My family's been living in Chengdu now for about six weeks, and it took the visit of an American friend to finally get us out to the Panda Research base - one of the things that Chengdu is best known for (the other being the rocket-fire spicy food).
We were advised by some local friends to get out to the base early, to catch the morning feeding, so we hired a van to take us, and we arrived at 9 AM. This was probably the best advice we could have been given! First, we did get to watch the big fuzzy black and whites lounging around munching on their shoots and leaves ('eats, shoots, and leaves' anyone?). Considering how lazily they partook of their breakfast, I can't imagine how their non-active time would be! I'm assuming it's a lot of lying around, scratching their nether-regions, and dreaming of the next feeding time. The second good thing about going early was that we really did beat the crowds. As we were leaving around 11:30, there was a huge line for the little carts, where there had been no line at 9:00.
But, to the research base itself. What a treat this place was! I didn't know what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised by the amount of thought and effort that went into the design and layout of the place. The park itself is extremely lush, with an abundance of brilliant flowers growing everywhere. I mentioned earlier about the carts - if you don't have a problem walking, the carts are really not necessary, as it takes minimal effort to make your way around the park on foot. And, you get the pleasure of seeing the beauty of the place at a more leisurely pace. I was, however, impressed that the park offered the service of the cart.
The pandas are spaced out so that they have plenty of habitat in which they can lounge about, and it makes plenty to see as you make your way through. The inhabitants of the nurseries were extremely cute, the little rat-like newborn pandas, just starting get a bit of black and white fuzz covering their tiny bodies. The park evidently has a quite successful breeding program going, and so there are plenty of little newborns and adolescents to see.
And then, besides the headlining pandas, you have the not-so-cleverly titled "Swan Lake" (which does have swan) and more koi fish then you could ever hope to see in one place at one time. If you visit, make certain to purchase a little fish food from the friendly vendors on the side of the lake, and watch the koi go nuts as you sprinkle it into the water. The kids loved watching them slide over each other, fighting for a bit of the delicious morsels.
My only complaint would be the price of getting a photo with a baby panda on your lap. The price was over 1000 RMB (around $200) for a five minute photo op. If that money is going back into the care and maintenance of the place, then I can grudgingly agree with it. However, there really isn't any way to know for certain where the money goes. I suppose if it were much cheaper, too many people would want to do it, although there would be ways you could work around that (a lottery system, the first forty to arrive, etc). So, we skipped the photo op, and didn't even mention it to the kids.
But, as I said, that is the only negative. The rest of the morning was wonderful, with great weather, and a smashing good time had by all. We would highly recommend that should you find yourself in Sichuan province, pay a visit to the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.