When I first learned that the Asia for Animals Conference 2011 would be held in Chengdu, Sichuan, China, I assumed, perhaps unfairly, that we would have our work cut out in a country known for abuses against animals, particularly wildlife, and that vegetarian food would not be available outside of the Conference venue. I even flew to China with over 10 kilogrammes of instant aloo gobi, granola bars and instant mashed potatoes in my rucksack.
Chengdu exceeded my expectations, but perhaps it was only because I was in very good company. Here are photos taken while exploring Chengdu on foot and by Metro with my gang.
Chinese cyclists and motorcyclists. For a communist country, China sure is lawless! Nobody wears a helmet or a seatbelt and they all drive in any damn direction they please. It was like being in a blender, with vehicles going in all directions at high speed.
Chairman Mao at Tianfu Square. Outside the Sichuan Museum of Science and Technology. Very commie. Even the musical fountains are ludicrously commie.
A cart selling fresh peaches outside a convenience store across the road from a bank. Gloriously cheap, at only 5 peaches for 5 yuan. It would have cost me 3-4 times the amount back home.
A petty trader on his overladen bike. This is the kind of stuff you see in those "Only In China" e-mail forwards.
Ha! A Chinese child soldier! I don't think he was forcibly conscripted. He looks too pleased with himself.
Blown sugar animals on sale at a stall in Jingli Street! No animals were harmed in the process of making these treats!
Sugar animals for sale, also at Jingli Street, a tourist attraction. The sugar animals were made using molasses poured over a flat surface.
Shadow puppets at Jingli Street.
Jingli Street, illuminated by lanterns at night.
Animated light displays at Tianfu Square. So this is what our coal-fired power plants were providing so much energy for!
Waiting for our food to arrive at Loving Hut Vegan Restaurant. Good thing we eat 3 hrs after the average Chinaman has dinner, so we had the cooks and waitresses all to ourselves. I stretched my linguistic abilities to the utmost in China as I had to play the role of translator to my friends from India.
Yeah, in case of emergency, evacuate the schematic drawing at all costs. To hell with your passports and valuables.
Another vegan restaurant that we loved very much and frequented for the entire week, located in Wenshu Monastery. The food was spicy and delicious.
Classical Chinese architecture in Wenshu Monastery. Check out the multi-inclined roofs!
An obliging Chinaman helped me take this photo. I went out to play with the temple cats within the compound of Wenshu Monastery while waiting for our food to arrive.
We ended up watching the Sichuan Opera on our second last night there. A bit like the noisy affairs we get every Seventh Month of the Lunar calendar. Only pricier.
The whole play, I was obsessing over what feathers those were (peacock? silver pheasant?) and how they were extracted from the bird. Once an animal activist, always an animal activist!
"Changing Faces", known in Mandarin as "Bian Lian". I used to be obsessed with lion dance and bian lian performances when I was young. Until I learned that most of the bian lian masks were made of silk. Poor silkworms!
Yearling pandas at the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research base. I felt sorry for them because their enclosures reminded me of the SPCA Sick Bay kennels.
Cheeky red pandas at the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Base. At least there is more enrichment in their enclosures.
Tian Tian, at age 20 (60 in human years), is a senior citizen at the Panda Breeding and Research Base.
With my buddies outside the main prayer hall in Wenshu Monastery. May we always continue to work towards improving the welfare and lives of animals everywhere!