"Among the Pandas"
Our cub reporter exposes China's soft underbelly. By James Fallows
To get to Wolong, you must first get to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province and a city well worth a day or two for its food, its temples and extensive gardens (especially that of the poet Du Fu), and its teahouses, where people really do spend afternoons playing mah-jongg or bursting into song.
Wolong is roughly four hours of difficult driving west from Chengdu, up into the mountains on a twisting road now undergoing major repairs. We made our arrangements through the Chengdu travel agent Peter Woo (Peter@WestChinaAdventures.com). For about $380, we hired a car and driver for the trip up and back, plus two nights at the Wolong Hotel, five miles away. It is a “four-star” hotel minus some of what that would imply elsewhere (e.g., coffee, Internet service of any kind)—but hey, pandas!
Most foreigners who see how modestly the panda center is run, and how much it relies on donations, wonder how they can help. The main U.S.-based conduit for tax-deductible contributions is www.pandasinternational.org.
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