Our next stop after Xi’an was Chengdu. This wasn’t a city I had heard of before we started planning our trip. But once I learnt that this was the home of the Giant Panda Research Centre it was swiftly added onto the itinerary.
Again we looked at the price of the tour run by our hostel and when compared to the cost of going on our own we opted to go it alone. Besides, this would mean more panda time for me…
We got up ridiculously early on Panda day so that we would arrive there nice and early, preferably as soon as possible after the 7.30am opening time. We were lucky as once more we were helped out by locals on the bus with getting there, in fact we had a total of 5 people help us this time! We arrived at around 7.50 am, there were no queues and we were straight into the park.
Then we power walked our way to the end of the park to the Sunshine Delivery House where the BABY PANDAS were. I was hugely excited about this. We got there and had the place to ourselves for about 10 minutes before the hoards of tour groups arrived complete with their guide talking into a loud speaker. Time for us to leave! This 10 minutes of peace and quiet though allowed me to takes a few photos:
After the baby pandas we moved on to watch the juveniles. I had always thought of pandas being a bit lazy, barely moving and spending lots of time sleeping broken up with bouts of eating bamboo. The juveniles showed that this was not the case! They had some sort of game set up a bit like a very rough version of King of the Castle which involved wrestling and tumbling with the other pandas to secure the top position on their climbing frame.
Again we were able to watch this for a while before the hoards gathered. And then we moved on to quieter parts of the park. The rest of the park had numerous adult pandas who, in the morning at least, were reasonably active.
On the whole most of the enclosures were good, although there were some older looking more cramped ones tucked away. Given all the excellent work the centre is doing to preserve the species I would hope that these would be modernised/improved at some point to bring them into line with the better enclosures we saw.
As as well as the Giant Panda the park is home to one of the worlds largest collections of the Red Panda. These were quite adorable to look at and a highlight was walking through the woodland enclosure where they are free to nip across the path you are on to get to where they want to go giving you a great close up experience if you are lucky enough to encounter one on your walk through.
We we left many hours later, around 3pm, when I was all panda’d out. Way better than taking a tour which would have whizzed us round and returned us to the hostel by lunch time!