Today was a very special day in the Journey East program. We started the day early with breakfast at 8 o’clock. We then went to the bus to begin the day’s activities. The first expedition of the day was to visit the giant panda breeding and research center. Here we walked around and observed the homes of pandas. There were two different species, and three different ages. This was what made this day so special, and unique. Giant pandas are not something that you see every day, and this may be the only experience I have with these animals. For this reason, I tried hard to observe the animals in every possible way. The two types of pandas were the Giant Panda, and its smaller brethren the Red Panda. The Giant Panda is the panda we all know and love, with its black and white spots, and adorable face. The red panda, which I believe is equally as adorable, is smaller, with brown, and black spots. The 3 different ages were young pandas, (only a couple years old or younger), adolescent, and mature. The baby pandas were of course the most adorable, while the older pandas had a more surprising stature to them. However, in no way do I believe that these pandas could be described as majestic. This is not to say that they weren’t amazing. Most of what pandas do is lay around, eat bamboo on their bellies, and sleep. For this reason, pandas aren’t majestic in the way that say a lion, or a tiger may be described as majestic. Rather, most of the appeal to pandas is found in there purely adorable nature, and pure laziness.
After visiting with the pandas, we went back to the bus for a ride to where we were having lunch. After this, we rode to a shopping center in the city, where we had the freedom to shop around in different groups accompanied by adults. We shopped there for roughly an hour, and then hopped on the bus again. From this point about half the group decided to return to the hotel for well-deserved rest, while the other half walked from the hotel, to visit another much more expensive and swanky shopping center, as well as a Buddhist temple. Afterwards we returned to the hotel, where we are now having some free time before we retire for an early bedtime around 9:30.
The first market we visited was authentically Chinese in its architecture, and products. Most of the things sold there were mostly hand-crafted jewelry, clothing, and other miscellaneous products, as well as the occasional restaurant or coffee shop. The only thing I bought in this market was a delicious mango strawberry Popsicle. Though I didn’t buy much from the market, I enjoyed visiting the market to get a better understanding of Chinese culture through the products they sell. After all. So much of a culture is represented in the products which come from it.
The second shopping center we visited was almost impossible to shop at because of its extreme swankiness. This market was noticeably different than the other in its lack of authentic Chinese culture, as well as its similarities to western shopping centers. The stores there were mostly high-end companies that we all know in the US, such as Gucci, Tiffanies, and Givenchy. These stores were all way too expensive for us, so we immediately found ourselves in the only place we could reasonably spend our money, the dang Starbucks. Once we were done at Starbucks, we visited the Buddhist temple. I found it so ironic to find a large Buddhist temple smack dab in the center of the market. Buddhism is a religion which is stoutly against these forms of vanity, unnecessary desires, and pleasure products. However, there it sat. I have personal connections to the Buddhist religion. When I was a little kid I often even considered becoming a Buddhist monk, but life’s path seems to have taken me elsewhere. This is the reason I found it so strange to go from a place where my vanities were celebrated, to a place where I felt the need to control my desires, and respect my environment. I am sure there is quite an interesting reason for the Buddhist temple to be in the shopping center, and I wish I knew it.