The Panda Plague That Wasn’t

OK, OK… it’s possible one of us was a little overzealous on the use of the phrase “panda plague”. (Hey, once a link-baiter…) On this episode, we’ll start telling the story of what really happened when we stayed for five days in Chengdu China as VIP guests of Niccolo Chengdu, an amazing property right in the center of town and a great base to explore the greater Sichuan area.

Our stay at the Niccolo Chengdu could not have been better. As far as we’re concerned, they set the bar so high for any other five-star experience. And we’re not just saying that because they picked up the tab! Bubble baths waiting for us at night. A tea service that included Earl Grape Iced Tea served in a wine chalice. Fantastic meals prepared by world class chefs. And some special treatment that include, among other things, our own personal driver to shuttle us to the Dujiangyan Panda Base some hour or so away from the city proper.

But this wasn’t a zoo experience. Well, perhaps it was, but not one you get from walking around the zoo. Three of us in our party were volunteers at the base. Now before you get crazy notions of three people playing research assistant for the day, it’s not like anyone in our party had any special training. Hence, volunteers do things that anyone can do, leaving the staff of the base free to do things that require specialized skills. Yes, volunteers do get to actually feed the pandas. Yes, volunteers are taught the art and science of making “panda cake”, which is a treat for the pandas that, though it could use more sugar and icing, is actually edible. But the rest of the volunteering means work. Grunt labor that requires you to have full use of your arms and legs and be able to follow simplistic instructions. One of us -- the one that didn’t volunteer -- grew up on a farm, having had plenty of experience taking care of creatures who care little for where they poop. And boy, do they poop. A lot.

Speaking of the digestive system, Chengdu is a hotspot for Sichuan food as you might imagine. This tummy-filling and tongue-thrilling cuisine comes with a kick. Sichuan peppers aren’t just hot. They have a tendency to numb your lips. Yeah, that sounds bad when written out. But seriously: it’s actually a very cool experience that enhances the flavor. Even the one in our party who’s not the biggest fan of spicy food got into it! Chengdu… who knew? Thanks again for hosting us, Niccolo Chengdu!

Oh... you’ll notice that there isn’t a guest voice on the show this week. Moving, traveling… it’s been hard for us to schedule a convenient time for guests. But rather than continue to hold our episodes hostage, we’re going to start releasing episodes as we have stories to tell. We’ll still feature guests who have funny travel stories of their own, but we’re not going to be afraid of releasing an episode filled with just us. We hope that’s OK. Let us know what you think.

Thanks as always to our fantastic sponsor, TravelSmith. If you need clothes and accessories you can depend on when you travel, they’ve got what you need. We use/wear their stuff every single day.

We sent out a bunch of postcards to our patrons (including a few new people, so thank you very much!) from Kuala Lumpur this month. If you want to receive one as well, sign up today! The support of our patrons really goes a long way in helping us keep pumping out content from abroad!

Music for our show is graciously provided by the fantastic band Velella Velella. They make killer tunes, and you should buy all of their stuff. It’s fabulous!

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