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How to Chengdu it - A guide to the city's collections

Discussion in 'China' started by FunkyGibbon, 24 Aug 2018.

  1. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    I spent four days in Chengdu last week; I thought instead of reviewing the city's collections I'd instead write more of a guide to how to 'do' the city as a zoological destination. Still with review elements of course!

    Chengdu's metro and bus system is excellent, easy to use and cheap. For this reason, and because the collections are spread around the outskirts of the city, you can't really go wrong when choosing accommodation, as long as it's within easy reach of a metro stop. I'd recommend Hello Chengdu Hostel, if you want to meet other English speakers, and Blacksmith Hostel if you want somewhere a little quieter. I liked both of them.

    If using buses as a non-chinese speaker/reader, I think mapping software and GPS might be essential. Otherwise it would be really difficult to know when to get off. I used Baidu Maps, which gave very accurate information about where buses left from and which bus you would need in the first place. I didn't actually check whether Google Maps could match it in this regard, but I'll provide the Chinese names of the collections which should be enough to get by on Baidu Maps.

    Giant Panda Breeding Research Base - 成都大熊猫基地

    The only one of the four I didn't visit. It is supposedly a park full of mediocre giant panda enclosures and huge queues of people. One for the completionists I think. Easily reached by taking the number 3 line to Panda Avenue, where there is a shuttle bus to the entrance. (Note that this is not the famous Panda Base that often makes it into western media; that is situated quite far outside the city.) Price 58¥.

    Chengdu Zoo - 成都动物园

    A good Chinese zoo. Behind Shanghai in my opinion, but clearly trying hard, and with few poor enclosures. The primate exhibits are quite bad in parts though. Nice deer collection. Signage and educational material was very good. It has South China tigers, Golden snub-nosed monkeys and Mongolian wild ass, but otherwise lacks the kind of rare species that would be a draw for zoochatters. Definitely a must-visit for a China newcomer, and only those extremely pressed for time should contemplate leaving it off the itinerary. Only needs a half day at most. The unimaginatively named Chendu Zoo station on line 3 takes you right to the entrance. Price 20¥.

    The Cube Oceanarium - 浩海立方

    A real mixed bag. Moments of genius, some ambitious and innovative ideas that didn't really come off, and sadly some abysmal exhibits that tarnish the whole place. Some decent tanks seem overstocked as well. There are many different sections, each with drastically different theming, which can be quite overwhelming. Highlights include the Gentoo penguin exhibit and the Amazon flooded forest tank. The big draw species are Whale sharks, Chinese sturgeon and Bull sharks. Quite possibly there are other rarities that I didn't appreciate. The main tank, with its 'world's largest' viewing window, is impressive. Unfortunately, and unbelievably, the window is mostly obscured by a huge children's inflatable slide. Because it actually opens onto a mall atrium the glare and reflection off of four floors of store fronts is also horrendous. Without a doubt the most squandered opportunity I have ever experienced in a zoo. A few hours here would be enough, though even with its flaws the main tank rewards extended lingering.

    The Cube is quite far out. Take line 3 to Hongpailou, and then bus 368 or 368a to Seaside City mall. WARNING: the location given by TripAdvisor's map is totally incorrect. This cost me several hours. Opening hours are 10 - 10, which opens up some possibilities, but note that the bus back to the city centre would stop several hours earlier. Price 160¥.

    Chengdu Zanhuayuan Zoo - 成都赞化园动物园

    For the zoochatter, the jewel in the crown. This zoo has numerous species that you are very unlikely to see anywhere else in the world. The small carnivore collection, almost all local species, is beyond comparison. On numbers alone it stands up to Plzen. I believe the linsang is the only one on show in the world. There are also some choice rodents and birds.

    Exhibitwise it ricochets from the truly diabolical, to the merely bad, to the unfathomably bizarre, all packed into a very small site. Simply put, in almost every respect this zoo is like none you have ever visited before. Most, but not all of the animals appear to be in good condition, and I think there is a fair amount of breeding. I don't really believe that it is actually functioning as a rescue centre, which I think it is technically classed as.

    Because most enclosures lack adequate hiding places you are unlikely to have problems hitting your target species. I visited from 3.30 until 6.30, because I figured more stuff would be active in the evening. I've no idea when it actually closes; they twice played what everyone in China understands to be the 'Time to Leave' music, but no-one actually made me go so I stayed well beyond that. I'd be wary of assuming you could be there after 5.00 pm though. Take line 2 to Huiwangling and then bus 40 until you are close on the map! And it may well look closed, I had a good minute's panic until I realized it wasn't. Price 20¥.


    In terms of an overall plan, Chengdu is a nice city with plenty to do and there's no reason why you wouldn't stay three or four days and do one collection only per day. If however you are on a tight schedule then using taxis you could definitely do Zoo-Cube-Zanghuayuan as a long day. On public transport I don't think you'd manage it, but you could do The Cube on the way from or to the airport the day before or after, as they're not too far apart, as long as your flight times permit. The Panda Base is only one metro stop from the Zoo, so if you do want to do that they'd make an obvious pair.

    All in all, and until my visit to the Chimelong parks in a few weeks this isn't definitive, I'd say Chengdu is the no.1 zoological destination in China. Beijing Zoo has different rarities, but isn't a great zoo at all, and while the Beijing Zoo Aquarium is very good it can't stand up against the Cube. Furthermore there are quite a few national parks and other nature watching spots in Sichuan that Chengdu is a logical base for. Lastly, Chengdu makes an excellent 'gateway' to Asia from Europe. It's several hours less on the plane compared to a lot of options and Chinese state airlines tend to be among the cheaper ones out there.

    I know I didn't go into depth on the zoos themselves, mostly to make sure I actually got this written up this week. I'll happily answer any questions people have.
     
    Last edited: 24 Aug 2018
  2. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Thanks very much for taking the time to type up your observations...it is greatly appreciated!
     
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  3. aardvark250

    aardvark250 Well-Known Member

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    Will you go to all three of Chimelong's park?The aquarium is not in Guangzhou but in Zhuhai(near Macau).
    Zanhuayuan is one of the zoo i want to visit in China, it have eight of the nine species of genet-thing(forget the term) native in China!
    Chengdu panda base also have red panda, and is an strong powerhouse for panda breeding.
    Did Chengdu zoo still have black muntjac and tufted deer?
     
  4. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    So, given that you have just visited recently, how does your experience compare to my 2013 review? (Chengdu Zoo - visit to Chengdu Zoo, 15 November 2013). It attracted a response two years later (on the second page of the thread) from someone who took issue with my description of it but I had no way of knowing if the zoo had actually had a sharp downturn or if the person had some particular bias.
     
  5. Brum

    Brum Well-Known Member

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    Right, I'll be honest now, that is a line-up I would travel halfway round the world to see, lottery win pending. (@Shorts, we have a deal ;)). Any chance of a (rough) species list? :)

    Quote taken from the ZC Global Challenge.
     
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  6. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    If you look at the gallery @Deer Forest has populated it with almost everything of interest. Missing are the Small Indian civet, two of the three taxa of giant squirrel (signs as yet untranslated) and three other species of squirrel.

    Of interest might also be the giant salamander kept in a stone water tank, and the hedgehogs living in a wooden bathtub!

    I took plenty of pictures at all three collections, which will be uploaded in due course.
     
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  7. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes, tufted deer signed and seen, black muntjac unsigned, but a muntjac species seen. Tbh I didn't pay attention to it enough to tell you if it was Black or not.
     
  8. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    Having finished my China trip I thought I'd follow this up. It's actually a pretty close thing between Guangzhou and Chengdu. The overall quality of the collections in Guangzhou is much, much higher, and Ocean Kingdom has many things rarely found in Western zoos. It would pretty much come down to whether you prefer small furry things or sleek swimmy ones. Guangzhou would be a much more expensive trip as well, and very hard to condense down if you needed to. Very much horses for courses but I think I'd put Chengdu ahead.
     
  9. aardvark250

    aardvark250 Well-Known Member

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    You are talking about Chimelong right? Guangzhou have a city zoo. I would put Chimelong high by quality, but Chengdu in rarities.
     
  10. aardvark250

    aardvark250 Well-Known Member

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    Also there are a ton of back stage animal in Chimelong. Langur and tamandua and echidna to name a few.