Adventures in Asia

by Greg & Francie

Ten of my favorite places on the trip

It was pretty hard to come up with this kind of list but I managed to squeeze it into my busy schedule.  There were definitely other wonderful places (Mae Salong-Thailand, Meung Ngoi-Laos, LiJiang-China) that just barely missed out on the list.

How many years would it have taken to discover all these places if we hadn’t went traveling for so long?

Here they are in chronological order (with a corresponding picture or two):

Koh Jam (Jum), Thailand-This island near Krabi doesn’t have full time electricity and is better off without it.  Great food and an amazing stretch of beach…think ‘quiet time’.

Koh Jum

Koh Jum sunset

Hongsa, Laos-It takes a while to get to dusty Hongsa and there isn’t a lot to do when you get there.  However, it is incredibly peaceful and you can ride an elephant along trails.

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Luang Prabang, Laos-Former colonial town that is a lot of fun to hang out in. Everyone in E Asia passes through Laos eventually.

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Kalaw, Myanmar-Off the beaten track in Burma where you can do hiking or just relax in the hill country.  One of the best bars in Asia (Hi Snack and Drink).  Great Nepali food.

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Hong Kong, China-Absolutely beautiful yet gritty.  Incredible food and excellent shopping.  One of my top 5 cities in the world. 

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Songpan, ChinaOne of the few small towns in China.  Horse trek in the gorgeous Sichuan Province and rest up afterwards at the fun tea houses.

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Wolong, ChinaFreaking Pandas man!  Everyone loves Pandas! 

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One year old Panda

Francie, shifu Wong and shuo yi

Outside of Lhasa, Tibet-Definitely in the running for most stunningly beautiful place on earth. 

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Gili Trawangan (Lombok), Indonesia-Incredible atmosphere with no cars on the small, beautiful island.  Incredible snorkeling right off the beach and a vibrant nightlife.

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Kaikoura, New ZealandThe beautiful coast and unbelievable plush hills were actually remarkable topped off with a small town and lots of seafood.  Seals, whales, dolphins and sheep–oh my!

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November 7, 2007 Posted by | Beach, burma, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, New Zealand, SE Asia, Sichuan, Thailand, Tibet, Travel, Wolong | 11 Comments

Panda Videos

Here are eight videos of pandas from The Giant Panda Research Center in Wolong, China.  Many of the videos are quite cool-unfortunately, a couple of the videos were shot ‘sideways’.  My bad.

Click on the links below for the videos.  The videos may take a minute or two to download so be patient.

Panda Video 1-One year old pandas roughhousing on some tree stumps.  If you listen closely at the beginning of the video you can hear one of them ‘yelp’.

Panda Video 2-One year old pandas playing and rolling in the grass.

Panda Video 3-One year old pandas. Make sure to note the one dangling in the background.

Panda Video 4-Two year old pandas very high up in one tree. 

Panda Video 5-One year old pandas eating at lunchtime.

Panda Video 6-One year old panda up in a tree and scratching an itch.

Panda Video 7-One year old panda on the slide.

Panda Video 8-Two pandas playing ‘king of the stump’.  I think you can hear one of the pandas growl.

I hope you enjoy the videos.  Click the Panda category on the right to go to the blog posts about working at the Wolong Panda Research Center.

November 3, 2007 Posted by | China, Panda, Travel, Wildlife, Wolong | 2 Comments

More trip photos!

Francie uploaded some more of her pictures to Flickr and I wanted to post some here.  These are from the batch she got developed in Bangkok.  You can see all of them here.

Greg and the one year old Pandas.
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Camping in Tibet.
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5,300 meters up at a glacier in Tibet.
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Me jumping for joy that the hike is over!
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Kids playing in a park in XiÁn.
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Signs in Hong Kong.
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View of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon as we walk down from ‘The Peak’.
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Francie at the main square in Macau.
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Francie screwing around while on the clock at Wolong Panda Research Center.
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Cute Panda pic
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Dried fruits and nuts for sale in the Muslim Quarter–XiÁn, China. I found out that you can only eat so much dried pineapple.
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Two little girls at the Great Mosque in XiÁn, China.
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Slide no workie.
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Figures unearthed from a Tomb in XiÁn, China.
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What this Panda really wants is a Thomas the Train. Balls are boring. 😉
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Suggest your own caption
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Goats in Tibet
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I think I need a thicker coat!
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Ok.  Maybe we will post from Fiji!  Maybe we will just work on that tan!

October 20, 2007 Posted by | China, Hong Kong, Nature, Panda, Photography, Sichuan, Tibet, Travel, Urban, Wildlife, Wolong | 2 Comments

Greg is famous on teh internets!

Greg’s photo is featured on the Sonic Boom Homepage! (scroll down past the “upcoming events”) Now sure how long it will be there so check it out 🙂

August 22, 2007 Posted by | China, Panda, Travel, Wolong | 2 Comments

A guide to Wolong Panda Center

I wanted to post some information for visitors or volunteers heading up to the Wolong Giant Panda Research Center.  I have already gotten a lot of questions thrown my way so I will try and put all the info here.

First of all, Francie and I initially planned to spend a month volunteering at Wolong.  We set it up directly with the Wolong Panda Club and not through a travel agency.  This is very easy to do if you’re comfortable with arranging transportation to Wolong and accomodation on your own.

Transport to/from Wolong

There are a number of ways to get to Wolong from Chengdu.  We took the Public bus for about 30 RMB.  The trip took about 4.5 hours.  The first 2.5 hours is on a highway but the last 1.5 hours is on a road through the mountains.  It is very bumpy – if you get motion sickness I suggest you take something for it. 

 The public bus leaves Chengdu for Wolong around 11:30 am and leaves Wolong for Chengdu at 7:00am (pickup outside the Wolong Hotel).  A private car/bus could make the trip quicker.  One warning is this can be a crazy ride as buses try and pass slower cars in the face of oncoming traffic.

The second part of the drive is on a road that currently has streches paved and unpaved.  It can be a very bouncy ride.  As of Aug 10th the road will be closed for parts of the day as they try and make more progress, so the public bus times listed above may have changed.

You will pass by the Wolong Panda Center before you get to Wolong Village (see below).  Wait until you get to the Wolong Hotel (english sign) before you hop off.

Accomodation

You can stay at the Panda Inn (right at the Research Center) or in Wolong Village which has a number of accomodation options.

As of Aug 10 the Panda Inn is still closed for renovations.  My guess is it will take them another 2 months to finish the place up.

In Wolong Village most people stay at the Wolong Hotel (advertised rate was about 500 RMB/night).  We didn’t see the rooms but heard they were nice but not the billed 4 stars… they do have western toilets however.

We stayed at a place five minute walk further up the road (take a right coming out of the Wolong Hotel).  There is an English sign that says ‘Hotel-Resturant’ in big red letters.  It is a chinese hotel that costs 80 RMB/night (we talked them down to 70 RMB).  The family that runs the place is very nice, although they don’t speak much English and it is not a western style hotel.  If you’re okay with that though, it is a much better deal than the Wolong Hotel, and the restaurant has some of the best food in the village.

It costs about 40 RMB to ‘taxi’ from Wolong Village to the Panda Center.  If you are volunteering the Panda Club folks can arrange a driver for you (80 RMB/day) who will pick you up in the morning and take you home at the end of the day.

Eating

Edible food is a bit of a problem and people who are there for more than a night or two get bored very quickly.  Most people we talked to complained about the Wolong Hotel’s food.  We ended up deciding the best place was the chinese hotel mentioned above (with the red sign that says ‘Hotel Restaurant’.  They have a one page english menu and will let you go to the kitchen to pick different kinds of vegetables for the meal.

Eating at Wolong Panda Center was not possible for visitors–only for volunteers (cost is 15 RMB for lunch).  The food leaves a lot to be desired.  We ended up bringing instant noodles for lunch on most days.

Groceries are very limited.  Think instant noodles and candy. Other than the Panda Inn, there are no other options for food at the Wolong Panda Research Center – so bring some snacks with you!

Internet Access

You can use Wolong Hotel’s computers for 5 RMB/hour.  Great connection but you cannot download anything to the computers.  No wireless access but they will allow you to connect your laptop.

Visiting

If you are visiting, I highly recommend that you go to the Center between the hours of 8-11am.  This is the best time because the Pandas have been fed and the 1 year olds are out playing.  The worst time to come is between noon and 2:30pm.  The keepers are at lunch and the Pandas are napping.  Admission is 60 RMB.

I have also heard that visiting the Wolong Center is much much better than the Chengdu center.   FYI – If you are getting your picture taken with the pandas and are with a tour group – the tour guide gets a percentage of your donation to Wolong.  That is kind of lame.

Volunteering 

We had planned to volunteer for a month but it turned out to be more like a ‘behind the scenes’ experience and after a while we decided it was best to move on, although there are definitely advantages to working there for more than a few days;  the keepers will get to know you and trust you more, you’ll get to do some more interesting work, you’ll get to know a few panda’s personalities, and you’ll feel more like a part of the team than an outsider.  There are so many tour groups that come and “volunteer” for only 1 or 2 days – this makes the keepers a little jaded since they have to deal with so many folks who just want to take photos rather than actually do any work.

You will have fun getting bamboo, cleaning cages, etc.  You should not expect to feed pandas, touch pandas or anything like that.  As Francie said one day, she is more accustomed to non-profits throwing as much work as possible at you–this is not the case at Wolong and that is why we started to think of it more as a ‘behind the scenes’ experience.  The cost for volunteering is 100 RMB/day and a one time 300 RMB for the clothing rental.

Schedule: 8am feed and clean for a while.  10am hour off, 11am feeding pandas until 11:40am.  Lunch until 2:30pm.  Feed Pandas and take breaks until 5:30pm.  The great thing about this schedule is that you get to take lots of pics of the Pandas.  But bring a book in case you get bored.

Regardless, we had a really fun time.  It is just amazing to spend that much time watching pandas, and getting to know them well (look at all the pictures in the earlier posts to see how much fun we had).  The ‘keepers’ are also very interesting people and it is great to get to know them.  Our experience there has been one of the major highlights of our trip.

August 9, 2007 Posted by | China, Panda, Travel, Wildlife, Wolong | 8 Comments

Greg plays with Panda cubs

Today was our last day at the Wolong Panda Research Center!  Francie and I need to get out of town before they close the road tomorrow (they are going to pave it). 

 To celebrate I decided to play with the one year old Pandas for five minutes.  It was actually a really amazing experience even after volunteering at Wolong for two weeks.  I can already sense the envy…

Here we go!!!

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Yes that is his ear I am tugging on…but he doesn’t seem to mind.

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Their coats are a little soft but also slightly coarse and they are heavy!

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This one gives you a good look at the pad of a Panda cub.

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The look on my face, and Francie’s in the next post, is the look of sheer delight.

August 8, 2007 Posted by | China, Panda, Travel, Wildlife, Wolong | 8 Comments

ZOMG!!! I have baby panda in my lap!!!

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August 8, 2007 Posted by | China, Panda, Pets, Photography, Travel, Wildlife, Wolong | 8 Comments

Brand new teensy bebe panda at Wolong

A panda named Jin Zhu at a Panda center in nearby Ya’an gave birth to twins in the last few days.  One of the twins was big (over 100 grams), but the other one was very small in comparison (only 17 grams).  The big one stayed with mama and the little one was transferred today to Wolong, where they have more equipment and resources to care for such a tiny baby.  Greg happened to be watching the goings-on in the nursery when they brought him in and put him in the incubator.  This isn’t the best photo, but you can at least get an idea of just how tiny he is.

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Haize (one of the two pandas we’re helping with) is going to give birth to twins any day now.  When she has her babies there will be 5 pandas at Wolong less than a month old!

August 6, 2007 Posted by | China, Panda, Travel, Wildlife, Wolong | 1 Comment

Playtime for Pandas

Today I watched the Panda keepers and interns play and exercise the Panda cubs. 

Now for a slide action sequence. I hope you can handle it.

Panda at top of the slide

Geronimo!

Panda cub in middle of slide

I better get a freaking treat for that.

Panda cub done with slide

This keeper is getting the Panda cub to stand on his hind legs to stengthen them. Or maybe I am wrong about all this ethical stuff and he is being trained to perform in a circus!

Cub getting fed on his hind feet

This Panda decided to come down from the stump to get his milk.

Panda cub coming down for milk

Unfortunately, one Panda got a shot during playtime. They make little crying yelps when stuff like this happens to them (or when another cub starts gnawing on them).

Panda cub gets shots

August 6, 2007 Posted by | China, Panda, Travel, Wildlife, Wolong | 1 Comment

Hua Mei’s bebes

The panda Hua Mei gave birth to twins on July 16th, so Greg and I have had the pleasure of watching them grow from week 2 to week 3.  Panda’s are very small when they’re born, and (i think) resemble a rat more than they do a panda, but they grow fast and change a lot in their first few months.

This is Hua Mei’s bebes when they were born: (photo is from the wolong panda club website)

here is one of the bebes on 7/31/07:
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and here is one of the bebes on 8/6/07:
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He or she is starting to look more and more like a little panda!

August 6, 2007 Posted by | China, Panda, Pets, Photography, Travel, Wildlife, Wolong | 5 Comments