After visiting the modern city of Shanghai, I decided my next stop would be to Chengdu the capital of Sichuan province in Southwest China. After a quick 3 hour flight from Shanghai to Chengdu, I was presently surprised to see my checked bag on the baggage carousel after waiting only 5 minutes. I was met by my guide Mr Chin and driver outside the baggage claim area to begin another wonderful travel experience.
Chengdu is China’s fourth most populous city in mainland China. This urban area is home to 14 million inhabitants. The city is rich in culture, history and economic prosperity. On this particular China journey I was visiting Shanghai and Beijing, and I had 3 extra days in between and decided to spend it in Chengdu. I was interested in visiting Chengdu for the Panda Bears , the World’s largest Buddha and the spicy Sichuan cuisine. After a 25 minute ride from the airport I arrived at the Shangri La Hotel. A beautiful 5 star property overlooking the Jinjiang River and the Heijiang Pavilion Gardens. I have always enjoyed my stays in the past with Shangri La hotels in Hong Kong, Bangkok , Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. I was very pleased with the quality of service provided at the Shangri La Chengdu as well. At night the hotel and surrounding area of restaurants, cafes and bars along the river came alive with an array of colorful lights. A wonderful area to take a stroll after dinner.
After breakfast Mr Chin arrived at the hotel lobby 20 minutes early. Our day would start off visiting the Giant Panda breeding center located in a suburb of Chengdu. It was founded in 1987 with 6 giant pandas rescued from the wild. Today you can walk around this natural reserve and see many of these cute baby and adult panda bears in a natural setting. You can view then chomping away on bamboo stalks or simply snoozing in their natural settings. We stopped at a nice local Chinese restaurant to experience Sichuan cuisine. I enjoy spicy foods and Sichuan cuisine is very tasty and spicy as well.
After visiting some cultural sights in the afternoon, I invited Mr Chin to be my guest for dinner. If I like my guide I often invite them to dinner or lunch, as I find I can learn more about the local culture and their family life. Not to mention they usually know the best places to eat for a reasonable price. I told him I would like to visit a hot pot restaurant, which Chengdu is well known for. This particular local restaurant had many Chinese families enjoying dinner. A large steaming pot was placed at our table. Under the pot was a small gas or propane fire pit built into the table to keep the pot hot. Inside the pot was a mixture of tofu, chicken, vegetables in a spicy pepper broth. The waiter delivered chopsticks, bowls and a large ladle. I took the ladle and scooped the tender chicken, tofu and spicy vegetables into my bowl. After 2 bowls I was nearly full of this wonderful spicy mixture, but decided I would have one more small ladle. I searched the bottom of the pot and found what felt like a big piece of chicken. When I pulled the ladle out of the pot it was the whole head of the chicken staring back at me! Welcome to China! That was the end of my dinner for the evening.
The next day Mr Chin and I drove around 3 hours to Leshan China. Home of the worlds largest Buddha built into the cliffs at the base of 3 converging rivers. This UNESCO World Heritage site is over 230 feet high. Mr Chin suggest we arrive in the afternoon to avoid all the Chinese tours groups that visit the Leshan Grand Buddha in the morning. The best viewing to get the full dramatic effect of the giant Buddha is by ferry on the river .We boarded a local ferry in the town and headed downstream, I could not believe my eyes when the ferry rounded the cliffs and the Buddha came into view. The ferry stops for about 10 minutes in front of the Buddha to take photos before turning around and heading back to town.
On the way back to Chengdu Mr Chin insisted I be his guest at a traditional Chinese tea house. We chatted over a pot of steaming Chinese tea while watching nearby patrons playing mahjong’s or cards while sipping their tea. The Chinese traditional tea house is very important to the locals day to day life in Chengdu and I was happy to be a part of it. It was truly a wonderful day in Chengdu and Leshan and I look forward to returning again in the near future.
My China adventure will be continued in another blog.
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