It’s all there, in black and white
Another bucketlist item for the kids was to see the Giant Panda’s in China! So, our next stop was a visit to Chengdu and the worlds largest captive Giant Panda Conservation Centre.
Aside from the visit to see the Giant Pandas we did have a stroll through the city and enjoyed the People’s Park but there didn’t seem much else to do.
Giant Panda Conservation Centre
The morning we arrived, the boys were so excitede ii thought Ethan was going to burst!!
Before we arrived we learnt a bit about the Giant Pandas. Firstly, Giant Panda’s are protected by China, there are very few outside of the country. Those which are loaned to other zoos only have them for a few years.
The Giant Panda’s are therefore well looked, due to the fact they very nearly became extinct.
Wild Giant Panda’s can still be found in the mountain regions in China, but most are now in the many conservation centres set up within China.
Unfortunately the day we visited it was far to hot and humid for them – Giant Panda’s like the cooler conditions!
Therefore, our viewing was restricted from inside their ‘houses’. Not ideal but we made the most of it. You have to do quite a bit of walking to get from each enclosure too.
If they are indoors (look out for signs which will tell you). Then head straight to the No.1 & No. 2 Giant Panda Houses.
They are situated up a steep hill but are the largest enclosures with better viewings. You can then meander through the other enclosures and nurseries etc.. at your leisure.
There was also a Panda kitchen/feeding station which explained how pandas were fed. The boys were more interested in the bamboo poo!! But still a good learning experience.
Red panda enclosures
You will also find a couple of Red Panda Sanctuaries. Even though the weather was too hot for the Giant Pandas the Red Pandas were out enjoying their enclosure, which was nice.
Note: there are some shuttle buses for RMB 10. This is worthwhile if you are going to No.1 & No.2 panda enclosures as the hill is very steep and in the heat even our boys struggled.
How to get to the Giant Panda conservation centre
There are many tours available, but the cheapest and most direct method is to take the Metro to Panda Avenue on line 3.
When you exit the station, directly in front of you is a glass fronted shop coloured yellow. This is where you buy your Panda Sanctuary ticket and then get the free shuttle buses to the sanctuary. The shuttle only takes 5 minutes and they run regularly.
There are a number of touts (in red) outside the shop, they are more shouty so you’ll recognise them. These are for a different and more expensive bus, so go into the shop instead. Not much english spoken but they know what you are there for.
How much is it?
It costs RMB 55 per person (£6 per person – not a bad price for China!) This includes the free shuttle bus. Children under 6 or below 1.3m are free. To return by shuttle bus, just go to the hut (Decorated in yellow) and pay RMB 2 each for the shuttle bus back to the Metro.
Best time to visit
We researched that the best time to visit is early in the morning 8.30am to 10am.
This is when the Panda’s are most active. However, this means it is also the busiest time of the day for tourists. You can’t escape this, just be prepared for it to be busy and for lots of elbows to get the ‘ultimate’ shot! Plus it was pretty darn hot the day we visited!!
I’d recommend bringing lots of drinks and snacks with you. There are some eateries inside the park, but they aren’t great. In fact if you time it right, you can be in and out before lunchtime and then you can grab lunch elsewhere!
Where to stay in Chengdu
The city is quite spread out so it’s not easy to find accommodation. However, the area around Wenshu monastery is listed as a backpacker area. Although after staying there, I’m not so sure that’s true. It didn’t feel like a backpacker area!?
There was local eateries, and a subway station about a 10 minute walk away. But it still felt like we were in the central business district.
We stayed at Sam cozy hotel, which was actually very nice. We had a 2 bedroomed room with a fridge and plenty of space. There was even breakfast included, although we only found the today and a few boiled eggs that were to our taste.
Things to do in Chengdu
Aside from the Giant Panda conservation centre there wasn’t a huge amount to do. We did have a wander around the People’s park with its tea houses. It was a wet day and there were several people dancing under the arches. It had a nice feel to it, but we only stopped for an hour or two as it wasn’t really anything which grasped the boys interest!
Chengdu is purely a stopover. But I wouldn’t stay longer in Chengdu than you have to . There really isn’t much to see. But the pandas are very cute and the boys enjoyed seeing so many of them.
If you time it right the giant Panda Conservation centre can be a lovely half day excursion. I’d only go again if I knew it was cool enough to see the Giant Pandas roaming in their enclosures. Even though it was cute seeing then waddling around their pens!