Posted by: kim | July 1, 2007

Cute pandas

A couple of days we arrived in Chengdu, China after a 14 hour train journey. Exhausted, we were tempted to sleep as soon as we arrived at 6am (fact: at virtually every hotel we’ve stayed in so far, we’ve arrived before 9am and our room’s been ready every time — you don’t get that in Europe!). However, it was important for us to visit the pandas before they munched their way into a sleepy stupor. The PANDAS!!!So we got a taxi to the panda breeding reserve for the 8am opening time (a stroke of genius! Simply point to a photograph of a panda to the taxi driver!). The park attracts a lot of international visitors, so its outward appearance at least is kept spick and span. I found it very pleasant to walk through with shady bamboo arching over your head as you navigate the various enclosures. The park must have been extra clean that day because the Queen of Spain was visiting.

Luckily before long we witnessed some of the adult pandas munching away at their bamboo and bumbling their way across the wooden bridges and rungs. But they weren’t as cute as the cubs, who were very playful and reacted with joy when their keepers came into the enclosure bearing slices of apples.

Before long there was a huge hubbub — the Queen was arriving. Grumpy svelte Chinese women in suits exercised their small amount of authority over us visitors with glee by shooing us in the opposite direction. We were to keep away from the huge, oncoming entourage. Luckily, we were still able to keep a fairly close distance. A photo opportunity for the Spanish and local press was presenting itself: the keepers had rounded up three of the cutest pandas and sat them alongside each other at the foot of a tree. When the Queen arrived she posed politely in front of the very well behaved cubs. When she left, along with the efficient entourage, we breathed a sigh of relief as we could now watch the pandas in peace. One of the cubs threw up baby vomit on one of the others’ newly rinsed fur. Then they got into a playful fight and one of them rolled cutely down a ditch. Everyone collectively ‘awwed’.

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