We were looking forward to seeing the pandas. Some of us had seen
pandas in zoos in the United States, but seeing them in China ...
well, that presented it in a different light. Luckily, we arrived
early at the panda zoo since it was Saturday. Already crowded, we
threaded our way through the throngs and with patience, got a
fairly close view of these incredible creatures.
First, we saw the red
, which are relatives of the raccoon. You can see the
resemblance in the picture. Moving along, we came upon the stars
of the show, the giant pandas. In the first enclosure, we saw a mother and her baby
The baby was trying to climb up to the mother, and the mother
reached down to help him up. As in America, the show elicited lots
of ooohs and aaahs from the mostly Chinese audience as well as
from us. But soon cameras turned on us, and we quickly became an
attraction almost on a par with the pandas. Chinese in the
interior don’t often get to see creatures like us. I will tell
more about the Chinese people photographing us, but it started in
earnest here in Chongqing at the panda zoo.
As we left the zoo around 10:30, the hoards crowded the entry way,
making it difficult to work out way out. But we managed, breathing
a sigh of relief that we had toured the zoo early, before the main
crush of Chinese tourists.
Since we had finished early, too early for lunch, Sheila took us
to the Flying
. To quote from their Web site:
Flying Tigers was the nickname of the first American
Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Chinese Air Force in 1941–1942,
commanded by Claire
Lee Chennault. The Flying Tigers fought against the much
stronger Japanese Air Force, shooting down over 2600 Japanese
aircraft at the cost of 500 planes, safeguarded the Chinese air
route Hump Hump Flight.
By the time we finished touring the museum, we bused off to
downtown Chongqing for lunch.
The bus drove us downtown for lunch. We got off in at a wide, long
pedestrian mall filled with shops and people. Our restaurant was
on the sixth floor of a building on the mall. This time, we didn’t
have to share the place with dozens of other tourists, and the
food was the best on the trip up to that point in our itinerary.
All the previous meals tasted bland. Sheila explained that
Chongqing sat in Sichuan province, an area known for spicy food.
After that excellent lunch, we had some free time in the mall,
rubbing elbows with the throngs of people milling about
course, the largest city in China, with a population of almost
thirty million people, would attract lots of people to its
shopping and dining district. Lost in the background of my
picture, you can see the People’s Liberation Monument. But look at
a closer picture
of the structure lit up at night
. It’s far more impressive.
Foot Massage or Museum?
Back on the bus, Sheila asked for a show of hands for how many
wanted a foot massage. About seven of us opted for it, while the
rest of us got off the bus and had free time at the Chongqing Museum
Entry to the museum was free, and it was a large museum with lots
of various exhibits. In front of the museum a huge square spread
out toward a huge hall of the Communist party called the Great Hall of the People
Those of us who didn’t want our feet massaged had two hours of
free time on our own in the museum and the square and surrounding
shops. Some spent the time in the museum, which was stuffy and
warm, while others of us wandered around or just found a shady
spot to sit and relax and people watch. Or more likely, get
watched by the people. The most amusing reaction came from some of
the kids who maybe had never seen a white face before. They would
stare, mouth agape, as though they’d just seen some
As we relaxed, some of us saw a vendor selling popcorn. I bought a
bag, but gagged on the first taste because instead of salt, they’d
put sugar on the popcorn. I was going to throw it away, but one
guy in our group (Robby) decided he’d eat it. Shortly after, we
found a vendor selling beer. Fortunately, the beer tasted very
good and well chilled, just what we needed to quench our thirst on
what had become a very hot day.
We next visited a silk factory. We watched women
working on the silk every step of the way except for spinning
the cocoon that the silk threads came from. After touring the
factory, we went upstairs to see some finished products. Many of
us ended up buying something made of silk. I bought a beautiful
light green bathrobe
with subtle Chinese designs and calligraphy.
Off to Xian
From the silk factory, our bus took us to the airport to catch our
flight to the next stop, the city of Xian and the Terracotta