If Chengdu, China is known for one thing, it’s being the home of the Panda Research Base. Panda-phernelia fills the airport’s gift shops. Every taxi cab is embellished with a panda painting. No doubt about it: Chengdu’s a town that takes its pandas seriously.
So with my best friend Amber visiting me in Sichuan (I repeat: Amber made the trip all the way to CHINA to see me!), it was obvious we’d be paying the pandas a visit.
Our trip today marked my third visit to the panda base. The excursion started out in typical-enough fashion:
Step #1: We dragged ourselves out of bed in order to make it to the research base by 7:45 a.m. (This early start time is a critical piece of the process; I cannot guarantee success or happiness for your trip should you choose to tangle with the crowds the afternoon brings.)
Step #2: We succumbed to the undistilled adorable-ness that is the giant panda. I don’t know how they manage this, but despite resembling lazy, beer-gutted humans relentlessly munching on bamboo, they still manage to be heart-squeezingly cute.
Step #3: Snap as many photos possible as you battle against the (already-expanding) crowds. Take a peek below to see the fruits of my labor!
Now Steps #4 and #5 are where things take a turn for the better. And then the weird.
Step #4: Discover that the Sunshine Nursery is currently housing 30-day old baby pandas! Enough said; I’ll let your imaginations (and my snapshot) paint the rest of the picture (which is darling).
Step #5: Get bitten by panda.
Nope. That’s not a typo. You didn’t misread it.
“Get bitten by panda” made it onto our Panda Trip checklist.
The good news is that the rogue was a red panda, not a giant panda. That’s the only reason this story’s a comedy, not a tragedy.
Now, my husband and I are not panda park newbies; this wasn’t our first rodeo. One of the red panda enclosures is structured so that the walking path actually navigates among pens with holes cut into them, allowing the red pandas to meander among the people; we’ve read the signs along the path that warn you red pandas aren’t the friendliest of fauna.
So my husband was being a gentleman and respecting the panda’s personal space. It walked past two little girls, snapping pictures about 6 inches from its face–no reaction from the panda. It ambled past Amber and I–nothing. It walked past my husband….
A dart, a strike, and WHAM! Panda-monium! It’d locked teeth on my husband and he was fighting the temptation to give the panda a taste of its own medicine.
In the end, my husband remained a gentleman and simply shook the panda off; no vengeance shots were fired. It skulked off hissing, and my husband skulked off to get a rabies booster.
Just another day in China and another good story. And another reason to wear the good ol’ fashion American armor that is jeans, as they protected from more serious combat scars.
But at least now, my husband can check one more exotic animal adventure off his list.