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Fever and a Free Hotel

Chengdu, Sichuan province, China

semi-overcast 23 °C


(Sep 7)

One of the star attractions to Chengdu, China

Getting settled in Chengdu has been much more difficult than we thought! We knew we were dealing with Anica being sick. Motrin every six hours was keeping her fever in check, but only just. The first additional obstacle came at the Guilin airport with the announcement that our flight would be delayed by an hour. Nothing unusual, but we called Sim's Garden Hostel and tried to make sure their driver would still be waiting for us.

After grabbing our bags, we found a girl holding a "Sim's Cozy Guest House" sign. We knew they were the original Sim's, and the girl, though not really expecting us, eagerly ushered us, and another couple, into a pair of taxis. I wonder how that other taxi ride turned out? Our driver started to curse, mutter and spit, and, after a while, motioned to us that he needed our help. No kidding! Lost looks the same in any language. Apparently, phoning them didn't help him too much, because he still got out and asked for directions about three times. Did I mention it was raining?

Over an hour later, we arrived at Sim's Cozy Guest House. "But this is not it," we tried to say! Everyone ushered us out, and Sim himself explained the situation. The "Garden Hostel," his new place, had been shut down the day before due to lack of permits. He offered to put us up in a "Cozy Guest House" family room for the night, but explained that it would only be available for that one night. We would then have two options: stay illegally - for free - in the "Garden Hostel" or he would put us up (again for free) in a "business-class" (his words) hotel. Guess which one we picked?

So, one night then at Sim's, but it did not turn out to be too cozy. Our room, on the roof-top, arrived at by way of labyrinth, was right beside a construction site. If you've ever wondered what time of night construction stops in Chengdu, the answer is never! I think there was a short tea-break about 1:30 AM. The work going on was organized by periodic shouting matches. The three of us, in our two beds, particularly found these outbursts, shall we say, rousing! Anica's fever was high again towards dawn.

Random Observation: Air China calls their moist towelette a "wet refresh turban needless wash." Kind of catchy, eh?

(Sep 8)

In the morning, at least, the offer that was too-good-to-be-true turned out to be true. A Sim's employee walked us to a hotel, which has just been remodelled, and we got to see the room we would stay in. It looked fantastically new, and clean and bright, and Jenn immediately said that it would be fine. The Sim's guy then paid for the three-night stay in advance!

Not how Anica showers! She is demonstrating the unique configuration of this hotel room's shower stall.

At last, we could focus on Anica's fever. Since it kept returning, we decided to see a doctor. The cost was well worth it for the great care we got at a private clinic called "Global Doctor." Anica had tonsillitis and some bronchial infection, which was causing the fever. So we got antibiotics, a combo of fever reducers, a nebulizer, and we were at the clinic long enough for the Spanish-born doctor to see some results. "My baby," she kept calling Anica. "I don't like to see my baby not well," etc. Jenn and I felt like we were just the babysitters. She even called us later to see how Anica was doing, and gave us her own cell number. By night, Anica was feeling well enough to help call my Dad and wish him a happy birthday!

As for the sites in Chengdu, we knew it would be a write-off. The main thing is getting Anica healthy again. At least we're situated near the historic district, and, walking over from Sim's, and even when we're out to get supplies, we get some nice streetscapes. Also, Chengdu is booming. It's a huge city (12 million?), capital of the Sichuan province. We saw stores for Rolls-Royce, Prada, and other high-end Western brands. There are people here, and it's not the tourists (a few blocks away from Sim's and you won't see any Westerners), with huge disposable income.

Random Observation: We will never badmouth the ubiquitous Starbucks again, after the comfort they've offered here, and in Shenzhen, when we were just trying to get through the day.

(Sep 9)

Anica was feeling better today - fever gone - but still weak. Late in the afternoon, we took her to the nearby WenShu Monastery. Bad idea, in the end, for Anica, but we still got something out of the visit. The monastery is surrounded by a huge red wall, which hides the massive complex of temples and gardens inside.

Part of the Wen Shu monastery walls, Chengdu

There has been a monastery on this site since the sixth century AD, which is mind-boggling considering the political and military turmoil China has seen. The Peace Pagoda does date back to that first era. Most of the other impressive buildings, such as the library, the shrines to Buddhist "saints," etc. are from the 17th century (just a few years removed from the end of the Ming Dynasty in 1644). Anica was most impressed by the pond, which had dozens - if not hundreds - of turtles in it (and some huge bullfrogs). Much of the grounds had signs saying "no photos," which were largely ignored. We eventually took a couple of photos where we thought it wasn't too inappropriate. Before we left, a "nun" gave Anica a couple of apples. Was it how cute Anica looked, or her sad, sick expression that prompted this kind gesture? We headed home wondering (arguing) about whether we'd be able to go to the panda base the next day.

(Sep 10)

It was touch and go to the last minute, because Anica was so tired this morning, but we made it out on the tour to the Panda research and breeding base. Are we ever glad we did! And, later in the day, Anica got a clean bill of health from the Doctor in our follow-up appointment. To the get to the Panda base, we signed up for a tour through Sim's Cozy Guest House. Nine of us left there in a mini-van at 7:20 in the morning. This was ideal, because it got us there right when the Panda base opened, and into the heart of the grounds in time for the feeding. After they're done feeding, pandas pretty much sleep most of the time, so we really were fortunate.


The grounds are beautiful, with spacious habitats for the animals. The driver, using Mandarin and gestures, got us around the whole base at just the right time to see: the adults feeding, the "kindergarden" of pandas playing, the one-month babies being nursed, and the two-month old cubs rolling around a big crib. Anica loved it. All three of us loved it. Those were all the giant pandas, then we also saw the smaller red pandas (they seemed more active!).

Red Pandas

Why are giant pandas such a national treasure of China? Aside from being endangered due to loss of habitat, and aside from being cute, I learned today that they are a mysterious species. They've been around for eight million years, longer than most mammals ("living fossils," according to one description). They were once carnivores, and still have the teeth for it, but now they just eat huge amounts of bamboo, which they can barely digest. Pandas are picky, difficult breeders, so any success in captivity is nearly miraculous.

Anica was so enthused, so glad she got to come here, and it was great to see her bouncing along again.

In the late afternoon, back in the city, we stocked up at a bookstore that carried English titles. Then we walked around a large, outdoor, pedestrian shopping area. Especially when we sat down on a bench to rest and people-watch we found we were attracting a lot of attention. People were doing double-takes, staring, smiling and pointing, or even looking confused to see us (we labelled one man "confused guy" because he passed us several times, same expression each time). Anica enjoyed the attention, and we said "hello" and/or "ni hao" to many people. This never failed to to get a smile! To be fair, the area was probably a big draw for Chinese tourists, so many of the gawkers weren't from big-city Chengdu. One older lady came up to us and asked in Mandarin something like "can I pet her?" and then stroked Anica's hair. Although in multicultural Canada any form of staring at "differences" would be considered rude, if not racist, here, today, it seemed benign and not at all overwhelming.

Posted by jennrob 07:34 Archived in China

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I am so glad to hear that Anica has gotten well, got great medical treatment.

I can't wait for the pics of the Pandas and the monastery.

by sabrinagb

Medical services seem to be excellent; glad our girl is okay! Great adventure - say hello from Poppa

by Jofa

What a lucky girl you are Anica...real live pandas!Good to hear you're on the mend. Say hi to Mom and Dad for us.

by JBRobinson

So glad Anica is better & was able to see the wonderful sites. Amazing commentary on the pandas, Rob. LFT photos & more from China. Love to all--H&D ps-Thanks for the b-day call. xxxooo

by hdbutters


Anica's doing very well now. Fully recovered and had a blast on our overnight train to Hanoi.

Thanks for commenting!

by jennrob

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