Giant Panda Trip - 10th May 2009
Today the Panda Reserve generously gave us a mini-bus and a driver to go out sightseeing. Whilst driving in the mountains it amazed me how you could just stop the car wherever you liked to get out and take photos. No one looked at you sideways, they just happily drove around you when the coast was clear (or not in some cases!). It would be similar to getting out of your car on the way up to Mount Lofty. I couldn’t help but imagine the abuse you would get and the traffic chaos you would cause in Australia.
The driver took us to some fabulous sights on the way to a beautiful village called Shang-li. As it was Sunday the place was buzzing with local tourists. Shang-li is an ancient town full of beautiful architecture, wonderful old bridges and narrow cobbled streets full of shops, restaurants and resting places. We had lunch at the base of a small waterfall. It was probably the most unique place I have ever eaten a meal at.
At one stage during the day I was whisked off by a very excited gentleman who was fascinated with my hair colour, beard and height. He took me to a bridge for photos with all of his friends. The crew thought this was hilarious and we certainly were the novelty act for the day. The black hair on our cameraman, Chris’s arms and Wayne Boardman’s huge stature were also a big talking point for the friendly locals.
After visiting Shang-li we were taken to a magnificent Buddhist temple. This was a stunning place full of traditional stonework, buildings and natural springs. It also had a traditional tea-house where we relaxed and sampled some of the many varieties in the gorgeous surroundings. It really was fantastic to have a day to enjoy the cultural and visual beauties of China.
Tonight the Panda base staff took us out again for dinner in Ya-an. Once again we had a fantastic time with plenty of food, great company and the now much dreaded rice wine.