A row of single beds were shoe horned into the small hall. At night, in our beds, we looked like a row of sardines.
Unfortunately, the 09.00pm curfew, put paid to the mission but one of the highlights of the tour was a visit to London Zoo. The undoubted star of the Zoo was the equally legendary, Chi Chi, the female panda.
Pandas are an endangered species in the wild and captive pandas are even rarer. Very few pandas have been succesfully bred in captivity. London Zoo has attempted to mate pandas for over a hundred years, without much success.
After years of negotiation with Moscow Zoo, An An, a male panda was flown to London Zoo in 1968 and spent months trying to woo Chi Chi. Unfortunately, Chi Chi was more interested in the human visitors than in An An.
My visit to see Chi Chi in 1968 was one of the most exciting days of my life. Chi Chi was an impressive sight in the flesh. Pandas are mythical creatures and you would be amazed at how few people have actually seen a real panda.
I count myself, highly fortunate to have seen a panda and even luckier to have seen Chi Chi. Pandas have a very simple diet, bamboo. Bamboo is a form of grass. It grows extremely quickly. It is as strong as steel and can be replanted, once harvested.
The Chinese have created a range of exhibition and display products with this marvellous material. If you want to see the range of wonderful, bamboo products, they are located at,
The 1960’s was a marvellous decade. Chi Chi was as big a star as George Best and the Beatles and a highlight for everyone who saw her. She was an important part of the start of the process of thawing relations between the East and West. It is just a pity that An An was not her cup of tea or glass of Vodka.
If you have any comments on Chi Chi, An An or the incredible range of bamboo display systems, I would be delighted to hear from you.
My name is Steve Howard. You have been reading the digital circus.