Although I’ve been living for quite some years now in Shanghai, I had never been to the zoo. It’s only about 2 km from our house (almost walking distance for me), but I never thought about visiting it. Now that Scott is more than 14 months old we decided to take him there. This weekend the weather was great, about 20 degrees with blue skies, so an excellent time for a walk outside.
We went by car, but that was not a very smart idea. The Shanghai Zoo was built decades ago when there were hardly any cars in Shanghai, so there are not enough parking spaces. Instead of lining up at the parking lot (well, lining up is not the right word as everybody tried to cut in front), I decided to drive all around the zoo and park as close to the entrance as possible on Hami Lu. That strategy worked well and 15 minutes later we were inside the zoo. The entrance fee is RMB 30 (about USD 5) per person, quite reasonable I thought. Scott did not have to pay because China has a general rule that anybody smaller than 1.2 meters can go for free into zoo’s (and many other tourist places). Also my wife’s parents got in for free, because they are both retired. The blessings of a Communist country 🙂
The zoo itself was a bit different from what I expected, to me it felt more like a big park with some animals cages in it, than a real zoo where you have animal enclosures every 50 meters or so. I guess the reason is that when the zoo was built this part of Shanghai was still very far from any urban areas, so they used a huge amount of space. The original design of the zoo was a golf course, which explains the many open spaces. We actually did not visit that many animal buildings, but just had a nice walk around.
Most animals were still in their inside cages, instead of outside in their enclosures, and it was a bit of sad sight to see them. Most buildings were quite dilapidated and dirty, and inside they literally stank. I took Scott into the elephant building for example, but we left within a minute because of the smell. I felt bad for the animals, not only because of their living environment but also because people kept throwing plastic bottles and other items at them. Guards were either not there or did not care.
Scott was anyway less interested in the animals than in the visitors. He had a great time looking at all the people, and many people also looked at him (ah, xiao waiguoren, ta hen shuai!). At first we put him in his stroller, but later he wanted to walk and he walked hand in hand with my wife or me for quite some time. When he got tired I put him on my shoulders and that’s what he enjoyed most. He felt like a little emperor, pointing at all things that he felt were interesting or that he wanted to get closer to. If I went into the wrong direction he just pulled my hair to show me the way! I liked it as well, but my neck is a bit sore while I’m typing this.
The Shanghai Zoo is a nice place to visit on a sunny day. You can easily spend a whole day there, especially with kids. Scott was probably still a bit too young to fully understand what we were doing, but we’ll probably go back in a few months. If you’re not a big fan of animals the zoo is still a nice place to get away from the city. Although it was crowded around the animal cages, there are many parts of the zoo where you hardly see anybody else. There are huge grass lawns where you can relax and some people even put up tents there (normally in China you’re not even allowed to walk on the grass in parks) and were having a picnic. You can easily reach the place both by bus (last stop before Hongqiao airport for several bus lines) or taxi.
Address: 2381 Hong Qiao Road, Shanghai 200335 (just West of Hongqiao airport)