TRAVEL FRAGMENTS - Buddha, pandas and coffee in Chengdu
Chengdu, capital of the West, is possibly the coolest city in China. It blends old and new with a sharp eye for details and design, whilst maintaining a friendly and unhurried pace of life. Its inhabitants are beautiful and stylish, local cuisine packs its flavours tight, the unique mouthfeel of Sichuan peppercorns contrasting with silky tofu and broth. Great coffee in great decor abounds. Add in a striking giant buddha and cute pandas, and you get an incredible place for a long weekend away. With more time, explore the region and hike the ancient Tea Horse Road trail.
A luxurious venue, organised around a stunning Ming dynasty courtyard and a modern beautifully-designed extension, with some great food and drinks options on-sit. All of this right in the heart of the Taikoo Li complex. What made our stay memorable however with the incredibly friendly and attentive service. The staff were full of lovely attentions and kept on playing with the kids and giving them goodies, whilst giving us some great local advice. You can rent service apartments as part of the hotel, perfect for large families, as you have access to you own fully equipped kitchen and laundry. We have been lucky to stay in many nice places over the years, but the Temple House Hotel in Chengdu has been our all-time favourite.
We left Chengdu very early (5:30 am) to arrive in Leshan for 8am and the ticket office opening on a busy summer bank holiday. We managed to beat the domestic tourist crowds to the top of the Buddha and began the last descent down it 71-metre height, amongst pilgrims. The Buddha is said to have been built at the confluence of three rivers to stop boat capsizing and drownings. You can end your visit with a now-safe boat ride to see the full height of the Buddha. What a sight to behold.
Simple home-style Sichuan cuisine, at affordable prices, in an interior design gem, Did I mention it is only minutes away from the hotel ? I adore Sichuan spices and their mouth-numbing effect, and 'mapo dofu' is my absolute favourite dish, combining soft tofu, with fiery spices and tasty pork mince. I probably eat that traditional dish once a week in Shanghai (and miss it when I am abroad), The local version does take the spices up a notch.
Another good occasion to get up early and beat the crowds (aim to arrive around 8am, after a short 30 minutes taxi ride out of the city). Giant pandas, red pandas, panda cubs .... it is hard not to melt as you observe these fluffy, cuddly guys in their natural(-enough) habitat. Thankfully, handling a panda cub for a fee is no longer permitted.
This buddhist monastery is a quiet oasis in the busy Chengdu city centre, where you can unwind and observe locals following buddhist rites. Take your time explore its nooks and crannies before re-entering the bustling Taikoo Li area.
6- Sicang Coffee Studio, 14 Qing Lian Shang Jie, Chengdu Shi
A visit to cute, curved, Qing Lian Shang street is a great excuse to explore a traditional residential area. Order a great brew, sit outside and shoot the breeze as you watch local hipsters and local families mingle. A nice microcosm of Chengdu on your door step.
You can find earlier Chengdu travel fragments here.