I was fortunate enough to be able to fulfill an ambition of mine to see a real live panda, and preferably in China. I was visiting Shanghai on a work trip for two weeks so decided to make a weekend trip to Chengdu - specifically to visit the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.
I arrived late in the evening of Friday night and my objective was to visit the Research Base on the Saturday and fly back to Shanghai on the Saturday evening. I hired a driver following recommendations from other travelers and although I was a little hesitant about arriving and travelling on my own and not knowing the local language, as it turns out, my concerns were unfounded.
My driver arrived on time to meet me at my hotel and we set off to the Research Base. The drive there took approx 45 minutes and it was a pleasant drive. Once inside, I was ecstatic to view so many pandas in large enclosures - most of them were just sitting and eating bamboo staring at the tourists with their cameras snapping away. I didn't realize that there would be so many panda bears - there would have been approx 40 that I would have seen that were on display in the enclosures. It was very exciting for me to see more than one panda bear in each enclosure given their status of near extinction.
However, the highlight of the visit was my viewing of the panda cubs. There is actually a section called the Panda Kindergarten where all the cubs are kept, separated from the adult pandas, so that they can be reared by the keepers.
My main objective was to be able to have the opportunity to cuddle a panda cub and to get some photos. I was very lucky to be able to do this - comes at a cost - but then again, I'd travelled all that way in order to do that. I was almost bursting with excitement as I was led into the Panda Kindergarten facility.
I was given a blue plastic robe like a tarpaulin and clear plastic gloves to put on so I wouldn't contaminate the cub, and then was led over to a wooden bench and told to wait whilst they went to get one of the panda cubs. A small crowd was gathering outside the gate watching me get ever more excited. After what seemed like ages, I saw one of the handlers, come back carrying a beautiful panda cub and I was told was 8 months old and weighed 16 kilograms! The handler had given the cub a piece of sugar cane to play with and then the panda cub was placed on my lap for photos and to play with. The fur was so soft and he was so very cute and playful. He didn't seem very interested in me but was intrigued by the piece of sugar cane.
I was extremely happy with my photos which the handlers took for me and they were great. Reluctantly, I handed back the panda but left with great photos and memories. I can highly recommend you visit the Research Base if you want this same experience. You are also able to have a photo with an adult panda and can also play with and have photos with red pandas. After leaving the panda cub enclosure, I spent more time just watching numerous panda cubs playing together, much like mischievous children. Climbing over railings and slides and rumbling with one another - the cubs were so cute - black and white balls of fluff which were so gorgeous!