In the afternoon we went to see the pandas. As I mentioned there are very few pandas left in the world – close to extinction in the wild – so they’ve created a scientific institution where they breed pandas in captivity. This is Nancy in front of the entrance – she is a tiny lady – probably about 5′ to my 6′ 3″.
The institute is immaculate and again is worth paying money to see – if only to wander through the gardens.
We first saw the red panda which is actually not even a bear – I’ve never seen or heard of it before and it looks like a red haired racoon, I guess. Very cute with a baby face and lots of fur. It is apparently more endangered than the black and white panda bear.
Then on to the pandas. I had no idea that they are very timid animals and non-aggressive, even in the wild. You can pay to have your photo taken bear hugging a panda (RMB 400) which is something you wouldn’t try with a grizzly bear.
The red pandas were outside and the giant pandas (black and white) were all inside on the day we went. It was a blistering hot day and they bring them inside into airconditioned rooms as they can suffer from heatstroke. I guess in the wilds they would be able to seek out cool spots in the forest but to recreate this in an enclosed area would make the bears hidden. The public pay to come and see the pandas – the money gets ploughed back into the facility – so unfortunately the bears have to be on display.
They really are the original teddy bears – so cute and cuddly. The one in the picture above was chomping on bamboo and sitting on his buttocks (bears have buttocks?) and picking up sticks with his paw – as nimble as a human. You almost get the feeling that there is a human sitting there in a panda outfit. (oh my gosh, what if it was and we were being hoodwinked!)
So another great day in China.
I’m going to finish off with Nancy tomorrow – get some stock packaged – and then I’m heading back to Beijing on Saturday. I canned the idea of wandering through the countryside. I saw how much you can miss out on if you don’t have local knowledge (thank you, Nancy) and in the countryside there is very little literature available and my worry was that I would waste 3-4 valuable days getting to a scenic site but going through some ordinary areas to get there. There is a ton of written information on Beijing and lots I haven’t seen, so that is where I am heading to see out the remainder of my trip. They also have the subway there and quite frankly I want to keep out of vehicles because the drivers scare the heebie jeebies out of me.