Chengdu- Land of Abundance

You’ve heard of Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing. What’s there to see in Chengdu?

Reluctantly, we went to Chengdu enroute to Lhasa, Tibet. The connection time was simply too long, and so we decided to stay 3 days/ 2 nights. Originally, I wanted to stay just one night. When I was buying the tickets, the Chinese travel agent said, there’s so much to see in Chengdu.

She couldn’t advise me. Just go on the internet.

All I unearthed was: Pandas. So I wrote to PTC, my former colleague who’s now working in Chengdu.

Pandas? Go in the morning, he advised. This is not the season. Its too hot for them in June. By 10am, after breakfast, they’ll take a nap in airconditioned comfort and there’s nothing to see.

I’m very glad I took his advice, and now I shall list down the rest.

[If you’re taking altitude sickness pills, you should do so, two days before entering Tibet. In Singapore, you get the prescription from your doctor for the pills but you buy the pills from commercial pharmacy such as Guardian (who won’t sell you without the prescription). ]

Where to stay

1. We stayed at the Haiyatt Hotel (not Hyatt), which is probably owned by the Thais.  The hotel has very good service, and in the morning hotel buffet spread has Southeast Asian cuisine. I see a number of Thai business men, some Caucasians.  The décor at the breakfast dining area is also Thai.  Haiyatt Hotel (海悦) is next to the Chunxi pedaestrian area. Price about RMN 600-700 per night. There is always Shangri-La at about RMB 1100-1200 per night or the Ascott group.

2. I like the Chunxi pedestrian area. There’re department malls around, such as Isetan – check out the basement food alley. Or take the subway to the Raffles City shopping area to catch a cinema or have some Singaporean food.

Places to visit:

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3. There are two panda reserves. The further one at Ya’an (3 hr) is however closed due to the earthquake. There are still after shocks and the roads there may be subject to closure by falling rocks. The one nearer Chengdu city centre is the Chengdu Panda Base, about 45 minutes away from town centre. Best to visit in the morning as pandas do not like heat (they get heat stroke at 25 C!), and hopefully they are still willing to come outdoors. But June is usually hot, so 50/50 chance I would say. This will probably take half a day. [NB: From Chengdu Panda Base, there’s a coach to the Jinsha museum. Its very convenient. Unfortunately, as we caught a red eye flight, we were so tired, after the walk, that we headed back to do a check-in at the hotel. Fortunately we caught a taxi.]

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4. The rest of the afternnon can spend in various city sites like Jinli (锦里) old street with is just next to the Zhu Geliang Shrine (武侯祠worth a visit), and also the Kuan Zhai Alleys (宽窄巷子), Dufu Cottage (杜甫草堂),  the Chunxi Pedestrian area, etc.

5.  Visit either the Sanxingdui Museum (三星堆博物馆) or the Jinsha Museum (金沙遗址博物馆).  The former is slightly further out, about 1.5 hr drive one way, but worth the while and more astounding than the latter. The latter is also very good, and nearer town, within 30 min from Haiyatt. Both are key archaelogical findings in China, and even the world. Each will take at least half a day.

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The discovery of the Jinsha site suggests the area of Chengdu had become the center of the bronze age Sanxingdui culture around the time of the establishment of the state of Shu, prior to its annexation by Qin in 316 BC. [See Wikipedia.]

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Jingsha was a historical site discovered when the developer was trying to build a condominium. We got to walk through the excavated site.

Well landscaped gardens

Well landscaped gardens

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My travelling companion reluctantly went to Jingsha on the last day but ended up not wanting to leave after 2 hrs. We had a plane to catch.

Its well curated, high quality exhibits, well landscaped gardens.  The exhibits are very unChinese which came as a surprise given the typical Tang period artifacts that we’re familiar with. We joked that the masks and sun disc look like they were created by people from a different planet. (We enjoyed it much more than the Panda zoo. But this museum is of a much much smaller scale than those in Beijing which could explain the disappointing reviews in Tripadvisor. Plus the write-ups are in Mandarin. Not tourist friendly.)

Long fossilized tree trunk

Long fossilized tree trunk

Bronze Age Sun Disk

Bronze Age Sun Disk

We speak and read Mandarin and hence find it well curated. (We don’t enjoy Chinese tourist shopping. So what other options.) Unfortunately if you don’t, then the essence of the place is lost.

The place is very quiet and hardly any tourists. Several senior citizens sitting around. Some minding their toddlers.

Getting back to the hotel was a serious problem. Just couldn’t catch a cab after 20 mins and we were rushing to catch a flight.

Transport

Taxis are very cheap.  Unfortunately, in some areas you can’t flag a taxi as none would stop for you.   If you’re on business, rent from ComfortDelcro. With driver about RMB 400+ per day for a normal sedan for 8 hr (within Chengdu City). OT charges about RMB 30 per hr.

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