MY visit to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province was like nothing I had ever experienced. The land is well known as the home of the giant pandas but actually I soon realized that Chengdu has more to offer than just Pandas.
I visited Chengdu in June, one of the nice months to travel Chengdu. Since there is no direct flight to Chengdu from Yangon, I took a flight to Nanning, a city of Southern China first and then took a transit flight to Chengdu.
My arrival time to Chengdu was at about 5pm and I straight go to dinner before going to check-in at the hotel. Along the way to dinner, my impression about Chengdu city is clean, vibrant, and a massive modern city.
My first taste of Szechuan Spice, famous from this region of the Sichuan Province are amazing. The dinner was so good included a delicious Chinese buffet style dinner. I had enjoyed my first day dinner very very well.
After dinner, it was off to the hotel Crowne Plaza in the center of the city. The location of the hotel is in the city center and just opposite to the Chendgu’s famous “Chun Xi Lu” shopping street and dining area.
My first night in Chengdu was wonderful and I got back my room after spending some times in the shopping street, assuming that I’ll definitely visit there again before leaving Chengdu.
Chengdu Research of Giant Panda Breeding
The next morning after breakfast, my first visit was to see pandas at the Chengdu Research of Giant Panda breeding. It was opened in 1987 and now home to over 80 giant pandas, located about 16 km from Chengdu city center.
Nowadays the endangered giant panda lives in a few mountain ranges, mostly in sanctuaries in the province of Sichuan.
However, there’s no better place in the whole of China to see giant pandas up close than at this breeding and research base.
The best time to visit there is early in the morning between 8am to 10am, when the pandas are fed and at their most playful. You can also observe new mothers feeding their baby pandas in the nursery room, and learn more about the base work and research through exhibits and films before exit.
New Century Global Center
My next stop after research center was to New Century Global Center, which is located in an entirely new planned area of Chengdu called “Tainfu” New District.
It is known as the largest freestanding building in the world, included big shopping mall with more than a hundred shops and a big water part with artificial beach. The first impression I got after entering was “WOW! This is So Cool”. Yeah indeed it’s one of the must visit places in Chengdu for shopping, dining or some recreations activities.
Sichuan Mask-Changing Opera
After taking a rest in the hotel, I later went to watch the traditional Sichuan Opera. It is one of the must do activities once you’re in Chengdu. Sichuan Opera is a traditional show of the famed mask-changing show combined with other local shows including fire-spitting, rolling light, shadow play etc. It’s just a walking distance from my hotel and worth to see to experience the local culture and tradition by performances.
The next day, I started my trip to Mt. Emei very early in morning. Mt. Emei, is located about 156km away from Chengdu city center. It is a UNESCO Natural and Cultural Heritage featuring pleasant weather, splendid natural scenery and historical buddhist sites.
After I arrived the Emeishan town, I had to take a half bus ride, passing thorough lush forests, to the Golden Summit cable car path. Once there, I walked about 3km to the cable car.
It is best to take a cable car up the mountain as you need a lot energy to walk further up the mountain. As the cable car ascends the mountain, it was awesome to enjoy the ride with the views over the tress, craggy cliffs and felt myself floating through low hanging clouds.
At the summit, located at 10,167 ft above the sea level, I firstly experienced the sea of clouds stretching out below before going through the stairways to the temples, monasteries and some shops.
I felt so blessed and lucky enough to see such an amazing place in the earth. That moment I realized why Mt Emei is known as a place where Earth meets Heaven.
It is indeed a wondrous world. The trees are verdant almost all the year round. The waterfalls are splendid and the whole scenery is beautiful, quiet and peaceful. Our local friend said that the landscape varies according to the seasons, the height and the climate.
Once you reach the top of the mountain, you will be amazed by the view of Huazhang Temple, which was constructed during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1640) and restored in the 1970’s.
There is the highest golden Buddha Statue of Puxian in the world, casting in copper and plated in Gold. Also, you will indulged in the spectacular view from the summit. The golden Buddha was invisible until miraculously the clouds parted and it came into perfect view.
A local tour guide told me that Mt. Emei is the highest of the four Sacred Mountains of China, which have attracted Buddhist pilgrims for centuries. According to the history, China’s first Buddhist temple was built on Mt. Emei in the 1st century, and there are 76 Buddhist monasteries dating from the Ming and Qing dynasties dotted across the mountain.
It is advisable to stay one night the day before you visit to other places in Emeishan. Due to my trip plan, I stayed one night in Mount Emei Hotel. About 15 min walking distance from the hotel, I found plenty of local food stalls and souvenirs shops. Like many other places in Sichuan, Emieshan also offers varieties of local foods which are tasty and of course spicy.
The Leshan Giant Buddha
The follow day, I had early morning breakfast and proceed my journey to Leshan Giant Buddha.
The Leshan Buddha was carved at the confluence of three particularly dangerous rivers to ease the dangers for boats. According to the history, It tooks around 90 years to carve out (713-803 AD), and the monk who started the work Hai Tong never lived to see its completion.
Upon arrival, we took a river cruise to visit Leshan Buddha. I enjoyed the spectacular view of the huge statue from our boat, and you can also clim about 300 steps from the entrance to the top, where you will see three rivers such as Min River, Qingyi River and Dad River confluence together.
Then walk down stairs along the Red Sand Cliff Road to view the phenomenal Leshan Giant Buddha from the bottom,climb up at the opposite side of the hill.
It was a amazing trip, followed by a lunch in a local restaurant and tried the authentic yummy foods. After the sightseeing in Leshan, I then transferred to Chengdu and checked-in at the same Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Jin Lin Street
Going to this place is like bring me back to the good old days. Jin Li Street is part of WuHou Temple. Visiting around Jin Lin Street is free, but visiting old WuHou Temple need an entrance fee, each ticket is about sixty yuan.
There are many shops selling native products in the street. You will see many retro residential buildings have opened numerous cafes and bars.
For me this is a place to experience the perfect combination of chinese and western culture. I recommend to visit this place at night to chill with your friends, and have some drinks, enjoy music and taste some local foods.
In conclusion, visiting Chengdu is one of the most valuable experiences to me. Despite its modern development, Chengdu has a nice mix of old and new and you can easily explore the rich history and culture of the city while enjoying the nightlife and shopping. If I have a chance, I will visit China again to explore the other parts of this wonderful land.
Things to know before going to China:
Visa to China:
China do not offer visas on arrival. So the most important things to do is to arrange your visa well in advance at the Chinese Embassy.
Language & Communication:
Chengdu is a big city. I always see crowd almost everywhere. People are friendly and helpful but the only problem is hard to communicate in English.
In order to avoid any mis-communications, please make sure you know how to come back your place if you go out alone or highly recommend to take an address card of the hotel written in Chinese in case you lost the way back to your place.
With the exception of upscale or branded stores, you can be bargained. You don’t need to worry much as most vendors have calculator and it helps you to bargain or negotiate the price.
Here in Chengdu, foods are so delicious and spicy. If you are not into Chinese foods, you still have varieties of choices from KFC, Burger to Pizza. My favorite and recommend to try is Gong Bar Ji Ding , spicy diced chicken with peanuts along with a bowl of steam rice. There are many other signature dishes if you can eat most Chinese foods.
Mobiel & Internet:
It is cheap and easy to get a Chinese SIM card. You can either text or call a service and they’ll translate whatever you want to say from English to Chinese (or vice versa).
Make sure your mobile has Express VPN app if you want to use Gmail, Facebook, Youtube or others social media while in China.
Tissue & Hand Sanitizer:
Most public toilets in China do not provide enough toilet paper. It’s always a good idea to keep a tissue pack and a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you just to be sure 🙂