Here’s the essentials that you absolutely can’t miss on your trip to Chengdu, as well as a few extras that are well worth your time if you’ve got an extra day.
Chengdu is home to China’s most beloved animal. Photo by Martha via flickr.
As many Chinese cities appear to be modernizing, Chengdu stands as an old soul among the new world of skyscrapers and highways. Sure, the city has its high rises too but Chengdu maintains an air of traditional China that makes you feel like the city has rarely changed at all.
Can’t Miss Sites and Activities
It’s impossible to travel to southwest China without paying a visit to the country’s most famous animal – the panda. The area’s connection with pandas has made Sichuan province popular with those wishing to get up close to the furry friend. If you have time, head to Dujiangyan, about 1.5 hours from the city center to see pandas in a beautiful natural setting. If you’re a bit more rushed, you can head to the Chengdu Research Center where you’ll still get to see the cuddly creatures, but in a zoo-like setting. If you go here, head to the back of the park where there are fewer visitors.
A young panda contentedly munches on bamboo. Photo by La Priz via Flikr
Why go with WildChina? We’ll venture outside the city to the Dujiangyan Panda Valley where you can hold a baby panda.
While many people are familiar with Peking Opera, the Sichuan version is even more impressive, featuring the ‘face changing’ technique. Along with the impressive masks, there are also acrobatic stunts and lively characters that help bring the story to life. As if the experience isn’t special enough, the whole show takes place in a traditional courtyard where visitors are encouraged to join in by getting vocal.
Sichuan Opera features face-changing, fire-spitting, and other amazing techniques.
Why go with WildChina? We’ll take you behind the scenes to see the Sichuan Opera face-painting techniques and maybe be transformed into an operatic character yourself!
Chengdu People’s Park
A woman sells her paintings outside a bustling tea house in Chengdu People’s Park. Photo by Colleen O’Connor
If you want to see a typical day in Chengdu life, your best bet is to head over to People’s Park where older women gather to dance, chat and keep fit, the men play Chinese chess or practice Taichi and whole families gather for a long game of Mahjong. If you’re feeling brave, they’ll be more than happy to let you join in and have a go. Another great feature in the park is the dating corner. Here, anxious parents gather to share details about their children and hope to find a suitable partner for their son or daughter.
Why go with WildChina? We’ll get you in on the action with a Mahjong lesson in tea house or a go at water-caligraphy in the park square.
Sichuan cooking class
Sichuan food is known throughout the country for its spicy and colorful dishes. During your visit, have a go at cooking some dishes yourself and getting a taste for the famous Sichuan spice. You’ll learn about the Sichuan peppers which are used to give the dishes an extra dose of heat and produce a numbing effect in the mouth.
Why go with WildChina? We’ll go straight to the experts and learn from a chef at the famed Museum of Sichuan Cuisine.
Hot Pot, a bubbling hot dish that Sichuan people love and feel proud of. Photo by Andrew and Annemarie via flickr.
Must Try Foods
You can’t go to Chengdu without a meal of Sichuan hotpot. You’ll order plates of fresh veggies and meats and then cook them in a bubbling spicy broth right at your table. There are many places in Chengdu where you can taste Sichuan hotpot however the one restaurant loved by locals is Chengdu Huangcheng Laoma. This is the spot where First Lady Michelle Obama sampled the dish during her trip to Chengdu.
Gong Bao Ji Ding (Kungpao Chicken)
You’ll be blown away by the real, authentic version of the western favorite, Kungpao Chicken. This dish can be ordered almost anywhere in the city. The dish consists of chicken and peanuts, vegetables and chili peppers along with the tongue tingling Sichuan peppercorns.
Shui Zhu Yu
This Sichuan favorite is a tasty fish feast. The fish is lightly boiled in a pot of fragrant oil with a sea of numbing chilies and bean sprouts.
Got more time in Chengdu?
- – You’ve seen the traditional side to the city. Now get a taste for the city’s contemporary art scene at the Landing Art District where Chengdu’s up and coming artists congregate. You’ll be led by your WildChina guide who will show you the best art galleries in the district.
- – Head out to the Leshan Buddha, measuring 71 feet high, it’s the largest stone carving of the Buddha in the world. It was built in 713 AD by a Buddhist monk to help calm the nearby waters. So much stone fell into the water that it did indeed calm the waters.
- – A living record of Chengdu’s history and the glory of the ancient Shu kingdom, The Jinsha Site Museum is certainly worth the short drive out of Chengdu. You can marvel at the Sun and Immortal Bird gold decoration, gold mask, and other relics at this museum built on the original ruins.