Xi'an in central China is one of the old capitols of China. It still has it's original (restored) city wall standing. There are heaps of sites to see in and around the city. It has an atmosphere all of it's own so far that I've found in China. AND it has bars where you can sit down, have a drink, listen to some tunes and not get hassled AT ALL !!
As soon as I got to town I started talking to the other travellers in the Han Tang hostel and we had a trip out to a rescue park for endangered wildlife sorted for the next day. Minimum number of four and we had six once the word got out. Because the Pandas lead a life of luxury we had an early start to do the hour or so drive to catch these guys before they finished their brunch and went back to sleep. The first one we saw was on his back chewing bamboo leaves and couldn't care less about the idiots outside the fence trying to coax him over or even out from under the pile of leaves he was laying in. Mmmmmmm. Not really impressive these guys.
We went over to another pen where they had two that had been bred on the grounds. This is where it turned interesting. Jia Jia still wanted to eat, but didn't mind being scratched behind the ear at the same time either. He got chastised for trying to shake hands with me but it was all good when I fed him a carrot. This fat little 100kg ball of black and white fur lapped up the attention and got a heap of exercise walking up and down the fence to eat the latest offerings of leaves, carrols, apples and some mad zoo keeper mix that smelt like ......
The best part of the whole day was that our group of eight, counting the guide and a ring in from the hostel, were the only ones there. No crowds, no pushing and shoving (something that is synonomous with China) and apart from the fog (another story)it was a nice day. There are red pandas, a leopard, black bears, monkeys, peacocks and a few other really weird looking animals on the grounds as well. The only thing was though that the cages could've been a little bit bigger and some (like the unsociable monkey in solitary) could've been living in a little bit better conditions. All comes down to the dollars though and if they have more crowds, they have more dollars, and then you wouldn't get the experience the Basque warrior, the crazy Irishman, the danish couple and son and the two (there is always two) Aussies got that day. Catch 22.