|Lesser (red) panda at Chongqing Zoo|
Next, we arrived at the giant panda enclosures in time to observe little Sishun, a lovely juvenile female who made her public debut on May 1, 2014. She was lying back on a raised platform, and enjoying her bamboo breakfast, double fisting at times. She was very content as bamboo detritus accumulated on her belly. She was so cute! Her mom Ya Ya was in the next pen over and we could see her walking by in the background.
|Sishun eating bamboo while her mom Ya Ya walks by at the Chongqing Zoo|
|Craig, Sishun, and Steph at the Chongqing Zoo|
|Panda yoga with Liang Liang at the Chongqing Zoo (supported forward fold)|
The zoo was really beautiful. It was an oasis in the middle of the city. There were lots of plants and trees that were very well manicured. Everything was very clean, and the animals had indoor as well as outdoor enclosures. People were practicing tai chi and it was all very peaceful. There were many families there. As it was a school day, the only children there were very young. A few parents asked us to pose for pictures with their kids, which we gladly did. The kids were adorable, if sometimes terrified of us.
We moved on to the enclosures of the other giant pandas, and saw Sishun's father Ling Ling. It was a very hot day, and Ling Ling was more interested in trying to get inside to air conditioned comfort than playing on his jungle gym and slide. Another panda (Liang Liang) did a forward fold onto a cool stone and just sat there contentedly. So Craig joined in on the panda yoga and did a supported forward fold of his own. We had to get a picture for Jenny, our yoga instructor back home.
We really enjoyed getting to see the pandas, and it really whet our appetite for our upcoming volunteer work at a panda health center in Chengdu. We tore ourselves away from the pandas to enjoy the other exhibits.
There were enormous hippos, rhinos, pigs, and porcupines. Then we reached the primate area. There were so many different types of monkeys, each species in their own enclosure (though a handful of species shared space).
The zookeeper went into the squirrel monkey enclosure to fetch their food bowls. When he left, they were trying to figure out how to open the door to follow him. They held on to the little window in the door and peered through.
There was a mandrill who looked like a Beijing opera star, who stuck out his tongue at us. The colorful markings on his face and chest were gorgeous. The glare from the glass (and my substitute camera) made photographing these monkeys very difficult.
|Mandrill at the Chongqing Zoo|
We went to one glassed-in monkey enclosure which had various tire swings and ropes hanging from the ceiling. It was dark inside and the enclosure appeared to be empty. Then some kids went over and were obviously looking at something. We went to the front of the enclosure and were surprised to find a large ape with a furrowed brow, sitting at the very front of the enclosure, with his face very close to the glass. The placard said that he was an orangutan, but his fur was black rather than orange.
|Steph's buddy the orangutan at the Chongqing Zoo|
After spending several very enjoyable hours at the zoo, we had a lovely lunch at the Paradise Club restaurant overlooking the Yangtze River.
|Our lovely guide Mia|
|Huguang Guild Hall|
Then we went to Huguang Guild Hall, a former family association complex in Chongqing. During a time of plague and famine, only 100 families survived in all of Chongqing. Immigration from other provinces was encouraged to increase the population. The first building of this complex was built in 1759. The complex was used as a gathering place for villagers who had moved to Chongqing. They lived communally, helping one another through difficult periods.
Mia bought our tickets and we went up a flight of stairs to see a beautiful ancient style building.We met Bella, who would be our guide at the site.
We went into a room called Emperor Yu's Palace. Da Yu was the "Hero of Water Control." The families built a shrine to him here, to pray for good weather so that the Yangtze would not flood. The large bronze statue of Da Yu was a reproduction of the original, which was damaged. As prayers/wishes, people tied colorful strings around the shrine, and also hung little red wooden plaques with tassels and Chinese knots. On one side of the plaque was a Chinese character which symbolized the wish: prosperity, longevity, etc. On the back, the person would write their name (and sometimes even their address, since many Chinese people share the same names and they want to ensure that their good luck is delivered to the proper person).
|Traditional roof, featuring dragon fish and "constipated dragons" at Huguang Guild Hall|
|Opera stage, Huguang Guild Hall|
There were two opera stages here, an outdoor one for the masses, and an indoor one for the elite.We saw several tableaux depicting life at the Guild Hall, including celebrations, arranged marriages, and charity works.
We had Bella all to ourselves, and she said that it was smart to come around lunchtime. In the early mornings they can have up to 3500 visitors. After leading us through the various buildings, she brought us to the immigration museum and gallery / gift shop.
Many other ancient neighborhoods which bordered this complex are in the process of being torn down to make room for the modern. The contrast is stark. From here we could see the brand new Dongshuimen Yangtze River Bridge, a beautiful partially cable-supported girder bridge which supports automobile traffic as well as a monorail.
|Craig with Lt. Gen. Claire Lee Chennault at the Flying Tigers Exhibition Hall|
|Painting of Chongqing during WWII, and painting of Flying Tiger planes, Flying Tigers Exhibition Hall|
One of the more heart-tugging moments for us was seeing photos of a three and a half year old Chinese boy who was adopted by the Flying Tigers. He was ceremonially inducted into the Air Force and was known as Little Tiger Joe. He was pictured in uniform next to the airmen, and it made us emotional.
It was obviously a low-budget museum, but it was very informative. We bought a nice book about the Flying Tigers and a commemorative postage stamp set honoring the Chennaults as a way of showing our support. As we left the museum, the employees locked up. We think they had been open only for us. Now we were even more glad that we bought something!
|Banner expressing Chinese gratitude to the Flying Tigers|
We drove to the hotel, the Chongqing Hilton, and checked into room 2719. It was a very nice room. We met Mia in the lobby. She asked if we would mind taking the subway, as it was rush hour and she didn't want the driver to get stuck in traffic. We had never taken the subway in China before, so we were eager for the new experience. Like most other things in China that are not thousands of years old, the station was very new, modern, and clean. We took Line #1, which had opened within the past year (Mia and her friends had taken an inaugural ride). We took the immaculately clean subway train for three stops.
|Mia and Craig on Line #1, Chongqing Subway|
|People's Liberation Monument is dwarfed by skyscrapers, Jeifangbei Square, Chongqing|
|Art museum, Jeifangbei Square, Chongqing|
|Hongya Dong, Chongqing|
|Craig at Hongya Dong, Chongqing|
|Qianximen Jialing River Bridge viewed from Hongya Dong, Chongqing|
Next we walked to the Wan Yue restaurant for dinner. While Craig was in the restroom, a large group entered the restaurant, and I was thrilled to discover that it was the Singaporean group from our Yangtze River cruise! In a city of 30 million, what are the chances that we would run into them? And if we hadn't been in the area waiting for the battery charger to be delivered, we would have eaten somewhere else entirely! We were happy to see them and to compare notes about how we had spent the day. After enjoying our dinner, we stopped at their table to get a group photo and wish them a happy journey. They were so sweet!
|Reunited with our Singaporean friends from the Yangtze River Cruise, Wan Yue Rsstaurant, Chongqing|
|Our hero! Suning employee who procured our battery charger!|
|Jeifangbei Square, Chongqing - it's nice to have the good camera back!|
|Saying farewell to Mia|