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 A trip to Sichuan Province

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If you live in China, in my opinion, you must see the pandas in Chengdu! Through my faithful tour company, Global Easy Tour, I organised a six-day trip to Sichuan Province.  My first stop was Chengdu, the capital, to visit the panda reserve and of course I just had to cuddle one (1000 RMB – around $215 – but I have heard that since 2014 visitors are not allowed to cuddle the baby pandas due to the possibility of passing on any disease).  I always thought the panda would have soft fur but it’s rather coarse.  They are placed on your lap after you put on overalls and booties and fed bamboo by their keeper.  They are incredibly cute and I am so happy I took the opportunity to cuddle one.

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I also did a tour of the grounds which were spectacular with large bamboo trees in abundance to feed the residents.

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One lovely monk also allowed me to take a photograph of him whilst walking along the bamboo footpaths.

Another resident of the Reserve is the Red Panda who are equally as cute and of course the new born area of the Reserve showing the infants playing in their cots and the new borns in their humi-crib.

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The next day I travelled about forty-five minutes by car to visit the Chengdu Moonbear Rescue Centre which was founded by the wonderful Jill Robinson MBE.  I have been donating to Jill’s organisation, Animals Asia, for many years and was really excited about visiting the centre.

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You must pre-arrange the visit with the sanctuary and Animals Asia staff will pick you up from your hotel in Chengdu and drop you back.  At the time, in 2011, there were about 179 rescued bears living at the sanctuary and all have endured an incredibly painful existence in small cages with a catheter implanted to remove bile.

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To see the horrific conditions the bears previously (and of course many still do) lived in is absolutely heartbreaking but Jill and her team are desperately trying (and succeeding) to rescue as many bears as possible from China and Vietnam and at the same time educating the younger generation and farmers on alternative natural options for bile.

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A Tibetan brown bear was also a resident and he was absolutely huge (and gorgeous).  On the day I went it was absolutely pouring rain and the bears were enjoying the water on their faces and fur.  They were still playing out in the rain and climbing onto hammocks in their huge enclosure.

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A fanstastic experience and one I will never forget.

My next stop was Mt Emei Scenic area where I visited Mount Leshan to see the giant Buddha and other statues which are carved off a rock face.  They all face Mt Emei with the rivers flowing below the giant Buddha’s feet.  I took a boat ride which lasted about forty minutes and took us really close to the stone carvings which are truly amazing.

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My tour guide told me that the giant Buddha’s construction started in 713, led by a Chinese monk.  The monk hoped that the Buddha would calm the turbulent waters that plagued the shipping vessels travelling down the river.

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When funding for the project was threatened, the monk is said to have gouged out his own eyes to show his piety and sincerity.  After his death, construction halted due to insufficient funding and then about seventy years later, funding was found and construction was completed in 803.  Apparently the massive construction resulted in so much stone being removed from the cliff face and deposited into the river below that the currents were altered by the statue, making the waters safe for passing ships.

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Next trip in Sichaun was an hour’s flight from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou (literally Valley of Nine Fortified Villages and takes it’s name from the nine Tibetan villages along it’s length), which is 330 mms north of Chengdu.

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Jiuzhaigou is part of the Min Mountains on the edge of the Tibetian Plateau and stretches over 72,000 hectares.  My first day I spent walking inside the Huanglong (literally yellow dragon) Scenic Area – which is located in the southern part of the Minshan mountain range and is known for its colourful pools formed by calcite deposits.  My guide and I caught a cable car to the top and then spent the next two and a half hours walking down.

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Really lovely scenery and beautiful clear bright blue water ponds..and as the weather was relatively cool it was a wonderful experience.  Lots of construction going on at the top and on the way down I would see many of the workers carrying bricks and other material walking up to the top…so fit!!

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Huanglong covers an area of 1830 km2 and at an altitude of between 1700m and 5588m it could be a little difficult to breath but guides always carry portable oxygen.

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My second day at Jiuzhaigou I spent at Jiuzhagou Valley, a nature reserve and national park.  The Valley has multi-level waterfalls and colourful lakes – all very beautiful.  One of the prettiest places I have seen in China.

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And finally my last day and evening in Sichuan was spent at the Min Jian Yuan Buddhist Village where, before dinner, I went for a lovely walk to enjoy the typical Tibetan architecture.

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Tibetan architecture has more in common with India than China with Buddhist flags flying from shops and houses.  Many of the houses are typically built on elevated sunny sites facing south.  The homes were extremely colourful; painted blue which symbolises the sky, green symbolising air, red for fire, white water and yellow for the earth.

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My hotel was a little bit Chinese and a little bit Tibetan.  Lovely rooms but an interesting ‘huge’ bronze statue of Chaiman Mao in the foyer!!!!

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