Bifengxia Zoo: Pandas Gone Wrong
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Our travels today took us to Bifengxia, the home of the Bifengxia Panda Base, for more fuzzy Panda sightings. Well…so we thought…
Once again, I pestered our friendly hostel receptionists for advice about how to get to Bifengxia (I mean they should be used to it by now). They looked up the bus schedule for me and said, “There are two bus routes that go to Bifengxia, one stops in the town of Ya’an, and the other goes directly to the Panda base, which one do you want?” I thought, “hmmm we want to go to the panda base, there’s a bus that goes directly to the panda base, yes, that would be the one I want” but, of course, what came out of my mouth was “The one to the panda base would be great”. We decided on a time and headed off first thing the next morning to the bus station. We get there, and I tell the attendant, “two tickets to Bifengxia”. Tickets in hand, I read them, and they indeed said Bifengxia, not Ya’an as the destination. Great, I said, this should be super easy…ha, ha, ha. Fast forward to arrival, in Ya’an, not Bifeng where Jess and I get off at the bus station, take one look around, and promptly start laughing, because this was, once again, not where we were supposed to end up. Unfortunately, this time no one was pointing us in any obvious direction so we opted for the cop out of taking a taxi, an effective, but much more expensive mode of transportation.
The taxi driver wound his way up a narrow back road up the mountain, and, as we climbed higher, in addition to the magnificent scenery, Jess and I continued to remark on how much snow they’ve gotten up here. While it snowed in Chengdu, it never accumulated, but up in the mountains the ground and trees were blanketed in what I like to call “nasty white stuff” (and that’s just getting started on my feelings about snow).
Upon arrival, we walked into the building and I told the receptionist we would like tickets to see the pandas. “I’m sorry,” she replied, “the panda base is closed because of the snow”. Jess and I both exchanged looks of, “well s**t, that would have been nice to know before making the two hour bus ride over here”. The receptionist then adds, “but our zoo is open if you would like to see that”. “Yes,” I replied, thinking “We don’t have anything better to do up here”, my reaction influenced by the fact that we had already been severely let down by the Chengdu zoo.
The Bifengxia zoo, however, is, as it turns out, really freaking cool! I can only describe this zoo as part safari, part petting zoo, part regular zoo, and completely and totally AWESOME. You start out getting on a bus which takes you through the safari section, with lions, and tigers, and bears “oh my!” (I swear they picked their animals based on the wizard of oz) and then get off the bus and start walking through the petting zoo, where native deer, llamas, and a random goose are hanging out and you can walk freely among them with no impediments. Next came the bird exhibit, which was absolutely phenomenal, and, consequently, where I made many a peacock friend as they were very interested in my pink backpack.
From there it is a self guided walking tour, which for us turned into a “try not to slip on the ice and die” tour, of the rest of the zoo. As I later learned this area in and around Chengdu very rarely gets snow, and thus they have absolutely no idea how to deal with it, which was very obvious as the temperature was around freezing today and in order to melt the snow and clear paths for visitors they were spraying the snow with water, which, you guessed it, would soon turn to ice, but what’s another adventure! Obviously, as I am sitting here writing this, we both survived. All of the animal exhibits were extremely well built and taken care of. We saw all sorts of exotic animals including monkeys, camels, hippos, cheetahs, white tigers, and what we think was a black panther.
All in all, regardless of the fact that we didn’t get to see more pandas, the trip to Bifengxia was totally worth it just for the zoo. So for real, if you are debating making the bus ride up the mountain, DO IT, and I guarantee many cool experiences will lie ahead.
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