Things to do in Chengdu, China; Including Holding Pandas and Ear cleaning!
My first stop on my ‘China to Ireland by land’ trip was Chengdu (where I’m currently writing this from). I arrived after spending a great time spent on my Bangkok Itinerary in Thailand a couple of days ago and it’s been a great start to my trip. China doesn’t do ‘small’ and Chengdu, a huge city, is a testament to that with a skyline to rival the US’s most famous cities. There are so many awesome things to do in Chengdu, it’s a brilliant place to start a China trip.
Table of contents
- Things to do in Chengdu, China; Including Holding Pandas and Ear cleaning!
- The Giant Chengdu Panda Sanctuary
- People’s Park, Chengdu for a spot of traditional Ear Cleaning
- Tianfu Square & Chengdu’s Mao Statue
- Wenshu Temple
- Sichuan Opera
- Eat Hot Pot (The speciality is Rabbit, *my pre-veggie days)
- Chunxi Road & Jinli Ancient Street (& Wuhou Temple)
- Bonus Trips from Chengdu
- CHENGDU FAQS
This is my 5th entry to China, and immediately I’ve been reminded why I keep coming back. It offers backpacker so much, and with their increasing world influence, there’s never been a better time to visit. I was here a few months ago for the ice festival in Harbin, I saw the Olympics in Beijing, I took a cargo boat up through Yunnan and now I’m in Sichuan province and by all accounts, it promises to be another awesome trip. Check out the top 5 things to do in Chengdu:
The Giant Chengdu Panda Sanctuary
The only place in the world where you can hold a baby panda! Home to more than 50 giant pandas, this research base has well and truly put Chengdu on the map. It’s only an 18km ride out of the city, and around 60 Kwai ($10) to enter. BUT this is the only place in the world where you can actually hold a panda, hug him, pet him. However, this little privilege comes at a price, a bloody steep price and it’s just increased again. For 5 minutes with the world’s cutest mammal, you have to pay 1300 Kwai (a heart-wrenching $205! Now even more expensive). But 90% of the fee goes to the Panda research centre. I paid for it, and it was worth every hard-earned cent!
Arrive before 9 am if you can, the pandas are much busier in the mornings. Afternoon naps can run for hours so be wary of that!
People’s Park, Chengdu for a spot of traditional Ear Cleaning
The cheapest of the things to do in Chengdu because it’s free! People’s Park is a 5-minute walk from the Mao statue in the middle of Chengdu (Tianfu Square subway stop). It’s crammed packed full of people getting up to all sorts, tango lessons, Chinese calligraphy, karaoke, fashion shows, Tai Chi. It’s a very Chinese affair, with open-air tea houses where you can get your ears cleaned by some crazy old Chinese guys with scary-looking spikey metallic instruments ($1.50 per ear, *recommended)
Tianfu Square & Chengdu’s Mao Statue
China’s iconic leader is never far from your gaze when you gallivant his country, and this statue does him proud. Standing tall and large, overlooking Chengdu’s huge central plaza (Tianfu Subway stop), he offers a great photo op as you get to grips with China. They acknowledge he made a few mistakes (you can say that again!) but they really appreciate the Great Leap Forward he oversaw. This is yet another tribute to him.
5 RMB ($0.80). Dedicated to Wenshu, the Bodhisattva (a person who chooses to delay their enlightenment to Nirvana in order to help the rest of us) of Wisdom. This is Chengdu’s most famed Buddhist temple. Full of devout Chinese Buddhist, monks and novices all paying their respects, it’s an oasis of serenity amidst the chaos of one of China’s larger cities. Don’t miss the staple teahouse next door for a quick break before you submerge yourself in Chengdu’s madness again.
Believe it or not, this is the second opera I’ve found myself at since my travels began a few years ago. After a horrible time at the Korean opera in Seoul, I thought I’d give it another bash. The Sichuan Opera has been running for more than 250 years and is a lot more lively than standard opera with fire breathing, face changing, slapstick comedy etc. Costs vary depending on ticket class. But you can tell everyone how cultured you are after. It runs daily and starts around 8 pm at the Shufeng Yayun Teahouse in the city centre.
Eat Hot Pot (The speciality is Rabbit, *my pre-veggie days)
A local speciality here is rabbit. Although it’s a little grimmer than you might think. The really special thing about this delicacy is that you eat the head, yep the little bunnies head. And not to be outdone by my friend, I had to partake. Have a look at the before and after.
Chunxi Road & Jinli Ancient Street (& Wuhou Temple)
Chunxi Road is the answer to all your shopping needs. Jinli Street is the best way to wile away an evening. Old, traditional alleys. Temples. And it’s a market with ENDLESS food options. Try to get there before sundown though, and check out Wuhou Temple too. It’s just 2 minutes from Jinli street.
Bonus Trips from Chengdu
Chengdu is an awesome base while you explore further afield in China. Make sure to check out these 3 stops while you’re in the region.
The Giant Buddha in Leshan
The biggest Buddha in the world is just 150km from Chengdu. You can easily day trip from Chengdu to the Giant Buddha in Leshan.
Jiuzhaigou National Park
China’s most beautiful national park? Possibly. It’s an 8-hour bus journey, so not strictly a day trip. But 1 or 2nights for a trip to Jiuzhaigou National Park is well worth it.
This most certainly isn’t a day trip from Chengdu! But the coolest way to visit Tibet is to take the 48 hour train from Chengdu, to Lhasa, Tibet. It goes right through the Himalayas, so high that they pump oxygen into the train. Amazing experience.
Where is Chengdu?
It’s in Sichuan Province in mainland China. Kind of slap bang in the middle of China. Getting to Chengdu is pretty easy, it has a popular international airport, or you take take trains from all over the country. I once took a 48-hour train from Chengdu to Tibet, to start my Tibet trip. That was epic!
Getting Around Chengdu
The public transport system is great with their buses ($0.16 a go) and their subway ($0.30 a trip) running smoothly and efficiently, allowing you to stick to a $30 a day budget pretty easily (not counting the pandas, see below – ouch!).
Best Time to visit Chengdu
The best time to visit Chengdu is from March through to June and then again from September to November. Winter gets super chilly!
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