14.05.2009 - 15.05.2009 70 °F
I know its a bit soon after our last update and I'm stealing Nicole's post, but I wanted to share our impressions of Chengdu while it was still fresh in our minds (and while we still had a decent internet connection).
In a nutshell, we've been bowled over by this city of 4.5M. Its not so much the attractions (a bit more on that later), but more the buzz and energy. Walking through the city this Friday afternoon, stores and restaurants were teeming with people. Really a dynamic retail market with both international (there must be a dozen Nike stores in the city) and homegrown brands from low cost to high end - certainly no signs of an economic downturn here. We even came across a packed auto show next to our hotel, where Chinese models probably represented half of the cars on offer (interestingly, according to this week's Newsweek, 3-month Chinese auto sales just surpassed those in the US, some 10 years earlier than forecast). I'm left with the impression that any global brands currently dragging their heels on a China strategy are simply fooling themselves...
We're sure Mao would've shopped at Cartier if they'd only been in China while he was alive (he's in the right of the frame)
Now on to the activities. The highlight of our time here has, without a doubt, been the Giant Panda Breeding Base outside the city. We spent about two hours there this morning and got to see a whole bunch of the cuddly creatures. They mainly just sit around and eat because bamboo has little nutritional value (they have to eat some 40kg of stems each day just to get their needed caloric intake). Still, it was transfixing to watch them and definitely worth the trip. If we can figure out how to do it, we think we might even need to do a blog poll on Pandas vs. Koalas, but today I think our vote goes to the former. We have a video that we'll share soon, but in the meantime here's a little preview (video is now up below).
We've also taken time to enjoy the Sichuan food that Chengdu is famous for and some of the city's scenic sites. This afternoon we enjoyed a tea in the People's park in the city center and even paid a visit to a unique funhouse located in an abandoned bomb shelter underneath the park - believe us, they might not look like it but the animatronic figures were actually pretty scary.
We're not quite sure what effect they were going for, but I think it worked