The Giant Panda Breeding Research Base Chengdu
What do most people think of when they hear the word ‘China’? Apart from overpopulation, unacceptable levels of pollution, and Kung Pao chicken… Pandas of course!
And I wanted to see them. Not just my local suicidal lone red panda that resides in the world’s worst zoo. But like actual black and white, pandas. That weren’t ready to end their own lives.
Since the Chengdu Panda Research Base is the number one thing to do in the province of Sichuan on TripAdvisor, and I have developed a weird dependency on review based apps. That’s where I set my sights on meeting the weird balls of fluff that China is famous for.
After deliberating for about 3 seconds I decided against heading off to see them alone and instead opted for a tour organised by the hostel I was staying at. Because, I’m lazy. And also it only cost the equivalent of like $18 (£15). Which in my opinion is worth it. I’ve already had enough ‘fun’ experiences navigating Chinese tourist spots on public holidays. It’s the worst.
So the next morning 6 of us piled into a minivan at some ungodly hour of the morning (7.40am) in order to ‘catch the Pandas at their most lively’, and by ‘most lively’ presumably they just meant conscious. Turns out they’re not known for their active lifestyles.
We spent a full morning trying to get through a crowd 70 men deep, while maintaining enough cool to not punch those 70 men in the face. Followed by about 40 minutes watching them aimlessly roll around (the pandas, not the men). And, in my case, a full half an hour hoping this one would fall out of a tree (it didn’t).
During this time I gathered, from watching and also reading the Panda information signposts that are dotted around, that Pandas enjoy the kind of life that dreams are made of.
They eat for up to 16 hours a day.
Only move when absolutely necessary.
And seem to spend the vast majority of their time falling down and being utterly bewildered as to why.
It’s like they want to become extinct! It’s also unnerving how much my life resembles that of a lazy endangered bear.
Then we moved on to the Red Pandas. Who we were repeatedly warned, both by all of the signs, and actual real people, were very aggressive and so to stay at least 3 meters away at all times.
Look how threatening they are sitting around eating melons like they own the place!
It was while I was taking these photos, from well over three meters away (because I didn’t feel like being mauled by a wild animal that day!) That one of the keepers casually opened a door and allowed a red panda to stroll over my foot as though the imminent threat to my life was of no concern.
Thankfully I survived the brush with death in time to be herded back to the minivan.
Apparently I could have chosen to leave a ‘small’ donation to have my picture taken hugging a panda but I didn’t feel like being relieved of my life savings so I decided against it.
But, I totally recommend the Chengdu Panda Base to anyone who wants to see what perfection looks like. Because pandas are living life correctly!
How do I apply to be one?