The Yangtze River tumbles down from the Himalayas, leaving a laid-back atmosphere and trail of green on the mountains’ foothills. Combining iconic attractions with natural reverie and a warm welcome, South-central China is the version of China that exists in many preconceptions, the one that never leaves a bad taste in the mouth. From Tibetan towns and river adventures to pandas and intensely spicy food, South-central China has its own flavor. It’s the region that blurs modern China into valleys of enticement and tradition. It’s also the region that offers the most complete overview of the full Chinese experience; futuristic samples, lots of tradition, minority cultures, wild nature, and getting to know the locals. Bottom of Form
How to Get There?
Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, has excellent transport connections by rail and air. One of China’s most easygoing cities, Chengdu is a central point from which to make an adventure. Chongqing also has great transport links, however, it’s one of the world’s biggest cities and not always an easy introduction.
Getting Around Chegdu
The region’s topography dictates how you travel. In a nutshell, head east or north from Chengdu and the country’s railways provide efficient connections. Go west or south and you must wind into the mountains on beautiful journeys taken by dilapidated local buses.
Chengdu Surrounded by fertile plains, Chengdu is a dreamy city, exuding an atmosphere of tranquility that belies the fact it’s got a 10million plus population. It’s one of the few Chinese cities that are eminently enjoyable when you do nothing. It doesn’t require attractions. You could easily spend a week here, enjoying the atmosphere, exploring, and absorbing the friendly atmosphere. As it is, there’s more than enough to occupy visitors for up to week.
In the green mountain foothills, an hour out of town, the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base (insert your own joke about the infertility of pandas here) is the easiest place in the country for encounters with the big cuddly bears. The pandas are in large pens, doing little but chomping on bamboo. There’s over 20 of them, as well as the more active red pandas and a few other animals scurrying around. For around $150 you can sit on a panda’s lap for a photo; the bears aren’t sedated, they really are this docile.
Three hours east of Chengdu, Wolong Panda Reserve is a more rugged day of entertainment with the big bears. Receiving barely 5% of the tourist numbers as the breeding base, it’s much easier and cheaper to get close and interact with the pandas. Get local information before going though; the reserve was damaged by a 2008 earthquake and not all the pandas have returned from their temporary residences elsewhere in Sichuan.
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