Does one of your enemies hate kids, animals and crowded places? Buy them a ticket to the Beijing Zoo!
I started to realize going to the zoo on a Sunday morning was a very bad idea when we were on the subway—it was packed with “little emperors”, Chinese single children with their parents and grand-parents. There was little doubt we were all heading to the same place.
The crowd in front of the zoo was fighting at the gate as if their life depended on it, “it” being either seeing the giant pandas or some other exotic animals. I sighed. I like zoos, but this kind of place is best enjoyed on a quiet day.
Chinese people are not animal lovers—unless said animal is fried and seasoned with soy sauce. Yet they like zoos, mostly because they see them as huge “upgraded” parks where kids can eat junk food, climb on statues of animals (who cares about the live animals!) and buy cute toys.
Indeed, the zoo isn’t what most Westerners would consider “animal friendly”. It’s dirty, the animals are constantly fed whatever people hand them out despite the “no feeding” signs and the Chinese will do whatever it takes for a good picture, including teasing the poor creatures.
No one cared much about the birds (including lovely swans) and the fish. The zebras were only popular because someone fed them lettuce and they came close enough to the fence. You had to pay extra to get close to the giraffes and check out the penguins, and the gorilla was nowhere to be found. The real stars? The pandas.
The Chinese love pandas. And when you can’t even get close to the glass window behind which, presumably, the panda was, well you buy panda merchandise.
We didn’t. By the time we reached the “panda section” (which we had avoided because we knew how busy it was going to be), we were too tired to fight our way closer to the animals. Oh well.
On the upside, after the zoo, any other place felt nice and quiet!