Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rivendell 2.0, and why I'm glad there are planes...

We are in our hotel, and only drove through Chengdu (the largest and most socioeconomically and politically important city in Sichuan province and probably in all of western China) for a half hour, so I don't have a whole lot of interest to say about it.

Our guide is very nice. His name is "Ray". Right. Ray. He says "Okay?" at the end of every sentence, and it annoys me. I realize it annoys me because it's exactly what I do to the children. I hope he will speak with me in Mandarin, because we have guides all throughout this trip, and I'm not going to learn anything unless the guides talk to me.

Ray has explained that there are two places to see pandas. One of them is five hours away, has only black pandas, but they are in their natural habitat. The other one is an hour away, has black AND red pandas (and cranes, and... ugh... hiking), and did I mention it has red pandas? Bet you know which one I would prefer to visit.

He also indicated that there are several Buddahs one can see in the area. There are, in fact, five UNESCO-designated cultural areas around Chengdu, and two of them are representations of the Buddah. (I have now done my duty as an unpaid representative of the Chengdu Chamber of Commerce. Can I have a cookie?)

Anyway, one of them is carved into the side of the mountain, was carved there during the Tang dynasty, and took 90 years (and who knows how many hours of unpaid labor). Ray tells us that it is the largest carving of Buddah in the world. My first thought was "the Taliban really did these folks a favor." I think Andrea and Dave thought it pretty quickly too, because Dave said it as soon as we were out of earshot of Ray.

The other one is a very pretty natural representation of the Buddah. I think it's the one we will visit. Of course, it involves hiking.

And that's why I'm glad there are planes. Because I suspect we're going to spend a good bit of our earthbound time walking.

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