We took the fast train which took 2 1/2 hours to Chengdu from Chongqing. The station is enormous with a lot of signs but nothing in English saying which way to the fast trains. We had enough time thank goodness to walk around to find the correct area. Some of the Chinese unfortunately have the habit of just laughing at you when you go up to them. They think you will ask them to speak English. It is sometimes most annoying. A lot of them also stare as though we are from another planet and with Westerners shown on the TV these days we shouldn’t be so unusual. Maurice met a nice Canadian guy who gives them what for if they stare at him and they then take off – he has lived here for 3years and is fluent in Mandarin. Lucky him!

The waiting area for the fast train was full and when the doors open for entry to the train it was like a post Christmas sale with everyone pushing and shoving to get to the train. We now push and shove with the best of them. Maurice was trying to be very polite and was nearly decked by little old ladies so we have now learnt our lesson. There are very few places that we have found where you are able to wait on the platform more than a few minutes before the train takes off and then there is a mad scramble to get on board.

The views along the track ranged from cement and chemical factories nestled between hills and then beautiful valleys of fields full of green paddy fields and market gardens dotted with very green conifers and ponds. We could have been in Italy!

The new north train station in Chengdu is like the one in Shanghai – very modern and the size

of a couple of city blocks. We stayed at a good central location in the city near the “Jin Li” popular tourist area with a lot of novelty shops and old style buildings. We found a couple of wonderful restaurants with hot and fiery delicious Sechuan food. We found that China have the best cucumbers – nobbly and very crunchy – they serve them raw, pickled and cooked and are just delicious.

I had booked to be a panda keeper for the day so Maurice had a more relaxing day and went for a couple of walks. A schoolboy stopped him and asked him if he could talk to him. He asked him if he was part of the “team”. Maurice said that he wasn’t and asked him what he meant. Apparently their school had some Australians come and visit them but Maurice still didn’t find out what the “team” was.

I also had a girl in a coffee shop ask if she could practice her English and when I told her I was from Australia, she said ” I like Australia, it is a nice city!”

I caught a taxi to the Jidi Panda Reserve which is about an hour from the city and covers over 200 hectares. They have about 86 pandas of all ages from 10months old. I joined six Japanese tourists to panda keep for the day which involved cleaning out some of their cages, cutting up their apples and panda cake – an baked oatmeal cake which they love. We then went through the back of their enclosures to pathways to feed them these on bamboo poles. In the afternoon they are fed apple with vitamins which have been put into the pieces of fruit. They make the pandas come to their food and get them to stand and move around and to open their mouths so that they can see their general wellbeing. They have a keeper during the day and another one at night who look after their particular enclosure. There are several enclosures. They have a constant supply of bamboo as they each eat 30kilos a day. They spend 12hours eating, 10hours sleeping and 2hours when they are active. The young ones are very cute and they play and tumble about and hang upside down and sleep like babies with their bottoms in the air. A lot of the older pandas have come from various zoos and are much more subdued.

They also have a new Red Panda enclosure which is very large and they can move around as they like.

The Japanese tourists were on tight schedule so they left at lunchtime and I had Xiao Qian (the keeper co-ordinator guide) to myself and was able to go back and feed the pandas which was lovely to be able to just quietly watch them.

There are a pair of girl twins called Xiao Xiao (small,small) and Da Da (big, big) although they are both about the same size. Xiao Xiao is very cheeky and when she doesn’t get the attention or wants more food she makes a funny squeeking sound. They have lovely eyes and mickey mouse fluffy ears.

We have been catching the local buses (some little ones are likes trams)to find local restaurants and then having a long walk back to the hotel. At night we passed hundreds of older people in a large carpark doing ballroom type dancing and further along the road more hundreds of people doing aerobics to music and then more hundreds further down the road dancing and some very close by singing with a large crowd around them. There is a lot of atmosphere on the streets which is wonderful to see.

A few nights when we have got back to the hotel we have been watching a series on the ESPN network showing various track and field events since the beginning of the Olympics and we have seen some wonderful old footage shown from over the years.

Chengdu have put in 1 subway line since we were here nearly 2years ago and are putting in another two lines at the moment.

We had our last pedicures, manicures and visit to the hairdresser in the afternoon and as the net said that Etihad opened their check in 4hours prior to departure we got there early only to discover that in Chengdu it opened 2hours prior.

We went and had a last delicious meal at the nice restaurant at the airport and then waited with a group of Italians who had been to Tibet for 2weeks before having another 3/4hour wait at the counter while they sorted our reservation out with Abu Dhabi.  All was well in the end and we left Chengdu at 2120.

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