Do you love Pandas? Stupid question I guess. Who doesn’t love these cute cuddly giant fur balls? Probably the best thing ever Made in China. With those charming black patches around the eyes & ears and a customary pot belly, they are just too cute to ignore and the giant pandas are truly recognized as the national icon of China.
Genetically defined as a true bear but lacking the aggressive instincts, classified as a carnivore but living on a 99% herbivore diet, you’ll see them sitting on their furry bum for hours while devouring one bamboo shoot after another. Bad ass lazy, to occasionally cuddling with each other and gorging on bamboo shoots all day long, they might just choose to ignore you or do a cute roll over just to make you smile and fall madly in love with them.
A trip to Panda House Beijing
It was our last day in Beijing and thankfully we had a late evening departure. We decided to liven up our last morning with a visit to meet the giant pandas at the Panda House at the Beijing Zoo.
When in China, the best place to visit the giant pandas is the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Center or the Dujiangyan Panda Base about an hour and a half from Chengdu. Here you can get a very intimate and interactive experience with the giant pandas. The Panda Keeper Program in Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Center allows you to have a very close experience with the giant pandas. Here you can actually hold them (for a very short time) and even clean their poop if you’re interested.
But if you are short on time and confined to Beijing only in your current itinerary than the Panda House in Beijing Zoo is a close third. It is crowded though and an early morning visit helps. Imagine all the panda love floating around in the cool morning mist. At the Beijing Zoo Panda House, you can only see the giant pandas. There’s no interactive program to get near them.
How to reach Beijing Zoo
After almost a week in Beijing, we were well adapted to the subway network. The subway is the best means to travel around Beijing once you get a grab of the routes and station names. We took the subway (Line 4) from near our hotel to Dongwuyuan (Beijing Zoo) Station. As you exit the station (Exit B), the zoo entrance lies right in front. You can buy the entry tickets at the zoo entrance. There’s no option to buy a ticket for the panda house only. The zoo entry fee is around CNY 15 and an additional CNY 5 for the panda house. If you want to add the aquarium, the ticket costs around CNY 140.
After purchasing the tickets, we entered the gates around 9 am. The zoo was already crowded by the time we reached. The crowd was mostly locals and we could see a distinct beeline heading towards the Panda house. Without wasting any more time, we joined the crowd. I could already smell the pandas lurking nearby.
Headed to Beijing? Why not check out these places to stay?
Chinese Box Courtyard Hostel is a charming hostel located just a ten-minute walk from Xi Si subway station. This hostel is known for its friendly English speaking staff, its cozy lounge, air conditioning, and several lovely spots to meet fellow travelers including an outdoor courtyard, and two commons rooms for live music, books, movies, socializing and beer.
Beijing Heyuan International Youth Hostel is another budget option for accommodation in Beijing but this time located near the Beijing Normal University. This 40 room youth hostel boasts free wifi, 24-hour room service, a coffee bar, and a fitness center. It is also located near Jishuitan Subway Station for easy access to all of Beijing.
If you are looking for privacy and Chinese style accommodation Beijing 161 Lama Temple Courtyard Hotel may be the place for you. They are a 15-minute walk from Nanluoguxiang and each room includes a sitting area, dining area, and free wifi. In addition, there is a lovely terrace to relax in the morning with a cup of tea.
Inside the Panda House
Although we had the opportunity to visit the whole zoo, we were interested in the giant pandas only and spent all our time strolling around these fur balls. Being cute is not their only forte, they are funny too and when I say funny I mean it. They really do make you laugh with their occasional antics. Most of the time they are just idling around or eating but if you are lucky enough you might just see one shove his brother down a branch or make a short dash only to stop huffing and puffing.
People crowd over the railings waiting for a funny act by the furry giants and you’ll hear a collective bout of laughter on the slightest action on the field. We were lucky to witness a rollover.
I read many reviews online that the giant pandas in Beijing Zoo receive the best care because of their iconic stature and there’s a negative attitude towards the other animals. However, since we didn’t visit the zoo we can’t comment on that. And personally, I feel the Panda House can be made even better. The experience will be more lively and natural with some additional green cover and some creative thinking on how to hide the dull iron bars and cages. Having said that I’m by no means a panda expert. I am just talking from a tourist perspective.
Why Visit Giant Pandas in Captivity
The giant pandas are native to South Central China, the only place where they naturally exist. With a remaining population of less than 2000, the giant pandas are also referred to as living fossils. A lot of great work has been done in captivity throughout the last decade to increase the dwindling panda population and save them from the brink of extinction.
Pandas are known to be solitary and they spread out in the wild marking their own territories. With less than 2000 pandas scattered in the wild, it’s next to impossible to guarantee a sighting in the open forest. So much so that you might just make it to the front-page news if you see a panda in the wild. Thus, for a guaranteed sighting, the only places to go to are Chengdu, Dujiangyan or Beijing zoo.
Visiting the giant pandas in Beijing was one of the best things we did as an offshoot of my one-week official tour. If visiting the Great Wall is on your bucket list, then these furry friends highly deserve a visit too.
Curious About Visiting China? Read on for more information:
Chandan & Stuti, are the face behind Pirates Travelogue, a blog that focuses on traveling the world with a full-time job. In their blog they write about their quirky adventures all around the world and lessons learned on road, planning short and effective itineraries, maximizing reach in minimum days, weekend travels, short road trips, extending official trips etcetera with an overall motto – Work Smart Travel Smarter.