One of the reasons why we were so excited to visit China was Chengdu where we wanted to see the Giant Panda
. So after bowl full of history when we boarded our train from Xian to Chengdu we were super excited. When we boarded the train, to our surprise there was no sleeper berth and it was chair car for a 15 hour journey. We reached Chengdu around 5 in the morning, and took a motor pedi cab to International youth hostel.
To our disappointment we were not allowed to check in before 10’o clock in the morning ,so I slept in the reception area and Ria started reading her book. The international youth hostel had a self-explanatory notice board and you can easily plan your day around by going through it.
Panda Facts (copied from Wiki :D)
Giant pandas are on the brink of extinction, with just over 1,000 pandas left in the world.
Pandas have been a symbol of peace in China. For example, hundreds of years ago, warring tribes in China would raise a flag with a picture of a panda on it to stop a battle or call a truce
According to legend, the panda was once an all-white bear. When a small girl tried to save a panda cub from being attacked by a leopard, the leopard killed the girl instead. Pandas came to her funeral wearing armbands of black ashes. As they wiped their eyes, hugged each other, and covered the ears, they smudged the black ashes
Panda Diplomacy - China owns almost all the pandas in the world and owns all future offspring of all pandas.Every time China has sent a panda to a foreign zoo in the past 10+ years, they have required an agreement that China owns the panda and its offspring.
Day 1 : Huanglongxi ancient town
Huanglongxi is a very beautiful and grand ancient town of Ming & Qing Dynasty. It has a history of almost 1700 years, and is a very well preserved place which has beautifully made old houses of shui people, beautiful old bridges and a huge market inside with a stream of water flowing in between the town where you will find kids and adults playing with water guns and splashing water on each other.
It’s a beautiful wonderland where you will be lost in time and see the old tea pot shops and a variety to food to choose from and a lot of souvenirs to shop.
It’s the place, where I got a delicious first bite of my favorite lotus roots marinated in vinegar and soy sauce. Before coming to china, I had read about the people using lotus roots in different dishes the way back home in Jammu & Kashmir.
We attended a kids dance performance (we sneaked inside the theatre) which was inside the Town for free and had fun roaming around.
The locals requested us to take some photos with them and we felt like a celebrity. It’s a beautiful place to spent your day roaming around, tasting different types of street food and checking out this beautiful old china town.
I had tasty finger fries, spicy tofu, grilled lotus roots and a sweet coconut milk drink and Ria tried some grilled spicy squids.
I almost wished to stay in this ancient town, for a night to know how it feels to live in a historic place.
Next on our list was Wenshu temple, it’s an old temple of Buddha and very well preserved as it was constructed in tang dynasty and was completed during the reign of Qing Dynasty. You can find 500 pieces of art and calliphagraphy on the walls of the temple.
It’s a huge beautiful temple with a Tea house in the backyard and a restaurant which serves vegetarian / Vegan food. We tried the famous vegetarian Sichuan Hot – Pot in the temple restaurant. Wenshu temple consists of different halls with different statues of Buddha in all shape and sizes. It has a beautiful lake where you can spend your lone time, soaked in nature, sitting quietly and you can enjoy your tea.
Day 2 :Giant Panda Breeding Centre
The next day we got up early to go Giant Panda Breeding Base centre as the place is crowded 365 days of the year. We took an early morning local bus from our hostel to the panda centre. It is very convenient in China to travel by local bus as they all are aircon buses with a proper ticketing system. We changed the bus from another stop and in one hour or so, we reached the panda town
. Ria was extremely happy as it was her childhood dream to see and hold the Pandas. But her dream of holding the Great Panda had to remain unfulfilled as the government has put a hold on it , as it was causing a negative effect on the health of pandas which is already an endangered species.
Panda Breeding base is a 95 acres of vast land developed exclusively for the Giant pandas and other endangered species.it’s a beautiful area which is vast and planted with bamboo trees all around to make it look like a natural habitat for the Giant panda. It has a lake in between where there are few restaurants lined up where you can have some snacks. You can watch those beautiful cuddling pandas sleeping, eating bamboo and playing together. They have constructed the AC rooms, so that the panda can sleep well. They live in full luxury with a huge playing area, loads of bamboos to eat and an air-conditioned room to sleep.
If you are lucky you can see the new born pandas in the lab where they are well fed and taken care of. There is a souvenir store from where you can buy the panda souvenirs.
We went ahead and found some red pandas roaming around. First I thought somebody has open left the cage and we were lucky enough to take some photos next to them, but to our surprise red pandas were roaming around freely without any boundary and they can sleep on the trees, or wherever they want. Even we had a chance to feed them some apples. It was a long beautiful walk with bamboo plants and trees everywhere.
You will sense as you have come to a beautiful bamboo forest with pandas and other species roaming around without a barricade. Even though you cannot touch Giant Pandas as they reside in a restricted area but you can take their videos and photos.
Wohou Memorial Temple
After seeing the Pandas, we went to explore The Wohou Memorial Temple. This temple is dedicated to Zhuge Liang, one of the most important man in the history of China, who dreamed of a unified China.
He was the Strategist and Prime Minister of emperor Liu Bei of Sui Kingdom. This temple is also dedicated to emperor Liu Bei and the Emperors of Qing and Ming Dynasty.
You can also find the very first inscriptions on the tablets in this temple, the very first script of developing the alphabets of the Chinese Language.
The temple covers 37,000 square metres of area and is divided in to five parts :- The Gate, The Second Gate, The Hall of Liu Bei, The corridor and the Hall of Zhuge Liang.
It a great place to roam around and see the beauty of Cyrus trees, lakes and the huge gardens. It has a beautiful architecture of mid- sixteenth century and is very well preserved. There is a small gift shop inside the temple, from where you can buy the souvenirs. We had a great time roaming around and cherishing the beauty of this temple, it’s a great place to spend your day admiring and reading about the emperors of China. It’s always good to hire a guide, who will explain you about this temple in a more detailed way. I wish we would have hired one.
Jinli Ancient Street
Jinli Ancient street is the street in the east of the Wohou Memorial Temple, which dates back to the 221 BC, it was one of the commercial center of Sui kingdom and it was famous for rice and embroidery clothes and silk. It is a beautiful narrow lane street which has a completely ancient chinese look with the buidings and stores constructed in that manner.
There is so much to buy and eat. You can try all the local Sichuan street delicacies which are delicious and spicy. I tried some sweets and sweet chinese Rice cakes whereas ria tried some pork puffs. You can buy the artifacts, the shu embroidery clothes, beautifully made lanterns and a lot of souvenirs.
The Peoples Park
Peoples park is a huge park with an artificial lake in the southern part of the park. Like in the west the people socialize on beer, here in the China people socialize on tea and you can find a lot of people here drinking tea and talking as well as do people watching.
Peoples park was the first social park in the Sichuanese province of Chengdu made in 1911. There are a lot of spots to see in people’s park like Gold water stream, East hill, Memorial Square, Gold Fish Island, orchid Garden. While entering the park you will find big groups of ladies dancing on different songs and you are free to join if you like dancing. Most of them do it like professionals and it a good form of exercise which most the Chinese do in the evenings to stay fit. It is a great place to spent your time if you like people watching.
We Grabbed two cups of tea from one of the tea house, where they will give a you a big thermos with hot water so that you can fill you cup again and again till the whole tea leaves are strained out. You can also take a boat ride after having your tea to see the park. There is an ear cleaning services as well at the tea house, if you want to clean your ears while having tea. We had a quiet and nice evening by the side of the lake, having tea and watching people coming and going after a long walking day.
Sichuan University is the University of Chengdu where you will find a lot of Indian students who come there to study medicine. We went to meet one of the Ria’s friend. It’s a beautiful university with so many Lakes around with beautiful Lotus Flowers. This University was founded in the late 1740 and till date is one of the finest education centers, where the people will come to study from all over the world. There is a fine alley of all types of small restaurants which provides affordable and quality food to students. We went to try in one of the Indian restaurants but unfortunately it was closed.
How to Reach Chengdu
Even though there is no direct flight for Chengdu. But you can always do a little bit of research on it by booking multiple Airline flights which will help you to save your money on air fares.
(strictly for the backpackers :D)
Sichuane Cuisine is spicy and perfectly matches the taste of the Indians. While in Chengdu you can always try Sichuan Hot- pot which is nothing but a pot full of dry red chillies and hot oil. You can always get your choice of meat and vegetables, Which you can cook right away and relish. But you can always go to these Indian Restaurants to satisfy your Indian food Cravings.