Slightly more laid back than China’s megacities to the East and North, the capital city of Sichuan Province boasts a relaxed atmosphere where life is savored and nature admired. With great transport links and amazing natural areas of beauty not too far away, Chengdu is a great addition to any China trip. We’ve put together our 4 must-dos in Chengdu that will make any trip to this steamy city one to remember.
See a face-changing opera
A popular form of entertainment throughout China, traditional opera has been a featuring element of Chinese culture dating as far back as the Zhao Dynasty (319-315). Naturally, in a country as vast and diverse as China, numerous regional styles have developed that vary in sound, rhythm, dance as well as acrobatics and costumes. Sichuan Opera, in particular, is famous for its face-changing element. Prepare to be amazed at the speed at which performers change their facial appearance with sly and unnoticeable strokes of hand, as well as repainting faces in the blink of an eye. Face-changing is done in order to reflect the emotions and events of the opera, keeping audiences on their seats and offering up an unusual alternative to the Beijing and Shanghai Operas.
Get your ears-cleaned in the kuan zhai alleyways
For a more unusual experience, we have just the thing! Chengdu’s kuan zhai alleyways, literally meaning ‘wide and narrow alleys’, are a series of ancient alleyways and courtyards lined with authentic tea houses, and stalls selling Sichuanese delicacies and arts and crafts. Whilst meandering through these interesting little streets, we recommend taking a load off and getting your ears-cleaned by the professionals. It’s a perfect opportunity for some people watching and will make sure everything is as clear as a whistle at the Chengdu Opera later on!
Play mahjong with the locals in People’s Park
There’s no better way to end a trip to Chengdu than with a relaxing afternoon in People’s Park, found in the centre of the city. Strolling around, it’s possible to test the waters with some rowboats, get your ears cleaned (again!), or enjoy a cup of green tea at one of the traditional tea houses. Our personal favorite experiences, however, is learning the art of mahjong. Mahjong originated in China and is a game of tiles that relies on strategic ability and of course a bit of luck. Observe as the locals play game after game and then try it out for yourself.
Volunteer for the day as a panda keeper
Escape the city to the verdant regions that encircle Chengdu and get up close and personal with the giant panda. Only 34 miles from the city, Dujiangyan Panda Base is a great day out that you simply cannot miss while visiting Chengdu. The base is the largest of its kind in China (and the world!) and features a panda rescue area, panda research area, panda training area…the sweetest panda-monium you’ll ever experience! After all that cuteness, a nice spicy bowl of Sichuan hotpot upon your return to the city will be just what’s needed.