Pandas spend about half their day eating and the other half sleeping. Sound familiar? Seeing as that in Hawaii we actually have a saying for that, “kanak attack,” I think Hawaiians might actually be part panda.
I got to get up close and personal with these magical creatures at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base in China, and they are just as cute and fluffy as you can imagine. The Panda diet is 99% bamboo, but the weird thing is their stomachs are only able to digest a small part of the bamboo that they eat. This means that they have to eat almost constantly and then poop out the rest. In an average day a panda will poop around 20 pounds of undigested bamboo.
Can you imagine pooping 20 pounds a day!?! You would seriously need to invest in good toilet paper and plumbing. And maybe in a squatty potty. Anyway, if you are thinking of going to China I highly recommend visiting Chengdu. The panda research facility is amazing. The best time of day to visit is early in the morning, around 8 a.m. because the pandas are very active at that time. We hired a taxi driver to take us there and he also took us around the park and made sure we saw every panda get fed.
After visiting the pandas, the next best thing to see in Sichuan is Jiuzhaigou National Park. It’s an 8-10 hour bus ride from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou over a road similar to the one in Maui out to Hana. So be prepared for that. I had a friend with me who got very sick on that bus ride, but even she admitted that it was still worth it when we got there. The park is breathtaking. The sheer beauty of the waterfalls and mountains will blow your mind. You will see shades of blue and turquoise that are so vivid they seem fake.
There are buses that you can take around the park, and as it is quite large I would suggest taking a bus to the top and then working your way down, either by bus or on foot. There are clearly marked hiking trails all around the park, so you can’t get lost. Definitely bring your camera, as there are camera worthy vistas every dozen steps or so. Also, bring snacks. There isn’t anything good to eat in the park. Thank goodness the hostel we stayed at packed us sandwiches and drinks to take with us! The only other thing to eat was instant noodle aka saimin, made with questionable hot water. LOL. We ate that too though, and didn’t die.
Park tickets are about $45 USD per day. If you buy your ticket ahead of time, you can avoid the lines. Make sure to be there a little BEFORE the park opens. You’ll need the entire day to see everything. We went during the summer, and it was hot during the day and cool at night. Seriously though, I think Fall might be the best time to visit. The autumn leaves would be gorgeous enough to make me break out in song. Again. “Just around the river bend! I look once more, beyond the shore!”