For chengdu we decided to go to a hotel called Henry’s hostel. We spoke to a man in advance via email called jimmy on how to go about getting to Jizhougou. As we were unsure about what to do if we arrived there due to ticketing. After some deciding we went to chengdu first. As jimmy the tour guide was said to be very helpful and we thought we could do with some extra help.
It took us a long time to decide what to do about daocheng. The flights were relatively cheap and we could continue onwards to shangri-la on a 10 hour bus. We’re not afraid to do things alone. After a few days and a lot of hassle from jimmy we decided to go for it we would see more places and hopefully meet more people and learn more about the places we visit this way. We paid our deposit to jimmy for the following Saturday after yibin.
Panda research base.
We had heard from others that it was possible to get in to the panda research base early before tourists arrived via a private tour. Unfortunately we were unable to find anyone offering this deal so we decided just to do it ourselves. We found out the route and jumped on the bus early in the morning. The park opens at 9. We arrived at the entrance at about 8:15. We then noticed ticketing had started. We went and brought ours, and waited to see what was happening. Someone went through the gate, so we followed and were in by 8:30. We were told the pandas were more active first thing in the morning, and sure enough they were, by the time we left at 11:30 they had all gone back into their indoor areas to sleep! So we walked around all of the enclosures. For once it was relatively quiet with very few tourists. We saw three baby pandas play fighting rolling overs and falling off their climbing frames. The park also had red pandas, but the most interesting thing was seeing the really small baby pandas in incubators which were more like the size of mice! There were only two baby pandas, at separate areas within the park. One had panda markings and was about 12 cm long and the other had light fuzzy white fluff pink skin and was only around 8 cm in length. Both were sleeping, fidgeting slightly, and being monitored by people in blue lab coats and masks in special rooms, with cameras facing the incubators. By the time we were ready to leave, the place was swarming with tourists like all the other locations we have visited in china, so we were very pleased we got there early.
Leishan giant Buddha
We decided to go to the Leishan Buddha for the day. We left later than intended, but still believed we were on track. The bus was meant to take two hours. Being china it took nearly double. Once we arrived in Leishan town we jumped onto a local bus that we thought was meant to take us to the Buddha but jumped off when we suspected otherwise and walked the last two miles (turned out it was the right bus…oops!) once we arrived we queue for tickets for a while before entering the area for the Buddha. We walked around and up stairs to reach the Buddha. The sight was amazing, although it had been refurbished in 2009 it still looked quite rustic and old, and was absolutely huge. We were at head hight looking down at it. The river was in front of it, and tour boats hovered in front of it bellowing on microphones in Chinese lingo. When we went in we were curious what the que of people was for. We soon realised after getting a glimpse of the Buddha it was to get to a platform at the base of the Buddha. We went for a walk in the hope the qui would shorten. I saw an opportunity to go the back way and not Que. but kraig wasn’t game. So we went to the que. It took over two hours wait time to finally get to the base. Although the view was nice, we stayed only mere minutes as we had to catch the last bus back or be stranded in Leishan. So we hurried up the stairs I suggested hours before and made our way to the exit. We bagged the last two seats on the bus, but unfortunately we wasn’t sitting together. Kraig was squashed in the middle seat of the back row, and I was at the front of the bus in the money collectors seat. It took even longer to get back to chengdu, then we got another bus from the depo back to Henry’s hostel.
Yibin bamboo forest
When talking to spitty Jimmy we were advised to go to the bamboo forest as part of a tour group or to hire a car (which we cannot legally do in china as English) but we felt we could do it alone as we had already arranged with Jimmy our trip to photographers paradise and daocheng for when we returned back to chengdu. We are quite used to getting around on our own now so just went for it. We got up early to get the bus, arrived and it had sold out. We had to catch the 2pm bus instead, so we headed back to the hostel and got some stuff sorted out planning wise for the following weeks. We hopped on to another “4 Hour” bus to the park, expecting to arrive in the early evening for three nights. After 5 hours we were still driving. We had no breaks and had had enough of the bus. It was now getting towards evening and the bus bounded to an abrupt stop at a cross roads. I scrambled for my phone as this did not look like the entrance to the bamboo forest. Sure enough it wasn’t. We were shouted out and told to get off. We gathered our things and dispite the struggle, were still being ushered off the bus. No one was speaking English. Two women also got off of the bus as the same place. And a mini van cab thing pulled up beside us. A man got out and was again trying to get us to do what they wanted. After a long time trying to get answers the women then decided to speak to us in English. Half way through the journey in the mini cab in the darkness we found that it was a replacement for the bus as it was running late so it didn’t have to travel all of the way to the entrance and back. We had to buy our tickets on the way through at the gate and then we were thankfully dropped off near hotel where the staff picked us up in their car, we were very grateful at this point that the kind people took the time to help us and call the hotel for us to get us to it, we wouldn’t have found it in the dark, and the bamboo forest is about 30 miles across.
We dumped our bags and got some rest, before going exploring for the next two days on foot in the forest. On the second day we hoped to get dropped off at another area. But the only deal we were offered was 300 rmb to visit the scenic areas. We decided this was out of our budget and got a cable car instead. Little did we realise it was now a Saturday so the cable car ques commenced. After a couple of hours we reached the front and got on the tiny cable car for two. The sights were amazing, gushing waterfalls running through the bamboo and miles upon miles of bamboo sea behind us. We were ascending the hill which took around 40 minutes. At the top was pathways and a pagoda. We went one way for miles down hill hoping to find car less routes rather than tar mac roads and having to watch out for traffic, but we had gone the wrong way. Hours later we had ascended back to the top again. Exhausted. After getting off the cable car we decided to visit one of the scenic spots by foot. Down the hill a couple of miles from the hotel. We arrived and the place was yet again surrounded with people taking selfies. This destroyed the amazing place which it was. The waterfall was beautiful. But people were everywhere. Me and kraig wanted to get some quick picutures with a few seconds exposure to blur the movement of the water. But this was near on impossible. We sat and waited for around 40 minutes before there was a short break of people taking countless pictures of themselves in around a billion different poses before actually moving on. They didn’t even take the time to look at the scenes themselves just looked at it through their iPhones. We left shortly after feeling a little frustrated with Chinese culture. It was very difficult for us to find food within the bamboo forest. We spent the majority of the time hungry as we were unsure of where to get food. The people at the hotel were lovely and cooked for us on two occasions, but the visitors stared so we often stayed away at peak food times! Kraig made a new friend on the final night. A 19 year old called Eric, who was family to the hotel. He was learning English, and had spoken to us a little over our stay. On the final day he said he would come to the room an hour before bed to speak with us. We talked (mainly kraig did- best buds) for two hours, and kraig set up a QQ account to keep in contact. We got to bed around midnight. And the following day we were dropped off at the bus station to get to Yibin main town. This again took way too long going slowly through traffic not moving for 20 mins at a time. We eventually arrived at yibin then went from there back to chengdu. We got back to the hotel at around 8 and were in a hurry as the bus tour group for daocheng was due to leave at 6am the following morning and we still had plenty to sort out, including repacking!
We dumped our bags by the concerned jimmy and went to the shop to stock up on altitude sickness drugs. Came back ate, spoke with jimmy, gave him a flask we brought him made of bamboo to say thank you, and eventually headed up to a room to get some sleep.