My knowledge of Chengdu (成都) was confined to what I have picked up from reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三国演义). The city where Liu Bei (刘备) established Shu Kingdom (蜀国), an important geographical stronghold which presents defensive advantages to its rulers. And also the reputation as a heavenly state (天府之国) for its vast natural resources.
This short work trip opened out my mind about Chengdu to realize that this provincial capital of Sichuan province has got tons to offer! Chengdu is synonymous with pandas, ‘Face-changing’ (变脸) and the spicy Sichuan cuisine. It’s also a perfect gateway to the nearby Jiuzhaigou National park, Huanglong Scenic Area, Emei Mountain, Qingcheng Mountain, Leshan Giant Buddha and even Tibet. I was merely scratching the surface during this trip and hope to be back for more.
Jinli Ancient Street
Jinli (锦里古街) was historically a commercial street during the Shu Kingdom era. It’s now a lively tourist zone which is surrounded by shops, teahouses, and restaurants housed in ancient-looking buildings. Not too bad a place to hang around for local food, snacks, and souvenirs. But I find Jinli to be somewhat a little over-touristy.
There’s this garden towards the end street where I found some interesting stone carvings of Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei.
Nearby is San Yi temple where the three sworn brothers are worshipped, together with Zhuge Liang.
Spicy Sichuan Mala hot pot
My first dip into the spicy Mala hot pot (麻辣香锅) and it’s much spicier than I’ve thought! What sets the Sichuan version apart from those typical hot pots is the ‘tongue numbing’ spicy broth. The fiery combo of red chilli oil and the peppercorns are not for the faint heart or stomach. It’s a refreshing change from the usual hot pot. But I don’t think I will try Mala hot pot anytime again soon…
Saw this lady selling the super sweet Tanghulu (冰糖葫芦) outside the hot pot restaurant.
Paradise Ethos Show in Chengdu
The evening was spent watching Paradise Ethos, a music and dance performance choreographed by Zhang Yimou, China’s famous film director.
It’s a nice experience for the beautifully designed stage, bright colourful costumes and nice music which went well with the storyline.
But the epic moment was when the face-changing performers moved around and showcase their show-stopping acts. How the hell they do that??? I am totally mesmerized by the amazing face-changing feat!!
And the ending…
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
As mentioned that Chengdu is synonymous with the panda bear, so it’s surely a must to visit Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding (成都大熊貓繁育研究基地). Panda bear is regarded as one of China’s national treasure but the rare animal is also among the world’s most endangered species.
Hence, the non-profit research base is dedicated to panda’s protection, conservation and public education in a bid to preserve the dwindling Panda population.
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is a huge place, surrounded by lush greenery with primarily bamboo trees, replicating panda’s natural habitat. It’s nice to walk around on its own actually. But of course, we’re here to see panda and we are not disappointed.
One of my favourite pictures…is he looking at me?
More pandas alert, on the tree this time. The duo having fun on top of the trees.
It’s best to be here early morning where the crowds are lesser and while the pandas are up and around for their breakfast. Some interesting facts about pandas: they spend around two-thirds of their day consuming up to 20kg of bamboo and that’s because bamboo is nutritionally poor. And when they’re not feasting? They rest!
Famous international star Jackie Chan donated 1 million RMB for the cause and adopted two pandas.
The best part is to get to see the little ones outside the nursery room.
There’re also shops within the research base where any souvenirs related to panda can be found. It’s really crowded inside the small shop and the most popular item seems to be the panda soft toys.