Travelling Chengdu: Pandas and spicy food

Updated: Dec 29, 2019

Since our latest articles debated several more serious topics like visa, search for an apartment after coming to China to teach here, using apps like WeChat and Alipay, payments in China and different types of Chinese schools the following article is more about a funny aspect of life in China.

It is about about how it is like to travel mainland China, in this case the province Sichuan and their capital Chengdu. Why Chengdu? Because I spent 5 days there last week. It's an amazing place.

Chin and me flew from Shanghai to Chengdu, it took us three and a half hours. Can you imagine that?

If you are from Europe like I am, you know why I was quite astonished about flying for almost four hours and still arrive at a destination in the same country where our flight departed. Of course, it's just logical since the area of China covers 9.5 million square kilometers and is as big as the United States of America but still impressive.

Let me give you some facts about Chengdu before I talk about my personal experience.

The city considered to be the gay capital of China with 14 million population, was one of the cultural centers of west China for over 2.000 years, is the home of "Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding" and is voted the fourth most liveable city in the Middle Kingdom by China Daily.

Downtown Chengdu - fancy pandas only

When we arrived in Chengdu it was surprisingly cold for the summer season. Cold means 22 degrees Celsius and a bit rainy. Usually the temperatures climb up to 30 degrees Celsius and higher at this time of the year.

The taxi from the airport to the AirBnB cost us 10 USD, I have to mention that it was a 25 minutes ride. The Airbnb in the heart of Chengdu we rent out for 20 USD pro person and night. We enjoyed a comfortable 3 bedroom apartment with a small home cinema. Amazing. Everybody has to love this place.

For dinner we went to one of the local restaurants. You can find those restaurants everywhere since good food is an important part of social life in China, and I felt in Chengdu even more than in Shanghai or Beijing, 3 or 4 times a day. We ordered some local dishes to share. What we got served was chilis and peppers with a bit chicken and noodles as a side dish... I am just kidding. The food is delicious but can be spicy as hell. Better ask for a foreigners version. Otherwise you might visit one of the "stomach doctors" you can find in Chengdu treating you after you overestimated your culinary fortitude.

One dish was quite a surprise for my friend born in the northern part of China and raised in modern Shanghai - the Chengdunese Wontons. You need to know that Wontons is more a kind of breakfast served in a clear soup. The Sichuan interpretation is like: Add as much chilis as you can and better the hottest one. So know imagine having a western breakfast like cereals with Chilis or scrambled eggs with Chilis added. By the way my friend couldn't understand anything people were saying with an Sichuan accent. For him it must be like going to France for me. And again - another proof which shows how big, unique and different the Chinese provinces are compared to each other.

Hot and spicy.

If you are a night owl this city might be a good choice as well.

Visit one of many bars playing live music - we went to one place with an awesome singer performing traditional Chinese ballads. Touching. Trust me. Afterwards we went to a few big nightclubs like in Shanghai. Lit as always.

One thing I really noticed and appreciated in this place compared to Shanghai is the vibe. People here are more friendly and relaxed - it felt like the Chengdunese know how to enjoy life better- life goes slower than in the tier 1 cities in China. As slow as it is possible in a city with a population of 14 million. Anyway - the vibe is awesome.

Another thing I definitely want to talk about is the Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

We spent our last day here. It is not like a zoo but more a beautiful park with a lot of bamboo everywhere.

The Pandas have a very decent life here. Mostly there are 2 or 3 Pandas together in a very big area, more like a forest where they have everything they need. As I said a very peaceful and decent life. You can just stand there for 20 minutes watching the Pandas doing nothing and you will feel relaxed.

I recommend you to go there at 4pm. They park closes the entrance at 5pm. So you still have enough time to get around but it's not crowded at all. Go there, you will be amazed.

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Sichuan