I was lounging in one of the hundreds of bamboo chairs, expecting to spend the afternoon reading, when a Chinese man pointed to the sky and tugged me under a shelter. As the deluge began, I found myself the center of a crowded table in a bamboo pavilion. An interlocutor simultaneously practiced his English and ferried questions and answers back and forth. I never did get any reading done, but I learned a lot about Chinese politics, modern economics--and perhaps most important, the desire and willingness of people continents apart to bridge two worlds.
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For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday April 30, 2000 Home Edition Travel Part L Page 6 Travel Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
China route--The airline route on China Southern Airlines was incorrectly reported ("Chengdu, the Panda Capital," April 23). The China Southern flight to Chengdu stops in Guangzhou.
Checking Out Chengdu
Getting there: China Southern Airlines flies direct from LAX to Chengdu, with one stop in Beijing. Restricted round-trip air fares begin at $2,075, but package tours can make a trip to China more affordable.
Seeing the pandas: The best time to view them at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is from 8:30 to 10 a.m. A taxi is the only way to reach the center, six miles from downtown on Panda Road, telephone 011-86-28-351-6911.
Where to stay: The Minshan Hotel on Renmin Nan Lu, tel. 011-86-28-558-3333, fax 011-86-28-558-2154, Internet http://www.asiatravel.com/china/minshan, is a sleek, 21-story international business hotel. Doubles range from $120-$250.
The Jiaotong Hotel (often called the Traffic Hotel), 77 Lingjiang Road, tel. 011-86-28-545-1017, fax 011-86-28-545-2777, Internet http://www.sinohotel.com/chengdu/traffic, is a longtime favorite of backpackers. Doubles with private baths begin at $50, and four-bed dorm rooms cost about $20.
Where to eat: The Long-chaoshou Special Restaurant, near Chunxi Lu and Dong Dajie, local tel. 666-6947, offers snack courses that run the Sichuan culinary spectrum from sweet to fiery. Cost: between 60 cents and a couple of dollars.
At the Chengdu Restaurant, 134 Shangdong Daijie, tel. 666-6085, dinners run from $1 to $4.
The Wenshu Monastery, tel. 674-2375, is a 15-minute walk north of the giant Mao statue on Renmin Zhong Lu. Dishes run from 40 cents to 80 cents. A large bowl of rice costs about a dime.
For more information: China National Tourist Office, 600 W. Broadway, Suite 320, Glendale, CA 91204; tel. (818) 545-7507, fax (818) 545-7506, Internet http://www.cnto.org.