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Pandamonium

sunny 10 °C

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We woke up bright and early for an exciting day full of pandas! We slurped down our breakfast rice porridge and headed to the bus stop. No worries, we had directions written out in Chinese and the words 'please remind us to get off at this stop'. It apparently took three buses to get there. On each one, there were helpful locals who spoke some English to help tell us where to get off. We did try our darnedest to match the Chinese characters on our paper to the ones flashing on the bus announcement system like we were at a 50-50 draw.

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Panda Research Center was right across the street, in far more urban an environment than we had thought. For some reason we imagined this quiet sanctuary away from the city, but this was almost like driving down to Assiniboine Zoo.

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We followed the signs to different panda exhibits as the electric car shuttles whizzed by. We had all day and no need to rush. Enclosure number fourteen seemed the closest, but we got a bit lost and ended up at the adult panda exhibit instead. We got a glimpse of our first panda ever, curled up in a fur ball of white and black. She was sleeping. Even in his still moderately sick state, Ryan was pretty excited as was I.

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We kept going to the sub-adult panda exhibits and found a more active guy, chewing away at the bamboo then taking a drink of water. The exhibits were set up as big circular units, divided into four or so sections. That way each panda or group of pandas had their own territory and forest. No bamboo grew in their enclosures because they'd surely munch it all up in an instant.

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In the next circular enclosure, the panda juveniles, around a year and a half to three years, were held and boy were they playful. Five or six of them were eating, playing and climbing the trees. This exhibit was busier than the rest with people, understandably. One panda lay on the ground with bamboo held over its head, munching away. Some would sit like people and others paced like bears. It was hard to get over their cute factor.

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We took a quick break to watch a video documentary on panda births in the washroom waiting area. Yes, this place was swanky. No squatters for us here. These toilets even had optional heated seats and built-in bidets.

Back to the film, pandas generally gave birth to twins but only raised the stronger one in the wild. At the Research Center, they had found a way to switch the panda babies periodically throughout their infancy so that both twins were fed and taken care of by their mother. The workers would use honey water to distract the momma bear to switch out the cubs. This helped double the amount of in captivity births at the center and they were the first ones to undertake such a feat. They still needed to work on releasing them successfully into the wild.

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On the way to the baby pandas, we found the red pandas, which were a different species all together but they both still shared the name anyway. They wandered around their enclosures, far less distanced than from us than the Giant Pandas, and climbed a few trees.

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We hadn't seen any baby pandas at the first infancy center, but we headed up the hill to the other one with hopes that we'd see the most adorable sight yet. The pandas there were about a year old, so they were small but not tiny, mostly sleepy. We walked through the inside area, hoping to maybe see a mother and her baby, but found very little around there.

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Hunger took over, so we headed back to find some food. The panda food center turned out to be a display of what pandas ate. They did have little panda snacks, which were a plant based patty they prepared for the bears along with the bamboo. Ryan took one as a souvenir. I contemplated eating one and decided against it.

We did find real food at a fancyish restaurant, Bamboo House. In the spirit of the pandas, I ordered some fried bamboo with peppers. We also ordered mapu tofu, which was quite spicy. I would have thought the bamboo would be less bitter with such a supply around, but not so much.

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The museum at the visitor center was interesting. We learned that pandas were actually really ancient animals, preceding even modern man. Somehow they didn't go extinct with the rest of the animals of their time. They also had an extra finger to help them with eating. Because their digestive track was quite short, they needed to spend most of the day eating to absorb the nutrients, up to sixteen hours! At one time, they ate meat hence their carnivore-like digestive tract, but they no longer did today.

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Ryan was pretty entertained by the creepy taxidermy job they did on the animals in the exhibits depicting the pandas' past and present habitats. The wild pandas lived in the mountains in Sichuan province and a few other provinces in China. Their habitat had really shrunk.

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We debated ending on that note, but thought why not go back and see the pandas again. We went back to the playful cubs and were quite grateful we did. Their afternoon energy surpassed the morning as they brawled and played. We got to witness a ball of four panda bears play fighting and knocking each other off the platforms. Another pair played on the tree, stretching up to a friend just to pull the other one down. We could have stayed for hours, but we had to make it back eventually. The most adorable moments got to be our last ones there.

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We did find a fake waterfall on the way out and took a few more shots. No pandas in these ones though.

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Posted by Sarah.M 16:05 Archived in China Tagged cute center bamboo panda chengdu research redpanda

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