I live in Wuhan, which is provincial to say the least. I am well versed in dealing with people staring, pointing and shouting foreigner at me as I walk down the street.
This weekend I decided to take a trip to Changsha. I mentioned this to a friend who, knowing that I am big on animal rights, suggested I visit Changsha Ecological Zoo. After checking out the website it claimed to be more of an ecological sanctuary than a zoo so I went to give it a go. Now I know that animal rights isn’t a thing here in China, you can see that by the animals encased in key rings and dog restaurants that dot the streets. I am under no illusion that cultural differences are to be tolerated, if not accepted. However, this is in no way ecological. It is a run of the mill, inhumane, money making tourist attraction.
I visited on a particularly busy weekend with it being a national holiday. I accepted the queues for tickets with good grace whilst receiving my stares, points and shouts of foreigner.
I decided to pay for an all inclusive ticket which would allow me to use the transport in the park as it was a very hot day.
I joined the queue for transport and after 40 sweaty, starry minutes I reached the front. The transport arrived and I attempted to board. There was room in one of the rows of another visitor moved along. I asked politely. She ignored me. The staff did not assist. I sat anyway, she soon moved.
As the cart began to make its way into the park it became apparent to me that it was a hellish mistake as I saw tigers and elephants shoehorned into minuscule spaces for their size. I waited for the cart to stop and proceeded to make my way to the exit on foot. There came another cart and as it was at a stop I attempted to board only to be physically pushed away by another passenger. I took a deep breath, managed not to head butt her and continued to walk. By the time I got out out of the park I’d been in there less than an hour. I went to the tourist centre and asked if anyone spoke English. They didn’t but of of the staff members, 谭丹, spoke through a translator app, as did I. I explained my issue and said that I wanted a refund. She informed me that the parks policy was not to refund. I said I understood but due to my poor treatment I was not going to back down. She explained that as it was a customer it was not the parks fault. Once again, I said I understood but I was not going to back down. She spoke to her manager and he also refused the refund. I explained, that was fine but I wasn’t going to back down and that I had all day. I eventually received my refund but it was reluctant.
I will add that they offered to escort me back into the park, I declined. As a worldly traveller with a very open mind I did not want to visit a place that combats racism in highlighting the issue further by parading me around with a bodyguard. I have never in all the many far flung countries I have visited, experienced such blatant refusal to accept a foreigner. I am friendly and polite and stop for photos when I am asked, which is all the time.
It was incredibly disappointing and I would not recommend it, not only because of my poor experience but also because of the inhumane treatment of the animals. If you want to see animals being treated badly, visit any shop on the street and see the turtles trapped in key rings.