Pandas…in a Submarine

Our daughter came up with the headline for this post, and it perfectly captures the highlights of our recent trip to China and Hawaii.

We started off in Beijing for a day or so, but, really, the focus of this trip was Chengdu and the Panda Breeding and Research Center. And the focus of the visit to the Panda Breeding and Research Center was to hold a real-live baby panda!

As you can see from the photos, the panda cub was about 10 months old and roughly 50 pounds. (Any bigger and the experience would be problematic, as pandas play rough.) The panda cub is eating bamboo coated with honey, which is in large part responsible for its mellow and beatific behavior. All of us wore booties over our shoes and giant blue smocks. The Center was great about time spent with the panda cub, with plenty of time to pet the panda (although we were instructed not to pet the face or ears) and the ability to take plenty of photos.

the family with a baby panda!

the family with a baby panda!

Jim with a baby panda

Jim with a baby panda

May with a baby panda

May with a baby panda

Marcus with a baby panda

Marcus with a baby panda

Our daughter had the highlight of the visit, as the panda cub put his paw on her in apparent solidarity. The rest of us saw the resemblance between the two (fluffy, likes to eat and sleep, solitary) and understood why there was such a bond between them. 🙂

Jade with a baby panda

Jade with a baby panda

Meeting the panda cub was such a highlight that our stay in the Aman Hotel, with its secret door to the Summer Palace (my favorite place in Beijing) that allows you to visit the Summer Palace before opening hours was a distant second in trip highlights (a distant third if you count the Hawaii portion).

But, despite that, here’s the Long Corridor in the Summer Palace with NO people (unheard of in a city of 15 million people).

an empty Summer Palace

an empty Summer Palace

With respect to the Hawaii portion of our trip, thanks to a friend of ours who is a naval officer, we were able to tour the USS Olympia, a Los Angeles-class fast attack nuclear-powered submarine. We weren’t able to take photos due to security concerns, but to be able to tour the sub was awesomely cool. We were obviously not allowed near the nuclear reactor or the engine room, but we toured the control room and the rest of the sub. For those who are wondering, there are five (!) bathrooms for the approximately 120 folks aboard the sub. The torpedoes are 4,000 pounds each and are transported to the torpedo tubes using a hydraulic system. It is an incredible feat of design and engineering. And submariners have to be a bit crazy—you certainly can’t mind small enclosed spaces, and you certainly have to be comfortable always being surrounded by people (introverts need not apply).

Added to that was an admiral boat’s tour of Pearl Harbor, surfing lessons every day for the kids, and shave ice at Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha (and meals at Town, Chef Mavro, and Alan Wong’s). Honolulu was pretty perfect.

All in all, a great addition to the family vacation memory book!

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