Giant Pandas and another overnight train!

We spent our last full day in Beijing with some Giant Panda’s at Beijing Zoo! We had planned to go to a nature reserve in Chengdu to see the Panda breeding centre there,but after reviewing the distance, time and cost of that, we decided against that and instead looked at other options for seeing these cute endangered animals!

Being a bit dubious about going to a Chinese Zoo, we didn’t really want to go to one while we were here so visiting the one in Beijing when it was suggested to us wasn’t something we thought we’d do. However, having heard that they had revamped the enclosures there for the Olympic Games we thought we’d go and check it out.

We were very glad we did as the Pandas were gorgeous! Their enclosure was a separate part of the Zoo which you had to pay extra to get into but we didn’t mind as they were the only reason we were going! First we saw three adult Pandas in separate indoor enclosures which were really quite roomy! They were all sleeping when we first got there but soon woke up and we even got to see one of them polishing off a watermelon.

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In another building were three really cute younger Pandas who were far from asleep! Their enclosure was huge and had a playground, complete with swing, to keep them amused. We stood and watched while they took it in turns to pull eachother off the swing and run up to the top of the wooden shelter in there, again, pushing eachother down so that they all rolled all the way to the floor. It was good to see that they were enjoying themselves! After about half an hour of running around and hanging upside down they got tired and sloped off to have a rest.

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Outside, there were two other Pandas – one sat there in front of an audience just scratching herself and another one fast asleep on top of a big wooden platform.

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We were so pleased to have been able to see the Pandas – even though we’re not going to Chengdu anymore we’re still going to try and visit one of the rescue centres in Shaanxi province – where Xian is. Can’t get enough of them now!

Having been slightly buoyed on by the great enclosures that the Pandas had, we decided to take a quick walk around the rest of the Zoo to take a look at the other animals, but I wish we hadn’t! In stark contrast to the area we had just been in, the enclosures that huge animals such as Lions, Tigers and Elephants lived in were tiny! We saw a massive black Panther just laying  underneath a bench in a small room that resembled a jail cell. One room had two big Lions in with barely enough room for them to take 6 steps each. These magnificent creatures shouldn’t be couped up like that and forced to just pace around – we would have expected that they would at least have a big outdoor space in addition to these cells, but they didn’t.

Beijing Zoo itself is huge, but all the space is reserved for the visitors – big open spaces of grass and animal sculptures that could have been put to better use (i.e. given to the animals!)

It was the same with the Elephants and Bears – the Elephants were inside some sort of old school building (well that’s what it looked like) which was filthy dirty and stunk. We also saw a big black bear in a big concrete enclosure. Literally every part of it was concrete – for some reason they’d even put concrete around the tree trunks so the bear couldn’t get to any leaves or scratch his back!

There didnt seem to be any staff members around anywhere near the animal enclosures, either to look after the visitors or to clean out the cages. There definitely should have been somebody around to stop the idiotic Chinese visitors throwing chocolate and biscuits over the fences to feed the animals – food that they clearly would not be eating in the wild! People were banging their hands and fists on the windows to try and get the attention of the animals – particularly the bears and then tossing sausages etc at them just so they could take a picture. Some people really are clueless.

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We found ourselves getting really annoyed and didn’t want to stay to see the rest of the place. The Aquarium was an additional 100 Yuan on top of the Zoo entrance, so we didnt go to that either.

We were satisfied with the experience we got of the Giant Pandas – worth every penny, but miffed that they were treated completely differently to all the other Zoo animals. Looks like this country still has a LONG way to go when it comes to animal welfare!

That evening, it was time for us to check out of the hostel and make our way to the railway station for our train to Xian. We finally got our backpack staps outs – we’ve just been carrying them with the handle since London but thought it was about time we put the backpacks on our backs! We were very glad we did as the walk to the subway was so much easier that way! I think we annoyed quite a few people on the tube however by swinging round and nearly knocking them out!

The whole trip back to the station only cost 40p in total – a bit different from the 8 quid the taxi charged us the other way round! Our train left at around half nine that night and our fears about the seated carriage were proved to be unfounded! It was fine – seats like an aeroplane, nice and wide and relatively comfy. The carriage itself was pretty spotless and no idiotic teenagers making a racket! We couldn’t quite get a comfortable position to sleep in but managed to catch a few hours here and there and woke up just in time to have an apple for breakfast before we pulled into Xian station!

Our main reason for being in Xian is to see the Terracotta Army – so we’ll post up some photos of those soon!

All in all, we’ve had a great time in Beijing, there is so much to do and see and we could have easily stayed there another couple of days. Our hostel really helped with our enjoyment of Beijing too – Dreams Travel Hostel was great and the staff SO helpful! Everywhere we wanted to go, they wrote down the names in Chinese for us – really helpful when it comes to buses and taxis! Great location and cheap too, would def go back there if we ever decide to revisit Beijing!

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