I had been looking forward to get to Chengdu ever since it was hyped to me as one of China’s hottest destinations, with some of the best cuisine, countless awesome sights, and Pandas!
And while Pandas would have to wait for a bit, I was still able to make the most of the one full day I had to stroll around Chengdu City.
At first Chengdu seemed like any other Chinese big city; overly populated, crazy noisy, and big. Skyscrapers all over its downtown core make up for much of the scenery within the city, with constant shopping going on below at its street level. All of this had me thinking that I would not enjoy my time in Chengdu at all.
But one of my students who is actually from Chengdu offered to show me around her city, so we met on the second day after I arrived and got to see some pretty cool sights:
Located next to the Wu Hou Temple, Jinli street is an old maze of pedestrian streets surrounded by wooden kiosks, markets, and buildings, many of which sell Sichuanese snacks and souvenirs.
The place is vast and it seems like the network of streets is never-ending; many times as I thought we had reached the end, a new set of streets would suddenly appear out of nowhere.
The place was quite crowded when we got there, resulting in having to battle our way through the crowds. There are, however, some peaceful areas within Jin Li street, especially around the few ponds located very much inside the complex.
I really enjoyed my time here, and couldn’t help but wonder what the antique wooden houses would look like at night, once the traditional Chinese lanterns would lit up the place.
To get there, there are no metro lines near Jin Li street, however there are a number of buses that stop almost in front of the complex (1, 57, 82, 334, 335 and 1126).
Namely translated to Wide Alley and Narrow Alley, this complex forms a “small city within a city”, or at least it did from the 1600s until the early 1900s.
The area consists of 3 parallel city alleys and many beautiful courtyards. Although many of the alleys are now comprised of bars, restaurants, and tea houses, one can still wonder at the ancient architecture of the old lodges and get a glimpse at the lives of Chengdu natives.
Although I did enjoy my time strolling Kuanzhai Xiangzi, I found it to be too much commercialised to my taste. Granted, all tourist areas in a big city now are commercial spots, however the amount of pubs, bars and restaurants in such a small place made me sort of not fully appreciate the beauty of what the alleys had to offer.
To get there, take metro Line 2 and get off at People’s Park station, or Line 4 and get off at Wide and Narrow Alley Station.
Wenshu Yuan Monastery
What’s up with monasteries being the prettiest structures all over China?
Wenshu Yuan Monastery was definitely no exception to this rule. One of the best preserved Buddhist temples in Chengdu, Wenshy Yuan is as beautiful as it is peaceful. As we walked through the different halls, the scent of incense got stronger, an worshippers increased in number.
The monastery boasts many cultural relics, paintings and calligraphy works of art within its sacred halls. Inside, a magnificent garden and a tea house adorn this already beautiful sight.
To get there, take metro Line 1 and get off at Wen Shu Yuan station, or take buses 16, 52, or 55 and get off at Wen Shu Yuan stop.
There is definitely much more to see in Chengdu, and I would’ve liked to take more time to visit within the city, but a nasty cold prevented me from moving too far from bed. That and the fact that there were still a few things just outside of Chengdu which I still wanted to go see (Pandas!!!).
Laid-back and modern, Chengdu was sort of a positive odd experience. But I couldn’t wait to get out of the city, which is what I did next…