Oct. 13th-14th; 0km; Chengdu
Scroll to the bottom if you want to read our traveler’s tips for Chengdu!
These days days off aren’t really an opportunity to rest at all. Lots to do while we were in Chengdu and unfortunately we didn’t get to see half of the things we were told we should see while there. We were only a few days away now from the big motorcycle exhibition in Chongqing (one day’s ride away) and had things to prepare for that.
Please Don’t Hug The Pandas
One thing you have to do though when you’re in Chengdu is to visit the world famous Panda sanctuary in the north east of the city. We went early-ish in the morning to catch the feeding which is when the pandas are most active. The compound is quite big and you can spend a good couple of hours wandering around. We went to see the adult and adolescent Giant Panda exhibits as well as the Red Panda exhibits (red colored pandas that look more like foxes or raccoons then their black and white cousins). We finished it off by going through the nursery where you can see the baby pandas (after waiting in line and passing by the glass barrier that separates the nursery from tourists).
Talk Like A Sichuanese, Eat Like A… Zombie?
When you’re in Sichuan, and particularly Chengdu, you have to have a meal of hotpot as it is the birthplace of the popular Chinese meal. For those who don’t know, hotpot is a meal where you are given a giant pot of spiced water, a kind of soup, usually split into two parts one spicy and one not, and then you order your dishes that you want, raw, to cook yourself in the pot.
We met up with Jessie, our account manager from Tibet Travel, who we had been on contact with for months, but, as Chengdu was where their office was located, only just now had our first opportunity to meet face-to-face. Her and a co-worker invited us out to a hotpot restaurant near their office. We let them order saying we wanted to try whatever locals ate and that we were willing to try anything. Jessie’s eyebrow lifted at this and then she smiled knowingly. “Anything?” she asked. Our requirements were just that it was something that local people liked to eat.
Well what we got was pig brain, duck intestines, and duck blood. There were other more typical dishes such as beef, mushrooms, greens, etc but these delicacies were clearly the main event. With the help of the strong flavors of the soup that we boiled our pig brains and duck innards in, the dishes were remarkably bearable, that is, of course， once you got over the texture (slimy and oozy for the brain, chewy for the intestines, and just sort of liquid-y for the gelatinous blood). At the very least, it was much easier to eat than our bowl of sheep intestine soup from back in Yinchuan, Ningxia.
The hotel we stayed at, the Wangjiang Hotel in the Wangjiang Park was a really nice place to take our couple days off in Chengdu. They had heard about our trip and the charity we were working with and wanted to show their support in some way. The PR manager was nice enough to offer our stay for free and will be looking into ways to cooperate with Free Lunch For Children in the future. Definitely worth checking out if you find yourself in Chengdu! The Wangjiang Park also makes for a wonderful stroll if you have some time.
Travelers Tips for Chengdu
Wish we had more of these! With the limited time we did have to explore the city though, here’s what we recommend:
- Definitely visit the Panda Sanctuary and Research Center during feeding hours from 8:30-10am. Even though this is the most interesting time to view the pandas, most people didn’t seem to arrive until later so there aren’t very many crowds to contend with.
- Checkout the Wangjiang Park for a chance to get away from the noise and crowds of the city. There’s a little tea house/tea garden you can stop at, the pathway parallels a river, and you can stop and enjoy other people wandering around playing the Chinese flute or other instruments.
- You’ve gotta try hotpot while you’re here! And hey, you’re in China. Why not go out on a limb and try something a little out of your comfort zone. I hear zombie food is good for your digestion.
- There’s a lot to do out in the surrounding areas of Chengdu. Use Chengdu as your base to visit the nearby cities of Leshan (site of the world’s largest stone Buddha) and Emeishan (one of the sacred mountains of China). Both are a little over 100km out of Chengdu and deserve at least a full day each. We visited Leshan and the Buddha there after Chongqing as we wrapped our way back around to Yunnan so stay tuned for those tips!