Arriving in Chengdu, Sichuan Province
When I decided to go to China for 6 months I also wanted to travel a little bit around the country. Actually my first plan was to take a 48 hour train from Beijing to Lhasa, explore Tibet for a couple of days, visit the Mt. Everest base camp, take another train to Chengdu and see the panda bears there and head back to Beijing. Unfortunately, I only have one week of vacation while I am here, so I had to cancel Tibet, which was too expensive and too far for just one week.
Just in case you wonder, in China one week of vacation means seven days, starting on Monday, ending on Sunday, and the weekend before you usually have to work!!! I am definitely not used to working 7 days in a row, so on Monday morning, when I had to get up early to catch my flight at 11:30 am, all I wanted to do was to stay in bed the whole week. Well, I am glad I didn’t!!!
Sighs in and around Chengdu
While I was doing some research about this trip, I discovered that Chengdu has much more to offer than just the Panda bears so I decided to visit this little town (only 11 million people!!!) in the middle of Sichuan Province.
Chengdu is a very cultural city and has a lot of interesting and fascinating sights to offer, in the city and also in its surrounding areas, so it was hard for me to decide where to go and what to see. The main sights in the city are Du Fu’s Thatched Cottage, Wohou Temple, Wenshu Temple, Quingyang Temple (Green Ram Monastery), and of course the Panda sanctuary.
A couple of hours on a bus can get you to Leshan, where you can see the largest Buddha in the world, or to Emei Shan, one of the 5 holy mountains of Buddhism. Another famous mountain is Qincheng Shan, which is a little closer to Chengdu than the previous sights.
An approximately 12-15 hour bus ride will get you to one of the most beautiful national parks in China, Jiuzhaigou , with crystal clear lakes and a breath-taking landscape. Unfortunately I did not make it there, but as one week was too short to see all the things I wanted to see anyways, I decided I definitely have to come back to Chengdu again!!!
As the first week of October is a national holiday in whole China, everything was a little more expensive and a whole lot more crowded than usual, so many of the places mentioned above are filled with Chinese tourists, cramped together like Sardines in a can. The only way to avoid the crowds was to avoid the most scenic and popular spots, which of course is not the best solution, if you are there to do some sightseeing…
Arrival in Chengdu
At least I could keep my costs down by staying at a youth hostel called Sam’s Guesthouse . Actually, this was my first stay at a youth hostel other than when traveling with my classmates for school trips, so I really did not know what to expect, especially from a Chinese youth hostel. But I had done my research on the best area to stay in Chengdu and this seemed to be perfect to go out and explore the city,
After a 2.5 hour flight I arrived in Chengdu and took the shuttle bus to downtown. I was the only non-Asian person in the bus and nobody spoke English, so I couldn’t ask where to get off. At the last stop I grabbed my bag and did not have a clue where I was and how to get to my hotel.
Since I booked this trip only 3 days before I left, I did not have time to do much research. I walked to a nice 5 * hotel to get a cab or at least some direction where to go next. A really helpful doorman tried to get a cab for me, but in the late afternoon it is almost impossible to get a cab in Chengdu, so he stopped a rickshaw and off I went with my suitcase on my lap to my hotel. What a stylish way to arrive at a hotel in China!!!
The staff of the hotel spoke very good English and I was surprised how big my room was. Cleanliness is another topic, but I have to say that I lost a lot of my inhibition against gross and disgusting things since I moved to China. It was definitely ok for 10€ (or 13-14$) a night, so I was really satisfied. After a long and strenuous day, I checked in, had a great Sichuan dinner (very spicy, but oh so yummy!!!), a short stroll around town and went to bed.
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Chengdu Picture Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chongqing_hotpot_2.jpg