Welcome to Chengdu!
A relatively small city by Chinese standards, with only 14 million inhabitants, Chengdu, China, is the provincial capital of Sichuan province, and globally synonymous with Pandas. Known for its comparatively laidback attitudes and green, open spaces, Chengdu is one of the less intense cities in China.
That in itself doesn’t mean it’s an easy city to truly get to know. While many visitors venture a little further than the famous Panda sanctuary, a worldwide local who takes the time to explore the city will be richly rewarded for their efforts.
That said, we can’t talk about Chengdu without discussing Pandas. They’re fluffy. They’re adorable. There’s no doubt that a visit to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding will be a highlight of your trip to China. Skip the organized tours and head out on Metro line 3 and take it to Panda Avenue Station, before finishing your journey on one of several local buses that run to the center. Not only is it well signposted, but everyone will know why you are there and will be happy to usher you in the right direction.
Worldwide Local Tip: Queues to get into the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding start to build up from around 7 am, so an early start is absolutely crucial. Once inside, you will see a large queue forming on the right-hand side for the electric buggies, that ferry visitors to the main enclosures. Ignore this and simply walk straight ahead, it’s a little over a half a mile and a very pleasant walk.
Getting Around from the Chengdu Hotels
The Chengdu Metro is the best friend of visitors, as it provides fast, comfortable, and cheap connections across the city, with maps and announcements in English. Busses, excluding those to the Panda sanctuary, are generally not signed in English and can be a challenge. For a worldwide local, however, this provides a great chance to try engaging with the locals. Once back in town, visit the city center, as its home to several delightful temples, with the stunning Wenshu Temple amongst the most impressive.
Worldwide Local Tip: The aptly-named People’s Park offers a nice break from the bustle of the city and is a fascinating hive of activity. Be it dancing, singing, painting, or simply drinking tea and talking, the park is constantly abuzz with activity and makes a great place to enjoy the Chengdu weather, simply watching the world go by.
A Must-Visit Neighborhood
The south-west part of the city, Jinli Ancient Street, as the name suggests, is a restored section of the old town. The narrow, twisting alleyways are lined with fantastic Chengdu restaurants, shops, and street food vendors; and the atmosphere can be intoxicating. While it may feel a little touristy at times, this is squarely aimed at Chinese visitors from other regions. The neighboring Wuhouci Temple is worth a visit while you’re in the area.
Worldwide Local Tip: Head to the central Tianfu Square around sundown to be treated with the unique spectacle of a fully-choreographed sound, light, and water show that's all overseen by a giant statue of Chairman Mao.
Sichuan food is notoriously spicy thanks to the widespread use of the namesake Sichuan Pepper. The pepper is so spicy, in fact, that it has mild anesthetic qualities. Not traditional to the region, there is big business here and you will find no shortage of restaurants offering bubbling cauldrons of chili-laced stock. Otherwise, a hearty portion of steaming bowls of dan-dan noodles is an affordable option staple, while the famous BangBang Chicken is as fun as it sounds and is delicious. The local Chengdoo magazine is an excellent English language publication which lists the various nightlife to be found around the city; although a night in a classic Chinese karaoke bar, is an experience not to be missed. Simply look for bars advertising KTV in bright neon lights, but be warned, the cheaper establishments can be, shall we say, a little unpleasant...
Worldwide Local Tip: If the fiery Sichuan Pepper becomes a little too much for you, bypass the water as the locals do, and grab a bottle of sweetened soy milk to tame the fire. Not only is it delicious, but it does a great job of restoring the taste-buds!
Have a Wonderful Time in Chengdu!
Chengdu is where people come from all over for the Pandas and a nice stay in the city. A myriad of sights, sounds, and smells, combined with a uniquely peaceful and green ambient, this makes Chengdu a paradise for the worldwide local. It’s a city that never fails to surprise!