This morning we were off to see the Pandas at the Beijing Zoo.
Confession time – when planning this trip I had no intention of seeing pandas. The only way to really see pandas when visiting China in my opinion was a visit to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Pandas. Chengdu is NOWHERE NEAR any of the cities we were visiting and it was just going to be a logistical nightmare to get there so I had crossed pandas off. That is until husband asks 2 weeks prior to the trip – “so we will be seeing pandas right???”
(It’s important to understand 1 thing about husband right this second – he has nothing to do with planning the trips. Nada naught nuzink!!! Not because I’m a control freak well I am but that’s not why but because he doesn’t want to be bothered with the boring details of pfffft “planning”. He just assumes minds will be read and perfect things will happen and he will live his life in a happy unicorn euphoria of blissful experiences. My bad ultimately – because I know husband loves him a BEAR!!!! Like love love loves bears so bad. I should’ve used my psychic powers to know pandas would’ve been a MUST DO!!! Bloody hell screams the planning fairies of the world)
So I kindly ~in my inside voice, with patience and love~ explained the Chengdu situation and that the Beijing Zoo did have pandas but the zoo did not have a good reputation and that I wasn’t completely comfy with going there. He pleaded, he begged, he pouted, he whined…..until finally the sweet princess that I am caved and added the goddamn Beijing Zoo to the itinerary.
With 1 caveat – we were just going to see the pandas and then we were leaving. The pandas are located right at the front of the zoo. The enclosures get extremely good reviews and that is mainly because China snazzied it all up for the Beijing Olympics because they knew it was going to be a tourist magnet and they didn’t want the animal lover organisations of the world to do some kung fu fighting on their arses. What they didn’t do was bother with bringing the rest of the zoo up to that same sparkly standard. So I made sure husband knew the rules before entering into this agreement. (You know where this is going right?)
So we jumped on the amazing Beijing Subway again – so super easy to use. Really clean and efficient as were the stations. People are pretty civilised when hopping on and off, letting people get off before they barge on, etc. Ticket machines easy to use and the cost is super cheap. Three subway station transfers later (with no fuss or confusion) we emerged right at the entrance to the zoo.
Well it won’t surprise you to learn – the pandas were so stinking cute. I mean can you even with this face…..
The enclosures were really well done. You could look at some from outdoors which is where I probably got the best photos actually #zoomlensforthewin.
Let me in
But also there were some pandas in smaller enclosures munching away on their food that you could watch through glass and you probably got the funnier experience there.
Im so glad I got to see them – they were amazing and adorable!!!
After we got our fill of panda perfection I said “ok husband let’s go shall we”. Meanwhile he’s looking at the map of the zoo and sees that they have polar bears in the zoo. All of a sudden we are in the middle of a toddler jumping up and down “I wanna see the polar bears, I wanna see the polar bears, waah waah waah” episode. Seriously……I thought I had finished raising my children but here we are!!! I finally say okay okay we can go see the polar bears and then look at the map. The mother chuffing polar bears are right at the back of the zoo. Which means we will have to walk through the WHOLE ZOO to get to them. Ughhhhh…..that means seeing all of the enclosures that are going to make me sad.
The one thing I can say is that the grounds and gardens of the zoo were lovely (another Olympics spruce up me thinks) and I’m sure the tourists loved it as did we.
But…..man we saw some things not so fancy. The kangaroo enclosure particularly comes to mind. I didn’t take photos because just couldn’t. On a positive note I was so excited to see flamingos in person. Flamingos are special to my family – they remind us of my brother who passed away a few years ago – trying to explain why the flamingos is a long story so I won’t go into it but for my family they are a symbol of HIM and I was thrilled to see them up close. They were more peachy apricot-y than I thought they would be. Not the hot pink you see in all of the merch but super cute.
The polar bears were very very cute…..but……they looked so SAD!!! The enclosures weren’t great and they just looked forlorn and out of place since we aren’t in a snowy icy environment aka “their habitat”. I felt icky just being there so we had a quick look and bolted out of the zoo wanting to kidnap the polar bears and take them with us.
Next up it was on to the Pearl Market for some shopping amazingness. I had done extensive research on where to go in China for that bargain shopping experience and this place got the nod. Anyone who knows me knows I hate shopping and I absolutely abhor the idea of bartering #shuddermcshudder. It’s just not for me at all – but I had read alot before heading to China and gotten some tips and tricks on the best way to go about bartering so you enjoy yourself, don’t completely screw over the stall holders and everyone comes away with a smile (and some freaking cute handbags.)
Ummmm, so it turns out friends – I’m a freaking super hero awesome empress at bargaining. Husband stood back and let me do all the work. He would just point at something he wanted and say “get it for me”. Pretty much the soundtrack to our lives right there loves hahaha. I think he sorta fell a little more in love with me though in those moments of bartering brilliance tbh *as if thats possible*. Not gonna lie it really tested my very primitive Yr 10 maths skills to be quickly doing the yuan to aud conversions in my head and then working out how much percentage I wanted off, haggling etc. The sales people are – to put it as nicely as possible – very persistent shall me say. There is a bit of tugging and pressure sales and how will I feed my family you beast going on but once I settled into it I started to have fun. We bought lots and lots of things – name brand everything – sunnies, handbags, shoes, purses, basketball jerseys etc.
cough cough #knockoffsforthewin
After a few hours my head was pounding from trying to do Einstein math equations etc so I told husband – NO MORE!!!
We headed back to the hotel for a rest and to get ready for our evening out.
Once ready we went to this amazing little local place for dinner – Brown Door.
All of the reviews I had read were amazing (even though reviews were limited) and the prices were incredible. This is a must visit place if at the Pearl Market!!!
We had 2 beers – 600ml beers mind you folks (yesssss), as well as 3 dishes and it all came to a tidy $22. Yep you read that right!!! And the food was sooooo good!!! I’m in love with this place!
Afterwards we walked for 10 minutes or so to get to our evening plans – the Kung Fu show at Red Theatre. Now I know – as with the acrobatic show in Shanghai – there was a chance this was going to be tacky AF but you can’t not see some kung fu when in China so fight me!!!!
The show was amazing. So colourful and fast and furious and vibrant. We both loved the whole thing, there was a very easy to follow and emotional storyline and came away super impressed. These guys are athletes with a capital WOWSER!!!! Look at these incredible men (disclaimer – please forgive the awful iphone photos in bad conditions)
At interval I raced to the toilet *because of course I did miss tiny bladder* and the line was LONGGGGGG. All American women visiting with a bus tour. They were all lining up for the ONE western toilet so I quickly went down the line asking each lady was she going to be using the drop toilets and each one said no so I jumped ahead of the line and was in and out in no time. Those amazing thighs of peeing steel are coming in handy now my friends.
Day 18 – and our final day of the trip………was a quieter day. We slept in, had breakky and packed. Then it was time to go back to the Pearl Market for a bit more of that retail therapy goodness.
Sensible me – stop buying handbags……Fun me – treat yo self!!! was the theme of the morning!!!
Husband was about to hold a handbag intervention before I tap out and he promises me fooooood. We leave through the food court because that’s where the “restrooms” are (no resting when squatting though) and I had the visual pleasure of watching a lady from one of the food establishments wash the chopsticks in the basin. Yep so that was the end of any idea husband had of eating in said food court. Nope, no way am I eating here.
As we stumble our way through the many sleeping people I am again reminded of my one main puzzlement of China – seriously, people will just sleep anywhere and everywhere. It’s crazy-bah-nay-nay for sure.
Finally we burst out into the light searching for good food with non-toilet washed chopsticks. So of course what’s a gal to do but go back to the Brown Door restaurant from yesterday. Just as good as we remembered and after filling up the tum tums we went back to our hotel to hang out and wait for our driver to pick us up to head to the airport.
Here my beautiful friends, is where things get farkkkkkking RIDICULOUS AND LIFE THREATENING!!!!
So our flight is on a Friday night. Gotta say it’s a rookie error on my part not to think about what that might mean for traffic given well FRIDAY YOU IDIOT!!! Fortunately as a self confessed “need to arrive to the airport 236 hours before the flight” kinda gal we had arranged our pick up for 4 hours prior to the flight. The drive should only be around 30 mins. Easy!!! But of course *FRIDAY NIGHT INSANITY* was not considered. So our driver, who had maybe 3% English, then add to that our rough 4% Chinese, so communication was flowing like a stream of `not flowing at all’. I have no photos of what was about to ensue but let me paint you a picture in dot points:-
- maniac driver
- insane traffic
- wild zigzagging
- horns beeping
- did I mention traffic like noone has every seen before
- life flashing before my tightly shut eyes
- confessions of love to Archie my puppy
- discussion of funeral songs and flower preference
- more praying
- more swearing and finger gestures – driver not us
So this horror ride of hell took 1hour and 15 minutes for what should be a 30 minute drive. I literally :: swear to god and all that is holy:: kept my eyes closed for the last 45 minutes of this car crash waiting to happen nightmare.
Beijing has a population of 22 million so essentially it’s like the whole of friggin Australia trying to drive home after they finish work on a Friday night. I have lots of words but I don’t think I have the words to describe this insanity of life threatening carnage.
Now, here’s the thing. If Death Driver From Hell didn’t speed, swear, swerve, spit, shriek and do all of that scary shit – it would’ve taken twice as long and given the insane crowds we encountered when we actually arrived for checkin and customs – we may well have missed our flight. No – there’s no may well about it – we would’ve missed our flight.
So – dilemma, do you kiss him or kill him for that drive from the depths of hell????
The Beijing airport was MASSIVE with a capital “apparently one of the largest in the world” and lordy I believe it.
Going through security nearly made me weep because they were so strict. In all of our travels I have never had to get out phone chargers, ipads and cameras etc for examination.
Anyway, we finally got on the plane, flew home in uneventful fashion and the adventure was over. What a ride!!!
To read a summary of the amazing trip we had go here for our “start at the end” blog post on our overall trip and thoughts, love and laughs. I think it was one of my best write ups actually.
China is a country of many contradictions and we enjoyed every single crazy incredible thing we saw. So glad we got out of our comfort zone to come here – it was extraordinary and so much better than we could’ve hoped. We will definitely come back again!!!!
China – THE END!