After a 26 hour train journey in a 'soft berth sleeper', we arrived at Chengdu station late afternoon. Again, we were met by crowds and crowds of people swarming around the station and overflowing onto the square and surrounding streets with all their luggage as if some sort of mass displacement of refugees were taking place. This has been the first impression now of all stations that we have passed through - Guangzhou, Guilin and Chengdu. At all three stations, police and soldiers have been present in force to contain the masses and control the crowds. It reminds me of being at a festival - there is a constant and never ending crowd of people pushing in all directions. Speaking of festivals, you can imagine what the public toilets are like with so many people - festival standard. Enough said.
And so, with a little help from a new found friend named Shi Li, we found a hotel close to the station, for ease of moving on the next day. Shi Li, a local college student who spoke good English, has helped to restore my faith in the Chinese population. Up until now, everyone we have come across it seems has wanted something from us - usually money. However, he genuinely wanted to help us and practise his English. It was a welcome change.
We had come solely to Chengdu to visit the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base and to see China's national treasure. As we arrived late afternoon in Chengdu, we decided to stay the 2 nights as planned so that we could spend all of the following day at the Breeding Centre.
Somehow during the day, Mark managed to take over 800 photos of pandas! Needless to say, we had to go through them all later and delete the worst ones. It was a lovely day out, plenty of pandas, lots of walking in the fresh air, a nice meal at lunch time, and as it was in it's own little tourist bubble enclosure, it was a welcome respite from being harassed every 5 steps by people asking you to buy something. That of course changed as soon as we set foot again outside the Centre - did I want to buy a cuddly toy panda? Well I did, but I didn't have anywhere to keep it.