Saturday 3 January 2015

Day 191: Chengdu - OMG PANDAS!!! SOOO CUUUUUTE!!!!

An intimidating killer bear?
Visiting Chengdu without calling on the giant pandas is a bit like going to Agra without seeing the Taj Mahal.  We duly paid our respects to these ridiculous black and white slobs, who have their main earthly residence on the outskirts of Chengdu, at an early hour of the morning.

All three of us belong to the minority opinion that giant pandas have evolved themselves into such an evolutionary corner that they should simply die out; conservation efforts could then be concentrated on species that matter more to the maintenance of important ecosystems.  Some creatures just weren't meant to survive.  Giant pandas have a meat-eater's gut but devour only bamboo, which they are almost entirely unable to digest.  Their penises are so short that the males struggle to inseminate anything - even a female they have been locked up with - so there are breeding programmes to do the job artificially.  But once the survival of an entire species relies on holding electrodes to its genitals, surely it's game over?  Yes, pandas should go extinct.

Nonetheless, you have to hand it to these creatures in the cuteness stakes.  All three cynics - Guy, Chris and Susan - having railed about the uselessness of giant pandas, promptly broke into a chorus of "ahhhs" as soon as they appeared on the scene.  We were only spared from completely embarrassing ourselves by the non-existence of Facebook in China, which prevented us from sticking up photos with the caption "OMG PANDAS!!!".  Not that there was any trouble getting the animals to stay still for the photo shoot; in fact, they are not very good at doing anything but staying still.  In future, whenever I feel like a nap I'm just going to tell Guy that I'm doing a giant panda impression and no further explanation will be needed.

No... it's a vegetarian, hippie layabout.
Entertainingly, Chris told us that when British Airways initiated flights to Chengdu airport they painted a giant panda face on a plane, to mark the occasion.  Given that a plane has to sprint down a runway in order to become airborne, while a giant panda can only saunter a few steps before recuperating with a snooze, this does not seem to augur well.  Note to all air travellers: if your plane looks like a giant panda, don't board.  Giant pandas cannot sprint!

When we'd finished invading the poor creatures' privacy, along with a few hundred (or thousand?) other tourists, we were introduced to the giant pandas' more elegant cousins, the red pandas, who at least look trim enough to walk around for a few minutes without having to sleep off the exertion.  Then it was time to head to the museum to uncover some surprising giant panda facts.  Apparently Emperor Huang used giant pandas in his army, from which I can only conclude that he lacked any other weapons.  I wonder what the giant pandas did when the enemy approached; lie down for a snooze?

The much more interesting and active Red Panda 
Alex Salmond meanwhile would be shocked to discover that one of the recipient countries of Chinese pandas is England, a nation where you can see the napping beasts at Edinburgh zoo - ouch!  Barack Obama, meanwhile, must have spotted the political capital in being seen to adore a creature that looks like a cuddly toy.  He posed at Chengdu with his wife and children; was this plan dreamed up while fighting a dodgy foreign war and wishing to distract attention, I wonder?

We despaired again of the world's dedication to the panda, then ventured to the gift shop where we all proceeded to buy numerous giant panda mementoes.  Truly, there's no hope for the panda's extinction!  All it has to do is hold out its flabby black and white paws, yawn ear-splittingly, and the most hardened cynic can but swoon!

Big night last night? Doubt it...
Yum yum... bamboo!
Sleeping off a hangover

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