 511,000 square meters of purchasing opportunities.  We’re not sure of this is true but it was so big we couldn’t fit it all into the camera lens.   It was pretty awesome and contained zillions of shops, eateries, coffee shops, 5* toilets, an IMAX and cine complex, an ice rink, waterpark with flumes and a mini seaside resort with wave machine and both concrete and sand beaches.  The whole thing is overlooked by a huge Intercontinental Hotel having rooms inside the dome with views over the swimming pools and seaside resort.  We didn’t do any shopping but then just taking in the sheer size of it was tiring enough!  Neil did enjoy riding the escalators that reminded him of David Niven in ‘Stairway to Heaven’ – they were endless.  Oh, almost forgot to say, it has 24hr sunshine!

We came to Chengdu in Sichuan Province in the hope that we would get great food – it is renowned for its hot and spicy flavours.  Well, it is hot and spicy which we enjoy but it’s also incredibly salty and ridiculously oily which we don’t enjoy.  When we asked at Poshpacker if this is normal we were told ‘yes’ so with their help we created our own menu - we decided want we wanted to eat, wrote it down and the guys behind the desk translated it into Chinese characters.  Armed with our flashcards we started to get some food we could eat especially as we got them to translate ‘no salt’!  Simple unadulterated and delicious roast duck and vegetables that taste of vegetables.

We’ve done a bit of temple-ing while we’ve been here but you can’t come to Chengdu without seeing the Panda Breeding & Research Centre.  To get there before the crowds we took a taxi for CNY30 (about £3.50) in time for the opening at 7.30am.  The taxi man had obviously been watching the recent Grand Prix as he drove like he’d started from pole position rather than a set of traffic lights.  We arrived very early, got ticket numbers 3 and 4 on the day, and had a fabulous time watching pandas.  They are the icon of the WWF and they are extremely funny to watch, especially the young ones that seem to want to run, play, climb and play-fight all day long.  Considering that many Chinese tourist attractions charge very high fees this turned out to be excellent value as we spent around 7/8hrs there.  The entrance fee for both of us was CNY118, taxi CNY30, bus/metro home CNY8 so all in all, less than £20. 

Pandas are seriously endangered and we were given a number of reasons why this is.  Obviously, we humans have had a lot to do with it.  However, the female is only on heat for 3 days a year. To make things worse, the males still think their piece of equipment is just for peeing through – unlike most wildlife that can’t get enough.  It appears that pandas prefer chewing on a piece of tasteless bamboo over a bit of rumpy pumpy!  Also, a female will normally produce twins and abandon the weakest – this is nature.  However, the centre staff have come up with a wizard idea that is now saving almost 100% of those that would have died.  Pandas don’t seem to be too bright so the staff rescue the abandoned baby at birth and keep it in an incubator.   Then, as many as 10 times a day, switch the babies over with the mother.  Mummy panda doesn’t notice and she unwittingly rears 2 babies – we said it was a wizard idea! 

Pandas also live a very solitary life in the wild so even when a female is ready to mate there is very little chance of finding a male who isn’t concentrating on his next piece of bamboo.  Whilst not a reason for being endangered, the centre staff don’t know if a female is pregnant or not, well not until little Peter or Pamela Panda literally pops out.  All females will share the same body changes during this period even though they may not be pregnant so it does keep the staff guessing.  Actually, maybe the females aren’t that daft, as they get extra rations during pregnancy.

We’ve had a good time in China and although we have an outline plan for Chapter 10 we are probably going to come back one day.  Here are our Top 10 observations, both good and bad:

1. The language is a barrier, no doubt, but we have got by with the help of a very friendly Chinese people and translation apps. We didn’t always get what we thought we were getting but that’s when a sense of humour steps forward.
2. China has to have some of the worst public toilets in the Universe.  Some are good but many are, mmm  well, we won’t describe them in case you read this eating your dinner and, just maybe, you may choose to visit yourself and we wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.  We can tell you over a beer when we get back.
3. The public transport is excellent and simple to use even with the language barrier.
4. We have been in some remote areas and most people seem to be sharing in the new wealth being created. 
5. The amount being spent on infrastructure is breath-taking.
6. Young girls love to express themselves with fashion, especially shoes, and hairstyles.
7. Middle aged women need to take some dress advice instead of dressing like western tarts but even these girls are having fun.
8. Most men of all ages smoke, everywhere, even where there are signs saying don’t……it’s treated like the provision of hot water, a human right to smoke when and where I want.
9. There’s a lot of rich people here driving Bentleys, Porsche, Ferrari, Maserati and even your average Joe seems to drive a BMW, Mercedes or definitely a Japanese car.
10. It seems to us that it’s a good country in which to be old.  It’s like Last of the Summer Wine everywhere you go, in the parks, playing cards or mah jong or just singing and dancing together.  They are not locked away at home isolated from society.

We have liked China a lot, it’s been a real challenge but then we haven’t really had a challenge since we came here 5 years ago.

We fly home tomorrow, both of us looking forward to seeing everyone again and catching up with people we haven’t seen for some time.  We have lots on this summer so please keep following.

Next: We're still breathing
Previous: Michael Palin Stayed Here

Diary Photos


Red Panda 2

Wenshu Monastery 1

Taoist Monk

Close up of Opera make up

Sleeping beauty

Chairman Mao with a 60's classic building

Chairman Mao faces modern China

Local hero makes good

A taste of Sichuan opera

The world's biggest Mall

Global Mall Entrance


What's in your bag mister

Breakfast bamboo

Got enough bamboo

Jing Yuns CV

Panda Poo is yellow

Peacock showing off

Mmmmm, bamboo, scrummy

Red Panda 5

Panda life is hard

Sleeping Panda in the background

Yogi Panda

Just habging around

Pensive panda

Nice flowers

Kids checking out the pandas

Yooo hhoooo

One mass fight

Swan lake

We're now on the wall at Poshpacker

Qingyang Taoist Temple 1

Qingyang Taoist Temple 2

Qingyang Taoist Temple 3

Yin & yang

8 sided pagoda

Wenshu Monastery 2

Diary Movies

Kung Fu Pandas

Munch munch

Performing Peacock

Red Panda 4

Sibling rivalry

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