Pandas in Chengdu – no Kung Fu, but I want one
The Chengdu Panda Base is located in the outskirts of the city and makes for a perfect day trip. Housing 83 pandas, it now probably has the biggest captive population of the most expensive animals in the world – it costs zoos outside of China 1,000,000 dollars a year to rent them usually on a 10 year contract. And no, you cant buy them and if you breed them, the cubs belong to China. I guess they make so much money for the country that it will be hard to give up the monopoly.
Unfortunately, other than increasing the captive population, which is easy to exploit, and to tantalize the tourists, very little of the money raised around the world seems to be helping the wild pandas. We could have taken the high road, as we have done many times on this trip so far, and avoided contributing to the whole process, but I guess if there is a place to see them it will have to be here – this center is well done and of high quality, close to their natural habitat and nobody is paying exuberant fees to the Chinese government so that we could take a peak at the pandas.
It costs 58 yuan each (about $9) with the 2 and 6 year old free.
Bamboo forests cover a lot of the grounds, although I am not sure that they are used for the pandas, because at more than 10kg a day each, there wont be any left after a short while. Plus, I think the bears prefer the smaller shoots with leaves and who can blame them, mature bamboo must be a pain to eat.
Mr.Blab had a great observation – bamboo grass looks like a close up of a scalp with hair. So we had some fun imagining we are lice.
Bamboo-shmamboo, the only reason we are here is for those black and white fellas and we can barely make it fast enough to the first spotting, where three adult pandas are enjoying their morning snack. The moment I spot them, I know it was a good choice to come – they are absolutely, horribly, cute.
There they are, sweetly chewing bamboo shoots, sitting like humans on their fluffy butts, completely undisturbed by the pile of people staring at them. I am not sure there is another creature that would be able to win me just by…eating.
Or looking at me…
The Panda Base is quite large and each enclosure is big enough that you cant always see the bears in it, which means that there is a bit of walking to be done, unless you pay for one of the electric carts to take you around.
Luckily I had put my Cambodian scarf on to hide my old gray used-to-be white top and in a split second it becomes a sling. Not the most comfortable one and it squishes my boobs into a pancake, but its better than carrying
the backpack the Dodman in my hands.
We see pandas lounging in a tree.
..devouring bamboo couple of mom and cub
…high flyer snacking.
…if they are not eating, they are usually sleeping, anywhere.
Tag teaming carrying the luggage:
The Panda Base in Chengdu also has an enclosure with red pandas, the lesser know raccoon-like variety, which is also under threat because of habitat loss and poaching. It has the unfortunate fate of having a tail that is the preferred decoration for various events, like weddings.
I dont really want to waste time seeing it, because the pictures I have seen have failed to entice me, but the kids want to so we go. I am glad they do, because in real life the red pandas are well worth visiting.
They are not as small as I thought and we are even lucky to have a few awake ones.
Have you watched Kung Fu Panda? Well, Master Shifu was a red panda, not whatever animal you thought he was. And thus we complete the main characters of the movie.
It took us four times to actually make it to here. The first time we postponed because we went in search of train tickets. The second we were invited to a visit a local kindergarden and the third was our failed attempt to get here in the morning, which we aborted after about 1.5 hours of frustration in navigating the public transport.
Turns out, what we thought was crappy luck might have been for the better, because the day before we arrive there are twin pandas born and we get to see…their little pink butts. Yep, little panda newborn bottoms.
And that seals it. We are in love, lost in the black and white (and pink) fluff around us.
Even as we leave, I am still not tired of looking at them. I think the appeal is probably partly because of their human features and harmless huggable appearance. We are so taken by the pandas that we even stop longingly at the gift shop, where thankfully our common sense comes back and we refrain from buying overly expensive souvenirs.
And now we know what all the fuss is about.
Mom, can I have a panda for Christmas? My own one to snuggle up with? To lay my head on its tummy when it splats lazily on its back?…A million bucks! Oh, forget it.