The typhoon flag was hoisted again this morning. Only to level 1 so at least everything would remain open. Other than being a little gusty, there wasn’t any real notable effect. But the rain was back again and this time it was a constant drizzle. So just like being at home really.
Today I wanted to do something a little different to my usual pattern, so I headed to a theme park called Ocean Park. I went to see two things – first to go on the cable cars that I had seen snaking around the mountainside when I visited Aberdeen. Secondly because they had four Giant Pandas and I really wanted to see them. Yes, I know what a total cliché. But in this case I just couldn’t help myself.
Theme Parks in the pouring rain are unusual places. The kids quite obviously don’t give a monkeys about the weather and continue to charge around hyperactively. The parents however radiate a resigned air of disappointment. You don’t need to speak the language to understand their thoughts – I’m wet, and lets just get this over with so we can go home. You’ve not lived until you’ve seen a toddler hugging a sodden park mascot, the costume totally soaked through. But even better than this is when the kid makes mummy and daddy hug the mascot. You can’t help but try to stifle your laughter as asquishy waterlogged panda hugs them extra tight.
The whole place was a crazy mixture of happy kids and miserable adults. Then of course there were the idiots like me who didn’t even have the excuse of being dragged here by my kids. I’d willingly come here in the pouring rain so that I could catch a glimpse of a bear.
It was unsurprising therefore that my first stop was the panda house. There was a long queue, but it moved quickly and I soon find myself indoors and looking through a huge window at young panda laying flat on his back, his legs spread massively wide open revealing all to the world.
This panda had zero shame.
He (definitely he) just lay there. He lay so still that I began to suspect this was elaborate practical joke. But the he sat up, gave himself a bit of a scratch and flopped back down. Clearly Pandas and I have something in common.
Clearly my young Panda friend wasn’t in the most energetic mood, so I moved back out into the park. Now I’d seen the Panda I was at a bit of a loss. So I just started to wander around to see what I could find.
I ventured through one door and found myself in practically empty auditorium where a show was just starting. A trainer came out with a bucket and welcomed us all in Cantonese, which was followed by a recording in English. He went through a jokey little routine, the audience would laugh and then 20 seconds later I’d laugh on my own as the translation caught up. Finally he asked us to put our hands together and welcome the star of the show and absolutely huge elephant seal. Huge is an understatement as he dwarfed the trainer. The trainer gave a talk about the elephant seal, and the seal himself would stand up, or point his flippers, or open his mouth at the appropriate time. It was more educational than entertainment, and the seal wasn’t made to do silly tricks or anything. In fact he seemed to be loving it in a ‘what I just have to have my belly rubbed and I get another fish’ kind of way.
Moving on I walked though a cave and into a huge open netted enclosure. Lots of birds flew around freely, and as I walked around a corner a small crowd had gathered. I joined the crowd and watched an a keeper started to empty food into a container and Red Pandas ran out to grab it. I’ve got to say they are pretty cute creatures.
It was around the next corner that I had my biggest surprise. For there were the adult Giant Pandas and unlike before there were no huge queues pushing and shoving for a glimpse, and this time one was awake.
I can see why people fall in love with the Giant Panda. The do look so cuddly and friendly Yes, they have the strength to pull my arms off but I’d still like to give one a hug! She sat there just chewing on her bamboo shoots, seemingly studying the people around her.I just watched for a few minutes until the crowd that had been watching the Red Panda feeding came around the corner and the peace was shattered.
Yes, it was raining, and yes it was a theme park but seeing that Panda made the trip worthwhile.
I saw other marine life, before getting on a train that would take me to the top of the mountain. This was decorated like something from a Jules Verne novel, and as we pulled out the windows changed to videos of us diving underwater with fish and dolphins swimming by. Soon we were attached by a giant squid, and the train shook with its hits. The kids loved it, and I thought it was clever was of keeping them amused on what otherwise would have been a boring underground trip.
When we emerged at the top it was noticeably more crowded than down below. This appeared to be because all the rides were up here and the queues snaked all around. I walked around hoping for more exhibits or aquariums, but I guess they were all down the mountain. Instead I walked to a viewing platform that gave magnificent views of Aberdeen.
As it was now mid-afternoon and the rain seemed only to be increasing I decided that I would make way home to the hotel. I joined the queue for the cable cars which took an age to progress. When I finally got to the front, I joined two other foreigners in a gondola that looked suspiciously like a birdcage. These were nothing like those on Lantau Island as they were open to the elements and would sway in the wind.
The views were great and must be even better when the rain isn’t obscuring them. Every now and again the gondolas would stop dead for a minute or so and just be swinging in the breeze. Each time this happened the three of us would grin at each other in an ‘everythings cool’ kind of way. Hey, what could happen we were only in birdcage swinging in the wind of an approaching typhoon. Everything of course was cool and I enjoyed my trip down the mountain.