My wife’s godfather invited us to that place back in 2011 when my parents were in China as well. Basically he (the godfather) knows someone who knows somebody who was able to get us access to that place for free as there are usually no visitors except of course some well-paying tour groups. I believe it used to be more like a little zoo before as there were still signs and paths all around that place but in a very poor condition. Furthermore to get there was like a maze as towards the end the mini bus had to drive through very small streets of some village to get into a mountain path in the forest. I guess the village just expanded over the years and swallowed the road leading to this research center.
I knew already about this place prior to this visit as my wife had pictures on her Facebook with Pandas before we even started dating. So from her I knew already that there were many Pandas and baby Pandas around at least when she was there. As you know my luck by now there were no cute baby Pandas at this place when we visited. To make it even worse they had only a very limited number of these animals as most were at the Xi’an China International Horticultural Exposition 2011…
But we did see a few Pandas but sadly they were already too big that we were not allowed to enter the cage to feed them. Usually this would have been already enough for us but godfather had another surprise for us, the only brown coloured Panda in the world! As you can see now that the world already knows about this animal however back then it was still a secret and thus we were not allowed to take any pictures.
Besides the Giant Pandas there were many other animals such as one of the rarest birds in the world the crested ibis or other animals such as the red panda, leopards and the golden monkey. All in all I can say it was a very interesting trip no matter if there were only a few Pandas to be seen as we learned many interesting facts about the rare species in that research center. I can just recommend to visit this place if you ever have the chance.
Have you ever seen Pandas close up or other rare animals?
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Xi’an has much to offer besides the main sites such as the Terracotta Warriors, the Small and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Beiyuanmen “Muslim Street” with the Great Mosque and numerous burial sites. Not every attraction is suitable for everyone so you got to choose what you really would like to see in case of a short visit as usually two or three days are just not enough to see much. And believe me, there is so much to see that it takes months just to visit all the places advertised in city guides and other sources.
During all my visits in Xi’an I have probably visited all major tourist spots and multiple locations which are more known to the locals. This resulted during my last visit that I felt kind of empty. I wanted to see more of the city but my wife had no motivation to just go through the streets, she wanted to visit only spots she hasn’t seen before. So I started my research on search engines for some place we haven’t visited yet and after a long day I found it; something called the Gao Family Mansion located in Beiyuanmen. Wait, what? Located at the Muslim street? I had been several times and never ever saw anything like this Mansion nor did my wife or her parents have any idea about it.
Next day we headed to Beiyuanmen (just 5min walk from my parents-in-law’s home) in search of that building. We walked about and down there for around 30min with no luck until we saw a little tourist group going through an entrance between food vendors. We followed them and there it was, the place we had been searching for: The Gao Family Mansion
Now first some basic information about the Gao Family Mansion:
Built over 400 years ago during Ming Dynasty
stretched over 2.500sqm (~26,910square feet)
86 rooms of which 56 or so are opened for public
Due to a Project of Sino-Norway Historical Districts Protection in 1999 it was completely repaired (Thanks Norway!)
I don’t remember the entrance fee anymore but it was very cheap. Inside the mansion you can spend some more money on a tea ceremony and a shadow puppetry show but we skipped those. I guess we walked around for nearly two hours there, going through the several rooms and floors (my wife loved the talking myna birds because of their compliments to her beauty and I was fascinated by the turtles).
I can only recommend a visit there, it is pretty much in the middle of Beiyuanmen, there is much to see for little money and most importantly it is very quiet there. As long as you don’t look up to the neighbouring buildings you can’t believe that you are actually in the center of bustling city with over 8 millioninhabitants.
Do you have found any wonderful places which are not heavily advertised in other cities?