Budget – March 2018

There seem to be a bazillion nomad bloggers out there talking about how cheap it is to travel, but very few are open about their finances. We’ve gotten quite a few questions about how we can afford to travel full-time, so we’ve decided to open up the books and do a monthly post with the details of our budget. The hope is that these posts will help prepare others who are thinking about jumping into the nomad life, and help us re-assess our spending habits. Enjoy!

There seem to be a bazillion travel bloggers out there talking about how cheap it is to travel, but very few are open about their finances. We’ve gotten quite a few questions about how we can afford to travel full-time, so we’ve decided to open up the books and do a monthly post with the details of our travel budget. The hope is that these posts will help prepare others who are thinking about jumping into the nomad life, and help us re-assess our spending habits. Enjoy this Malaysia travel budget!

Check out our full-time travel budgets for another month. ♥


Malaysia has proven to be a bit more expensive than China, both for food and lodging costs. However, we were able to keep our spending on track (mostly), and really save a lot at our housesit in KL. Our goal budget for this journey is $200 per week, putting us at $800 to spend for the month of March and our Malaysia travel budget.

  • Average Daily Food Cost: $11 per day
    • Hotel – Breakfast was included, so we only needed a light snack, and dinner each day
    • House Sit – Groceries for three meals and snack per day. One night dining out per week.
  • Average Daily Lodging: $10 per night
    • Hotel – $20 per night for basic room in questionable neighborhood
    • House Sit – $0 per night for luxury home, pool, and car use

Money Spent: -($818)

Income: $157

Monthly Net: -($661)


Three Month Spending Total: -($3,585)

Three Month Earning Total: $852

Total Journey Net: -($2,733)

(Goal was -$2,600 for month three)


Week One Malaysia Travel Budget: -($200)

We were very happy to stay exactly on budget this week. It took a little extra effort to balance the cost of food, but we made it! We loaded up on hotel breakfast every morning and tried to hold off for as long as we could until dinner. It wasn’t a strict rule. If we were hungry, we ate. But if we weren’t hungry, we did our best not to spend money on food we didn’t need. At the end of the week, we were feeling healthy and were excited about our spending. We spent $200.

Read about the amazing food in Kuala Lumpur. ♥

This month, we are cutting down on the amount of “unfocused” work we are doing. Josh has one last project on UpWork to complete, then one hour a day going forward. It won’t make us a lot of money, but will hopefully provide us more time to focus on the projects we truly want to do. We made $0.

Week Two Malaysia Travel Budget: – ($123)

We started our house sit this week! Once again, we found this arrangement to not only be comfortable and fun, but a great way to save money. We purchased groceries and cooked most meals at home. We spent $160.

Meet Molly, our new furry friend! 

Josh made some money from his one hour per day UpWork time. We made $37.

Week Three Malaysia Travel Budget: – ($172)

Even without trying, we totally nailed this week. We only went over budget on two of the days; once for a nice dinner out and another for our trip to KL Tower. We found some fish at the grocery store we really liked, making the home-cooking even more enjoyable. We spent $192.

Read about our KL Tower adventure. 

We made $20.

Week Four Malaysia Travel Budget: – ($166)

As per usual, our transition week was a little more difficult than the others. We moved from our house sit in Kuala Lumpur to Penang. We’re here for a short excursion before heading to our next house sit in Thailand. The train tickets, food, and hotel costs weren’t too bad, but always a bit more than I would like. We spent $265.

Josh has been working really hard this month to publish two short stories in addition to his CannaHealth article each week. He has been doing an amazing job and even made his first dollar as an author!!! He made $1.80 from people viewing his story, “Open Letter to my Hostel Roommates“. I’m so super proud of him! We made $100.

_Open Letter to My Hostel Roommates_


Each month seems to get better and better. For our third month over-seas, we are feeling very good. We only barely spent over our travel budget and were able to offset quite a bit with some income. We still aren’t breaking even, but each month gets closer and closer.

I can not wait to see what next month has in store!!


Instagram advertisement for @theplaceswelive. It has a blue box labeled "Follow us on Instagram" and is surrounded by four pictures. One is of a woman dancing in a desert. Under that a bowl of pork noodles. Then a photo of a bridge in Chengdu, China. Under that a photo of a farm in Yangshuo, China.


 

Eating Our Way Through KL

The residence of KL are a mixed bag of ethnically different people. There are large populations of people from India, China (mostly Cantonese), and of course the native Malaysians. Even though there are different backgrounds represented, they all share one thing in common: an incredible respect and kindness for others. Not only is it an inspiring setting for world peace, but it is a foodie’s dream come true.

Did food somehow change when I wasn’t looking? I seem to be living in a world where food can no longer be bad. Spicy food is suddenly delicious instead of painful and burn-y. Foreign spices that once would have me wrinkling up my nose have a new savor to them. Am I losing my sense of taste? Or have I just been lucky enough to eat only amazing food on this journey? I’m guessing the latter, but the odds just seem so high against it that I’m starting to wonder if I’ve been transported to an alternate, more delicious dimension.

That’s right. Food in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is just as amazing as China. The flavor profile is entirely different, but everything I have put in my mouth has been one of the best things I have ever eaten. The only downside is that we’ve started a new diet, so we aren’t getting nearly as much of this deliciousness as we want!

The residents of KL are a mixed bag of ethnically different people. There are large populations of people from India, China (mostly Cantonese), and of course the native Malaysians. Even though there are different backgrounds represented, they all share one thing in common: an incredible respect and kindness for others. Not only is it an inspiring setting for world peace, but it is a foodie’s dream come true. This is just a taste of the amazing things we’ve eaten and places we’ve been.

Curry House

One of the more popular types of restaurants in KL are the Curry Houses. They seem to be everywhere, even right next door to our hotel. There are always groups of people sitting outside with tasty looking food, and others waiting in line inside, so we had to give it a try. We hopped in the line and watched everyone else order. Everything looked good, so I wasn’t too worried about trying to communicate exactly what I wanted. When it was my turn, I simply pointed to someone else’s dish and said I wanted that. I ended up with fried rice with a whole boiled egg in it, slow-cooked chicken, and a cucumber salad. It was buttery, juicy, and oh so good.

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The curry chicken is served on the bone. We used our utensils to eat it, but almost everyone just grabs the saucy mess with their hands.

Once we got our food, we grabbed some sodas from a vendor further inside the restaurant and sat down. A waiter came by and made sure we were comfortable, then pulled out his tablet (which seemed very out of place), totaled us up, and handed us a numbered card. After eating, we took our card up to the register near the front and were charged 17RM/$4.35 for our meal.

Little India

One of my favorite dining adventures so far was our trip to Little India in the Brickfields District. There were plenty of authentic restaurants to choose from, so we went with the first one we saw that looked easy to navigate (not all restaurants have menus or an obvious starting point). I got rice and fried chicken with a spicy sauce.

In several of the restaurants we have been to, we have seen scattered groups of people eating with their hands. At this restaurant nearly everyone was eating with their hands. Even the well-dressed young man sitting next to us in his pressed, purple button up and silk tie. So, we washed up and went for it. I had never considered how difficult it would be to eat rice with my hands. It was quite the challenge. If you’re feeling brave and not too self-conscious, I suggest you give it a try (at home, alone, where no one else will see you with sauce all over your face and fingers).

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I am very focused on getting the rice into my mouth without spilling it all over my lap.

New Meat: Sting Ray

To my lovely vegan, vegetarian, and meat-sensitive friends, please stop reading. Everyone has a weakness… this is mine.

Those of you that know me well will know that I set a goal for myself as a child to try as many different meats as possible. I’ve had the pleasure of trying all sorts of exotic meats like bear, snake, alligator, kangaroo, scorpions, worms, pigeons, shark, and even the Chinese delicacy that must not be named. But I have a new addition to add to my list: sting ray. Check out the video of this experience below:

We’ve only been here for a week, and already we are overwhelmed by the sheer number of food options available. We’ve had some amazing Chinese and Indian food already, and have picked out some Thai, Vietnamese, Moroccan, and other great looking restaurants and roadside stands. I can’t wait to try them all!

The Places We Live – Pudu, Kuala Lumpur

For our first two weeks in Kuala Lumpur, we are staying in Hote123, a cheap hotel in the neighborhood of Pudu. Pudu does not offer much in the way of tourist attractions, but there is a convenient KL Rapid Transit stop and a nice variety of local restaurants. Once we got use to it (and got over the fact that the internet is very spotty), we found ourselves really enjoying our quaint hotel in this local neighborhood.

We’re just wrapping up our first week in KL, and we LOVE it here! It is a bit hot at 90 degrees every day, but it is also monsoon season, so there is a cool breeze and a heavy rain to cool things off a bit. The other great touch is the air quality. It feels very nice to finally breathe again.

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Kuala Lumpur is located in the country of Malaysia in SE Asia. Malaysia is a peninsula (plus some islands and a piece of Borneo) and Kuala Lumpur is just West of the center of it. The three major ethnic groups found in Kuala Lumpur are Malay, Chinese, and Indian, with the top two religions being Islam and Buddhism. The national language is Bahasa Malaysia, although English is very commonly used in schools and business settings. (Wikipedia)

For our first two weeks in Kuala Lumpur, we are staying in Hote123, a cheap hotel in the neighborhood of Pudu. Pudu does not offer much in the way of tourist attractions, but there is a convenient KL Rapid Transit stop and a nice variety of local restaurants. Once we got used to it (and got over the fact that the internet is very spotty), we found ourselves really enjoying our quaint hotel in this local neighborhood.

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Pudu is Southeast of the Kuala Lumpur City Center which houses most of the major attractions.

The hotel is comfortable with a few different sitting areas on the first floor and another on the rooftop terrace. All of the staff have been crazy friendly and I get the impression that I could literally ask them anything and get an honest answer without judgment. They offer free coffee, tea, and water throughout the day and there is a washing machine for clothes on the terrace.

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Breakfast is 5RM each and is the same every day: Coffee, tea, water, toast (choice of butter or peanut butter), breakfast noodles, and fried rice.

We booked the cheapest possible room online, but were upgraded upon arrival to an identical room… but with a window. That’s right, we originally booked a room without a window! The only problem is that our window overlooks a night club, so I’m not really sure if it is better or not.

The room has two twin beds, a shelf, night stand, large TV (with only five channels), and a huge desk and chair. For a budget room, it is appointed decently well and kept very clean. We have seen a couple of ants roaming around and we now have a pet gecko that we’ve named Hector, but otherwise the room seems to be pest free.

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Our room with our “must haves” from home: framed photo of our besties and travel-sized CO Detector.

The bathroom is quite nice, but Asian in style. We have a sink, mirror, Western toilet, and a shower. As you can see in the picture below, we do not have a shower curtain. This is quite common throughout Asia, so if you are looking for a hotel and don’t see a curtain or divider in the ads, assume there isn’t one. Once you get used to it, it really isn’t so bad. We have found the best practice is to lift the lid of the toilet before showering. This helps the toilet seat dry faster. It can be a little uncomfortable at first to hang out in a bathroom that is wet from wall to wall but, with practice, one can learn to ignore it.

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We just have one more week left in this hotel before we move a little farther North for our house sit. I am particularly excited for this one because it includes a pool! After two weeks of this hot and humid weather, I think a dip in the pool will be exactly what I need to stay cool and feel refreshed! Also, it will be in a much nicer neighborhood, so we’ll get the chance to save up some cash while getting a taste of the good life. Still, our little hotel has been pretty great, with a friendly and (mostly) attentive staff, good surroundings, at a good price.

KL Forest Eco Park

The KL Forest Eco Park hosts the oldest permanent rain forest reserve in Malaysia, and it’s the only natural rain forest in the world to be located in a city center. If that wasn’t enough to earn a star, then maybe it was the fact that the KL Forest Eco Park ticket price was free (March 2018). 

When we told our friends and family about our plans for the year, Kuala Lumpur (known as “KL” to the locals) was not on the list. This wasn’t intentional, we just didn’t know we would be coming here! We ended up booking a two-week house sit, and since the whole plan is to go where the wind takes us, it seemed like a great opportunity to go somewhere new and unexpected.

With only two weeks notice, I didn’t have a lot of time to plan and had no idea what to expect. I had done a one-day guided tour from Singapore into Malaysia once when I was kid, but it was through some poor fishing villages in the south. I had no idea whether or not the entire country was like that; we came in almost completely blind, with no idea of what to expect in terms of local culture, food, economy, and adventures.

Thankfully, I am an avid travel planner. Every time I see a travel picture I like on Pinterest, some delicious dish on Instragram, or an enticing adventure on my favorite travel shows, I “star” it on Google Maps. I have stars scattered all over that thing in every corner of the world. So I already had a number of stars around Kuala Lumpur when we arrived.

As Josh and I were walking around on our first day I noticed a star on KL Forest Eco Park. I had starred it so long ago I couldn’t remember why.  Is it good for birding or hiking? Is there a rare plant or animal inside? Does it have historic significance? Without internet, it remained a mystery. We decided to check it out, hoping I would know what I was looking for when I found it.

The KL Forest Eco Park hosts the oldest permanent rain forest reserve in Malaysia, and it’s the only natural rain forest in the world to be located in a city center. If that wasn’t enough to earn a star, then maybe it was the fact that the KL Forest Eco Park ticket price was free (March 2018). We walked right in and enjoyed a couple of different, well-maintained trails that weaved through the park. The trees were old and tall and thick with leaves. I didn’t see a lot of birds, flowers, or even bugs, but there was a lot of greenery and almost all of it looked tenacious.

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One path we ran into had a larger sign than the others and looked quite lovely. We enjoyed a stroll up the side of a small hill and noticed what looked like a tree house off to the left. Although Josh was interested in checking out the tree house, he was also skeptical due to his fear of heights. But, he was a good sport, took a deep breath, and climbed up.

The view from the top not only gave us a beautiful view of the tree tops, but access to what must be the REAL reason I starred this particular park: KL Forest Eco Park Canopy Walk. 650 feet long and 69 feet off the ground, the series of sky bridges was formidable. Josh immediately panicked when we got to the top to see them towering through the forest in all of their glory… and with a small child bawling her face off trying to walk across one.

After some (I’m using the word “some” simply out of politeness) goading, I was finally able to get Josh to walk across the bridge. Little did he know, that the other side didn’t provide a way back down to ground level, but instead another sky bridge… and another… and four more. He was a good sport, sweating, and slinking across each bridge with the poise of a scared cat. And, to both of our surprise, he made it all the way to the end. He claims it is the scariest thing he has ever done.

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My story isn’t nearly as dramatic. The Canopy Walk looked scary with wood planks and rope sides, but hidden underneath was a thick layer of metal gratings and steel reinforcements. The sky bridges were steady with only a little bit of movement. The view was awesome. I loved looking at these old and gnarled trees up close. I only wish we had seen some of the monkeys that are said to be spotted there.

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I think it is a good sign that our first adventure in Kuala Lumpur was successful and blog worthy. I have had a chance to review some of my other Google Map stars and am really looking forward to the adventures we have ahead of us… including ANOTHER rendition of Adventures in Eating at KFC!

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Budget – February 2018

There seem to be a bazillion nomad bloggers out there talking about how cheap it is to travel, but very few are open about their finances. We’ve gotten quite a few questions about how we can afford to travel full-time, so we’ve decided to open up the books and do a monthly post with the details of our budget. The hope is that these posts will help prepare others who are thinking about jumping into the nomad life, and help us re-assess our spending habits. Enjoy!

There seem to be a bazillion travel bloggers out there talking about how cheap it is to travel, but very few are open about their finances. We’ve gotten quite a few questions about how we can afford to travel full-time, so we’ve decided to open up the books and do a monthly post with the details of our budget. The hope is that these posts will help prepare others who are thinking about jumping into the nomad life, and help us re-assess our spending habits. Enjoy!


Our goal budget for this journey is $200 per week, putting us at $800 to spend for the month of February.

We did not live a life of the rich and famous, but we didn’t go without either. China is quite suitable for $800 per month for two people.

  • Average Daily Food Cost: $11
    • The time at our house sit included two home cooked meals and one meal out.
    • Outside of the house sit, we ate out for all three meals. We also enjoyed one cup of coffee and three cans of either beer or soda per day.
  • Average Daily Lodging: $7.50
    • Two weeks in the private room at the Yangshuo hostel were $14 per night.
    • Two weeks in our house sit were FREE.
    • One week in our two different dorm beds at the Chengdu hostels were $11 per night.
    • All of our lodging included Wifi, VPN (expect for three days), and free water.

Money Spent: $1,128

Income: $387

Monthly Net: -($741)


Two Month Total:

$692 (Income) – $2,662 (Spent) = -($1,970) 


Week One Net: -($178)

Despite some big nights out, we still came very close to sticking to our $200 budget. We rented a scooter for a day, ate a big meal of beer fish, and had a date night with a fancy Indian dinner and two import beers. We spent $202.

We reached our goal of 2,000 views on the blog for the month of January. I’m still not famous, but I feel pretty awesome!! I even made a little bit of money from AdWords (the annoying advertisements on the bottom of the page) of $0.46! May not be much, but that is enough for a small breakfast here.

Josh had a couple of long-term jobs on UpWork, so he was only able to close one contract for the week. We made $24.

Week Two Net: – ($149)

Week two was a travel week. We caught a taxi to the bus station in Yangshuo, a bus from there to the train station in Guilin, a train from Guilin to Chengdu, then a subway to our hostel in Chengdu. That adventure set us back ¥100/$16. We stayed at The Mix Hostel in a dorm room for a couple of days. The price was decent, but we lacked for comfort.

But the exciting news of the week was our house sitting job!!! We moved out of the hostel and moved into our house sit in Southern Chengdu where we watched a dog in exchange for a free place to stay. So, we went rent free for the next 12 days!! Whoop! In addition to our free accommodations, we had a great kitchen that allowed us to buy groceries which also saved us a ton of money. We spent $171.

It was another slow work week. We made $22.

Week Three Net: -($493)

In general, we did pretty awesome this week. We had one day where we spent nothing and three other days that were under $14. We really got into the swing of things eating more at home and only purchasing what we needed, when we needed it. However, as you can see from the sub heading, we still had a couple of really big purchases. First was a new charger for Josh’s computer. We tried to put it off for as long as we could, but both realized that we were selling ourselves short by sharing a computer. So, we bit the bullet and purchased a new charger at the Apple Store for $99. We also purchased our plane tickets to Kuala Lumpur for $313 (two direct flights). The ticket prices are amazing, but really cut into the budget. We spent $525.

Josh wrapped up one project for $23 and I made $10 on my Amazon.com eGift Cards link!!  We made $33.

Week Four Net: +$78

This was our hardest week due to the move out of our house sit, into a hostel, then into the more expensive city of Kuala Lumpur. Even with a $50 gift card applied, we are still paying 58RM/$15 per day for the 14 nights we booked at our KL hotel. That only leaves us with 43RM/$11 left to spend on other expenses per day. Thankfully, food and transportation are fairly cheap, but still not enough to keep us under budget. We have gone over our 101RM budget every day since we have arrived in KL. We spent $230.

Fortunately, all of those big projects Josh has been working on are finally getting wrapped up. He edited a woman’s non-fiction novel, wrote an essay about intermittent fasting, researched and wrote an article about drug testing, and summarized another research paper for CannaHealthWe made $387.


For our second month overseas, we still have not met our budget goals, but we did get much closer AND came in under $800 for the month’s total net. Overall, we feel pretty good about it. Some learnings this month were:

I have 50% of the rest of our journey booked with house sits. My goal is to bump that up to 75% by the end of next month. That should save us quite a bit of money on food and lodging, but will add to the travel costs (although that was going to be an expense regardless).

Josh and I also had a long talk about his UpWork “career” and have decided to pull back a little bit. He is going to continue to write for CannaHealth, but will otherwise focus more on his short stories. We put together a plan for the month that would have him doing brand building and creative writing for at least five hours per day. I think he will enjoy this much more and, if we start now, will hopefully start making some money at it within the next few months. It’s a risk, but one we are willing to take. I’ll update you on his work in a couple weeks.

Please check out our new branded Facebook pages:

The Places We Live Facebook Page

J. Brandon Lowry (Writer) Facebook Page

Travel Day – Chengdu to Kuala Lumpur

It’s that time. We have maxed out our visas and have to leave the country before the start of the month.

It’s that time. We have maxed out our visas and have to leave the country before the start of the month. After one final night of exploring Chengdu and taking note of the places we need to come back to this summer, we grabbed a ticket for the metro and were on our way.

Grassy park with flower landscaping and panda statues in Chengdu, China

Check-in and customs were no trouble at all. We zoomed right through without any problems. Our flight was on Air Asia, one of Asia’s discount airlines. The plane was large and clean, but there was a strict note on the website, on my ticket, and in the ongoing announcements that no outside food is allowed on the plane. I was a bit worried about this, but assumed that meant they would feed us.

Unfortunately, it was a very Chinese style flight. The passengers rarely listened to directions, talked loudly throughout the entire flight, and paid absolutely no attention to the no outside food rule. To top it off, the airline only provided items for purchase… including WATER. That’s right, I went on a five hour plane ride without water because I was told not to bring any on the plane. What?! I guess I should have read the fine print… or ignored the large print.

I don’t think it will come as a surprise when I say that we were a bit cranky upon our arrival in Malaysia. We ignored the polite greetings from nearly every staff member in the airport, half-listened to the delightfully artsy and charismatic Uber driver, and barely showed our impatience to the kind and giggly hotel clerk. We were tired, we were hungry, and I needed some damn WATER!

Our hotel is in what looked liked a bad side of town. Our room faces a night club that blared music all night. There are ants on our floor. We got two twin beds instead of one queen. Our internet access was spotty. Despite how tired we were, we knew it would be a long and sleepless night.

Then we fell instantly and completely asleep.

We woke up refreshed and with a completely different outlook. The weather was warm and sunny. We had a delicious breakfast at the hotel, complete with real drip coffee. And in the daylight, our neighborhood isn’t really that bad. Heck, we’re in walking distance of an IKEA. We took a long walk around this afternoon, and as of right now, I feel pretty confident that we are going to love it here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This is a brand new country for us, with a whole host of new adventures, and we can’t wait to get out and experience it all!

Woman sitting in front of "I Heart KL Tower, Malaysia" sign

 

 

Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base

Guess what we did today?!! We woke up bright and early this morning to make the hour long trek to see China’s national treasure, the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base!

I read a lot of reviews that suggested we visit as soon as the park opens at 8AM. That is when the pandas are most active and the crowds are smaller. We left at a way too late 7:30, walked to the metro, hopped Line 1, switched to Line 3, got off at Panda Ave, then caught a shuttle to the entrance of the research base. It took us a little over an hour and cost ¥7 plus the ¥55 entrance fee each, putting us at a total of about $20 for the morning. But then, we were in.

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It was similar to Disney World in that everything was brightly decorated, only this time with pandas, and there were large crowds of impatient and excited people everywhere. The park is laid out in loops surrounding the various enclosures. The giant panda areas included a section for the babies, one for breeding, and one for nursing… I think. Each of the enclosures were of a decent size and the pandas looked to be in good health and well treated.

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Although we did arrive quite early, there were very few active pandas. The crowds were a bit smaller in the morning than in the afternoon though, so that was nice. But the crowds were still enough to alter the way I like to explore a zoo. Like the picture above? Here is a shot of me taking it:

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Not ideal.

Our favorite section, however, held the red panda enclosures. The crowds were smaller in this section. I say the people who skipped it missed out. These guys were so cute and active! There were a few different enclosures with several pandas in each, roaming around on the ground or climbing trees.

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There was even one section that was walled off for the guests to walk around in with the red pandas! We did not realize this was the case until I turned a corner and screamed with surprise (and let’s be honest, a little fear). Josh came running to find me standing face to face with a red panda only a few feet in front of me. It climbed up a tree and my shouts attracted the attention of the crowds, but it was still cool.

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We finally had a blog-worthy adventure in Chengdu and it was awesome! The pandas had so much character and the park was very pretty. After another full hour trip home, it was really nice to plop on the couch and look through all of our fun pictures.