Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Playful Pandas

Breakfast begins...
The alarm was painful at 6am, but our excitement at seeing Giant Pandas was enough to motivate us to get out of bed. We easily found the bus station, but locating bus 198 was a bit more complicated - especially as the driver was unresponsive when we tried to ask if we were in fact on the right bus once we’d found it. We caught it anyway, tracking ourselves with the GPS to make sure we were heading in the right direction, and thankfully one of the bus stops was directly in front of the panda base. 

More cuteness
Thanks to our early start we were there before 8am which meant we were one of the 1st people to enter when the gates opened. This also meant that we had front row seats when the panda feeding began and it was well worth the early start. They were very cute while feeding, holding bamboo shoots in both hands and alternatively shoving it in their mouths at a very consistent rate. After a while they laid down to continue feeding, reclining on their backs whilst grabbing for fresh bamboo. We watched until the crowd behind become uncomfortably large and then decided we should give up our pole positions so others could enjoy the feeding as well. 

Just munching away
We walked to another enclosure and were lucky enough to time it with a cub and a mother playing together, it was very entertaining watching the baby panda aggravate it’s mother repeatedly, receive a whack and then do it over and over again! They eventually wore each other out and retreated inside as the temperature was beginning to increase significantly, so we continued on to see the Red Pandas. These look nothing at all like a Giant Panda and it’s amazing to think they are relatives as they appear more like a strange crossbreed of a racoon and a fox. They are nevertheless quite cute animals and despite the heat, more active than the Giant Pandas. 
This didn't look comfy,
but he looked content!

Mother and cub playing - too cute!
We walked around the rest of the park, which is beautiful and quite large, spotting pandas here and there, but towards the middle of the day the sightings became fewer and the crowds thicker so after visiting the museum near the entrance we decided it was time to go. Catching the bus back to town proved to be much more complicated than arrival as we had to catch the same bus to the end of the line, get off, wait for the same number bus to come back the other way, get onto it and take it back to the station as for some reason bus doesn’t go via the Panda Base on the return journey, so it was a long trip home. 

A Red Panda - completely different from a Giant one!
We had lunch near Wenshu Temple before enjoying the picturesque temple and a long stroll back to the hostel to relax for the hot part of the afternoon. Around dinner time we walked to ‘Wide Street’ where we’d read we could find some good food, but it turned out to be very posh and expensive so we decided to find some street food instead, not too hard to do thankfully! Once we returned to the hostel we checked our email and surprisingly discovered that we’d actually been successful in a competition we’d entered the day before to win free tickets to see the pandas, so it looked like we’d be making another panda trip! This time it would be on a private coach and with a free entry pass so most likely quite a difference experience from today’s… 

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