There was a big hoo-ha when Pandas, Kai Kai and Jia Jia, arrived in Singapore in September last year. Honestly, I don’t know what’s the big deal about a pair of Pandas and reckon all the media sensation is more political than anything.
But that being said, I am a sucker for hypes and MF loves pandas (seems all kids do.. I remember I loved pandas when I was a kid), so when the Giant Panda Forest opened for visitors to the Singapore Zoo to preview the pandas before River Safari opened, I brought MF down to meet the famous duo.
Now, it seems many of my friends are confused, so let’s get this straight. The Giant Panda Forest is NOT part of the Singapore Zoo, it is part of River Safari. And River Safari is NOT some upcoming safari river cruise along the Mandai Lake (as my hubby mistakenly thought it to be), it is a totally separate and brand new wildlife park, just like Night Safari is a separate wildlife park on its own, which will be opening later this year. However, before the River Safari is open, visitors to the Singapore Zoo can buy a special preview ticket for $5 (this is on top of admission ticket to the Singapore Zoo) to access the Giant Panda Forest to see the pandas. And the $5 ticket is for a specific 15 minute time slot.
We arrived at the zoo at about 11.30am and bought tickets for the 12.20pm panda preview time slot. As I mentioned, since the pandas are not part of the zoo, I still had to pay $5 to see the pandas despite being Friends of the Zoo. At least it was free for MF.
The problem with having to stick to the specific time slot when you have a young kid in tow is ensuring that your kid is awake during that time. MF was dozing off in his stroller by 12 noon, and I had to keep trying to keep him awake! Good thing there were lots of cute pictures around the zoo of pandas that I kept asking him to take photo with, and that helped to keep him awake till it was time to see the pandas.
The thing I liked best about the Giant Panda Forest? The air-con! And thankfully it was air-conditioned (and hence sheltered) because it started to pour when we were there.
Okay, besides the air-con, the first thing that greeted us was not Kai Kai nor Jia Jia, but a cute red panda walking across a branch right over our head!
I wasn’t expecting that! And it was so adorable, I kept watching it until a staff came and hurried us along, reminding us that we only had 15 minutes and we haven’t reached Kai Kai nor Jia Jia. So we said goodbye to the red panda and went on to find the pandas – the black and white ones.
We weren’t too lucky, because when we were there, the pandas weren’t doing much. They were just lying on the ground and napping. At least Jia Jia stirred a bit and allowed us to see her face, but that was it. Kai Kai was absolutely knocked-out.
MF wasn’t too impressed with the pandas, or maybe he was simply too sleepy himself, he decided to behave just like the panda when I asked him to take a photo.
And so, our 15 minute was over – but that was not the end to our panda adventure! After exiting the exhibit, we were free to roam around the souvenir shop and panda-theme Chinese restaurant outside. Since it was raining, going back to the zoo was a bad idea. So we spent more than an hour at the souvenir shop and restaurant (while MF took his nap). The restaurant was pretty cool, serving stuff like panda bun and panda cappuccino (which look AND taste good!). Soft drinks were also served in cute panda souvenir cups!
We had tons of fun being all touristy and immersing ourselves in the panda craze. I signed up for the Friends of River Safari membership so that I can get unlimited access to see pandas all year round after River Safari opens. You can sign up now, the membership will only take effect from
1 March 2013. (Update: River Safari has since sent me a letter to say that the date will be postponed. They didn’t give a precise date, only said they will update via mail again.) Plus they are giving out limited edition Kai Kai & Jia Jia ang pow packets while stock last for the early birds!