Monday, February 14, 2011

Kia Ora Beijing - Part 3

After enjoying several hours at the Beijing Zoo, we moved on to the freaking sweet Beijing Aquarium. It's set in the back of the zoo grounds and matching the immense zoo it's the largest inland aquarium in the world, covering 12 hectares. As I mentioned in my zoo post, the entrance fee is pretty hefty at Y100 ($19), but the aquarium puts Kelly Tarltons to shame.

I've been wanting to go to an aquarium for ages, and after two failed attempts in Seoul (one on Christmas Day, when the line was sickeningly long, another a few weeks later, when we arrived just as the place was being closed for the night) I was determined to see this one. In fact, it was the only thing I requested we visit in Beijing. Before you're horrified, Lauren and Tom had amassed a list of attractions which encompassed pretty much everything else.

The first thing you see when you get inside is the 'Rainforest Adventure' and although I'm fairly sure you can't find them in the Amazon there are massive tanks writhing with koi carp. Apparently you can buy some pellets to feed them and it must be a popular practice, judging by how nuts the fish went when I leaned over to get a better look into the tank.

Here's a picture of the HUGE carp that I babble about in the video, to prove it's real. Those other carp are normal sized (about 30cm long) to give a bit of scale.

The 'Rainforest Adventure' became less rainforesty as we continued walking, but as I am a small child inside a 26 year old's body it was still an adventure for me. Also included in the rainforest were:

Some surprised looking goldfish (what goldfish aren't surprised, really?)

These colourful little dudes

Giant mystery fish and their catfish friends
Lauren and I were utterly disappointed when we realised there weren't any piranhas. Take note, Beijing Aquarium!

After leaving the 'rainforest' we walked past the 'Tidal Encounter' where for about Y15 ($3) you can feed a few different sea creatures, including some turtles. We bypassed the Encounter and bought ourselves some icecream, before spending a good 10 minutes infatuated with a large tank at the end of a giant hallway. Inside the tank, twisting and dancing in the blue water were two Beluga whales. There was a soldier standing guard who paced past us a few times as we watched. It was mesmerising.

After tearing ourselves away from the Beluga, we explored the rest of the aquarium. the sheer number of creatures on offer was impressive and I had to tell myself to stop taking so many photographs. Unfortunately most of the photographs I took were wobbly and out of focus as my camera kinda sucks. Below are a few of the good ones, most of them were taken in the 'Wonder of Coral Reefs' section which was huge and awesome, like the rest of the aquarium. I like looking at integrated enclosures and this was right up my alley. I also missed out on diving when we were in the Philippines (Tom still needs to write about that...) so this tank almost made up for it.

I think I stopped taking pictures at this point which was a bit of a shame, as one of my favourite things about the aquarium was the Marine Mammal Pavilion. The Pavilion includes a 3,000 seat theatre where dolphins and sea lions perform tricks a few times a day during the high season. As it was low season, the theatre was deserted except for one lone soldier and a few dolphins. I didn't end up visiting Olympic Park but I feel like the Park and the Pavilion had something in common - huge, empty, expensive spaces that are practically useless most of the time.

I feel like I've done a terrible job of documenting this truly awesome aquarium. My photographs don't do it justice, but I can say that the entrance fee was worth it. We spent about two hours wandering the halls and it was fascinating, the two Seoul aquariums have a lot to live up to.

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