Chengdu is on everyone’s China bucket list for various reasons most importantly THE PANDAS. Well, this was certainly why I visited.
Chengdu, in Sichuan province, is said to be the most laid back city in China, with more bars, restaurants and majong dens per square kilometre than any other destination. If this doesn’t entice you to visit I don’t know what would.
I planned a trip at the beginning of September after the Summer heat, which I would recommend. It was still warm and sunny but not excruciatingly hot.
DAY 1: the Panda Research Base towards the north of the city. Located with its own subway station makes it really easy to get to. Take the subway to Panda Avenue and once you exit there will be a line of buses to take you to the park. These buses are free if you buy your tickets on the bus, which is what we did. They only cost 53¥ and you can pay on WeChat to get an electronic version, which you’ll later scan to get through the entrance.
The bus takes about 20 minutes and takes you direct to the entrance. We arrived quite early as we heard the pandas were most active during the morning but also there weren’t any queues to get in. If you head straight to the adolescent enclosures they get fed first before the adults.
After eating they retreated for a nap up a tree, so were less interesting. At which point we moved on to the nurseries. There are two nurseries and depending on the time of year you go there will be a different number of baby pandas. We were quite lucky in September as both nurseries were open and had lots of cubs, which were so cute!
A really interesting part of the park was how they offer you information about the individual pandas saying who their parents were, how old they are and what they like to do. It was really lovely knowing their names and reading about their personalities.
Day 2: The second largest tourist attraction in Chengdu is the Le Shan Buddha, the largest seated Buddha in the world, with earlobes seven metres long. It was carved out of the cliff side from 713 to 803 AD during the Tang Dynasty. On the top of the hill there’s a small cave where the monk, who designed and supervised a large amount of its creation lived.
To reach the Le Shan Buddha is a little more complicated than the pandas the previous day. Head to Chengdu South Station and buy tickets there with the destination of Le Shan. The train is a bullet fast train and only takes an hour. I would advise getting there early so you can buy a ticket with a seat. We just turned up and got tickets for the next train but we had to sit in the corridor. Once you reach Le Shan town look for the bus stops to the right and hop on bus no. 3. There will be a few people heading there so it shouldn’t be a problem. The bus takes about another hour. You’ll know when you get there and you’ll notice many other people getting off at the same time.
Once you buy tickets and start climbing the mountain you’ll be guided round a one way system from the top down where you can’t go back on yourselves. The stairs can get quite narrow and very slippery so wear good walking trainers.
In the same area as the Giant Buddha there’s a park called the Oriental Buddha Park, which was both terrifying and awe-inspiring. It holds some of the largest buddhas in the world, situated around beautiful, well-kept gardens.
Part of the park was in a large cave said to house 10,000 buddhas, we accepted the challenge and tried to count, giving up quite quickly. Due to the time of year we went the cave was deserted making us feel we were walking into an Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider film. Needless to say, I would not have gone in alone.
Both the Oriental Buddha Park and the Giant Le Shan Buddha can both be done in one day easily. We picked up some lunch before getting on the train and bought it with us as we had heard there were many places to eat around the entrance, which was true. I would advise doing something similar, especially as there is a large mall right by the station. Take plenty of water and wear comfy shoes and you will not be disappointed, this was one of my favourite days during my whole year in China.
I don’t often do this, but I must recommend the hostel I stayed in. It was in fact recommended to me during my trip to Zhangjiajie (read about it here). It was VERY clean, comfortable beds and good toilet/shower facilities. The staff were also very helpful and they had a bar on site with a different discounted cocktail each night, who wouldn’t love this place. I would definitely stay there again. It was called Chengdu Cloudatlas Hostel.
Have you been to Chengdu? Have I missed anything out? Let me know! Happy travels! ♥