Hello again! This post I will be talking about my trip to Chéngdū (成都) that happened about a month ago. Chengdu is a well-planned city located in the southwest province of Sìchuān (四川). There are three city rings and five metro lines connecting people to the center and train stations. The metro lines are well-maintained and are labeled in English and Chinese, so very easy to get around in (I would recommend anyone to take the metro; it’s easy and so cheap!).
The journey started after lunch on Friday, November 3rd. After a minor passport mishap (looking at you, Peter), the boys and I were on our bullet train to Chengdu. The train ride was only an 1hr45 and man, was it smooth. We were reaching speeds of 200 kph and you could not feel a thing.
After our train ride and a taxi ride into the center of the city, we arrived at our hostel, Mrs. Panda Hostel. We chose Mrs. Panda Hostel because it came highly reviewed, had a good location and it looked sweet (think pandas everywhere). The hostel shares part of a building with a hotel, so when you arrive, you might feel like you’re at the wrong location. You have to walk around the small hotel to see the hostel entrance in the back.
Here’s a photo of the main, indoor lounge area of Mrs. Panda. ~ V Moody ~
The staff were all extremely nice and spoke English. They gave us a map and were able to help answer our questions about using the metro and the best way to get to the panda conservation. They offered us a table to sit down while they worked on our paperwork. In China, only certain hotels and hostels can accept foreigners and those that do need to enter in the guests’ passport information to the government.
Another reason we chose Mrs. Panda was because of its restaurant/bar (which also came highly reviewed). Since our train was over dinnertime, we were starving. After the staff showed us our rooms, we dropped our stuff and ran back downstairs before the kitchen closed. Mrs. Panda offers a good selection of Chinese food and western options; I got a pizza (because cheese) and a few mojitos because it was happy hour (and mojitos). It was all very reasonably priced, and the happy hour pricing was extremely good.
The outdoor seating area of Mrs. Panda, ft. DaBoyz.
For our accommodations, we had opted to stay in private rooms for a few different reasons. 1. Shared dorm rooms can be super loud. 2. Private rooms allow us to leave our unimportant items behind a locked door. 3. Hostels are extremely cheap in China. We booked our stay the Monday night before we arrived in Chengdu and a private double room only cost $33 USD for two nights total. I imagine had we planned a little further out, we would have had a cheaper rate.
The rooms were very nice and more importantly, they were very well cleaned. I am always really cautious about checking the bedding because bedbugs are a nightmare. The room had white linens and bedding, came with shower shoes, towels, toothbrushes, an armoire to hang clothes, a comfy chair, TV and kettle to boil water. Mrs. Panda has shared bathrooms by floor; there were two toilet rooms (one squatty-potty and one western toilet) and two shower rooms (equipped with body wash and shampoo, which was a huge plus). There was also a large vanity area with double sinks and a hair dryer. The bathroom areas were also very clean, and it was obvious that their cleaning crew came by very often; there is actually a room on each floor where the cleaning ladies sit and have their supplies.
Since it was late and we taught that morning, we spent the evening walking around the area. Chengdu has an amazing riverfront through the city with plenty of lighting. We then found ourselves walking around Chunxi Lu, the main shopping pedestrian street in Chengdu. The street was lined with Gucci, Prada, Cartier, Ermenegildo Zegna, and many other high-end stores that I’ll never be allowed in.
Panda scaling a Prada storefront.
The next day, we woke up early to make our way to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. You can take the metro all the way to the pandas and from there, the Research Base offers free shuttles! Super easy. On the shuttle, the people will help you buy your tickets and this is where our dear friend, WeChat, comes into play again; You just buy your tickets by scanning the QR codes on the bus and that’s how you get into the park!
The research base was absolutely gorgeous! It is something that I would recommend a thousand times over. I repeat, you cannot go to the southwest of China and not see the panda base. You know when you walk into a zoo and sometimes you get that icky feeling that the animals could be better somewhere else? I did not have that feeling once exploring the park. All the pandas seemed really well cared for and their enclosures were all huge and usually only had 2 pandas total in them. The pandas seemed happy to roam around, munch on food and nap. The park itself was also pleasant to walk around; there were flowers and pretty bamboo plants everywhere. The park also has a pond that has a nice walkway around it and is lined with restaurants.
The park opens at 7:30 AM every day and the pandas’ morning feeding is at 9:00 AM, so it’s best to go there early to see the pandas when they are active! Otherwise, the pandas tend to be, well, like pandas. (It isn’t really a surprise that they’re endangered; they lazy as hell.) We spent about three hours at the park so that we could see all the pandas, baby pandas and red pandas there! The research base even has a post office that will help you sort out postage and send cards out to your friends across the world. Overall, this place was definitely worth the 58RMB (about $8.75USD). It really was magical to see my first panda.
Now, enjoy some pandas (and my friends) being adorable:
After a small rest and short metro ride, we met some of my old friends (that I met studying abroad in Perugia, Italy) at the KuanZhai Alleys. The alleys were kind of like Ciqikou in Chongqing but much more modern and in better shape. (If you don’t know what Ciqikou is, check out this post: goo.gl/UEWuvh.) The KuanZhai Alley’s history dates back to the Qing Dynasty but was renovated in 2003 to be a cultural street for tourists to experience the folk culture of Chengdu. My two friends that I met in Italy are both originally from Chengdu but, and here’s the fun part, only speak Chinese and Italian. The boys only speak English and have varying degrees of knowledge of other languages. Queue translation overload and Amanda’s head on overdrive. (I’m exaggerating, it was a lot of fun but still a challenge to translate from Chinese to Italian to English at times). This would be a great place to wander around, pick up souvenirs and get some good street food.
That evening, we all went to Taikoo Li shopping area (again, filled to the brim with high-end stores) and went to an Italian restaurant called Grappa’s. Anytime I go to a bigger, more westernized city, I always try to find myself some Italian food because it’s probably what I miss the most (food-wise). We enjoyed bruschetta, lasagna, prosecco and trying to communicate through all of the language barriers. I only have one regret and that is that I did not check the wine menu carefully and I missed my first opportunity to have a Montefalco wine since leaving Italy. #Rough #Disappointed #RookieMistake #WhyAreYouSoDumbAmanda
Grazie ancora, Emilia e Vittoria!
After dinner, we said our goodbyes to my friends from Perugia. The good news is that it won’t be another two years until I can see them again; Chengdu is a two-hour train away and I love that city. That night, the boys and I wanted to explore the city some more. We went out to find the Anshun Bridge and it did not disappoint. We took our photos and made our way down the road to the Jiuyanqiao Bar Street along the river. Chengdu has two major bar and club spots and they are directly opposite each other on the river; it made bar-hopping extremely convenient and fun!
Jiuyanqiao Bar Street adventures.
The next morning, we had just enough time to return to Taikoo Li to get some brunch at Moka Bros. If you’re in China and you miss real breakfast, you need to make the trip to your nearest Moka Bros (it’s a chain and is all around the country, so just go already). I had delicious coffee, waffles and a smoothie bowl. Once we finished our meal, we only had about an hour until we needed to start getting to the train station. We quickly went into the Ole’s (a western food market, another chain) and picked up peanut butter, coffee and floss (I can’t find this in Hechuan to save my life).
Moka Bros is life.
There were no bullet trains at a decent time on Sunday, so we ended up taking a sleeper train back instead! We chose the hard-sleepers because we didn’t want to pay for the more expensive soft-sleepers for a 2hr30 train ride. The train had compartments of 6 bunks and the car itself also had window seating; it was quite nice! We were able to plan our lessons and take a small nap before arriving home in Hechuan.
Thanks for reading! I definitely plan on going back to Chengdu soon (possibly even next weekend) and will write about more awesome things to do there. If you guys want more real-time updates about my life, you should follow me on Instagram instead. I tend to write about past events for the blog whereas on Insta, it’s more up-to-date. 😊 #ChengDidIt