Sunday, January 3, 2010

Panda Panda Panda!

At 7am on Sunday January 3rd we set out for the Chengdu Research Base Of Giant Panda Breeding. Lonely Planet suggested that we should arrive early because the Panda's basically eat then sleep then eat again a great deal later. Obtaining a taxi at 7am is so wonderfully easy as to almost make it seem worthwhile to get up really early for work.

At the time of our arrival it could be described as not bright but early.

It turned out that we actually arrived at about 7:45 for an 8:00 opening. At about 7:50 they sold us tickets and let us in to wander the unlit foggy bamboo pathways. These were quite neat looking. Unfortunately they proved near-immune to tripod-less photography so we cannot share the experience. A short distance inside the entrance was an artists rendition of what it would look like if Panda's carried their young in a manner similar to a Kangaroo.

We were very excited to see the Panda's. Pavan had been looking forward to it since we first started reading about Chengdu. We raced to the first enclosure only to discover that Panda's are not really early risers in winter.

We strolled around for another half-hour or so, learning the lay of the land and observing the keepers setting up bamboo piles. Finally we heard banging from the young panda enclosure and on going to visit it discovered Panda's shambling out vaguely in the direction of the bamboo. Unfortunately we suspect they were awoken by people banging on their cages to get them out for tourist consumption. Sure enough the over-sized teddy-bear like creates meandered towards the bamboo, flopped over onto their backs, and commenced dining. You could easily picture them enjoying the use of a Roman style lectus.

One particularly energetic fellow climbed directly up a tree to get the to food-bench rather than walk around an extra three meters. His climbing was veeery slooow.

 Once the diners reached the table feasting ensued. Given the choice of bamboo as their fabulously inefficient fuel the meal was quite drawn out.

 In addition to giant pandas the facility also houses a number of Red Panda's. These are much faster and far more agile.

After the Red Panda enclosures we meandered back to the adult area. A HUGE female Panda was chowing down on what appeared to be about double the bamboo allocation for all four youngsters.

Opposite a fairly hefty male was assaulting a stand of bamboo. As an interesting aside, the research base is unable to grow enough bamboo to feed their panda's and has to purchase additional stock from mountain villages.

We headed towards the final enclosures and witnessed this fellow grabbing bamboo and moving it around with remarkable dexterity.

At the end of the final enclosure the keepers offer the ability to take a picture standing with a panda. According to their sales lady you get one picture sitting sort of beside the panda and one standing behind it. Only one person can enter and you get two pictures (one per position), taken by the keeper. For this you pay  the ludicrous fee of ¥1000!!. We've seen pricing that is a bit high for stupid tourist stuff before but this was just ridiculous. Our experience in the past has been that research oriented locations (which the Panda Base claims to be) are usually sanely priced so this was a bit shocking. And a bit offensive; apparently we are just walking money bags to the keepers. Some people were paying so probably the price will stay unreasonable.

On the way out we caught the parks short film about Panda, which was quite good. It was rather surprising to see footage of baby pandas being born in captivity in what appeared to be a steel cage with concrete floors; we thought perhaps the national treasure might warrant better care. Newborn Panda are amazingly tiny, often 100g (1/1000 the mother, roughly).

As the Panda breakfast period seemed over and most of the Panda seemed to be returning to sleeping we headed out. Along the way to try to get a western breakfast we spotted a cool car.

Grandma's Kitchen serves a $5 breakfast where you get to pick five items from a fixed menu. It's pretty darn good. Unfortunately Pavan somehow managed to customize ALL our pancakes to have no syrup instead of just hers and immense confusion ensued trying to explain that we actually did want syrup. After Grandmas we walked over to Sabrina's Country Store. The prices are 50 to 100% more than the same item would be at any other store in Chengdu but they have some items we haven't been able to find elsewhere and even at those markups it isn't much worse than home. Dr. Pepper! Western cereals!!

No comments:

Post a Comment