Chengdu ( Chengtu) is the provincial capital of Sichuan province in Southwest China, as well as a major city in Western China. With a population of 14M, 10M lives in the city itself. The 4th-most liveable city in China has a rather modern urban environment with well connected roads, highways, bus network, as well as modern metro system. The city and is home to one of China’s greatest treasures, the giant panda and home to the Chengdu Panda research base- a must-see attraction. Situated at an elevation of 500m, Chengdu is also an excellent city base if you intend to travel up to mountainous scenic areas in Mount Qing Cheng and Mount Emei.
Chunxi square area is the main shopping district in Chengdu, the stores here are abundant, modern and. shopping departments opens at 10am and closes at 10pm to 10.30pm. With several shops opening till late.
Restaurants generally stop taking in orders from 10pm and opens till about 11pm on average. Fast food restaurants are usually open 24 hours a day.
Transport (Getting around the city)
The city is buzzing like shanghai, the metro trains, central rail way (high speed rails) and buses are all clean and modern. The city bus, rail and airport stations are all linked via the metro system. The central metro hub will be Tianfu square, which links the east and west train and long-haul bus stations together. 25 yuan will get you a contactless metro travel card (with no stored value) which you can use in the metro and buses, a trip costs under 2-3 yuan. The city subway system requires you to run your bags through scanners to enter the metro entry turnstiles, a good practice is to have any liquids and water bottles at hand so you can have the staff scan them for explosive material.
The taxis (green coloured Volkswagen Jettas) are an excellent way to reach areas not served by buses and the metro, the taxis are generally safe, with licensed drivers and always run a metered fare. A 40 minute taxi ride out of town (e.g. the Panda reach center from city central) costs about 45 yuan (~$10SGD).
China high speed rail
Reaching any towns on the outskirts of the city is best done using the new Chinese high speed railway system. These modern trains travel as fast than the Japan Shinkansen and french TGV, for example, a 900km train ride from Yichang, china to Cheng Du city takes under 6 hours. The trains hardly reaches 300km/hr tops at 200 km/hr runs through a number of open scenic views, ducking in and out of tunnels. In fact, you often find most of you time in tunnels as the railway cuts through the various mountains in the region. The seats and cabins are comfortable, modern, well ventilated (on both 1st and 2nd class trains). There amenities such as a bistro carriage offer full meals and snacks and two toilet cubicles per train.
Food in the city
There are plenty of nice cheap and good foods in Chengdu. Being located in Sichuan China, foods are generally spicy, with chilli and mala (dried chilli pepper spice). Traditional Sichuan dishes such as Mala hotpot are very popular here and not for the spicy faint of heart! There is a rather popular Mala restaurant called which opens till late (4am) and you still get queues and people streaming at 11pm. China, especially the city areas has improved greatly in seems of sanitation and hygiene. Foods, even street foods served in the city are clean and hygienic, no problems getting good and clean food here. $8 SGD serves you two bowls of beef noodles with 2 servings of dim sum & pork paos!
You can get quick on-the-go foods like freshly cooked roti pancake wraps at train stations for your commute under 5 yuan. For main meals, a simple but rather sizable and filling plate of noodles or fried rice costs under 10 yuan. Animals parts are a culinary delicacy here in China, if you are up for it, you can have a go at bizarre dishes such as brains, offal and exotic meats.
The main shopping district generally opens till about 10.30pm, the night life thereafter moves onto a couple of areas in the city such as Kuanzai (wide and narrow) street within walking distance from the people community garden and Jinli street (located near the Wuhou temple). These food streets and shops are open throughout the day and transforms into night spots after sunset.
I particularly like how the Chinese has managed to update old architecture with the present- the hotspots here comprise of a blend of old and modern, with old original Qing dynasty era buildings converted into modern shops and cafes, there are even Starbucks. Jinli in particular is a Qing dynasty-era porcelain village and food Street by day and a bar, club, KTV and Chillout area by night. Visit the place at night and the place is all nicely lit by lanterns. A spectacular sight indeed.
Chengdu is a very pleasant city, the people are well-behaved and trendy like most of the major cities in China, a nice blend of the east and west, with lots to see and taste.
View more photos of Chengdu in these photo galleries: