Wednesday, 20 April 2016

part of the Wolong Panda Club

Ya'an Bifengxia Giant Panda base

On the second morning in Chengdu we packed our bags again and took the bus to the Ya’an Bifengxia Giant Panda base, a good half an hour into the mountains from Ya’an city and a solid 2-hour and a half drive from Chengdu city.

So arriving almost 3 hours later in the middle of the mountains (it seemed) we dropped our bags in our rooms, had lunch and headed to the base to get our working gloves & overalls, volunteering cards (------------->>>) 
and get some information on what we were to do, not to do, etc.

After that we took a beautiful 2-hour walk through the gorge, following the stream meeting hundreds of big and small waterfalls. Which went a little like this:

After the (obviously) beautiful walk including the thousands of stairs and when it started to rain in the end, we put on dry clothes for dinner and met the other volunteers.
At lunch we sat a different tables but by dinner we all squeezed together to be able to sit at one table. The group that was already there consisted of about 5 Brits, 2 Swedish girls and a German girl. What a great group, we had so much fun and even though I only knew them for the best of 3 days it felt like we had been friends for much longer. It was an awesome feeling, the feeling of real travellers united.

overseas-born panda paradise

Wednesday morning, after stuffing our faces with toast, steamed buns, instant coffee and an egg we headed off to the base all together to start working by 8:30.

A working day consists of about an hour an half of cleaning the in- and outside enclosures (which looks a bit like above) of your panda(s) in the morning, meaning; finding poop all over the outside enclosure, taking out the old bamboo cleaning up the ‘feeding patch’ and smashing and laying fresh bamboo outside. 

On the inside we just scoop up everything that’s in there to hose it down completely almost everyday. With the hard work done we have a break and just before lunch (round about half 11) we cut up the right amounts of the panda bread and a carrot and give it to them. 

how can you possibly say no to this cutie?!
And of course mom and her cubs need to be fed to. This is Ning Hua, a great mom who adopted 2 sons next to having her own daughter. The daughter was taken away because she got bullied by her brothers but in the first week we were there she got reunited with her mommy again and it was such a great thing to witness, the joy of a mom finally having her baby girl back with her. But because Ning Hua doesn't produce enough milk for 3 cubs so all three get powdered milk twice a day which looks a
bit like this:
So this is mom with two of her cubs, the second boy is always a bit shy so I always tucked away high up in one of the trees, the keepers try to get him out everyday twice a day but it doesn't always work. They told us he comes down at night when there's nobody around anymore.

So here you can see the girl climbing up the basket and the boy just chilling with his bamboo shoots.
Such interesting animals! 

After lunch we do another feed (consisting of the panda bread (stuffed with vitamins if necessary), a carrot or sliced apple occasionally and some bamboo shoots---->>> Which is super cute because they eat them like ice creams!
So from two to half 3 we have another break, where we would just talk, listen to so music, play ‘UNO’, …. to do the last feed at half past 3 and end the working day.
So a day at work is mostly feeding those adorable animals and a little bit of hard work in the morning. Which was fine by us.

After work we did what we wanted until dinner at 6, in the mean time we would go to Ya’an city to cash out money, go to the supermarket or buy some fresh fruits.

After dinner we usually did something all together, like the first night we played a game where you had to get as much as peanuts into your cup from the bowl using only chopsticks or just watching a movie in the common room or we went to Tom’s bar a few times. Tom’s one of the heads of the volunteers at the park and owns a cosy bar just 200m from the hostel, it’s always fun up there. Either it’s drinking games, just drinking and no games or just chatting and laughing away, always good fun.

In the weekend, when the others had left and it was just the three of us we split a 2 and a half cab ride to the Leshan, Giant Buddha. As it was Chinese national holiday weekend the place was absolutely crowded! We must have had about 40 people asking for a picture with them, it was insane. I think I’m on more pictures that aren’t mine than that I took pictures myself!
Anyway, it’s a beautiful island with heaps to see!

This 71 meter high sitting Buddha was constructed during the Tang Dynasty, it took about 70 years to build it. It's the largest Buddha in the world and is listed as UNESCO world heritage site since 1996.

"The mountain is a Buddha and the Buddha is a mountain"

Margaux - myself - Amber @ Leshan Giant Buddha

 this isn't my picture, as we didn't go down to the feet nor took the boat ride. But here's the Giant Buddha in full glory. 

 Sunday, my 20th birthday, we slept in till 9 had a lazy brekky and did some washing in the morning. Splendid weather by the way! We only saw the sun and some blue skies on Wednesday for the rest of the week (as well as at the base as in Chengdu) we had clouds, thick grey clouds. No rain, just clouds. 
So anyway, the Sunday we woke up to a bright sun and big patches of blue sky!
After lunch we took a cab to Shangli Ancient town, where I bought myself a little birthday present, a pair of awesome chill pants (it’s becoming a habit of buying chill pants everywhere I go haha! No need for excuses, but having one is always nice ;) and a very pretty Buddha bracelet that you can also ware as a necklace! 
It was a very pretty place to walk around, certainly with the sun out! 

After walking around there for about an hour and a half, again having asked for about a dozen pictures, we took the cab again to the Jinfeng temple (place of worship) on the edge of Ya’an city. 

As it was about 4 in the afternoon now the sun was at it highest and shining in full glory we thought it would be the perfect time to do over a thousand (yes, a thousand we counted, proof ---->>>) steps up the hill to the temple. 

When we finally got to the top there was a beautiful temple kind of hidden high up in the mountain. It was such a peaceful and beautiful place.

pictures say more than a thousand words so here is a tast of the peace and beauty of the place just outside of the big busteling city below.

Stopping in the city so the girls could cash out some money, I jumped into the first cake store I saw and bought some cakes to share for my birthday.  So once back at the hostel we had those cakes, which were pretty good actually.

Work started as usual on Monday through Tuesday, as the new volunteers arrived on Tuesday they joined us at work on Wednesday.

Whu Yin
 The new group was huge; about 11 new people arrived on Tuesday.
Quite a lot happend on Monday, one of my pandas left for breeding (it's breeding season at the moment for the Giant Pandas) and Cuì cuì came in her place after she (Cuì cuì - pronounced "Tsué tsué") had been on national television because she managed to get herself pregnant the previous night so she slept most of the day, bless her.

sleepy Cuì Cuì

the way to work
outside enclosures

It had rained in the night from Monday to Tuesday so we walked to work on Tuesday morning through damp, foggy bamboo forrest.

Cuì Cuì

Cuì cuì
Cuì Cuì

Cuì cuì is such a sweetheart, I bet she'll be a great mom in 3 months time. 

Chin Bing

This is Chin bing, the goal was to get her breeding. But in order to be able to send her over to the breeding centre she had to loose a few kilograms so she didn't get as much food as she was used to which made her a bit cranky at times. But a lovely (cute) lady nevertheless. Always in for a snack or a chat. ;)

The week ended, unfortunately, with handing in our work clothes and receiving a volunteer-certificate and of course with (quite) a few drinks in Tom's bar.

Margaux - Tom - Amber - myself last night @ Tom's bar

So on Saturday morning we took the bus back to Chengdu city after the same old breakfast and loads of hugs and farewells.
We arrived back at the hostel around noon and as we didn't fly out of Chengdu until 9 we were able to store our backpacks in the hostel and went out exploring Chengdu a bit more.
We ended up near the Tibetan district, near because we didn't actually find it haha! Anyway after a while we found ourselves in Jin Li Street, which is basically just a spiderweb of little and bigger lanes filled with people and lined with hundreds of little shops. We found some really cute chopsticks here, with pandas on!

On our way back to he hostel in the afternoon we walked by a place called Maan coffee, waffle and toast. So we walked in and had a great late lunch with a red-berry non-alcoholic mojito and a 'basic' waffle. It was absolutely delicious an a great end to our last day in China.

In the evening we then flew to Bejing where we arrived around 1 AM and had to wait for our connecting flight to Amsterdam which was at 10 in the morning. So we tried to sleep in the departure hall as much as we could. 

Flying back to Amsterdam made me think and appreciate (once again) how grateful I am to be able to do and see all these great things in life. It's such a great feeling, being high up in the air going back home to loved ones leaving all that greatness behind ready for new adventures already.

New adventures will come soon, but first; exams.
wish me luck, xoxo Lizzie

China,  March 26 - April 10 2016

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