Adventures in Asia

by Greg & Francie

A guide to Wolong Panda Center

I wanted to post some information for visitors or volunteers heading up to the Wolong Giant Panda Research Center.  I have already gotten a lot of questions thrown my way so I will try and put all the info here.

First of all, Francie and I initially planned to spend a month volunteering at Wolong.  We set it up directly with the Wolong Panda Club and not through a travel agency.  This is very easy to do if you’re comfortable with arranging transportation to Wolong and accomodation on your own.

Transport to/from Wolong

There are a number of ways to get to Wolong from Chengdu.  We took the Public bus for about 30 RMB.  The trip took about 4.5 hours.  The first 2.5 hours is on a highway but the last 1.5 hours is on a road through the mountains.  It is very bumpy – if you get motion sickness I suggest you take something for it. 

 The public bus leaves Chengdu for Wolong around 11:30 am and leaves Wolong for Chengdu at 7:00am (pickup outside the Wolong Hotel).  A private car/bus could make the trip quicker.  One warning is this can be a crazy ride as buses try and pass slower cars in the face of oncoming traffic.

The second part of the drive is on a road that currently has streches paved and unpaved.  It can be a very bouncy ride.  As of Aug 10th the road will be closed for parts of the day as they try and make more progress, so the public bus times listed above may have changed.

You will pass by the Wolong Panda Center before you get to Wolong Village (see below).  Wait until you get to the Wolong Hotel (english sign) before you hop off.

Accomodation

You can stay at the Panda Inn (right at the Research Center) or in Wolong Village which has a number of accomodation options.

As of Aug 10 the Panda Inn is still closed for renovations.  My guess is it will take them another 2 months to finish the place up.

In Wolong Village most people stay at the Wolong Hotel (advertised rate was about 500 RMB/night).  We didn’t see the rooms but heard they were nice but not the billed 4 stars… they do have western toilets however.

We stayed at a place five minute walk further up the road (take a right coming out of the Wolong Hotel).  There is an English sign that says ‘Hotel-Resturant’ in big red letters.  It is a chinese hotel that costs 80 RMB/night (we talked them down to 70 RMB).  The family that runs the place is very nice, although they don’t speak much English and it is not a western style hotel.  If you’re okay with that though, it is a much better deal than the Wolong Hotel, and the restaurant has some of the best food in the village.

It costs about 40 RMB to ‘taxi’ from Wolong Village to the Panda Center.  If you are volunteering the Panda Club folks can arrange a driver for you (80 RMB/day) who will pick you up in the morning and take you home at the end of the day.

Eating

Edible food is a bit of a problem and people who are there for more than a night or two get bored very quickly.  Most people we talked to complained about the Wolong Hotel’s food.  We ended up deciding the best place was the chinese hotel mentioned above (with the red sign that says ‘Hotel Restaurant’.  They have a one page english menu and will let you go to the kitchen to pick different kinds of vegetables for the meal.

Eating at Wolong Panda Center was not possible for visitors–only for volunteers (cost is 15 RMB for lunch).  The food leaves a lot to be desired.  We ended up bringing instant noodles for lunch on most days.

Groceries are very limited.  Think instant noodles and candy. Other than the Panda Inn, there are no other options for food at the Wolong Panda Research Center – so bring some snacks with you!

Internet Access

You can use Wolong Hotel’s computers for 5 RMB/hour.  Great connection but you cannot download anything to the computers.  No wireless access but they will allow you to connect your laptop.

Visiting

If you are visiting, I highly recommend that you go to the Center between the hours of 8-11am.  This is the best time because the Pandas have been fed and the 1 year olds are out playing.  The worst time to come is between noon and 2:30pm.  The keepers are at lunch and the Pandas are napping.  Admission is 60 RMB.

I have also heard that visiting the Wolong Center is much much better than the Chengdu center.   FYI – If you are getting your picture taken with the pandas and are with a tour group – the tour guide gets a percentage of your donation to Wolong.  That is kind of lame.

Volunteering 

We had planned to volunteer for a month but it turned out to be more like a ‘behind the scenes’ experience and after a while we decided it was best to move on, although there are definitely advantages to working there for more than a few days;  the keepers will get to know you and trust you more, you’ll get to do some more interesting work, you’ll get to know a few panda’s personalities, and you’ll feel more like a part of the team than an outsider.  There are so many tour groups that come and “volunteer” for only 1 or 2 days – this makes the keepers a little jaded since they have to deal with so many folks who just want to take photos rather than actually do any work.

You will have fun getting bamboo, cleaning cages, etc.  You should not expect to feed pandas, touch pandas or anything like that.  As Francie said one day, she is more accustomed to non-profits throwing as much work as possible at you–this is not the case at Wolong and that is why we started to think of it more as a ‘behind the scenes’ experience.  The cost for volunteering is 100 RMB/day and a one time 300 RMB for the clothing rental.

Schedule: 8am feed and clean for a while.  10am hour off, 11am feeding pandas until 11:40am.  Lunch until 2:30pm.  Feed Pandas and take breaks until 5:30pm.  The great thing about this schedule is that you get to take lots of pics of the Pandas.  But bring a book in case you get bored.

Regardless, we had a really fun time.  It is just amazing to spend that much time watching pandas, and getting to know them well (look at all the pictures in the earlier posts to see how much fun we had).  The ‘keepers’ are also very interesting people and it is great to get to know them.  Our experience there has been one of the major highlights of our trip.

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August 9, 2007 - Posted by | China, Panda, Travel, Wildlife, Wolong

8 Comments »

  1. Excellent fact sheet on Wolong. Thank you so much!

    Comment by Chet | August 9, 2007 | Reply

  2. Your advice are very useful! We are also planning a trip to Wolong reservation Centre but finding it difficult to get useful info. I was just wondering, if you’re not allowed to touch the pandas, how close can you get to them?
    Thanks!

    Comment by peggy | September 4, 2007 | Reply

  3. I would like to know how to book a room in advance at the Panda Inn in Wolong.

    You can touch the pandas, but must wear gloves and a sort of raincoat. It is advised to keep your hands away from their mouths and to treat them kindly.

    Comment by William Burke | November 2, 2007 | Reply

  4. Follow these guidelines and you will build that new home with little, or no, problems. atlanta bathroom remodeling can help…

    Comment by roagreews | November 19, 2007 | Reply

  5. I volunteered for a week at the panda preserve in May 2007. Our experience was wonderful. I stayed at the Wolong Hotel which was a very nice place. There was no heat in the room but the beds were heated. We had a personal driver and guide that took us back and forth each day. I took care of two pandas, Hai Za and Ling Ling. Hai Za was pregnant when we were there. We were able to touch the pandas and became very attached to them. It was a life time experience and well worth the time and money.

    Comment by Andrea | January 13, 2008 | Reply

  6. I am wondering how you can book a room at panda inn or at the “Hotel-Resturant” that you stayed at? Did you just book it when you arrived?! Having a hard time finding hotels online and trying to find out what the best way to get a good hotel is. Was there hot water at the “Hotel-Resturant? Thanks much for your help

    Comment by Julie | March 3, 2008 | Reply

  7. My wife and I are planning a trip to China and would like to experience the Wolong Panda Research Center. I have read that the earthquake had required relocation of the center. Can you comment on this matter with emphasis on pay and play program that the Panda Club advertised since the research facility is being rebuilt. Anticipate visit to Chengdu/Wolong May 2010

    Comment by richard andersen | February 21, 2009 | Reply

  8. I volunteered at Bifengxia for 11 days in September 2011. That was an amazing esperience. Worked at the Breeding Center and took staff bus up and back the Mountain each day. Stayed in town at Ibis Hotel which is very good and western bathroom. Looking for information when Wolong will open. Pat in Dallas, Texas

    Comment by Pat Van Bergh | November 8, 2011 | Reply


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