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30 Pandas for 30 yuan

. . . and 30 mosquito bites for free!

overcast 31 °C

Since Martin’s detour to visit the Leshan Buddha had brought us to Chengdu, I was very pleased to have the opportunity to visit the city’s famous Panda Research Centre, which is one of the most successful in the world. It was almost an hour’s taxi ride away from the hotel, and we left early to arrive as soon as the park opened at 8am; feeding takes place in the morning and we were advised that this was when the pandas would be most active. And so we found ourselves paying our 30 yuan each (about US$3.50) and strolling through a surprisingly cool and grey early morning. We had low expectations for our visit: if we saw a couple pandas, we’d be happy customers. If we caught a glimpse of some of the recent arrivals, we’d be over the moon. Certainly, I don’t think any of us was expecting the panda-fest that was moments away as we accelerated our pace to out-maneuver the omni-present groups of loud, rude Chinese tourists.

The first enclosure we reached was for sub-adults (adolescents), and we were treated with three extremely playful youngsters frolicking around.

As the first group of non-Chinese to arrive, we were practically as much on display as the pandas, and we continue to do our best to be good ambassadors despite extraordinary rudeness that seems to be the norm for Chinese groups. Now, by this time, we’re quite used to being barged through or being subjected to speaking volumes at least five times louder than our ears can deal with, but we were surprised that little if any consideration was given to the pandas’ presence, despite many reminders (in both Mandarin and English) talking of the ‘national treasure’ around us. Some individuals shouted to try and get the pandas to turn for photos (interestingly, “hello, hello” seemed to be the favourite call – perhaps they think the pandas speak English?). Others threw bamboo at the pandas (which were mere feet away from us and completely exposed), which we found quite shocking.

Perhaps the highlight of the visit was being able to see three of the centre’s very young cubs (they’ve had nine so far this year, weighing from 100 to 200 grams at birth!). Happily, the cubs were very well protected in indoor displays, presumably with soundproof glass protecting the cubs from the loud Chinese tourists who completely ignored any requests to be quiet for the benefit of the babies. Photos were not allowed, although Lloyd managed to sneak a little video, and from which he’s also managed to extract a picture showing a cub less than a month old!

After about an hour or so, we had seen about fifteen pandas, and were already feeling like we’d had exceptionally good fortune with our panda experience. We decided to take our chances with the mosquitos at the very first enclosure we had visited (I – of course – got about twenty bites…… I’m thinking of marketing myself as an anti-mosquito device…. Stand next to me and I guarantee you won’t get bitten!). As you can see, by the time we returned to the enclosure, it was feeding time, and the pandas were feasting on bamboo.

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And then we stumbled on one last, very large enclosure which had too many pandas to count!! This was the nursery enclosure where the younger pandas hung out. Many of them lay in trees, with random limbs lazily hanging down. Others teased each other atop play structures. So adorable. I know we didn’t need to come to China to figure this out, but pandas are seriously cute.

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World Exclusive! Pandas are Cute!

All in all, the visit to the pandas was an absolute highlight of our China trip. We’re really glad that Martin added Leshan to our itinerary, making this experience possible. The Chengdu facility seems to be exceptionally well done, and we greatly enjoyed our time there, Chinese tour groups and mosquitos aside.

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Posted by jacquiedro 19:31 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world

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