Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province in China, is the hometown of Giant Pandas, adorable beings that made the city famous throughout the world. However, you shouldn’t associate the metropolis only with them since Chengdu is a renowned foodie destination and probably the most laid-back city you will ever visit. Fans of history and spiritual experiences should look forward to visiting the local Buddhist temples during your Chengdu tour. Moreover, if you remain in the capital of Sichuan more than a few days, you can take enriching day trips to Leshan and Mount Emei. One thing is sure – you will take home only pleasant memories from Chengdu and Sichuan.
Chengdu Panda Base, located 10 km/6 mi from downtown Chengdu, is the nearest Giant Panda preservation center. These likable and good-natured herbivores are active the most during morning hours, so plan to arrive as early as possible. When you do, you will find them playing and, probably, eating. If Giant Pandas find themselves inspired by your presence, they may even stage some kind of performance for your benefit. Visitors coming later during the day are likely to see pandas sleeping most of the time.
If you don’t mind spending more money, like $300 or $350, you may hold a baby panda for a brief time. Before you rush to the research center for such a unique opportunity, inquire whether that possibility is currently available. Also, you may need to visit one of the more distanced panda research centers, such as Wolong or Bifengxia. Anyway, you will get a chance to hold a baby panda for a few minutes that will go by as a few seconds. Still, getting personal with a Giant Panda baby is sure to be one of your most pleasant and memorable experiences in life.
A city awarded with the UNESCO City of Gastronomy award surely deserves a thorough gastronomic tour, right? If you agree, welcome to Chengdu, the culinary capital of China. You may think that you are a Chinese food expert, but if you base your expertise on eating Chinese food abroad, that may not be true. Local food in Chengdu is more flavorsome than its foreign counterparts and very likely spicier. Don’t worry if you need to follow strict dietary requirements since there are plentiful dining options for vegetarians and vegans available around.
There are many iconic meals you should have in the Sichuan capital. The main component of Twice-cooked Pork is pork belly, first simmered in water with various spices and then cooked in a wok with vegetables. For a mixture of spicy, hot and aromatic flavors, order Mapo Tofu, one of the most popular Sichuan culinary specialties. Some ingredients of this outstanding meal are minced beef or pork meat, soybeans, peppercorn, chili pepper, and rice wine. Another Chengdu classic is Guo Kui, a local pancake. You will find this favorite local snack prepared in a wok, but gastronomes sticking to authenticity prepare the pancake on a griddle pan.
Dan Dan Mian is a street food whose ingredients are noodles, ground pork, ya chai (a type of vegetable) and various spices that grant the meal a salty fermented flavor. Long Chao Shou is a type of dish that is pretty much the same wherever you eat it. Also known as Wonton Soup, this meal, comprising pork, dumplings and vegetables, features spicy and non-spicy versions. Fuqi Feipian, sliced beef in chili oil, Lazi Ji, fried chili chicken, Chuanbei Liangfen, bean jelly in hot sauce, and Gongbao Jiding, a mix of diced chicken, chilies and peanuts, are some other popular dishes you may wish to check out.
Chengdu Temples and Historic Sites
History buffs and art devotees have much to look forward to when visiting Panda City.
Devoted to Maitreya (Future) Buddha and safekeeping a jade statue of Buddha, the Wenshu Monastery is a large complex where you can sample excellent vegetarian food. The monastery abounds with paintings, Buddhist scriptures (sutras) and statues of “a one that is awake.” While here, spend some time in the temple’s peaceful and verdant garden.
Qingyang Temple is among the leading Taoist places of worship in China. The temple comprises several buildings, with the Eight Trigrams Pavilion, whose architecture implies that the sky is round and Earth square, as the highlight. Join a Mahjong game at Qingyang Temple’s teahouse and examine wooden engravings and other relics.
Jinsha Site Museum
This archaeological site reveals the existence of an ancient civilization three millennia ago at the present site of Chengdu. While wandering around, you will discover the remains of a functional settlement that used to consist of a palace and of residential, burial and sacrificial areas. Don’t miss objects made of jade, ivory, gold, bronze and other prized materials.
Du Fu’s Thatched Cottage Museum
Devoted to Du Fu, a famous poet of the Tang dynasty, the cottage museum introduces the way of life in the 8th century AD. Visit the museum to learn about traditional Chinese culture and see preserved relics and various editions of the poet’s poems. Du Fu’s Thatched Cottage Museum also comprises a large garden with streams, bridges, and pavilions.
Leshan Giant Buddha
Located 150 km/93 mi south of Panda City, the Leshan Giant Buddha is the site of an unusually large statue of Maitreya Buddha. Once you arrive, you will access the top of the colossal statue. To truly appreciate its imposing proportions, take a side stairway leading to its base. Thousands of workers needed 90 years, from 713 to 803 AD (Tang dynasty), to carve the 71-meter (233-feet) tall statue out of a steep cliff.
While overlooking the confluence of the rivers Dadu, Min, and Qingyi, the statue exudes serenity, like every Buddha image. As you descend to the bottom, observe Buddha’s shoulder closely and determine whether it is large enough to accommodate a basketball court. Furthermore, the statue’s ears are long enough to dwarf three very tall basketball players (centers) standing on each other’s shoulders. There are over a thousand buns atop Leshan Giant Buddha’s head. Finally, the statue’s instep can easily accommodate around a hundred people.
Some 100 km/62 mi west of the Leshan Buddha Statue, you will find scenic and mysterious Mount Emei, both of which are UNESCO Cultural and Natural Heritage sites. The mount abounds with plants and wildlife, for which people refer to it as the “Paradise of Animals,” “Kingdom of Plants,” and the “Museum of Geological Reserves.” Furthermore, Mt. Emei is a holy Buddhist mountain since there are over 30 monasteries located in the area.
You are likely to find vegetation of Mount Emei verdant no matter the season. Along the way, you will spot tall, ancient trees and incredible waterfalls. Prepare to experience temperature variations up to 14°C (57°F) while advancing from the base to the top of the mountain, so prepare clothing suitable for all seasons. If you aren’t on a tight schedule, visit the 3,100-meter (10,170-feet) high Wanfoding for spectacular views.
There are many notable Buddhist monasteries you can visit on Mt. Emei. Baoguo Temple, located at the mount’s base, is the starting point of the Mount Emei tour. Set in lush greenery, the large complex consists of several temples and houses a big statue of Buddha made of porcelain. Qingyin is a pavilion occupying a stone outcropping and surrounded with fir trees. Visit this place to enjoy the sounds of nearby rapids and the exceptional tranquility of the place.
The capital of the Sichuan province has assets to keep you occupied for weeks, and giant pandas, outstanding food, cultural venues, and temples are just a few of them. While staying in Panda City, take a tour of Renmin Park and enjoy tea-drinking tradition. Aside from visiting Mount Emei and the Leshan Giant Buddha, think about touring Qingcheng Mountain, too. There, find out where Taoism originated and take a hike through dense forests in search of waterfalls and caves.