• Live among pandas in China

    2013-10-14

    For families interested in all things panda, here are a couple of travel tips for you: book a flight to China, and bring enough luggage for all of the cuddly panda-themed souvenirs you will inevitably buy. In China, tourists can find the best in Chinese panda sanctuaries, research centers, tours and, yes, even panda-themed hotels. Here are two locations worthy of serious panda enthusiasts of all ages:

    Home of the panda
    Xiongmao Jidi - also known as the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Base - became home to 14 new artificially-bred pandas last month thanks to the help of in-vitro fertilization. They join the 120-plus pandas who currently reside at the facility.

    The Chengdu Research Base's stated mission is to be "a world-class research facility, conservation education center, and international educational tourism destination." In that regard, it more than followed through. Founded in 1987, the facility originally started with six giant pandas. Over the course of 26 years, breeders and researchers have increased that number by more than 2,000 percent.

    Tourists can walk the grounds, gawking at the beautiful landscape cultivated for the benefit of the endangered species, a veritable nature preserve in its own right that displays hosts of trees, flowers and bamboo. The facility also offers educational tours and a museum for people to learn more about the bear. Those who just want to see a panda will have their best opportunity at feeding time, which usually takes about an hour and a half in the morning. Should you miss one roaming its natural habitat, the research base also sports cranes, storks and red pandas, which actually resemble raccoons more than panda bears.

    Sleep tight
    Here's a first in Asia travel: the Haoduo Hotel in Sichuan province is the world's first panda-themed hotel, located in the Sichuan province. The hotel's soft opening took place last May to the joy of many news organizations looking for quick, intriguing photo? galleries, but there hasn't been much follow-through in terms of reviews. Only a few reviews can be found on TripAdvisor, but they are all fairly positive.

    The hotel's 32 rooms are covered with panda art of all kinds, from traditionally decorated fans and anime posters to stuffed animals and curtain ties. The colors black and white, as well as bamboo are the main design features in every room, with white headboards and dresser drawers adorned with minimalist black panda ears. Just be prepared for a panda greeting - employees roam the grounds dressed up in giant panda costumes, much like the cartoonish performers at Disneyland.

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