Some 8km northeast of central Chengdu, the excellent Giant Panda Breeding Research Base offers close-up views of both giant and arboreal red pandas. Perhaps uniquely for China, this zoo is a genuinely pleasant place to visit, well laid out with a decent amount of information in English, and even spacious enclosures for the animals, who are fed truckloads of fresh bamboo by concerned staff. If you feel flush, several hostels and travel agencies offer the chance to be a “volunteer keeper” for the day (¥700) – basically a worthy-sounding way of paying to hand-feed a few of the inhabitants. Try to get here early, as the pandas slump into a stupor around 10am after munching their way through piles of bamboo.

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