Meandering Through The Land of Pandas
48 Hours in Chengdu
Chengdu is the central hub of Sichuan, known as the city where the old come to rest and the young become lazy. The laid back lifestyle, spicy food, and pandas are what attract many to the city and eventually call this place home. Directly to the east is the Tibetan Plateau and to the north is Qingcheng Mountain, the birth place of Taoism, and the infamous cave and waterfall where the religion began. The history is astounding, like many places in China.
You can travel on a budget or in luxury. Let us dive into the cultural hotspots and the culinary experience that life in Chengdu revolves around.
Like the locals, the morning begins with either Baozi, spicy noodles, porridge, or boiled eggs soaked in soy sauce. These options can be found at all of the many food stalls that pop up on the streets every morning. With a full stomach and a taste of Sichuan flavor head to the Panda Research and Breeding Base located to the North of the city. Public transportation is easy here, just hop on the metro and take it to the northernmost stop. From there you can grab a bus directly to the center. If you book in advance you can also get the chance to hold one of these adorable creatures.
After you spend time with the beloved pandas head to Kuanzhi Xiangzi (Wide and Narrow Alley). Here you can explore the many tea houses that Chengdu is known for, get a glimpse into Tibetan culture, and browse the many shops with local goods. Local street food stalls also line every available space, so I suggest you bring your appetite, as well as an adventurous palette.
Next stop for your forty-eight-hour stay is Lan Kwai Fong. A mix of Chinese and Western clubs are located here. You can also find live jazz, more tea houses, and Revolution Cocktail where you will dance salsa in the streets until morning. Liyuan, a hot pot restaurant, is also located here. Hot pot is a communal dining experience that cannot be missed, although your digestive tract may disagree the next day.
For your second day make your way to JinLi Street, which surrounds Wu Hou Temple. Wu Hou temple is a shrine to the Shu past. There are lovely gardens to explore within the temple grounds and you get a sliver of Sichuan history. JinLi street contains more Sichuan street food (it is everywhere), Sichuan Opera performances, and men clanging bells who will clean your ears for a fee (with an interesting set of metal instruments). This area is also located right next to the Tibetan District. For dinner dine at A’re where you can taste some wonderful Tibetan dishes.
For your last night head to the Temple House. The Spa here is the best in Sichuan, along with the cocktails if you are willing to pay the cash.
A trip through Chengdu is an amazing cultural experience. The food and people will not disappoint. For the outdoor enthusiasts like myself make a longer stay, the adventure through the mountains is worth it.