Compact 3-day guide to most fun you can have in Chengdu
By Yao Minji
Chengdu, capital city of southwest Sichuan Province, recently started offering international transit passengers 72-hour visa-free stays.
Known as the Land of Abundance, Chengdu was named “Best Tourism City in China” by the United Nations World Tourism Organization and the National Tourism Administration in 2006.
It is famed for its pandas, delicious cuisine, beautiful women, stunning natural resources and relaxed lifestyle. Benefitting from China’s “Go West” policies, the city has also become an emerging market in recent years, one of the most rapidly developing in western China. It became the fourth city and the first in western China to introduce the policy, and a sharp increase in the number of visitors is expected in both tourism and business sectors.
Shanghai Daily has planned a compact, three-day tour that encapsulates the best and most fun parts of the great city.
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
Chengdu is known as home to giant pandas and it is rare for visitors to the city not to visit the 114 giant pandas and 73 red pandas at this facility, located in the city’s northern suburbs.
The center is where one can learn about panda breeding, conservation, evolution and protection, and see lots of pandas, most of which are at rest at any given time. The younger ones are more outgoing and often try to climb even when they fall over and over again, earning them the nickname gun gun, or rolling and rolling.
The base was opened with three male and three female pandas in 1987, and it has grown to 51 males and 63 females. The endangered animal is not passionate about courtship, mating or nurturing its babies, which is part of the reason the base was founded to carry out research to solve breeding problems. In 2012, eight cubs were born and it is quite difficult to raise the tiny creatures.
There is something different to see all year long. In the cold winter of January and February, it is time for raising cubs and training pandas. In spring, from March to May, visitors may be fortunate to get a glimpse of the courtship and mating of the giant creatures who are usually not so interested in doing so. In June and July, a summer camp is available for the cubs and bird-watching is also popular at the base, where other animals like swans and peacocks live in harmony with pandas.
August to October are the months when cubs are born. The last two months of the year are a good time to catch a glimpse of the rarely seen maternal care of cubs.
The base recently launched its online channel that broadcasts the activities of the pandas.
After a long day at the suburban base, the narrow streets of Jinli can fill your time with history, ancient-style buildings, great street snacks, delicate souvenirs and amazing artisans’ demonstrations.
The streets become particularly beautiful at night, when red lanterns light up the sophisticated wooden structures, the delicate bridges and rivers, the colorful and shining snacks and souvenirs.
The relaxed city of Chengdu is filled with tea houses, and Jinli has some of the best ones, with various kinds of performances including aerobatics and local operas. The tea houses are also where one may observe and even pick up some tricks of the famous Sichuan mahjong.
Dujiangyan Irrigation System Park
The city is about 50 kilometers away from Chengdu, easy to reach by an hourly train. It is also 273 meters higher than Chengdu and most famous for the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, which has been working for some 2,300 years, and Qingcheng Mountain, a sacred place for Taoist believers.
The irrigation system, completed by ancient engineer Li Bin in 256 BC, is considered one of the most ingenious artificial mechanisms in harmony with nature. Known for using no dams or floodgates to regulate water flow, the system provides irrigation, controls the water level and prevents flooding. The area around it has been built into a park where visitors can learn more about this marvel of hydrology.
Such harmony with nature is also essential to China’s homegrown religion and philosophy of Taoism. Qingcheng Mountain is considered a sacred place and one of the origins of the religion, since its founder, Zhang Daoling, was confirmed to have taught in the mountain. He was also said to have died on the mountain at the age of 123, while others believe he achieved Taoist “nirvana” in the end. Other than its historical and philosophical attractions, the mountain is a pure beauty in and of itself, with dozens of varieties of plants and naturally intricate mountain routes, caves and streams.
Huanglongxi ancient town
Chengdu natives are known to be masters in exploring and discovering fun spots, partly because they are surrounded by so many. The ancient towns are among some of the most popular weekend destinations for local residents.
Huanglongxi, literally “Yellow Dragon Stream,” is about 40 kilometers from the city and famous for both stunning natural beauty and intricate, ancient buildings from more than 1,700 years of history.
The town contains seven well-preserved ancient streets from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, where roads are paved with stones and the houses are typical of buildings from the era.
A water tour is also available in the town by traveling along the river through rows of stilted houses and natural landscapes.
Kuanzhai Lane (Wide Lane and Narrow Lane)
The intertwining Wide Lane, Narrow Lane and Well Lane is where local and traditional meet modern and chic. Downtown, the lanes contain elegant buildings and courtyards that house restaurants, souvenir shops, cafeterias, bars and galleries.
You can have dinner at Da Miao, where you can enjoy both Sichuan-style hotpot and face-change performances that originated from local Sichuan Opera. Then you can chill out at one of the bars where live performances are held.