Last December 2016, Gaya Travel Magazine team members discovered Sichuan for the first time in our lives. Made internationally famous because of the Kung Fu Panda animated movie, Sichuan – a province located in the South West of China, north of Yunnan – is more than just pandas, tai chi and spicy cuisine.
Loosely means ‘Four Rivers and Gorges’, Sichuan is a region that has been prosperous since ancient times. Though hit by devastating earthquake in 2008, Sichuan doesn’t seem to bear any scar from the calamity after massive reconstruction efforts. As a matter of fact, Sichuan’s varied natural environment and unique landscape draw many local and foreign travellers to its lands to taste its delights.
Website : http://global.tsichuan.com/
What to do in Sichuan:
Appreciate Chengdu leisure lifestyle
Website : www.gochengdu.cn
To understand the local lifestyle and culture of Chengdu, visit:
- Jinli Ancient Street
Travellers will surely fall in love with the area’s romantic step-back-in-time atmosphere that have the retail outlets housed in huddled buildings that sport period architecture close to the Wuhouci memorial. It is believed that the street has been in existence since the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C.-206 B.C.) and was also the busiest commercial centre during the Shu Kingdom (221 A.D.-263 A.D ).
- Kuan-Zhai (Wide-Narrow) Xiangzi Alley
This is another heritage-conserved area but more organised than Jinli, with narrow and wide lanes that follow the street layout design used since the Manchu period. Interestingly, this area was part of the housing area for the imperial officials and soldiers during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912).
- The Face-Changing Mask Show by Sichuan Opera at Fu Rong Guo Cui (Sichuan Opera House)
Considered as the province’s own artistic heritage. The art and mastery of bian lian (face-changing) is a well-guarded secret that is specific only to Sichuan Opera House, therefore travellers should take the opportunity to witness this performance when being in Chengdu.
Immerse in Chinese civilisational history at Wuhouci memorial
Located right next to Jinli Street, Wuhouci is a historic memorial built for the legendary and intelligent Premier Zhuge Niang and the wise Emperor Liu Bei, both leaders of the Shu Kingdom based in Sichuan during the era of The Three Kingdoms (220 A.D.-280 A.D.). Zhuge Niang was also a military strategist who also introduced innovative weapons. The place has beautiful garden, icons and artefacts relating to ancient Chinese civilisations from the Shu Kingdom all the way to Qing Dynasty, including the actual tomb belonging to Emperor Liu Bei.
Regale over pandas’ cute antics at the Panda Research Base and Breeding Centre
30% of pandas found in China are in Sichuan, thus it is only natural that this centre is opened in Sichuan in 1987, first as panda hospital, then become the place for conserving and breeding the animal. The place now has 160 pandas. Breeding pandas is challenging because they don’t easily get pregnant. Because pandas are so unique, visiting the centre is a must!
Website : www.panda.org.cn/english
Admire ancient engineering of Dujiangyan or Du River Irrigation Project
Formerly called Guan Xian (irrigation city), Dujiangyan is 40 kilometres from Chengdu with the population of 360,000. The irrigation project was completed back in 256 B.C. during the War Period, with Li Ping as the architect. The city sprang up over 2,000 years ago simply because of this project, which help to irrigate the whole of Chengdu plain, ensuring the soil to remain fertile and flood controlled. This irrigation project did not just irrigate Chengdu but also the Chinese civilisation because it embodies all of the civilisations technological advancements and achievements since ancient times.
Tip: Be sure to take selfie on the swaying 261-metre Bridge (Couple Bridge). Travellers may also write their love wishes on the wishing ribbon, then tie it at the locks close to the bridge entrance.
Enhance your energy flow at Qing Cheng Mountain
Qing Cheng Shan (Qing Cheng Mountain) is the birthplace of Taoism and tai chi (health maintenance). Tai chi has its roots from Taoism, which means learning how to enhance the Qi (the flow of energy) in one’s body. The mountain has temple at the top, including a lake. If travellers have time, take the cable car to reach its peak, which is 2,000 metres high.
Take pictures of yaks and stop by at Songpan on the way to Jiuzhaigou county from Dujiangyan
To get to the world famous Jiuzhaigou from Chengdu, travellers need to spend around eight hours on the bus. The journey requires the bus to negotiate many bends along the way since the route passes by mountainous terrain.
- Bring motion sickness pills if travellers are prone to such ailment.
- During the toilet stop at the Daishihaitze (Daishi Lake), take pictures with yaks if they are there.
- Outside city centres, travellers need to contend with traditional Chinese toilets, which are rudimentary and sometimes without doors and flowing water. Travellers are recommended to bring along their own dry and wet tissues, including used water bottle or canister for cleansing
Along the way, travellers would pass the city of Songpan, a major city within the autonomous Aba region that is home to 3.5% of China’s Muslims. Interestingly, 50% of the Muslims in Aba region live in Songpan, therefore the city has many Muslim restaurants and retailers, making it a nice stop for travellers to savour local halal cuisine. Historically, Songpan had been serving as an important trading post where Tibetans, Qiangs, Hans and Muslims converge to trade.
Take your breath away at Jiuzhaigou National Park
Visiting the exceedingly beautiful Jiuzhaigou Natioal Park is a MUST when you visit Sichuan province. Meaning ‘Nine Villages’ that refers to the nine Tibetan villages within the area, Jizhaigou National Park has 108 wondrous and colourful lakes and waterfalls like the Five-Flower Lake, Rhinoceros Lake and Tiger Lake, besides being home to wild pandas. We suggest that travellers should visit:
- The Mirror Lake, which must be visited early morning when the water is still;
- The frozen-in-winter Panda Lake, where pandas are seen to come down from the forest and drink;
- Nuorilang Waterfall, made famous as one of the locations for the extremely popular local television series “Journey to the West”; and
- The remarkably breathtaking Pearl Shoal :
Website : http://www.jiuzhai.com/language/english/
Good to know:
- If travellers have time, also explore the majestic Zhaga Waterfall – the largest (104-metre high) waterfall in China that is remarkably picturesque and Instagram-worthy scenery – at Aba Mounigou Valley, two hours and a half drive away from Jiuzhaigou county.
For more information, browse global.tsichuan.com/.
AirAsiaX flies to Chengdu, Sichuan’s capital, from Kuala Lumpur (KLIA2). Visit www.airasia.com to book a flight to Chengdu today. For bookings or info on tour packages, browse www.sutra.my/tours/asia/China/Chengdu/.
The longer version of the story will be available in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 12.3, targeted to be out in late May 2017.