Sichuan travelogue – In Chengdu

The most recent trip is one of my  most exciting and memorable one that I’ve embarked. It is a travel to the Western province of Sichuan. The capital city is Chengdu. It is a province that is at the heart of China, as the mighty Changjiang (Yangtze) river flows through it from the Tibetan mountains. It is also the province where the tragic earthquake of 12 May 2008 struck. The eastern part of Sichuan is a rich and fertile plain that supports large part of the population, while the Western part is made of rugged highlands that stretched all the way from Tibet. It is here that one could find snow capped mountains, deep river valleys and enjoy the vista of quaint villages and small towns where the Han and Tibetan ethnic group live side by side. It is also this part of Sichuan that is interest me a great deal.


I took advantage of an  Air Asia flight that offered a promotional fare of RM199 to Chengdu. Flight from KL to Chengdu’s Shuangliu airport to about 4.5 hours. Chengdu sky is typically cloudy, with hardly much sun or blue sky. It is a modern city, with wide boulevards and modern buildings. But it is also an old city, where the name has existed for more than 2000 years, and many well known historical figures lived in the city previously.  Liu Bei, Zhuge Liang, Du Fu and Li Bai are just some of famous names that have lived in Chengdu in the past.


The population of Chendu city  is a about 5 millions. Arrived there on Saturday, and the city centre was packed with mostly youngsters who seems to be having good time walking, shopping, eating  or just  merely window shopping. Every large Chinese city has a pedestrian street lined with shops on both sides(ren xing jie) , and the one in Chengdu has two streets and is about a kilometre long. The street is called Chunxi lu (春熙路).  But it was crowded that night with Chengdu people everywhere and there was hardly much space to move about.


Food in Sichuan is spicy with numbing feel, called ma la 麻辣). I have no problem with the food in moderate amount. Even a bowl of beef noodle, is served in Sichuan style, and any visitors not accustomed will have problem eating eat. When onehave enough of Sichuan cooking, one can go to Beijing restaurant for the roast duck or just KFC.  Throughout my journey in Sichuan, one can’t avoid being served spicy food, as to a Sichuanese, a food is not palatable until it is cooked with the Sichuan spices. Thus a cook may find it puzzling and a have problem cooking  if we order food without the Sichuan spices. Another way, is just to order soup, fried eggs or potata dishes, to avoid having the spicy dish. One could also inform the cooks to use less spices, by saying wei la (微辣).


The people here speaks Sichuanese, which I find hard to comprehend initially, especially when it is spoken fast. After a while, one gets the drift, as there is some resemblance to the standard Mandarin. Most of the time, the people will reply and speak Sichuanese, even when one try to converse in Pudonghua. It seems they assume that it is easy for outsiders to understand Sichuanese. This is quite unlike a number of provinces that I have been to. Also, the phase of life is definitely slower than those in the eastern provinces. People appear relaxed and going about in more leisurely pace, with many shops and restaurants having more employees than really necessary. On the whole though, they are friendly lot. I have all along believe that eating oily spicy food will have adverse effect on the skin, but the people here have proven this wrong as many have very nice complexion. Walking on the street of Chengdu one night, I  realised then that Chengdu is abound with good looking men and women.


Transportation in Chengdu is a problem for visitors. There are taxis everywhere, but problem is that there is just not enough of vacant taxis. Every taxi seems to have passengers in it. It seems that taxi is very afforable for Chengdu people, where initial fare is RMB 8. I have to walk for half an hour before I could get a taxi. The waiting period is probably less late in the evening.


Within Chengdu city, there are interesting museums, well maintained old streets, historical sites, Sichuan mask changing opera as well as nice drinking bars. As mentioned earlier, the only problem is the frustration with taxi service. Perhaps, when the underground rail network is completed in a few years time, travel around Chengdu will be a breeze.




Photos of Chengdu



 View of airport building from carpark


Street view from hotel at downtown Chengdu


Another view from front of hotel


View of road near the Tianfu Square ( a famous landmark)  in downtown Chengdu


Large statue of Chairman Mao near Tianfu Square in downtown Chengdu


Next: Visit to Dujiangyan


About kchew

an occasional culturalist
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