Lions and Tigers and (Panda) Bears, Oh, My!
Trip Start Jun 14, 2010
28Trip End Jul 07, 2010
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The guide book was spot on about the zoo. The pandas are treated like royalty. The rest of the animals seem to have slightly substandard conditions. The smell of animal urine was prevalent and most of the cages seemed a little small and under decorated. Despite buying an "everything" ticket that included the aquarium, the penguin house required an additional 10RMB. By my count, that was just over 1RMB per penguin and really wasn't worth it.
We did have an interesting time at the gorilla exhibit. For whatever reason, the gorilla singled me out of the crowd. Maybe it was the different coloring. Maybe it was because I was the only one who was at his eye level. The way things were arranged, the floor of the gorilla pen was at about waist level behind glass with a railing keeping the people mostly away from the glass. I suspect this arrangement was at least partially so that the gorilla was above the crowd in a more "dominant" position (how dominant can you be in a cage) in addition to providing good viewing to the crowd.
As I said, though, the male gorilla singled me out. When he saw me he came over to the glass in front of me and sat down. I was watching him for awhile, but when I moved on, he moved to match me. When I stopped, he stopped. He would occasionally bare his teeth in a grin or lift his arm in a peculiar gesture. After a couple of starts and stops, I realized this might be deliberate so I did some experiments to verify, and sure enough, he was following me and ignoring the throngs around us. Then I started baring my teeth and making different gestures, and he started mimicking me. This went on for quite some time. The crowd got a big kick out of it as well once they noticed. I felt a bit like I was in a zoo in much of China. Here I got to act the part in partnership with the animals.
The aquarium was pretty nice. It was nicely arranged and quite large. It's more of an amusement park than a fish tank, very much set up for kid show-and-tell. The signage is only inconsistently in English. We ate lunch at the cafe, which had better food than I expected. There are also a lot of food stands throughout serving things you just saw in a tank on a stick including octopus and cuttlefish with cute names.
The sea lion and dolphin show was definitely the highlight. It was fairly standard and those shows go, but was impressive nonetheless. I'm always impressed by the training skill and by the intelligence of some of the ocean animals.
The way home had some of the biggest grid lock I saw in Beijing. There was a driver who tried to turn around in the street, but was too timid to shove her way into the opposing flow. She kept her car blocking two lanes of a busy street at rush hour. People went around her as best they could, but it backed things up pretty well.
We got off at Wanfujing and went over to the Foreign Language Book Store. I decided to pick up a book in English on Chinese medicine out of personal interest.