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Chengdu, China

Chengdu (成都 Chéngdū; [1]) is the capital of Sichuan Province in south-west China.
[edit] Understand

Chengdu is located in the fertile plains of western Sichuan province. Due to its agricultural wealth Chengdu is sometimes called "Land of Milk and Honey". The Fulan river bisects the city although boat traffic, common until the 1960's, has all but disappeared. The greater city area is divided into five districts and 12 counties, altogether home to 9.2 million people.
[edit] Get in
[edit] By plane

The airport is located 20km outside of Chengdu. Chengdu airport is one of the main air hubs in China, ranked 5th in passenger volume. It has flights to most major cities in China and some international destinations including Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Singapore and Osaka. It serves flights to smaller cities within Sichuan Province, including the popular tourist destination Jiuzhaigou.

Taxi fare from the airport to the city center averages ¥45. There is no extra charge for luggage or additional passengers. Going from the city to the airport, add an additional ¥10 to cover the toll on the Airport Expressway. There is also bus no. 303, which will take you to the China Airlines office on Renmin Nanlu, right in the center of the city. It costs ¥10.

If you intend to take a taxi, be sure to turn LEFT when you exit the domestic arrival area toward the taxi stand and get in a marked, green-and-yellow or blue-and-yellow taxi. Turning right may lead you towards no-goods who are waiting to prey on foreign tourists with unmarked vehicles. Beware as these people sometimes sport official-looking ID, but is in reality fake. The fare offered will often exceed ¥100, and if you bargain with them, you may find yourself sitting in the cab for a while until agreeing to raise the price back up.
[edit] By train

The Chengdu railway station (成都火车北站) is located in the north of the city, a ¥15 taxi ride from the city center. Caution is advised in the neighborhood around the train station after dark.
[edit] By bus

For bus stations, there are three bus stations in Chengdu, and they serve different destinations:

* Chadianzi bus station (西门 Ximen), for Songpan and Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve.

* Xinnanmen bus station (新南门汽车站), near the Traffic hotel, has daily buses heading to Leshan, Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve, and Mount Emei and to Kangding in Kham.

* Wuguiqiao bus station, for Chongqing

From Chadianzi Bus Station
To Departure Price (Yuan) Duration (h) Last update
Dan Ba 7:00 ¥71 12 29 June 2005
Jiuzhaigou 7:20 8:00 8:40 14:00 ¥97.00-103.00 10 July 2006
Rilong 6:30 7:00 12:00 ¥43.00 5 29 June 2005
Ruo Ergai 7:00 7:20 ¥88.50 10 29 June 2005
Songpan 6:30 7:00 7:30 ¥74.00 8 July 2006
Wolong 11:40 ¥23.50 4 29 June 2005
From Xinnanmen Bus Station
To Departure Price (Yuan) Duration (h) Last update
Daocheng 10:00 ¥217.00 2 days 29 June 2005
Emei Shan 7:00-19:00 (every 20 min) ¥35.00 2-3 10 September 2006
Jiuzhaigou 8:00 ¥92.00 13 29 June 2005
Kangding 7:00-14:00 hourly ¥100.00 7 29 June 2005
Leshan 7:30-21:30 (every 20 min) ¥37.00 2-3 29 June 2005
Songpan 8:00 ¥74.00 9 29 June 2005

[edit] Get around

* Chengdu has an extensive system of city buses plying the streets. At each bus stop, there is a list of the bus lines coming through on this road, and on some city maps the whole network is displayed. Tickets are ¥1 for common and ¥2 for air-conditioned buses respectively.

* Taxis are equipped with meters, which should be used. A free taxi will display an illuminated sign with Chinese characters in its dashboard. Taxi fares at ¥5 on flagfall and increase at ¥1.4 per km. The meter records fares in increments of ¥1. Try to have small change on hand for taxi rides.

* There are bicycle-propelled pedicabs called san lun che (三轮车) who will take you short distances. Fix a price (¥4-10) in advance.

* Most guesthouses have bicycles for hire. Check for technical problems before starting out unless you want to be held responsible for it later. If you leave your bicycle, do so in one of the designated "parking lots", where it will be guarded over for a small fee. If you can't find such a place, be sure to lock it securely against some structure.

* A subway system[2] is under contstruction. The first line is slated to open in June of 2008. It will start at Tian Fu Square and extend southward down Ren Min Nan road.

[edit] See

* Panda Research Base is the biggest facility of this kind in the world. Due to habitat destruction and other reasons, the Panda Bear is maybe the most famous endangered animal. The Research Base is home to some 60 giant Pandas, but also has some Red Pandas and a colony of black-necked cranes. The Research Center affords views of the pandas from much closer than is possible at many Western zoos. Be sure to bring your camera. The Research Base also has a small museum and a cinema screening related documentaries. A restaurant and souvenir-stalls top off the tourist installations. To get there on your own, you can take a taxi for about ¥35 from downtown Chengdu. Or, catch a northbound bus Nr.1 (¥1) and stay with it until the local bus-terminal. Leave the local bus-terminal through the exit leading to the long distance-terminal (LDT), but do not enter the latter. Instead, wait for the suburbian public bus Nr.1 to come by and stop at the left corner of the LDT. For another ¥1 it will take you to the Panda research center within 20 min. Get off when you see a big white Panda-Statue in the middle of the street. Admission fee is ¥30. The best time to visit is in the morning, when pandas are most active. It is possible to take your picture while holding a Red Panda for a fee of ¥50; occasionally during the morning you can take a pictures alongside a giant panda for a fee of ¥400 per person. Knowledgable English-speaking tour guides can be hired at the office by the Base entrance. The cost for a guide for a small group is ¥100.

* Chengdu Zoo The Zoo, located in the north of the city near the Panda Research Base, offers all the typical animals that one might expect in a zoo (elephant, tigers, giraffes, monkeys, as well as panda bears). While the zoo itself is large and spread out, some of the cages are woefully small and the facility seems understaffed. Might be good for a family to visit. Admission is ¥12 per adult. The zoo has vendors selling Chinese snacks as well as some carnival type rides.

* Sichuan Science and Technology Museum[3] (四川科技馆 ) Located directly behind the Chiarman Mao statue in the city center's Tian Fu Square, this huge 4 storey museum is filled with interactive exhibits about science, aerodynamics, space, mathematics, robotics and physics. Children will love the interactive displays and indoor playground on the 4th floor. Adults will appreciate the descriptions in both English and Chinese. Everyone will love the crowd-pleasers like the robotic orchestra and walk-through maps of Sichuan's waterways. Admission is ¥35 per adult, free for children. To get there, take a taxi or bus to Tian Fu Square and walk to the large building directly behind the Chairman Mao statue. Note: During weekdays this museum can be overrun by local school groups.

* Sichuan University Museum (四川大学博物馆 sichuan daxue bowuguan)[4] has an excellent display of local artifacts and is worth while way of spending an hour or two. The museum is one of the better in China and there are four floors of well lite, air conditioned displays with decent English translations. Starting in the basement, enter the first room where dozens of stone carvings dating from the Han dynasty to the Tang are on display. The room next door has a moderately interesting display on the museum's history and numerous examples of ancient bronzes and stone age artifacts. The first floor is mostly artifacts from the Ming and Qing dynasty, including furniture, silk clothing, and an interesting display of leather puppets. The second floor has the perhaps the most engaging display: artifacts and daily use items from ethnic minority groups in China's southwest, including Tibetans, Miao, Yi, Qiang, Jianpo and Naxi. The third floor has a decent display of calligraphy scrolls, paintings, and ceramics. The museum is located on Wangjiang Road (望江路), about a 15 minute ride from Xinnanmen bus station or a 40 minute walk. Admission is ¥10 and the museum is open from 9:00-5:00 seven days a week. It's telephone number is (028)5412313.

(Information as of 26 July 2006)

* Sichuan Opera Most guesthouses and travel agencies offer to arrange visits to these traditional shows. It's more like a burlesque cabaret than an actual opera, sometimes including magicians, musicians and dancers besides the traditional pieces. Of course the most famous is never omitted: face-changing and firespitting performed by dancers clad in colourful traditional costumes. You will follow the story sitting at your table, sipping on your constantly refilled tea cup and nibbling some salted snacks.
(Information as of 28 June 2005)

* Jin Li This neighborhood is part of the old city of Chengdu, it features hotels and small stores in and old-fashioned style. Antiques are sold in a variety of different stores. It is very popular among both tourists and locals, especially at night, with many bars and nightclubs.

[edit] Do

* Massage / Foot Washing Chengdu has establishments that offer massage or foot washing. Generally, these places cater to groups of people who come in together, relax in a private room, perhaps eating fruit or sipping tea, while receiving a fully-clothed massage or foot washing. Prices are very reasonable, often well under Y100 per person. A great way to relax with friends.

For up-to-date information on activities, places and attractions you should check out the "GoWest"-magazine's listings. You'll find copies in most bars or guesthouses.
[edit] Learn

The following universities accept foreign students (with the proper visa):

* Sichuan University
* Sichuan Normal University

* Those interested in ongoing, private classes in the Chinese language can hire a experienced teacher for ¥40-¥85 per hour. Ask for a referral at one of the universities, or from another student. Textbooks for learning Chinese are available at many local bookshops.

[edit] Work

* Job postings for English teachers are located in many guest houses, at Western bars and restaurants, anywhere foreigners congregate.
* The Peace Corps [5] has its China headquarters in Chengdu and places highly selected and qualified US Citizen volunteers in 2 year assignments throughout the region.

[edit] Buy

* There is a big antiquities-market close to the Green Ram Taoist-temple in the western city. From the temple, walk straight west. It's on your right hand side after you crossed the bridge over the channel. You'll find communist relics, old porcelain dishes, jewellery, calligraphy equipment and also some Tibetan stuff. Be warned that overpricing is excessive (10-20x the real price), so bargain hard.

* All sorts of plush pandas, and other panda trinkets, are sold at the gate of the panda base, as well as ones of a slightly higher quality at the shop inside the panda base itself.

* Supermarkets are located throughout the city, although the selection of imported foods is limited. If you must buy American food, and don't mind a 50% premium over US prices, Sabrina's Country Store at #54 Ke Hua Bei Lu, across from the western gate of Sichuan University and near Linshiguan Lu has friendly service and all imported products. Phone 8524-2987.

* Major retailers Cerrefour, Metro and Wal Mart have locations in Chengdu.

[edit] Eat

Sichuan being the most known Chinese food style within China, you will find no shortage of delicious Sichuan food in Chengdu. Most of the food is quite spicy, be sure to order non spicy (不要辣 bú yào là) or little spicy (微辣 wēi là) food, at least if you are not accustomed to it yet, or have a bottle of peanut milk ready to quell the fire. The local king of kings is the Hotpot, basically a big pot of oil, water and spices simmering in a hole in the middle of your table. Patrons choose from a big variety of skewered food including veggies, sea-weed, fish, beef, chicken, and dog's meat and proceed to boil them in the oil. After the meal, your bill will be calculated by counting the skewer-sticks.
[edit] Budget

* There are a number of stalls and hole in the wall type places all over town. Food here is dirt cheap - expect to pay no more than ¥8 for a meal, and the quality is good. Things to be on the lookout for are spicy bowls of breakfast noodles, double cooked pork, and dozens of dishes coated in "ma" the Sichuan chili spice famous the world over.

* There's an excellent place serving Uighur Food across the street from Sam's Guesthouse. Buns, noodles and more.

* Steamed buns (baozi) are sold for breakfast or lunch from street vendors throughout the city. Typical fillings you can request include meat, read bean paste, mushroom, or pork. Cost for 3 buns is ¥1. A container of soy milk (dou jiang) is about the same price.

[edit] Mid-range

* WenShu-Temple Vegetarian Restaurant is run by the monks of the monastery and offers a huge selection of vegetarian food, including dishes imitating meat-dishes. You can order special group courses if you can sum up about 10 people and check in advance. (86) 28-6938703

[edit] Splurge

* Bridge Restaurant This restaurnt is actually a historic bridge over the Fulan river. Sichuan food. Very good reputation within Chengdu. Expect to pay at least US$10 per person for food, drinks additional.

[edit] Western Food

Chengdu has a few local Western restaurants. Service is always friendly, although you should expect occasional mistakes, such as appetizers served at the same time as your meal. Chengdu is just starting to get accustomed to Western tastes.

* The Chengdu Bookworm[6] The Bookworm has something for everyone: it is an English language lending library, a Western restaurant, a bar, as well as an occasional venue for local singing and musical talent. Expats might want to join the membership library or take kids to the children's morning storey hours. Evenings, you might find a travel author reading from and signing books, poetry reading, or singing. Great place for to connect with others, catch up on some reading, or just relax.

* Grandma's Kitchen Western restauant with four locations around Chengdu, including one next door to Peter's on Zhong Hua Yuan.

* Peter's Tex-Mex Actually an American restaurant with some Mexican dishes. Peter's has good food. The Zhong Hua Yuan location (028) 85180903 also has homemade ice cream, the best ice cream you will find in Chengdu. If you are coming from out of town, the Zhong Hua Yuan location is right in a major expat area with lots of other restaurants and shopping surrounding it.

* Zoe's Barbeque & Restaurant 30 Renmin Nanlu 4th Section(人民南路四段30号) (028) 85593345 [7] - Southern American BBQ and more. Good food and good service, plus wireless internet.

* Fast food including McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut have locations throughout Chengdu. McDonalds and Pizza Hut add some distinctively Chinese offerings to their menus. Unusual cultural tidbit: At Pizza Hut only one trip to the salad bar is allowed per person. Notice how many Chinese turn their salad plates into artistic creations, stacked high with vegetables to share.

* All of the hotels in the "Splurge" category have Western restaurants or buffets. Call ahead for more information.

[edit] Drink

On the southern bank of the Jin Jiang there is a row of bars between Renmin Nanlu and Xinnan Lu.

* Highfly Cafe, 18 LinJiang Rd, 028-85442820 is a relaxed place with a tiny outside sitting area. They serve beers and western food including pizza and breakfast. There is one computer for free Internet access and a small book exchange (2 for 1).

* Feeling4Seasons Cafe [8], Orient Times Mall 2F, Xia dongda street (near Dongmen bridge), Chengdu. Phone 028-66208848. Good Italian coffee: espresso, cappuccino, especially latte. Also pasta and pizza. They also provide Internet service: wireless access for your laptop, loan of a wireless card if you don't have one, use of a PC if required. You can also burn CDs. It is also one famous China blog freelancer's cafe bar; he published a book named "Ten Years, Flying with one Dream".

* Shamrock Pub [9], #15, 4th Section, Renmin Nan Lu, 028-8523-6158 ( located near Linshiguan Lu and the US Consulate), an Irish pub in Chengdu is currently the hub of Chengdu's small expatriate community (of approximately 3,000). Friendly pub atmosphere and live music some evenings. In addition to drinks the pub serves dishes including pizza and other snacks. The pub has also sponsored several nonprofit organizations, including holding events for moon bear rescue and for the disabled. Copies of the informative Chengdu Sichuan book are available at the Shamrock.

* High Connections Coffee House [10] is located on the west side of Chengdu near Metro and the Southwest Financial University at Qingyang Qu Shuangqing Nanlu 6 Hao Fu A-20, 028-8732-5855. The coffeehouse provides a relaxing, comfortable, environment with soft lighting and easy-listening music. They have non-smoking and smoking sections. Bring your computer and hook up to the wireless Internet. They also have large conference rooms available for meetings.

[edit] Sleep
[edit] Budget

* Chengdu Jason's Nest Guest House (成都驴行天下青年旅舍), No.26 west way of south railway station, 0086-28-85125498, [11]. Fully-equipped hostel with spacious bright rooms, clean bunks, the Tibetan-style dining room and bar. Located in the leisure, entertainment, dining center of Chengdu, with most attractions within a ¥10 taxi ride. It's a ¥30 taxi ride from the airport or north rail station, a 10-minute walk from the south station, or call for a free pick-up. Helpful, very knowledgeable staff.

* Traffic Hotel (交通饭店; No. 6 Linjian St, 成都市临江路6号; tel. 028-85451017; [12]), conveniently placed just near Renmin Nanlu directly bordering the Xinnanmen bus station. This hotel is one hundred percent geared towards foreign backpackers and is a good place to around a tour or buy tickets. Four-bed dorms rooms are ¥30 per bed and three-bed dorms are ¥40. The rooms and shared bathrooms for ¥40 are very clean and come with a reliable air conditioner. Washing machines are available for ¥10 per load; bring your own detergent. Singles and doubles start at ¥200 and range up to ¥500.

* Chengdu Mix Hostel (Backpackers' Accommodation, Guesthouse & Youth Hostel) 成都驴友记青年旅舍, No.23 Xing Hui Xi Lu, Ren Jia Wan, Wan Fu Bridge, Chengdu, Sichuan, P.R.China. [13] [14], E-mail:mixhostel@hotmail.com. In downtown, with cheap beds, good shower, nice food, lots of people! Wi-fi for laptop, DVDs for you, free Internet, 20GB of Music, very friendly staff.

* Dragon Town Youth Hostel 成都市宽巷子27号, 27 Kuanxiangzi St, tel. 028-86648408, fax 028-86245901, reception@dragontown.com.cn, [15]. A five minute walk north of the Renmin park. Serving younger people and families, catering mostly for young western budget tourists. Many travelling services available from within the hostel, such as tours to nearby attractions, Tibet travel tours. Facilities include Internet access, restaurant and camp grounds. Cheapest accommodation is ¥15/bed with rooms starting from ¥100.

* Sam's Guesthouse 130 Shanxi Jie, samtour@yahoo.com: tel.028-86099022, 10 minutes walk from the Chairman Mao Statue at Renmin Nanlu. Look for Rongcheng Fandian (Rongcheng hotel). Sams Guesthouse office is next to the entrance to the Rongcheng Fandian. Rooms start from ¥80. Doubles are ¥120.

* Sim's Cozy Guesthouse 42 Xizhushi, tel :028-86288691, mobile: 8613980787075, simscozy@hotmail.com, [16] is close to Wenshu temple in the northern part of town. Opened in 2004 by two experienced travellers, it's located in a nice old house and has a fairly big seating area and a small garden. Care has been taken to avoid the typical pains of the traveller's everyday life, so for instance toilets are equipped with paper, there is a lockable security box at your bed, mosquito-coils adorn the rooms and corridors, the bar provides guitars and cold beers and so on. Staff is extremely friendly and helpful. They do arrange tours to several sights. There is Internet access for ¥5 per hour. A dorm bed is ¥15, doubles and triples with/without air-con are from ¥70 to ¥120. If you don't want to stay in the dorm, is advisable to make a reservation some days in advance.

* Xiaoguanyuan Hotel (小观园 xiǎoguānyuán), 成都市宽巷子40号, 40 Kuanxiangzi St, tel. 028-86640663, 028-86639883, 028-86640241. Beautiful garden and classical architectured hotel. Staff is Chinese speaking only though, but with a good location and rooms starting from ¥100, a very good offer. Just 50m from the Dragon Town Youth hostel. As at February 2007, Kuanxiangzi Lu is undergoing extensive reservations, and it appears that Xiaoguanyuan Rest House has closed down.

* The Loft Located three blocks north of Dragon Town Hostel. Very modern hostel. Use to be a printing factory but now converted to a contemporary style hostel. Has free pool table, free Internet access (Nov.2006), TV and DVD. Rooms are clean. Twins and doubles cost ¥120.

[edit] Mid Range

The vast majority of Chengdu's mid-range hotels are not afiliated with a national or international brand and generally charge between RMB 300 to RMB 700 per night. The hotels in this category can generally put up the facade of the more luxurious hotels, but often suffer noticeably from deferred maintenance or haphazard customer service. Many are geared mostly towards Chinese and Asian tour groups. The hotels listed below are the best of the bunch with lobby staff who speak at least a basic level of English and usually offer a free Chinese breakfast.

* Sunjoy Hotel #34, 4th Section of Renmin nan lu. The Sunjoy is a 7 story hotel with a nice Chinese restaurant, good facilities and small but nice rooms. Chinese breakfast provided. Located near US Consulate. About RMB400/night.

* Jin Jiang Inn [17] Part of a China-wide hotel chain; 3 locations in Chengdu; the South Chengdu Yulin location is near Ren Min Nan Road and the US Consulate. Good value for money with rooms from ¥129-179 per night. Rooms are small but clean and well apportioned. Breakfast and free internet provided. Secure lobby area and friendly staff.

* Super 8 Hotel[18] In the SOHO Building, #60 Ke Hua Bei Lu, phone 86-28-85250058. Located above an enclosed shopping arcade, near the Western Gate of Sichuan University. Free internet. No breakfast. Rooms are small and poorly designed and priced from ¥139-188 per night.

[edit] Splurge

Chengdu's luxury hotels provide world class service at very reasonable prices. Business and leisure travelers can expect, at a minimum, to find fluent English speaking staff, Western and Chinese restaurants, full conference facilities, business center, sauna and concierge service at all of these hotels. Room rates range from US$105 - $US200 per night for a standard or deluxe room. The Kempinski and the Jin Jiang hotel are generally the lowest price within this category.

* Chengdu Lido Sheraton[19] Modern, American managed hotel conveniently located in in the center of Chengdu near Tian Fu Square and the sports stadium, but a few blocks away from shopping districts. This hotel can accommodate the most discriminating of guests in luxury and world class service.

* Sofitel Chengdu[20]: French managed, overlooks Fulan river, similar to but more expensive than the Sheraton.

* Jin Jiang Hotel[21]: Chengdu's first international luxury hotel, the Jin Jiang still offers good service. While it has been eclipsed in luxury by the newer hotels listed in this section, it offers reasonable room rates and great service, with good facilities for conferences of all sizes.

* Kempinski Hotel[22]: German managed hotel offers hospitality and luxury. Great German events, including Ocktoberfest, Christmas and New Year's parties. Excellent gym, pool and workout facilities. Close to the United States Consulate.

* Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza Hotel[23]: The Holiday Inn goes all out to indulge its guests with the finest of service. Great service, very responsive management.

[edit] Contact
[edit] Consulates

* United States Consualte General[24] (美国驻成都总领事馆) #4 Linshiguan Lu, Chengdu. Phone 8558-3992. American Citizen Services hours Monday-Thursday 1:30pm-5:00pm, Fridays 9:00-4:00pm.

* Royal Thai Consulate[25] (泰国驻昆明总领事馆驻成都办事处) Located in the Kempinski Hotel: 42 Renmin Nan Rd. 4th Section C210-212, Sichuan 610041

* German Consulate General (德意志联邦共和国驻成都总领事馆) 25th Floor of Western Tower located at No. 19, 4th Section Renmin Nan Road, Chengdu 610041, Tel: (0086-28)8528 0800 Fax: (0086-28) 8526 8308

* Consulate General of Singapore (新加坡驻成都总领事馆) 31/F East Guan Cheng Square, No.308, Shun Cheng Main Street, Chengdu. Phone 86 28 8652 7222

* Consulate General of the Republic of Korea (韩国驻成都总领事馆) No. 2, Wangfu Oasis Hotel, Xianan Main Street of Chengdu. Phone 86 28 8616 5800

[edit] Phone

China's country code is 86. Chengdu's area code is 28. Coin-operated pay phones are located throughout Chengdu, and calling cards can be purchased from many vendors. Local landline phone numbers are eight digits long; cellular phone numbers in Sichuan are elevin digits long and start with 13.
[edit] Internet

Internet access can be found in most guesthouses and through cheap internet cafes all over town. Look out for the Pacman-character 吧 in the Chinese name for internet bar: 网吧.

* A large Internet cafe is located on the second floor of the Xinnianmen bus station, just 100 meters from the Jiaotong Fandian hotel. The connection is fast and access is ¥2/hour.

[edit] Stay safe

Thieves are prevalent around certain areas of Chengdu. Be careful around the Yanshikou markets and especially around the North train station. There are also many thieves on crowded buses who use razors to cut open pockets and bags. Also watch your bag at all times when riding bicycles around the city, thieves like to run alongside bicycles at traffic lights and reach into bags.
[edit] Cope

For such a big city, there's surprisingly little Western influence in Chengdu. It's definitely not Beijing or Shanghai. This might at first be a little trying, as the level of English is spoken is noticeably lower than other places, but it's really a blessing. Carry a phrasebook or get a guide, and enjoy a more authentic Chinese urban experience!
[edit] Get out

Chengdu is the gateway to Sichuan. Daytrips and trek can be organized to any major attraction is the province. The Giant Budda, Mount Qincheng, Stone Elephant Lake and Jian Chuan Museum can all be reached by regular bus or tour bus (ask your hotel for guidance). Families and those short of time might consider hiring a car with driver (¥300-900 per day, depending upon type of car and experience of driver, with cars booked at the luxury hotels the most expensive and highest quality).

* The Giant Buddha in Leshan is probably the most popular nearby destination. A day trip to this ancient man-made wonder should be about ¥100-150. Two day tours are available which combine the Buddha with a visit to the nearby Buddhist holy mountain Emei Shan.

* Mount Qincheng and the Dujiangyan irrigation system (built 250 BC) are easy day trips about 40km from Chengdu and make for a fascinating visit. You can do both sites in one long day, or better yet, plan to spend a day at each. Qingchen is a beautiful mountain with an extensive and well kept network of steps and pathways, and includes many pogadas, a small lake, and a chair-lift for those who don't want to walk. Dujianyan has a fascinating history and a marvelous swinging pedestrian bridge. Both trips involve lots of walking. The entrance fees for both sites are not cheap. The mountain is ¥90. The cable car up is ¥35 one way or ¥60 round trip. There is a boat one needs to take to cross a natural pond for ¥5. The irrigation system costs an additional ¥90 to enter.

* Stone Elephant Lake Ecological Resort(石象湖) [26] is a fantastic park with acres upon acres of live tulips and tiger lily flowers as well as nature walks and boat rides, and stone carved animals. The best time to go is during the Tulip Festival in early Spring and when the Tiger Lillies bloom in late summer, however, various flowers are usually in bloom from March through August and the nature walks are open year round. Bring your camera. Also bring a picnic lunch or eat in one of the several Chinese restaurants and noodle shops there. The park is about an hour and 15 minutes drive of pure highway driving south of Chengdu. Arrange a car to take you there or ask about bus service. Admission is ¥50.

* Jian Chuan Museum Cluster Industrialist Fan Jian Chuan built this campus of museums to explain the history of 20th Century China. This is the first privately owned museum in Sichuan (privately operated museums in China have only been permitted since the year 2001). The Museum campus contains four buildings about World War II in China - one explaining the Communist Party role, one the Kuomington, one about the American volunteer group "Flying Tigers", and one about Sichuan volunteers. There is also a the modestly named "New China Porcelian Museum", which actually tells the story of the Cultural Revolution through porcelians of that era. A museum that more directly addresses that era is under construction. You will also see buildings explaining the practice of foot-binding and one about prisoners of war. Nearby, you can also walk through a landlord's manor. Make a day trip out of it; the Musuem is in the nearby county of Dayi about an hour's drive from Chengdu. Admission is ¥60. Get around the museum cluster by walking or rent a bicycle built for two; a tea-house is located on site.

* Bi Feng Xia[27] Bi Feng Xia is a large ecological park in the mountains about a two and a half hour drive from Chengdu. It centers around a huge gorge with waterfalls. One can hike down into the gorge on well marked paths and take an elevator back up. The park also has special panda bear habitats, as well as a more traditional "zoo". The main reason to go here is for the walks and hikes into the gorge. The zoo, although filled with animals such as tigers, lions, bears, monkeys, and even a drive-through section, has woefully inadequate and sometimes smelly enclosures. (The enormous bird aviary is one exception). Admission is about ¥80, with additional charges for bus rides between different sections of the park. There is a hotel and basic restaurants on site. Given the distance from Chengdu, probably best to make an overnight trip if you wish to stay here.

* Further afield, you can also trek out to the Tibetan areas of Sichuan. Buses leave everyday for Moxi and other towns. These long bus trips from Xinnanmen-bus station (it's about seven hours to Moxi, and the heating systems on buses in the winter are painfully inadequate) pass through incredibly steep mountain valleys wandering through the Gongga Mountain range. This all terminates at the Hailuogo Glacier, a massive park nearly nine hours from Chengdu. A good two or three day trip.

* To the north there are the Sichuan horse plains and the Jiezhaigou Valley.

Train connections are available to Kunming in Yunnan, Chongqing and Xi'an. Frequent buses also leave for Chongqing, which is the beginning of many cruises down the Yangtze. These tours are available around town in Chengdu, and include transport to Chongqing, about three or four hours away.

permalink written by  garisti on May 1, 2008 from Chengdu, China
from the travel blog: Viaje por Asia
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