Monday was slated for the Guangzhou Safari Park. Again our day started with a good breakfast at the Hotel buffet. I will say that we’re a bit tired of being shuffled to the back 40 to a table in what is really a hallway where the humidity is ultra-high and mosquitoes again dine with you. I suppose with a party of SEVEN, options are more limited, when the rest of the tables are mostly filled. The good news is that we get to sit with a lot of other adoptive families, who have ALSO been shuffled back there with us!
We met our driver at 9:30 and headed out. Kelly, our most excellent Guangzhou guide, didn’t need to join us as we were OK on our own – we’d been to the Chimelong Safari Park before and knew what we wanted to see and do. Our driver was very efficient and got us there quickly and safely. On the way into the Safari Park, the access road passes a newer full-scale amusement park and a water park. The amusement park looked like it could be fun, with several big coasters near the front. Kyle wondered of we’d have an extra day to do these two parks, too! Mom didn’t think that the safety codes of the rides were probably exactly up to US Code standards here, though.
Our driver dropped us at the front gate and we were on our way. First stop: Drive-thru safari. We boarded our train, which was an open air tram – good for photos and wildlife viewing. We also saw several other families in the line waiting for the next trains. We got there pretty early and there were very few people visiting the park that day – it was easy to see everything.
Unfortunately, with his vision challenges, Ryan couldn’t really see well enough to appreciate anything. So to make the best of things, we took photos of everything we could and quickly showed them to him right on the camera LCD viewer right after we took them. We’d tell him the name of the animal and show him the photos. He would then pull the camera close to his eyes to get a good luck at the image. He seemed to understand and said every name – and looked at every photo. The drive-thru safari took us through several habitats and we got a chance to see a ton of animals – many of them were actually having their feeding times. We saw a “runaway” wildebeast that tried to race a car and a baby giraffe. Some of the less dangerous animals will get very close to the cars.
“What Day Is It?”
A Baby Elephant
One of the White Tigers
King of the Beasts
After we wrapped up the drive-thru safari, we moved onto seeing the rest of the park. Just inside the gate we saw a handful of characters and got some photos with the kids. There were some creepy clowns on stilts – I’m sure they were fine, but they just seemed a bit, well… creepy. So we got pictures anyway! Ryan has “character phobia” like Ashley so he needed to be held when we were within 10 feet of any character. Kyle also told us that one of the “Panda” people reeked of smoke and that he must have been out smoking earlier! Only Kyle would notice such things. The crowds were sparse but the weather was really hot and humid. We tried to stay hydrated and we had a good lunch at the Panda Restaurant. One of the cafeteria workers came up to Dylan and started talking to him in Chinese so he looks at me, and I said to her “he doesn’t understand, try my other son.” She speaks to Ryan and he looks at her blankly, so finally she says to me in ENGLISH “it is very hot here today!”
Some of the Characters
These are pretty creepy, yes?
This safari park was a bit different than zoos in the U.S. They actually had several areas dedicated to having visitors feed the animals. Of course, we had to buy the food, but it wasn’t expensive at all, considering that we could not even have fed the animals at home. The kids (and the grown-ups!) had a lot of fun feeding Giraffes and Elephants. The giraffes ate leaves and branches, while the elephants dined on bananas, apples and carrots. The kids loved feeding the giraffes as they would lift the lighter kids off the ground as they grabbed for the branches. They were extremely docile. The elephants were probably about 15 feet from us, too (very unlike US zoos) and there was even a little baby elephant wandering among the adults.
Feeding the Giraffes
Feeding the Elephants
Then we visited the Animal Kindergarten, where we saw a handful of baby animals. we saw a baby chimp and a baby orangutan in an inside enclosure. The chimp was as rambunctious as any toddler you’ve ever seen. The chimp’s handler would turn his back to check on the orangutan, and the chimp would climb the wall separating the animals from the visitors! He’d pull himself along the top of the wall, literally, half inside and half outside (Dylan had to back himself almost out of the area, as the chimp was getting so rowdy!) The “babies” were both less than a year old, so it was still very safe for them to be so close. It was very entertaining – surprising – but entertaining. If the chimp wanted to, it could have bolted over the wall and out the door! Again, not something you’d see back home – it was only 11:00 and you could tell the zoo keeper was already beyond tired. We also saw a baby zebra, and a handful of baby black bears.
We made our way to the highlight of the park – the Pandas, specifically the worlds’ only set of baby panda triplets born last year at the park. We first saw the father of the trips, who was very close to the edge of the enclosure – close enough that we could hear the noises he was making at us as we took our photos of him. He is currently 18 yrs old. We saw several other large Pandas, one who was eating his lunch of bamboo as we passed by – it didn’t seem like we bothered him at all! Many were near big blocks of ice and/or sitting on refrigerated areas. The Panda section of the park was one of the biggest, and we learned a lot about the panda and also how the park cared for them. It was very well done. The last section was where we saw the 3 baby pandas, they seemed pretty relaxed and were resting in their trees, as their mother wandered the enclosure.
Father of the Triplets
This fellow was a big hit with the Boys…he was scratching his butt on the corner of the bench – it WAS pretty funny, though.
This is the one eating his bamboo lunch…
This one looked to be taking his “after-bamboo-lunch” nap
The little panda triplets slept in their trees when we passed through.
The gang – after the pandas and just before lunch.
Trying on hats!
Another FIRST for young Ryan…riding “Up Top”
After the Pandas, we made our way to the Koala Exhibit, and then on the way out, we did a walk-through of the Dinosaur Forest. There was a wide variety of pretty life-like dinos. There was one section where one of the dinosaurs actually squirted water at the park visitors (at their feet…)! Of course, we learned that the hard way…as Ryan, Dad and AR were passing this particular dinosaur, we hear the roars, but were NOT prepared for the water jet! Ryan nearly jumped out of his shorts when he felt the water – and AR almost had to CHANGE her shorts! Ryan wasn’t sure about what was happening – it seemed like he understood that the dinos were not real, but was NOT prepared for the water surpirse! Seeing his reaction was hysterical.
In the Dinosaur Forest…
At the end of the Dino Forest where any normal person would think that the path would end, the path wound around and around through three or four more exhibits. In the meantime, the sky had begun to darken significantly, and the wind picked up, almost out of nowhere. The problem was that we were still quite a way from the exit to the park, and the safety of our van. So nothing like speed walking after a long, hot and humid day, with 4 kids in tow about another mile through the park. The worse things looked, the faster our pace picked up. Things were NOT looking good. We’d wanted to have the kids do some shopping for souvenirs, so we raced to the gift shop, rushed the kids into their decisions, and we were out the door in about 5 minutes! That’s about when the lightning started…
Dylan was not pleased that we were pretty much running through the park, headed for the exit, while lightning and thunder seemed to be closing in! We ended up making it almost to the exit, before the sky opened up. We got a little wet from the rain, but by that time we were pretty much saoked to the skin with sweat, so we didn’t really notice! As we were leaving the park’s PA system was announcing that the park was CLOSING! Our driver found us at the exit and was nice enough to pull the van right up to the shelter so we didn’t get wetter. At this point, Ryan’s probably thinking that these people don’t have the sense to get out of the bad weather!
As we were paging through the photos we took at the park (on the cameras in the van) we almost forgot about posing with complete strangers!! At four different times during the day, we noticed Chinese park visitors taking OUR pictures – especially AR’s – because of her blond hair! Sometime they’d ask, but most times they’d just wander up behind whoever in our group was taking the shot – and take the same picture over their shoulder!!! Then there was the guy and his girlfriend in the Dino Forest. They basically stalked us (not in a menacing way – they were very friendly) – at first, secretly sneaking a picture, and then finally asking us to pose with them so they could take our picure with them on their cameras! We obliged, as we usually do. This time, we got a few photos of them, too!
All-in-all the safari park was a big hit and the kids AND grown-ups had a lot of fun. It stormed very long and hard all the way back to the hotel and for another couple of hours after that. So we dined downstairs at the Hotel Restaurant, before settling in for an early night.
Tomorrow is Tuesday and our Appointment at the US Consulate to process the U.S. part of Ryan’s adoption.
Fun fact of the day – we have no idea why but they are rationing toilet paper and soap in the hotel – they leave ONE roll or soap bar for days of use (so we are constantly asking for more, like it is unheard of), and in any restaurant, you have to beg for napkins. AR almost had to give blood at the Panda Restaurant as the woman behind the counter wasn’t giving them up! Many times, when you do get them, they are the cocktail napkins and not even good ones. We have learned to carry kleenex, wipes and extra napkins with us at all times. At least they don’t monitor the hot water usage. We remember when we were in Nanchang in 2006 and we got the call (in Chinese) that we were over our “hot water usage” for the night after boiling 5 pots of hot water to put in Kyle’s bath!
A sad fact of the day – the kids are being exposed to several people with special needs that are left to beg on the streets. Those with special needs in this country lead a very difficult life. There is one man that has extremely distorted limbs and cannot do anything but lie down that is placed by someone unknown on the street at night to lie and moan and beg on the sidewalk near the hotel. Another man had tumors in his face like the Elephant Man, so it has been hard for the kids to wonder why no one will take care of them and why they are left on the streets.