Chengdu is of course synonymous with pandas! And they’re simply beautiful. But on my first trip to Panda City, I wanted to head off the beaten track.
In all honesty, I only knew about well-known places in China like Beijing and Shanghai. That is, until KLM took the initiative as Europe’s first airline to open direct service to the city of Chengdu a few years ago. This whet my curiosity. Chengdu is the provincial capital of Sichuan province in Southwest China. Set to embark on a six-day trip as part of my duty roster, I asked myself: “What does Chengdu have to offer?”
Home of the panda
Chengdu is the home of the panda. The giant panda has lived in this region for over two million years. Around 10 km north of downtown Chengdu, you’ll find the amazing Giant Panda Breeding Research Base. Sometimes you can find tiny pandas here too.
Thanks to the tips I received from colleagues, I also discovered that Chengdu serves as the perfect home base for beautiful trips like:
- A visit to the terracotta army in Xi’an (World Heritage Site);
- A trip to Lhasa in Tibet for a few days (with flights leaving daily from Chengdu Shuanglui International Airport);
- A visit to the Giant Buddha in Leshan (World Heritage Site);
- A flight to Guilin to get to the amazing Karst Peaks of Yangshuo County;
- Mount Emei is a must-see for its Buddhist culture and mountain views. It’s the highest of China’s four holy Buddhist mountains.
Because we had a few days at our disposal, I joined four colleagues to head off to Yangshuo. It’s a small tourist town on the banks of the Li River, well known for its landscape consisting of towering Karst Peaks of 100 to 200 metres tall, formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone.
We stayed at a gem of a hotel along the river. Only in the morning did we see just how charming and idyllic Yangshou was. The view across the river, picturesque streets and a red lantern on our balcony. We enjoyed breakfast at the Drifter’s Backpack Café. The English menu certainly helped.
A tip from a colleague brought us into contact with the cheerful local guide Hui. For the next two days, she shared an exceptional part of China with us – by bicycle (it cost less than a euro to hire a bicycle!). We cycled through nostalgic villages and past wondrous temples on our way to Moon Hill. Across the countryside, through rice paddies, a friendly atmosphere. Absolutely fabulous. I met some exceptional people and they allowed me to take photos.
Day two kicked off with a communal Tai Chi class in the park next to our hotel in Yangshuo. Then we hopped on a local bus to visit the nearby village of Xingping. After exploring the market we took a boat trip to marvel at the Karst Peaks along the Li River. A real must-see; from the water you really feel like you’re gliding through a fairy tale.
We spent the last day of the trip in Chengdu. I visited the Wenshu Yuan Temple and tasted the Tibetan atmosphere in the district near Jinli Pedestrian Street. Chengdu is special. It offers so many different ways to discover an amazing part of China. Xiexie! (= thank you in Mandarin Chinese).