Sad lions, lonely tigers, and lots of pandas...

Trip Start Feb 10, 2009
Trip End Apr 10, 2009

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Flag of China  ,
Sunday, February 15, 2009

The zoo was cheap, only 10, plus an extra 5 to see the pandas. It retrospect, it is clear why the zoo is cheap, and even clearer that the pandas get anything extra... But I'll focus on the positives first.

Once we had our tickets, we headed straight to the pandas, since they were the motivation for our visit. At first we went into the indoor habitat, and it was dark, and the pandas were sleeping so it was hard to see a shape beyond the bundles of fur.  But once one of them started to move, it was chaos, every person within shouting distance was vying for the perfect dark, blurry shot of the moving national treasure. We were a little apprehensive to have spent the extra, because it didn't seem worth it at all... until we got outside. There, we certainly got our full dollar's worth!

In the first habitat, there was a large panda wandering around, I was a little concerned that he seemed to be walking a distinct predictable path, which always makes me think that the poor animals are bored, or slowly going insane. But it was a beautiful space with lots of room, toys and lively habitat.

In the next pen, was a very young panda, and he was putting on a full show. Running around, climbing and playing, we spent a good deal of time just watching and laughing at his antics. He climbed up this jungle gym structure and hung upside down, batting at toys, I was really surprised at his dexterity. When I think of pandas, I always think of them hanging out eating bamboo, not running around like monkeys- but it could have been his age.
In the final pen, we saw a much more typical panda scene, complete relaxed pose, and lots of bamboo.

Once we got our panda fill, we headed to my favourites, the big cats... and this is where the whole zoo took a turn for the worse. In the lion pen, there were two visible female lions. The whole thing was cement, with nothing green and visible garbage. I would have much rather paid more and have better environments for these regal animals. I have a picture that shows the despair perfectly... None of the other exhibits were much better.

We did pass by this `Birds of Prey` exhibit and it was full of eagles, buzzards and other vicious meat eaters. The craziest part was that there were parts that were netting, and some of the glass had holes big enough for arms. This one woman was standing by the netting for a picture when one of the birds swooped down right at her. The crowd responded by throwing things in the cage... such a weird place.

We thought our tickets included the aquarium, but that was not the case, and it wasn`t really worth it to us, although I have heard it is the best part of the zoo. We were a little over sensitive after seeing giraffes, elephants, rhinos and other large animals in such small, lonely, dirty places.

It was quite cold, and we had already been out for so much of the day, that we decided to grab a taxi and head to the group meeting place- in the Hou Hai district where we had visited the hutongs the day before.

We waited at Starbucks (and did give in to the temptation) and finally met up with Chael, Stefania, Holi and Kerri. All seven of us went to one of the nearby restaurants and had a great vegetarian meal, until of course beef was discovered in the fried rice.

Not wanting to end our last night in Beijing too early, we tried a local pub in hopes of hearing some live music and having a couple of beers. The music was live, it was interesting because there was a guitarist, and a singer, but they never played together. Well at least not until the near the end, when the only word we could decipher in the English song was 'Ango' or 'Angel.'

Heidi, Ashley and I were pretty tuckered from having had such a long day that we tapped out early and headed back to the main stretch to grab a cab.

I would like to preface this next story with the little detail that we had been warned many a time to make sure the taxi drivers had working meters, and that they could issue receipts...

Anyway, I hail a cab, and one quickly stops. The girls jump in the back, and I put one foot in the door and notice the meter is off. I sit, but leave the door open and tap the meter. I try to ask him about the meter, but he just starts talking loudly, but doesn't turn it on. So I tell the girls to get out quickly, and he starts rolling away. He even tried to grab at Ashley as she is hurrying to get out. But disaster is not averted, nor was it pending. He calls to us, and I go back ('cause I am starting to feel bad for causing a scene) and he shows me his meter, just below the satellite radio I was looking at. It is on, and working. So we get back in...

What an adventure, what a ridiculous situation... I am sure he was angry with us. And to make it worse, I even had to sit in the cab while the receipt took forever to print. By this time the other two were peeing themselves laughing. Oh well... I am sure it won't be the last time.

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