Thursday 26 May Disembark Ship, Chongqing Zoo, Xi’an

This morning, we woke to a cloudy, misty, showery day in Chongqing, which is situated on the confluence of the Jangzi River and the Jaining River. Chongqing has a population of 6 million people and is referred to as a small city. We said goodbye to the staff of the Yangzi Explorer and boarded a bus, which took us to Chongqing Zoo. We drove along beside the river and through part of the city, which has 27 bridges spanning the rivers. Several of these bridges have a monorail system underneath the carriageway for cars and trucks. Chongqing, like all the other places we have been, has beautiful gardens, greenery and parkland throughout the city and along the major highways.

We arrived at Chongqing Zoo, where more than 200 varieties of wild and rare animals are on display, including 8 of the famous Giant Panda, a critically endangered species in China.

Chongqing Zoo was built in 1953 and officially opened to the public in 1955. It was then on the outskirts of the city but now that the city has spread out, it is well and truly within the centre of the city area. The Zoo covers an area of 45 hectares and is an important base for the protection and research of the immigrant wild animals. When we arrived at the Zoo, we were surprised to find a group of people doing Tai Chi in one of the areas inside the Zoo. As well seeing some more Giant Panda, we saw the rare South China Tiger, which is thought to be about the rarest kind of tiger. They are smaller than most tigers, and look lankier. We also saw two white tigers and various birds, including toucan and macaws. The zoo is set in picturesque gardens that are well-maintained, with the city sky scrapers as a backdrop.

Because of the limitation of time, we only got to see a small part of the zoo before heading to a local restaurant, the Cygnet Hot Pot, for an authentic hotpot lunch, a dish they share amongst the families from this region. Our lunch was an interesting and innovative experience. Each table sat 8 people and each place setting included a small induction hot plate. Each of us was served a pot divided into two – on one side was a very spicy sauce/broth and on the other side was a non-spicy mix. The idea being that you would heat up the pot and once boiling, you would add various vegetables, meats and noodles to the pot. The trick was in knowing how long to cook them because some only took a matter of seconds, while others, like potato and bamboo, took a few minutes. We also created our own sauce by adding various spices to sesame oil and then we scooped out the cooked vegetables/meat, dipped it in our sauce and ate it. Of course, it was tricky to fish out the vegetables/meat from the pot. Talk about working for your lunch!! Some people tried the spicy side and their mouth and lips tingled for some time afterwards! There were varying reactions to the meal amongst our group with some thoroughly enjoying it (like Richard) while others found it to be hard work and not to their liking, even although it was fun.

After lunch, we were taken to the airport for our flight to Xi’an (Guilin), which is regarded by the Chinese as one of the country’s most beautiful places. Our flight with Sichuan Airlines was on an Airbus A319 and the flight took just over an hour. After collecting our luggage, meeting up with our local guide, Jimmy, and making our way through peak hour traffic, we arrived at the Shangri-La Hotel, in Xian at about 6.30pm.

This evening, we had a buffet dinner at the hotel and enjoyed Anna & Chris’ company, before heading back to our room to post several days of blogs and photos now that we have internet that works.

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