Monday, 15-12-12014. Day 117.
Pandas, Penguins, Irascible Taxi Drivers.
This was our last morning in the Dongfang Hotel, and, as so often happens, we had to check out of the hotel before we could leave for our next destination (in this case, an overnight train). We had to check out at Noon but didn't have to be anywhere until 8:00 p.m.
So we were in no hurry to get moving that morning. We slept in a little, then enjoyed our last free breakfast at this hotel before checking out. They were kind enough to hold onto our luggage for us until later in the evening when we'd return to meet Jack for our trip to the Beijing train terminal. Until then, though, we were on our own, so we headed off to the Beijing Zoo.
As we were trying to figure out which ticket package to buy, we were approached by a few different zoo ticket scalpers who shaved a few yuan off the price of admission. We didn't buy from them though, thinking it was probably better to buy our tickets from the zoo.
As we walked toward the entrance, we were approached by a lot of people begging. One old woman in particular held up her gnarled, twisted hands, pleading to us. It made us pretty sad.
Once we wee through the gate, the first place we went was the panda enclosure. There was some confusion about the ticket package we bought—did it include access to the giant panda park? It seems it did, because we walked in with no problem after showing our tickets.
It's a pretty huge part of the zoo, and there are three or four buildings that make up the panda area, and at least two of them were some kind of theater. Posters hanging around the place made it look like the zoo has regular events where the pandas show off their tricks, but when we visited, there were no tricks. We only saw four pandas, and they were all sleeping.
There was a whole section of animals for the Americas. This included an arctic fox that was really cute and a raccoon dog, which I'd never heard of before and don't think is actually from the Americas.
There was also a regular raccoon that was a lot fatter than the family that lives in our backyard back in Los Angeles.
The only big cats that were out in the cold were two Siberian tigers. Everything else was more sensible than we humans and stayed inside, where it was warmer.
From cat hill we went to check out the elephant enclosure, but this just made us depressed. the elephants where did not seem to be having a good time. They were all inside (presumably because of the cold weather), and a few of them wore a huge metal bracelet on one foot that was chained to the wall.
At this point we retreated to the warmer confines of a restaurant on the edge of the Australian animal section that promised Australian-style food. Having recently explored Australia somewhat extensively, we can say that the food here wasn't really Australian at all, but we did appreciate drinking hot beverages in a warm building for a little while before we had to head back out.
We wandered past the completely abandoned felid (jaguars and such) area, to the bear village. There were a lot of brown bears, including a few cubs who were very playful (the sun reflected off the glass, though, so the pictures are poor), a couple of sunbears, and a single polar bear who was taking it easy. People kept tapping on the glass to get his attention, but he wasn't having it.
We were pretty happy when we stumbled across Penguinland, even if we had to pay extra to enter the indoor enclosure. We spent a little time here watching the penguins swim around and cavort with each other.
After we'd had our fill of penguins we decided to leave the zoo. There were a few other things we could have seen, but everyone was numb to the bone and didn't really want to walk around anymore. Overall, the verdict on the Beijing Zoo is that the Perth Zoo was better.
After we left the zoo, we walked across the street (well, under it; much safer) to a nearby McDonald's. There was too much chance for a hit-or-miss with restaurants, and we were all pretty hungry, so we wanted something familiar (well, sort of familiar; we haven't eaten at McDonald's a whole lot in our lives) and quick.
The place was really busy and they only had one English menu. The choices were fairly limited compared to what we remembered from back home—and the food wasn't that good. The staff was very friendly, though. And it was warm.
Then we crossed back over to the zoo side and caught a taxi. Or tried to. The first one we hailed was waiting for someone else, and the second we got into didn't want to take us back to the hotel because he'd have to drive 200 meters up the street and turn around to go the other way. He advised us to catch a taxi on the other side of the street, which we didn't really want to do—we were tired of walking in he cold and when we'd been over there, we noticed there were no taxis. I guess we didn't move fast enough though, because he grumbled something, slammed the car into gear and took off, taking us back to the hotel.
We relaxed in the lobby for a little while until Jack arrived and took us to Beijing Train station. It was nearly time for an overnight train ride to Xi'an.
- Taxis taken: 2
- Angry cab drivers: 1
- Pandas seen: 4