This is my experience in Beijing, China in the Summer of 2009.
If you came to this webpage first, it's better if you
start from the beginning of the story.
Monday, July 20
Giant Panda Fiasco!
Silk Brocade Factory
Jiuzhaigou to Chengdu
At the Jiuzhaigou airport. It`s really noisy here.
We checked in our bags and are waiting at Gate 3
for our flight.
Woke up with the same amazing headache and
nauseous feeling like yesterday. That hospital visit yesterday
was a complete waste of time! I spent over 4 hours
laying in a dirty bed with oxygen from a nasal tube
(and whether I was getting any oxygen was questionable)
and an IV of sugar
water. I was hoping they would give me meds but they
didn`t. Now I`m hoping I didn`t catch anything there.
Didn`t eat much for breakfast. Some tea and a few spoonfuls
of rice congee. Steve says I`ll feel much better once we
land in Chengdu. I hope so. We`re going to the
Panda Research Center there to see the Giant Pandas.
Looking forward to that.
They have wifi here at the airport but it`s not free. You have to belong
to China Telecom. Blah.
We`re flying Air China from Jiuzhaigou
to Chengdu. The flight time is one hour.
We had lunch at Chengdu. The food was really good in
this meal which was a good thing since my appetite
was coming back. Steve was right. It was the high
altitude that was causing my headache. I also think
it was the lack of sleep for the last 3 nights that
made me more subceptible to the altitude.
Anyway, the pressure between my eyes went away
and I could breathe better. I still had a little headache
but at least I could turn my head without getting
Panda Research Center Fiasco!
Then we went to see the Panda Research Center.
It was incredibly hot and humid there and the giant pandas
were all inside.
They were all in their
air conditioned but dark cages.
Because the cages were so dark, you couldn't get a good look
at the pandas.
And they were not
very active in their cages too. And there weren`t
a lot of them in their cages either! I saw maybe 2-3 pandas
in a cage. The rest of the cages were empty.
For the ONLY
Panda Research Center IN THE WORLD, they seem
to have very few pandas. Every giant panda exhibit we
visited was like this.
You would think the Panda Center would at least attempt to make a show
of the giant pandas to the paying customers.
It seemed the way they organized things, they just didn't care
whether you saw the pandas or not.
We did get to see a newborn panda (born just the
day before!) but they wouldn`t allow you to take
pictures of it. Not even video.
Needless to say, that was a huge disappointment
since we didn't get to see any other live giant panda clearly.
The sad "highlight" of this outing was the panda
video which showed everything you ever wanted
to know about pandas. But this was kind of disappointing.
This whole Giant Panda Research trip was a GIANT FIASCO!
Seeing the giant pandas was supposed to be a highlight for this tour.
I didn`t see much of the REAL LIVE pandas.
So this outing was a bust for me.
The local tour guide should have known the best time to see
the giant pandas and planned accordingly. Taking us there during the hottest part of the day
in the middle
of the afternoon and the knowing the giant pandas would be inside and not
very visible is just poor customer service.
I gather the best time to see the giant pandas was in the mornings.
I would have postponed the lunch until later and gone to the Panda place sooner.
I was so disappointed with this place
I didn`t buy any panda souvenirs here. There was
no motivation for me as a tourist to do so.
(People in my tour group would be surprised to hear this
as I was a souvenir fiend on this tour.)
There was a situation where we could hold a live panda in our hands
but they wanted something like $1,000 RMB for the privilege.
Before I visited this place, I thought about doing this.
When I arrived and saw the apathy towards the regular tourists here,
I just didn't feel like doing it. It was like throwing good money
Also, they wanted it all in cash and would not take credit cards.
I took this as another bad sign.
We went to a silk brocade factory.
Chengdu was known for their silk brocades.
was really interesting. They had a good deal on
I ended up buying a few silk brocade
purses for $200RMB (bargained down from $300RMB)
The way I did it was I chose 5 silk pieces for $60 each.
When they quoted a total of $300 RMB, I asked for a
discount. At first they said they wouldn`t give a discount
since they were an "official government" factory store. I knew this was bullshit.
So I picked the 2 pieces I wanted most and said I wanted
to buy these 2 only. That didn't sit well with them. Then they tried to offered me "freebies",
other silk stuff that I didn`t want. I insisted I wanted to buy
only those 2 pieces. Now they offer me discounts!
First 10%. Then 20%. I just insisting I wanted to buy
only those 2 pieces. Then the guy dropped down to $200
Since the 2 pieces I wanted cost $120RMB by themselves,
I was getting the other 3 pieces for $80RMB. So I agreed
03/18/11 Update -
I added a video of how they make bed comforters from silkworm cocoons! Check out the link below.
Dinner at Jing Alley
We had dinner at this nice restaurant located on Jing Alley.
The area appears to be in the old part of the city that had
been revitalized. It is now a pleasant upscale pedestrian walk
with restaurants and souvenir shops. We even passed a
Starbucks along the street! I should have gotten their
The dinner was an "upgraded" meal and it was
really good and plentiful. This is how I remembered
the meals in my last tour of China 10 years ago!
We had lots of appetizers and a many course meal.
I got full from the appetizers alone!
I wished we could have stayed longer to look around
Jing Alley but we
have a flight to catch.
Chengdu to Hangzhou
On the plane from Chengdu to Hangzhou.
The Chengdu airport also had wifi but it was China Telecom again.
I should mention there`s even less leg room on these
Chinese domestic flights than in the US.
I can barely put fit my laptop case under
the seat ahead of me. And my legs are very close to the seat
ahead of me.
Only had a day in Chengdu. Wished we could have
stayed longer. The local tour guide, Jane, told us that
acupuncture is a specialty in Chengdu as well as the
tea master service which I have heard about.
I would have liked to try both while in
The Air China flight time from Chengdu to Hangzhou
is 2.5 hours. I`m betting they`re going to have a fast
internet connection at the hotel because Hangzhou is a major city
in that province.
I also need to do some laundry tonight too.
We haven't stayed at a hotel long enough to have our laundry done.
Arrived at the Hangzhou Tianyuan Tower Hotel around 1am!
I like this hotel. The room, although small, is very comfortable.
Doing some laundry right now in the bathtub!
We have an 8:45am wake up call and a 9am breakfast but
we don't have to meet in the lobby until 11am today.
And we don't have to bring out our check-in luggage until 11am too.
Hopefully, my clothes will be dry by then!
I'm thinking of blowing off breakfast and sleeping in.
This hotel has FREE internet! I just plugged in the ethernet cable and
it works right away!
I'm also recharging my video camera, iPod (its battery has lasted a long time!),
and Mylo (I used it constantly!) for tomorrow in touring Hangzhou.