I have just returned from a wonderful trip to Chengdu and its Panda Research Base. What a fantastic place it is. I have been a fan of pandas since before I can remember and it has always been my life ambition to actually touch one. Well, in Chengdu I managed to do this. The Research Base is an excellent place for the pandas. They are very well looked after and the enclosures are huge. We saw a total of 24 pandas while we were there and that included 9 babies (about 6 months old). For 400 rmb ($50) I got to stand behind a female panda and touched/stroked her head and ears. It was magical. Some people may say it's not worth the money, but to me it was worth every penny. I also got to hold a red panda too. They do make you put on plastic gloves and booties to cover your shoes which does limit the actual "touching" of the panda. We were there in January when it was freezing cold, so the panda just felt wet and cold to me although I could feel the thickness of her fur. It really was an experience that I will never forget. Somebody said it was not worth visiting there in the Winter but I would totally disagree. We practically had the place to ourselves. All the pandas were out, eating and playing. It was very cold, but take a good coat, hat and gloves!
We found a local tour guide here on the Forum who took us around the Panda base and also to a local monastry. He was exceptional, very knowledgable, spoke excellent English and was a pleasure to be with. I would recommend him wholeheartedly. He picked us up from Chengdu airport and took us to our hotel. The next day he picked us up at 8am and took us to the panda base. After about 4 hours we headed to a local monastry and he guided us around there, later dropping us back at our hotel. His e-mail address is email@example.com and his name is Mikal if anyone needs an excellent guide while in Chengdu.