Trip to Sichuan Province: Five Things to Do in Chengdu

Me: “ I’m travelling to China!”
Friend: “Again? Didn’t you go there last holiday?”
Me: “Yep, but it’s different from last time. I’m going to Chengdu and Jiuzhaigou”
Friend: “ …… okay”

 

It was the common reaction from my friends when I told them I was going to China for the third time. They thought that travelling to China was boring and only suitable for the elderly. Let me tell you, that is absolutely wrong! All of my previous trips to China were always fun and memorable. This trip was no different and actually much better!

Last winter, I went on a family trip to western China and discovered a whole new world. We flew to Chengdu and travelled around that area with Jiuzhaigou as the highlight of the journey.

Chengdu is the provincial capital of Sichuan province and the gateway for our destinations in this journey. It is totally different from Beijing or Shanghai! People are more laid-back and friendly there even though Chengdu is striving toward being a mega city with the growing foreign investment. But still, as the fifth most populous city in China, Chengdu does share the common issues: people and traffic! Be careful when crossing a street there! (especially in areas where the traffic lights can’t control the people!)

Nonetheless, it is still a superb place. There are lots of things to do there. Here are five activities you can do when visiting Chengdu:

 

1. Sichuan Opera with Bianlian (face-changing) art

Sichuan Opera basically tells the stories of local people through different dramas that have been combined with local dialects, tradition, dances, music and culture. They blend drama, comedy, romance and even thriller into one perfect entity. The highlights of the opera is of course the Bian Lian or “face-changing” art where the actors will show different emotions by using different masks in the blink of an eye! You can also expect other performing arts such as shadow puppets and fire-breathing in this opera. Don’t worry about not understanding because they provide subtitles for the show in multiple languages! You should give this a try while visiting Chengdu!

I was too engrossed in watching the Sichuan opera so I didn't take any pictures. But here's a photo from the web! (Image source: The Gonger, Flickr)
I was too engrossed in watching the Sichuan opera so I didn’t take any pictures. But here’s a photo just as an illustration! (Image source: The Gonger, Flickr)

 

2. Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

As giant panda is one of the most endangered species with restricted habitat in the world, it is natural to visit them in Chengdu, “the giant pandas’ hometown”. You can visit the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding which is located in the northern suburbs of Chengdu to have a closer look and learn more about the pandas. (P.S. you might discover that the pandas will most likely laze around and sleep during your visit!)

Panda

 

3. Sichuan Mala Hotpot

Another thing that one should do while visiting Chengdu is to taste the famous Sichuan Mala Hotpot. This cuisine is unique because of the Sichuan pepper (花椒 huā jiāo) used in it that creates both spicy and numb sensation on the tongue. Therefore, I suggest you to have separate soup where one is the normal soup and the other is the mala soup like what I had in the above picture if you’re not fond of spicy and numbing food! It’s very spicy and oily but just nice for the cold winter.

It's very spicy and oily, but suitable the cold winter!
It’s very spicy and oily, but suitable the cold winter!

 

4. Jinli Street (锦里古街): Charming Traditional Chinese Pedestrian Alleys

Besides those three activities, there are other things that you can do in Chengdu. There are plenty of old pedestrian streets that showcased the old Chinese architectures where vendors sell various local souvenirs and delicacies. It’s worth visiting and you will be surprised by what you can find there! During this trip, we visited Jinli Street (锦里古街) which is located at the east of Wuhou Temple (the most famous Three Kingdoms period relic museum in China). We enjoyed strolling down this ancient street and tasting the local food!

Ancient Street

Pineapple Sticky Rice
Pineapple Sticky Rice

5. Chunxi Road (春熙路), Chengdu’s Champs-Élysées

Other than the ancient streets, there is also a famous shopping district where you can unleash your inner shopaholic! Visiting Chunxi Road (春熙路) in Chengdu is a must, just like visiting Champs-Élysées in Paris or Nanjing Road in Shanghai. This commercial pedestrian street offers various options ranging from local to international brands, souvenirs to daily necessities, and street stalls to shopping malls.

 

Well, that’s about it for my journey in Chengdu and I hope that my post has given you some ideas about what to do there! Stay tuned for my next post on Jiuzhaigou!

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