The capital of Sichuan province, home of the Panda, surprised me in many ways. Its trendy and modern city center offers a range of super cute shops and for those looking for a more cultural experience, there is plenty to do as well! But the real reason why you should pay a visit to Chengdu, has to be for the food! Street food, hotpot, spicy or not, it’s an excellent place to try out the spicy yet delicious dishes of the Sichuan cuisine!
CHENGDU PANDA BASE
Those in search of the authentic ‘panda in the wild’ experience, will be very disappointed. I don’t like zoo’s and tourist traps, but if you want to see a Panda in China, this is unavoidable. The pandas are fed around 9 in the morning, and you can be sure they will be snoozing the rest of the day. If you want to see a panda ‘in action’, go early in the morning. It’s very cute to watch them be lazy, nibbling on bamboo!
Nope, you can not miss this when you visit Chengdu. This is a must!
Chengdu was named a UNESCO city of gastronomy in 2010. Chinese from all parts of the country will therefore only give you one advice for a visit to Chengdu: EAT!
If the food is drenched in oil with red peppers, you know you’re in the Sichuan Province. Sichuan Province is the most spicy province of China. And yes, I learned the hard way. But if you learn this sentence by heart: “Wo bu neng chi la” (I can’t eat spicy food), you’ll experience the amazing Sichuan Cuisine without any spice problems.
HOTPOT & CHUAN CHUAN
Although hotpot finds its origin in Chongqing, a city not far from Chengdu, Chengdu is not a bad place to try out this typical Sichuan dish as well! Vegetables and meats are fondued in oil with red peppers, heated in a large pan or wok. Fortunately for us foreigners, there is always the inner part of the pan; a small round pot in the middle of the wok with a neutral broth (a lot less spicy!).
Check out my Sichuan vlog to see how I experienced my first Sichuan Hotpot!
Chengdu’s version of Chongqing Hotpot is called Chuan Chuan and is same-same but different. Chuan Chuan restaurants are scattered around the city, where you can eat this typical Chengdu dish on little tables with mini-chairs. This can be quite the challenge for a girl with long legs like me!
You can choose different kinds of vegetables and meat skewers in the fridges inside and fondue them outside in the very very spicy wok pans with oil and chili peppers. Well hello, an extra bowl of white rice to cool down your mouth is not a bad idea.
KUANZHAI XIANGZI SNACKSTREETS, MAHJONG & SICHUAN OPERA
Like I said before; everything in this city revolves around food. The streets of Kuanzhai Xiangzi are an excellent place to try out some of the province’s typical dishes. In these cute streets, that date back to the Qing Dynasty, you can try many Sichuan dishes like Mapo Tofu or visit a traditional Chinese Tea House. Take place between the mahjong-playing men on one of the bamboo terraces for a real authentic Chinese experience or watch a Sichuan Opera mask dance performance.
LESHAN & Emeishan
Seldom did I see something so beautiful. 71 meters high, built to protect ships against turbulent water, this giant sculpture of a seated Buddha is a place where Buddhist monks have been pondering over the big questions of life for more than two thousand years.
Leshan can be done on a day-trip, but make sure you’re on time! This tourist attraction is flooded with Chinese tourists everyday. When you have enough time you can combine it with a visit to Emeishan. The pathways that link the monasteries together on this sacred mountain of more than 3 km, provide numerous panoramic viewing points.
72 HOUR VISA-FREE TRANSIT
Obtaining a visa for China can be quite the challenge. The application process is rather complicated and requires a lot of documents. It might therefore be good to know, that for a short visit of no more than 3 days, a visa is not required! Flight tickets from Chengdu airport are also usually priced quite well and it can be a very nice addition to your Backpack trip through Asia!
More information about this 3-day visa free transit here.
Go on a culinary voyage through this surprisingly trendy city close to the border of Tibet! Chengdu is nothing what you expect from a city in China. In a good way!!