Good-bye Tai Shan

We recently rode our bicycle from Chengdu across the SW China mountains (Himalayas and Tibetan plateau). We began in Chengdu and visited the Giant Panda Breeding Center. Lucky, our stuffed panda, made the visit with and was not sure what to think of the really really big (to him) pandas. Tai Shan is leaving National Zoo today for the Giant Panda Breeding Center, Chengdu, China. Video of Tia Shan at the National Zoo made him the most popular Panda ever. Thousands tuned in daily to watch his clumsy antics.

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On The Road to Shangri-la At Last

Bob: After five days of building up Zippy, visiting pandas, exploring Chengdu, we are leaving. Claire has been organizing route maps from the China road atlas Peter Snow РCao gave us. Peter has China bicycle touring company, but he bought us tea at a lovely tea house along the river, and shared information about our route. If you want to travel China with a guide, Peter is the man to contact.

We have enjoyed everything about Chengdu, except the poor air quality. Buildings across a single street have a blue/gray tint from the air. We will be glad to begin climbing the mountains, even if the stories we have been told about altitude sickness, harrowing long days for cyclists. There won’t be much air, but it will be clean at least! It will take us a couple of days to get across the valley and above the pollution basin. Then we will be in the mountains 10-15,000 feet for two or three weeks. We have already decided that we will need to extend our visas for China to leave time for altitude acclimatization and the usual, everything-takes-twice-as-long-in-China.

Lunch: Jiaozi, chilli sauce and spiced vinegar, with cold pejo (my spelling of how to pronounce beer).

Claire: I’m trying to eat more adventurously on this trip and so far, the spicy Sichuan food is very tolerable. Good thing Bob has had me in training for the last few weeks. (I’m beginning to absorb just how Sichuan food burns twice.) Tonight, we had mapo doufu, a regional tofu dish that is very spicy. We also actually did get green beans this time: wonderful crispy fried and salty. I’m sure our restaurant hosts thought we were out of our gourd for not wanting rice, but it was already more than we could eat and we hate wasting food, after all, there are starving children in America.

Those of you who know us and how we try to eat so healthy at home should know that our anti-inflammatory diet stayed stateside. We’re back on the see-food diet: we see food, we eat it.

I should mention here that Sim’s Cozy Guesthouse is very warm and hospitable. We got to meet Sim finally tonight and he was able to give us some good information, being a cycle tourist himself. He even gave Bob some Chinese herbal medicine for a rumbling gut. The amenities are great here and we fully appreciate that this may be the only place we’ll stay in that has in-room Wi-Fi.

Lucky: Leaving finally! I’m ready to rock and roll!