So here we are at last at our final blog entry, well maybe not the final final entry but certainly the last stop on our epic trip. We flew from Shangri-La to Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province of China on 2 June 2012. We had about 32 hours in the city, but we needed to fly somewhere before flying back to London and Chengdu has Giant Pandas so we were sold!
It was really warm and summery and after the chilly weather of the Tibetan plateau a bit of warmth and sunshine was much appreciated before flying back to the UK. We spent the morning visiting the Giant Pandas and Red Pandas in a leafy sanctuary just outside the city. The sanctuary has the most successful panda breeding programme in the world. Giant Pandas are notoriously lazy about getting it on (and about everything else) and hence diminishing panda numbers. The secret to panda breeding success - apparently they show them 'panda porn' to get them in the mood!
The pandas were brilliant, the Giant Pandas were giant and very floppy. They sort of flopped about the enclosures, just rolling from one sleeping spot to another and maybe chewing on a bit of bamboo in between. Even the playful cubs seemed sloth-like. One cub would very slowly clamber up a tree, about half a metre off the ground, and the other cub would lazily bat at him until they both softly flopped back onto the ground together. Alternate cubs and repeat ad infinitum! The Red Pandas were much speedier, they are not actually related to the Giant Panda, though they share a name and both mainly eat bamboo. They look a bit like a cross between a skunk, a fox and a racoon, and zoomed excitedly around their enclosures, particularly when the staff came in to clean up and brought them a special treat of carrots.
Afterwards we headed to a beautiful park in the city centre. Chengdu is famous for its tea house culture and we'd read that a famous one was located in the park. It was very picturesque, located just on the edge of a boating pond surrounded by gardens full of bonsai trees and orchids, it seemed very Chinese. Tea is brought with plenty of leaves in the cup and a huge flask of hot water so you can happily while away the hours reading, chatting, people watching and constantly refilling your tea cup. There was all sorts going on, hawkers, masseuses, street performers and bizarrely ear cleaners - who brandished a range of prickly looking brushes and for a fee would de-wax your ears. We politely declined!
On 4 June we flew to London and have been back enjoying a few home comforts at Jo's mum's house. In particular, a lot of cups of tea have been drunk. I feel like I should write something profound about what we discovered about ourselves and about what makes us happy, answering some of the questions from our first ever blog. I think perhaps we might only fully realise what we we've learnt when we get back to proper reality, jobs, the house, our dependents (the cats). Ask us in a few months. However, for me the best thing was realising that it's brilliant to shake everything in your life up all at once occasionally and that when you do everything won't fall apart. In fact big change can be amazing, you get a fresh perspective (a lot of things aren't nearly as important as they seem), we got to spend lots of time together (and we're still talking and even laughing) and we were basically on holiday for seven months.