Chengdu, China

Located in western China and the capital of the Sichuan province, Chengdu has a population of 14- million people and it is the fifth largest city in China.

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Home to the giant panda, Chengdu is most well-known for having a huge research base dedicated to the survival of these rare animals. Amazingly, about 80% of the worlds 1500 remaining giant panda’s are located in the Sichuan province!

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The Chengdu Panda Base, which is open to the public, is a research and breeding centre that intends to increase the staggeringly low panda numbers.

The Research Base started with 6 giant panda’s and it currently has a captive population of 83. In 2012, six panda’s were released into a nearby semi-wild environment. This was seen as a huge success and a positive development for future panda numbers in the area.

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Although the centre appears rather zoo-like in places, there are areas where panda’s can roam free in a semi-natural environment without a steady stream of visitors.

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Although, they seem to be rather content just sitting around, eating bamboo..

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*The giant panda diet consists of 99% bamboo and these animals can get up to 160 kg in size! Due to their struggle to digest bamboo – and the lack of energy or protein created from it, panda’s are required to eat 20-30 lbs of bamboo per day! IMG_1757

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*That’s a lot of eating!

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The centre has tried to introduce other types of food like fruit, honey, eggs, fish and yams to the panda’s diet but they tend to only stick to the bamboo.

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Above is a red panda. Barely bigger than a house cat, the red panda was initially named ‘panda’ before the white and black one’s were discovered. They look like a mixture of a little bear, fox and raccoon!

Also endangered, the red panda numbers aren’t as bleak as the giant panda’s, as there are about 10,000 in the world today. There are a few roaming around the Research Centre but the red panda seems to prefer hiding up in trees instead of being out in the open.

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Located about 10-15 minutes from downtown Chengdu and only costing 60 Yuan (about $10 cdn), the Research Base is very accessible and affordable. I’d recommend going early in the day to see them at their most active state and give yourself 2 or 3 hours to see the entire facility!

Besides the Panda Research Centre, there are a few other cool things to check out in Chengdu.

The Wenshu Monastery is the best preserved Buddhist monastery in Chengdu.

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Built in the 700’s, this monastery is one of the more peaceful ‘tourist sites’ you’ll ever find.

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Everyone is just sitting, praying and/or offering incense. A really nice place!

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If you’re looking for a more urban/commercial district, head to Jinli. This area is full of teahouses, artisan shops, restaurants, bars and local vendors.

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The Chengdu region is apparently really fond of eating rabbit head so I regrettably figured that I should try this local delicacy.

Not great….. but I’m somewhat more ok with my choice after seeing what this girl was about to devour!

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Overall, I found Chengdu to be far more laid-back than other Chinese cities I visited. In fact, a local told me that people refer to Chengdu as ‘Changsterdam’ alluding to it’s relaxed vibe.

Despite having a population of 14-million, Chengdu has enough areas with green space to make it seem like you’re in a smaller city. Unfortunately, I only spent two-and-a-half days here and I’d recommend giving yourself at least four in order to get a proper grasp of the city.

And hey, Chengdu is home to the biggest mall in the world – so don’t miss out on the indoor beach and water park like I did ; ) !

 

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