Lin Ping, the panda bear most beloved by Thais because she was born in their country and even has a TV channel dedicated to her alone, traveled to China Saturday looking for a mate.

The popular animal boarded a Thai Airways plane for what has been dubbed her "Flight of Love" at the airport in the northern city of Chiang Mai where she was born four years ago, according to the local Bangkok Post newspaper.

A veterinarian will accompany the panda throughout the trip, during which she will not want for favorite foods like bamboo and fruit, nor fun in the form of such toys as plastic balls and rubber tires.

A crowd of curiosity-seekers, fans, and even the prime minister were on hand to see off the animal that has grown up within sight of all Thais in the land thanks to having her own TV channel.

Thai authorities will pay the Chinese government $1 million a year for the panda that Lin Ping falls for in the central Chinese city of Chengdu.

Then in 2014 the panda pair will fly to Thailand to raise a family for at least 15 years.

Lin Ping was a cub conceived by the artificial insemination of Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui, two pandas provided by Beijing to Thailand in October 2003 for a period of 10 years at a fee of $250,000.

The Chiang Mai Zoo has collected more than 200 million baht (some $6.8 million) through the sale of tickets to see the Chinese pandas. EFE