Saturday, April 18, 2009

Playful pandas

Rain foiled our plans for a hike through some villages on the outskirts of Beijing with a group called Beijing Hikers, so we did what thousands of Beijing families do on Sunday, we went to the zoo to see the pandas.

Bamboo seems to be their meal of choice. The one above cooperated nicely for our photo shoot. The other reason to put the zoo on a list of things to do is the Beijing Aquarium, one of the world's largest if not the largest. A really amazing collection of sharks, whales, stingrays etc. where kids can get close-up.

It struck me today how important children are here. Almost every parent we saw had one child by the hand - and just one - since that's the quota in most cases. I also love the way the Chinese turn everyday activities into exercise. Dancing in the parks, above, is a favorite passtime. Someone brings a boom box and everyone joins in.

Most people don't think of China as a "budget'' destination, yet it is, at least if you're traveling independently as it's getting easier and easier to do. Air fares are in the $700 range round-trip.  The overnight train we're taking to Xian tonight was $60 each for a "soft sleeper,'' a compartment for four people. I don't know yet who our "roommates'' will be, but that's part of the adventure.

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