This post is an introductory guide to the seemingly insipid yet popular destination in West China, Chengdu. The city has become immensely popular over these years as it has a lot to offer culturally and traditionally but has retained it's laid back vibe. Here are a few things you should cover if you happen to be in the Sichuan Capital.
1. Visit the Gaint Panda Breeding Research Camp
The Chengdu Panda Base Camp is a non-profit research and conservation centre located 10 kms from the city. The centre was opened in 1993 and is one of the places where you can feed and hug a panda.
2. The Leshan Buddha
Located a couple of hours away from the city, the place is one of the UNESCO approved heritage sites. The 71 meters high Leshan Giant Buddha is the largest Maitreya Buddha statue carved out of a cliff. You need an entire day to visit this striking piece of stone carving. You can also club the Giant Sleeping Buddha, Oriental Buddha Park and Lingyun Temple in your day tour.
3. Enjoy the Chenduhan Cuisine
The food in Chegdu, unlike Beijing is extremely spicy and oily. Try the hot pot (Huǒguō) for a gastronomical adventure. The hot pot is based on the idea of communal dining and the idea is more like a buffet where you can feast till you are full. Chengdu is also recognized for a spice which isn't spicy per se, but it kinda leaves a tingling vibration like sensation on your lips and tongue and thereby making it difficult to eat.
Also try the Mapo Doufu, Dan Dan Mian (Wheat Noodles with Pork, Chili, Garlic, and Vinegar), kung pao chicken and the food very tempting roadside barbecue shops.
4. Wangjiang Tower Park
The Wangjiang Tower Park is a huge park with an old world charm attached to it. This picturesque park is located at the southern bank of Jinjiang River and is surrounded by a bamboo forest. A stroll around the park in the winter sun is something that you'll enjoy on a lazy day.
5. Tea Houses
The Chinese take their tea very seriously; so if you are a 'teaophile' the tea culture in Chengdu is definitely a tea for you. You can find a string of tea houses mushrooming in the center of the city (both indoor and outdoor offering a tranquil atmosphere). Tea is nowadays seen as a entertainment affair as people gather in the tea houses to smoke, watch TV, read newspaper, play cards or chess, play Majiang, and simply kill the time.
Another interesting fact the Chinese believe is that tea is best enjoyed with clean ears. This is well articulated by the sizeable number of professional ear cleaners sitting outside the fancy tea shops.
6. Du Fu Thatched Cottage
The Du Fu Thatched Cottage is a blissful park and museum situated in the western suburbs of Chengdu, Sichuan Province, adjacent to the delightful Flower Rinsing Brook. The museum, in honor of famous Tang poet Du Fu, is considered a sacrosanct spot of Chinese literature.
7. Chunxi Road
The city center and probably the most happening place in the city is the Chunxi Road. The city offers a plethora of options for the shopaholics and the party goers.
8. Jinli Pedestrian Street
Taking a walk around the Jingli Pedestrian Street is like taking a walk back in time. The street is a treasure chest for an epicurean. Sticky rice, boiled dumplings, rice glueballs, wontons...you name it and you will find it here!!
The 72-hour visa-free transit policy in China allows air passengers from 53 countries to transit and stay for up to 72 hours (3 days) in 18 Chinese cities including Chengdu without a visa. So, if you get a chance to visit China do give this city a chance!