I got up at 5, finished packing, checked out, ate breakfast, and took a quick and easy taxi ride to the airport. Not much traffic early saturday mornings. Checking in was uneventful, a welcome change from my last domestic flight to Lhasa. I met Claire at the gate and we boarded on time. Unfortunately we then sat in the plane for over an hour before take-off. After that it was an easy flight.
We took a taxi into town. Im staying a the Shangri-La, one of the best in town. Four people checked me in (literally, two people behind the counter, the bellhop standing next to me with my bag, and a guest relations person standing by me too, for no apparent reason), and two escorted me to my very nice but not huge upgraded room. There was a very nice bowl of fruit waiting.
If I didnt know that there was a huge earthquake here just three years ago, I would never guess it. Theres a huge statue of Mao in the main square here, and theres a joke that a traveller going by wondered why Mao was waving. Only a resilient people can make jokes about an event that killed 68,000.
We left immediately for Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. For visitors, its a very nice panda-only zoo with almost 100 pandas (both giant and red) in mostly decent natural habitats. You can get really close to them and we even saw 7 babies about 3 months old, but werent allowed to take photos of them. The only odd thing was that there were almost no children there, it was all adults. I was an attraction again, with my photo taken with/by a Chinese tourist but at least they asked. I should have gotten a photo too, but I didnt think of it until it was too late.
After the Panda Base we strolled around a rebuilt traditional Sichuan area, Kuai Zhai Lane. Among other things, it has the nicest Starbucks Ive seen anywhere.
We bought some souvenirs at the panda shop (Claire is crazy about them), then took off in a light rain for a traditional Sichuan hot pot dinner at Huang Cheng ao Ma on Qintai Road. Its a hugely popular local place.
We had our own tiny room and ordered a long list of things to cook on our own personal hot pot (a combination of broth with peppers, spcices etc.). You put your own food in, let it cook for a while and fish it out into a bowl of sesame oil with tons of garlic in it. It might not sound great, but it is absolutely delicious.
By then we were exhausted and went back to our hotels (the locals stay in the local hotels when we travel together).
I've started and/or run too many venture capital-backed software companies, plus one ill-fated food startup.