The Moment of Truth

Chengdu, September 17th 2010

Even though panda is the icon of Chengdu, it turned out that if you just say "panda" as in "panda" most of the locals don't understand. We asked our reception-desk-staff and neither did they understood. We hailed a taxi and said, "Panda Breeding Center". The driver shook his head and drove away.

So I called Melissa, the travel agent who arranged our Pingle 1-Day Tour. I asked her to text me the sentence "We want to go to Panda Breeding Center" in Chinese, the same way as she did for me when I wanted to book Yudi's train ticket and mine at Kunming Station. (Here was the story.) The next minute my cellphone beeped. Melissa's text message.

Mel asked me to send her that text message. The other next minute Mel's cellphone beeped. "Okay, I got it," she said.

We separated 4 by 4 in two taxis. The taxi driver immediately understood. I was anxious to arrive at Panda Breeding Center as early as possible, because I had been informed that you won't see the pandas if you come too late. That was the most thing I dreaded of this trip: not seeing the pandas. I had come to Chengdu for the pandas.

In the taxi I texted Melissa thanking her for her great help. It's just a text message, but it helped a lot. We exchanged a couple of messages. And then she invited me and my friends for dinner in the evening before we leave for the airport. I turned to Ika and told her about that.

"Melissa? Who is she?" Ika asked.

Then she told me that they had agreed to have hot-pot dinner with Angel, our tour guide in Pingle. Oh... okay. I texted Melissa back. I told her also that I would be willing to have dinner with her, if she doesn't mind to be just the 2 of us. She did not reply.

Apparently again, my friends had made an appointment with Angel to meet her at the Panda Breeding Center. I was rather surprised, because the day before I had already confirmed with them whether we needed a tour guide (they already said, no, while I was planning our itinerary a few months before), and once again they said it was unnecessary.

Panda Breeding Center was indeed a nice romantic place.

The center wasn't about pandas alone, it was also about trees and flowers. It was like a huge forest park.

A train of red pink flowers welcomed us on our path. It was really lovely.

The golden morning light added to perfection.

With Angel leading us in front, we walked through this bamboo alley. None did I know that this day would be the biggest day of disappointment for me in 2010. None did I expect that actually this path would lead me to another long journey.

We stopped by here to admire the gold-fishes. Hendro made a very good shot of the fishes with his pocket camera.

First Angel took us to see the baby-panda nursery. I couldn't wait to see the bigger ones, but she assured me that we won't be late for viewing the adult pandas. On the way I saw a crowd of people cheering on the bigger pandas, but Angel insisted to see the baby-panda nursery first. Thinking that she must know better, I followed.

The nursery for me was just a moment of delay to my dream. We had to stand in long queue to enter the nursery. And when we were able to see the baby pandas, we weren't allowed to take pictures. Arghhh. It was really a waste of time for me as I've already seen baby pandas many times. It would only be different if I were allowed to take pictures.

Outside the nursery I was delighted to see an adult panda.
There was only one.

While waiting for my friends to come out from the nursery, I made several snapshots of this single panda. Oh ya, please note that this isn't the place where I saw tourists cheering on the pandas which Angel had prefer to skip.

I didn't see any of my friends. So I texted Mel and waited there. No reply came and no one came. Minutes went by.

I got tired of waiting, so I went off alone. I searched for the place where I saw the group of tourists just now.

Much to my disappointment, the place was totally quite. No one, no panda. I walked on.

I found another place with one panda. It looked like a child-panda. Cute. But, only one.

Suddenly I bumped into Mel and Ika. "Hey! Where did you go? I waited for you all in front of the nursery. I texted you."

Without even checking her cellphone, she answered lightly, "Oh, I didn't notice."

After taking a couple of pictures, they excused themselves saying that they are going to look for the other friends.

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