Waiting for my sleeper train to Chengdu was definitely an experience. When I entered the waiting area at the station all eyes were on me. There were hardly any seats left and a lot of people sat on a floor with bags and luggage in all sort of shapes and forms, babies attached to their backs wearing colorful scarves and clothing. There are many ethnic minority groups living in the Sichuan province so it should not really come as such a shock but somehow it did.
The train was not as modern and clean as my previous one but I still managed to have a good night sleep. In a morning I could tell that it is much warmer outside, which was great news and to add to it, within a couple of hours of my arrival I was reunited with my friend Marianna. She was joining me for the upcoming few weeks of my trip, braving it, yet again, through this vast county in my company.
Our Chinese saga was starting in Chendgu all over again and to beat Marianna’s jet lag we set to explore our nearest surroundings; Chengdu IFS, a luxury landmark and Chunxi Road, a famous shopping street with many shopping malls, department stores and restaurants. Just one street away from the hustle and bustle of Chunxi and Hong xing, we found Taikoo Li, a shopping area with a completely different feel, boasting to be Chengdu’s trend leader of New Age Urban Fashion and Culture. It was not like China that we have seen before. We were truly impressed and promised ourselves to be back there for a coffee one afternoon to enjoy this modern and extremely stylish and tasteful place.
On our first day we discovered Chendgu’s wealthy and dynamic side so the next day we decided to have a closer look at the traditional teahouses and immerse in Chengdu’s laid-back atmosphere.
We headed to Tianfu Square, where we were greeted by Chairman Mao with a very disproportionate arm and from there we walked to People’s Park and famous Heming Teahouse. Visiting a teahouse is truly the best way to get a glimpse of everyday life of China’s seniors, who spend their day sipping tea, playing cards or mahjong. I love tea so I might be fairly biased about the whole experience but I highly recommend it.
The main reason why Chengdu became one of my stops was the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding as I wanted to see these rare and extremely cute animals. With a population of less than 2000, giant pandas are one of the special-class protected species. The Chengdu Panda Base started in 1987 with only 6 pandas that were rescued from the wild and currently there are more than 80 ones. The aim of this institution is to shift its efforts toward helping giant pandas adapt to their natural habitat so they can be released into the wild, live and repopulate in their native environment.
When we arrived at the Panda Base I was really surprised how huge it is. Situated slightly out of Chengdu it measures 106 hectares and offers plenty of space for pandas to eat, play and chill. This is pretty much what they do all day so it is very important to go in the morning as this is the time of the day when they are the most active.
Watching Ying Ying snacking on a bamboo was one of my highlights but in all fairness it was the sight of newborn pandas sleeping sweetly in their incubator or playing around that stole the show and all the visitors went into this “awwww.. they are so cute” mode. I swear!
On our last day we visited Wenhua Park, the Cultural Park, where locals were making the most of their sunny weekend and the Qingyang Temple, also known as the Green Ram Monastery, which was fairly tricky to find at first but once we got there we did not mind spending all that time looking for it, taken with its architecture and pleasant surroundings.
While in Chengdu we had a chance to meet up with our Polish friends, Laura and Bartek, incredible troopers and motorbike enthusiasts, who currently travel around the world and blog about their adventures. Laura’s sister, Joanna joined them in China, visiting Asia for the first time so we could all exchange travel tips, stories and share a chocolate that Marianna brought from Poland.
Flipflop Lounge Hostel was a great choice. The location was fantastic and people working there were extremely friendly and helpful. They supplied us with a map and detailed directions so we could make the most of our time in the capital of Sichuan province.