After four nights on the ship, we disembark and travel to the Chongqing National Zoo to see their Panda Bears who are their for conservation and are part of a breeding program. With a population of almost 33 milion in Chongqing, I think we'll all be glad to fly off to Xi'an in the afternoon. We depart on Sichuan Airlines # 8805 at 13:45 and arrive at 14:55.
12Apr – Chongqing; Naional Zoo- Panda; flt to Xian
We’re off the ship early and quite reluctantly. Our river cruise experience gave us the opportunity to get to know each other better, to enjoy a less hectic schedule since we’re on the bus less often. Our other bonding experience has been the onboard shopping. While the MS Yangtze 2 was a small ship (maximum 400 passengers, we had 280 onboard), it had a good variety of shops and charming people selling their handcrafted items. Many of us went home with hand knotted pearl necklaces (just over $30 CAD), 100% silk jackets, bottles hand painted on the inside (an amazing feat with the tiniest brushes), earrings, scarves and bangles. And I thought it wasn’t really a group of women who liked to shop!
Into Chongqing, we’re all quite happy not to stay too long in the largest city in China. With a total population of over 33 million (including countryside), the air is heavy with humidity and pollution. It’s a foggy city, built on hillsides and on the banks of two rivers. Because it’s so hilly, there are no bicycles in the city. It’s also very hot in summer with two weeks in the summer where it reaches 40C for the entrie two weeks. Chongqing (pronounced Chong ching) is famous for its artist and has many Arts’ Academies and a Painters’ Village. We visited one academy where there were traditional paintings on long scrolls as well as contemporary oils.
Our primary focus is a visit to the zoo where there are a number of Pandas. The Chinese nickname for the Panda is “Big Bear Cat.” There are approximately 1500 Pandas. China has loaned Pandas to Russia, USA, Korea, Spain, Australia and more. Pandas live a solitary life typically at altitudes of 2500 metres in temperatures between 15C and 20C. An adult will east 20kg of bamboo a year, so deforestation is one of the reasons they are endangered. While we all enjoyed seeing the Pandas, perhaps the best part of the visit to the zoo was seeing hundreds of noisy school children who were there in large groups all decked out in their uniforms.
After the zoo, we took our short flight to Xi’an and were greeted by Lucy who has been a guide for over 20 years. After a dinner stop (another buffet where we know dinner is over when the watermelon arrives), we all took the optional evening tour of the city. The city has developed some new areas that are full of parks, lakes, water fountains and stunning new architecture. It’s too dark to take pictures and we’ll not be back during daylight. It’s too bad since it’s quite impressive. We ended the tour with a wander through a street market that operates from 5pm to 5am. Many of the vendors are Muslims who sell red dates, walnuts and lots of fresh produce. By the time we arrived back at the hotel after 10, everyone was running on empty.