When you mention the city Chengdu in China, the first question you get asked is "are you going to see CUTE PANDAS?" Pandas are the main reason folks make this place their destination? You know I love all animals, including pandas, and by now I have traveled half way around the world so I feel obliged to see some pandas!
Six Senses is close to 3 panda "parks" or "reserves". From what I can gather Panda Arc is the closest and least favorite - (I am told..where they send sick pandas, not the "best" place to see pandas) then there is Panda Valley, which is 5 minutes farther out, where we are told the "rehabilitated" pandas live. Then, one hour away is Wolong Panda Reserve which is where you can pay ($400) to "volunteer". So you get to clean up after the pandas, make panda cakes, and hug a panda. NOTE... and I quote... "hug a panda"does NOT mean hold a panda, you actually sit next to one for a few seconds ( 10-20 seconds max ) and get quickly for a donation pictures taken ?? and have the ultimate panda experience of your life." We opted for Panda Valley, which is 15 minutes by taxi.
The ride by taxi is along a bike path (we were dissuaded from biking!) The homes along the road are clearly more those of poor folks, and every square meter is gardens, food gardens - what looks like cooking greens. Random hanging drying clothing, bicycles, villages, people walking. We arrive to a 1970ish gate, shaped of course like a panda, mammoth parking lot, empt.., well, a picture is worth 1000 words...
Panda are solitary creatures so this whole experience makes me feel a bit creepy. The cool thing I learned is that unlike most bears pandas do not hibernate. Their diet is bamboo leaves, which are low in nutrition, so they need to eat crappy bamboo all winter to sustain themselves. They pick off the bamboo leaves, roll them around their snout to make a "bambo cigar" and chomp - (well, that is, in the wild. Here at Panda Valley they are fed bamboo shoots and panda patties)
So they Basically this place is a zoo! There are maybe total 15 pandas, all different ages.
Each there is name and a poorly translated sentence about them. "Yang has a cute black spot on her chin and likes to stick her tongue out when you take her picture! "(yeah, right!)
Some pandas are sitting on their ass iin a pile of bamboo shoots contently eating away.
Others have been fed brick sized "granola" bars which feeders dangle off the end of a bamboo fishing pole I am convinced for our photo ops.
The education center tells us a few facts about why pandas are extinct and how we can be more environmentally friendly (like take a bus or walk to places!)
To return back to 6 Senses a taxi appears out of nowhere, the return fare is half that of getting there!