So we left our cruise today.  We said goodbye to our waitress Velma and I actually cried. I can’t get a handle on if she’s well taken care of or happy, but I like to think so.  She says she will contact me through email-and both Chris and I give her a hug.

We leave the boat and walk up about 200 steep steps from the dock to get to our bus on the Main Street.  As we look behind us, we see our luggage-hung on wooden poles across the backs of local men. 2 suitcases on each end of the pole. I’m not sure about anyone else-but I used every ounce of my 45 lb allowance in each of my suitcases-so assuming everyone else did also, these 45-60 year old men are carrying 200 lbs at a time on their backs up those 200 stairs.  Crazy. It takes them a while but eventually we are all packed in the bus, luggage and all, and ready to go.

We have a 2 hour drive to get to Chongquing-China’s largest city.  We arrive and I am shocked by my lack of knowledge- how did I not know about this huge beautiful city? How have I never heard of it? 33 million people. As many if not more people in one city then in all of Canada-and I’ve never heard of it. Travel keeps showing me the boarders of my mind–and sometimes I’m almost scared of how narrow my walls are and how little I know about this world-yet how arrogant I am as a westerner-believing I know everything that’s important for me to.  I look around this amazing city-more skyscrapers then New York-more beauty then San Francisco-and more people then my country- and I’m in awe. It’s absolutely breathtaking.  Organized and clean. Full of happy people living lives that were so inconsequential to me until an hour ago. I feel small and ridiculous.

We are here to see-GIANT PANDAS.  Errmerrgerr!! PANDAS!!! A large reason for wanting to see china for me was the pandas. They are like the unicorns of the cuddly bear world. And let me give you some background. One year when visiting Disney with my family-I think I was 10?-when we went to Epcot-I became obsessed with the Chinese world. Pandas in particular.  I’m not sure why, with all the Mickeys and Minnie’s around, I became obsessed with a world so far from where I was- but the Chinese pavilion became the place I begged to visit every day. I would stare at the pagodas and I would run to the gift shop- and pet the Giant stuffed panda. It was about 3 feet high – almost as big as I was- and  I begged and I begged, and finally my parents said I could have it-spending all my hard earned allowance money-but it would never fit in my suitcase or theirs – so I would have to carry it all the way back on the plane to Newfoundland on my lap.  And I did.  The. Whole. Way. -don’t worry- I complained the entire time.  Picture me- 10 yrs old, overweight, burned to a crisp, continuous snot line from my nose, genie pants, already in a B cup bra, Walking through the Orlando airport dragging a panda as big as me by its ear. I was kind of a big deal. But I still have that panda-and we used it when we surprised the boys and told them we were going to china. (Picture me 40 years old, overweight, burned to a crisp, continuous red wine stains on my mouth, yoga pants, DDD bra, dragging that panda out and saying: WE’RE GOIN’ TO CHINA!!))  So yeah. Pretty much got my money’s worth.

Our tour guide tells us that there are….. wait for it…. BABY. PANDAS. Babies! ERRMERRGERR! BABBBIES!! But then he lets us down gently and tells us that he has only been able to see them once-they are not very active and -his words not mine- all they do is eat sleep and poop. In that order.  So we expect to see the breeding pandas-the giant pandas-but not the babies.  He explains that the reason baby pandas are rare and always exciting is that pandas don’t mate easily. They are too lazy. In fact, in this facility, to get the pandas to mate, the breeding researchers and doctors went to extreme measures. They would show the pandas simulated sex to train them how to do it. That’s right. Panda porn. AND… they gave the panda males Viagra. No joke. But they would still have to literally place the adult pandas on top of each other to get them to muster the energy to mate. And then, boom. Bobs your uncle. Baby pandas.  But even once the babies are born their survival rate is quite low.  Female pandas have very little interest in their babies, and in the wild often they neglect them or, worse yet, accidentally kill them by rolling over on them or stepping on them. 🙁

So we trot into the panda reserve, excited just to be in the same vicinity as the pandas, and…… omg I wish there was music on this blog…..3 BABY PANDAS!!!!!!!!!!! They were out, and PLAYING.  Like, jumping all over each other, biting each other’s ears, inspecting each other’s paws and hugging. Basically putting on a show for us. They are the most adorable things I’ve ever seen in my entire life. They look like living teddy bears. And from what we understand, it was extremely rare for us to get to see them playing and out in the sun without being held and forced to do so.

We watched them for as long as they played-about 30 mins. We took video and giggled. Wore our panda hats and made fools of ourselves. When they went to sleep we went off to see the adult giant pandas.  And I think the tour guide was right. They are extremely lazy! They didn’t move unless it was to scratch themselves or turnover. I’m glad that we were able to see the babies because if not we would have been disappointed with the lack of hustle in the adult panda department. We were able to see the red pandas too-they are more akin to the raccoon family, but adorable also. He even made an appearance and let us take pics of him-another rarity according to our guide.

We skipped out of the reserve and back to the bus. Giggling and watching our videos. I honestly could have stayed there all day watching those babies. But, there is more to see. After the pandas we make our way to the “old city” section of Chongquing.  This is a very crowded walk through shops and food stalls-and of course we shop.  The shops are all situated in the old buildings with their traditional architecture and decorative painting. It really is beautiful here-and the smells all mix together to give a spicy salty mix.  I really thought I’d be more put off by the local food. But honestly most of it looks amazing and I’m tempted to try even the strangest looking snacks. But I won’t let myself-remembering we have a flight tonight-let’s not get crazy.  I purchase some cat ears for Gary-the meowsiah- and that keeps him busy for a while (he was quite upset when we told him he couldn’t be part of our panda gang).

From the shopping we head to the airport, we fly tonight to Beijing.  When we check in our luggage Billy tells us that things are done a little different here.  Once your bags are checked in-they take them to a holding area and scan them. If there is anything in the bag that they want to see because they are worried it’s a prohibited item, they announce your name and you have to come open your bag (they require locks on all checked bags) and find the item in question and remove it-remember my magnets from the other airport.  But this time the bags are not checked in front of you….they check them about 5-10 minutes after you give them over….and you have to stand off to the side and wait to see if they announce your name.  If you are not there to do this your bag doesn’t follow you on to your flight. And that’s a problem. Billy says we have to hang around before going through security for at least 10 minutes-giving them lots of time to look at your bag.  The bigger problem is you can’t understand anything they announce.  So we wait around for 30 minutes and then check with the attendant also and then freak out a little and THEN we go through security. It’s the Drover way.  We make it through security after a THOROUGH pat down for Gary (he’s a man now) and off to our gate.

It’s been a long day already, and it gets even longer when we find out our flight has been delayed by 3 hours. But that’s when we spot it. The Golden Arches. Nicole and I almost cry as we make our way to the bottom of the escalators and straight into MacDonald’s. Give us 4 of your finest burgers please. Hold the Chinese. Extra American. Omg. I love Chinese food, and I have absolutely no complaints about the food- but I need MacDonald’s because:burgers. I mean burgers. This is almost as exciting as pizza night.

We we settle in and eat our burgers and wait.

By the time we make it to our Hot Springs spa hotel in Beijing after our flight delay-it’s 3am  and we’ve been going since 6 am. LONG day.  And tomorrow’s start is 10am-a nice late start.  Thank goodness. But again we’ve upgraded our room-so we have a lovely 2 story suite with a hot tub on the balcony and black out curtains in the bedroom so we can actually sleep beyond the 5am sunrise.  Maybe tomorrow night….