I’m sorry Spike and Guinness. I’ve eaten dog.
Down the river, we stopped in a small mountain city called Wushan. Upon docking, we were surrounded by people trying to get us to buy tickets for a river cruise. We fought them off and jumped in a taxi. After asking the driver to take us to a hotel, we noticed that there were two tough-looking guys on a motorcycle following us. They signaled for the driver to stop at one hotel, and he did. We decided not to stay there and asked the driver to take us to a different one. Before stopping at the second hotel the motorcyclists beat us to the punch and ran inside. When we tried to check in, the receptionist said they were full.
Understanding our current lack of options, we decided to return to the first hotel. By this time, our taxi was surrounded by four motorcyclists who were obviously not interested in allowing us to pick a hotel of our liking. The hotel that they took us to was humongous and apparently vacant. After checking in, the motorcyclists tried to get us to sign up for a river cruise. We said that we’d wait for the following day before deciding to book a trip and pushed them out of the hotel. As they left, two older women from the docks showed up and proceeded to give us their river cruise sales speech. We escorted them out as well, and hid in our room for a while.
The next day our hostel helped us organize a driver out to Leshan, where we saw the world’s biggest Buddha. We arrived at an exquisite temple that had various types of plants and sculptures of Buddha everywhere. Then, we hiked the steepest set of stairs I’ve ever seen to a tunnel that took us up to the big Buddha. One false step on those stairs would’ve entailed a life-threatening fall to the ground. At the top of the steps, we had a short hike up a hill and walk along the peak. At the far end of the hill we came face to face with Buddha. He was carved right out of the hillside and was so massive that we could’ve sat Indian-style on his big toenail. Amazing.
The next day, Jake and I split off from our English companion and got on a bus. We went down to the station and wanted to go to Dazu. Unable to find a bus for Dazu, we decided to go to Chongqing. However, we weren’t able to find a bus for Chongqing either, so we decided to jump on one that went most of the way there.
When we reached our destination, we asked which bus went on to Chongqing. There was a rickety old bus there and the driver responded to Chongqing? with OK! So, we boarded and were off. After 20 minutes in the bus and the bus driver stopping every few minutes and yelling, “Dazu!” we thought we might be on the wrong bus. At one stop, a guy from another rickety bus came running over and motioned for us to follow. Still wanting to go to Chongqing, we used Chinese to ask him if his bus went to Chongqing about 10-15 times. He said yes. So we boarded, took off, and he yelled, “Dazu!” One hour later, we were in Dazu checking into a hotel.
Waking up after a night of KTV is no easy task, but we managed to get up and make it out to the Panda Breading Research Center the next day. They housed giant pandas and red pandas in a great natural environment. Red pandas look more like raccoons than pandas and can run pretty fast. Giant pandas look kind of dopey and enjoy the finer things in life: sleeping and bamboo. We got to see some panda cubs that still needed some assistance in order to enjoy these luxuries. The staff used elongated chopsticks to feed the panda cubs bamboo shoots. That scene alone was well worth making it out of a KTV comma and trooping out to the research center.
After all of the drinking and traveling around, we needed a rest and decided to spend the next day relaxing in a local park. We walked around and joined a small crowd to watch an old man sing karaoke out in the open. He was excited to see us and handed us the microphone, which we couldn’t refuse. The small crowd of about 15 seemed to multiply by the minute, and the old man encouraged us to start dancing in order to egg on the show. We obliged and recruited a couple of 40-year-old women from the crowd in order to get some of the locals involved. At the end of the song, I looked up and realized that there were at least 100 people watching us.