We arrived in Chengdu after a 17 hour train journey from Xian. We chose to go with ‘hard sleeper’ which is really cheap but means 90 people to one train carriage in three tier bunk beds. The Chinese ladies near us were very friendly, but spent the whole time munching on food, including chicken feet at one point. We didn’t get much sleep so spent our first few hours in Chengdu napping!
The next day we got up really early to do the trip I was most excited about in China – the pandas! The rainy mist made the bamboo paths of the Chengdu Panda Research base even more atmospheric.
The pandas really were super cute. We practically had the park to ourselves at 7.45 in the morning, and got there in time to see them being fed. We also saw baby pandas which was awesome.
I now really need to find myself some panda merchandise…
Which is surprisingly hard to find. Obviously there are shops all over Chengdu selling panda tat, but we couldn’t find a panda t-shirt anywhere! Cuddly toys, caps, prints and postcards were all over the place, but the closest thing to a novelty panda t-shirt we could find was a fluffy black and white gilet with a panda ear hood. It’s far too hot for that kind of thing! In the future, a good start up business would be screen printing panda t-shirts in Chengdu.
The following day, we made our way out of the city to Qingcheng Shan – the mountain birthplace of Taoism (allegedly). There are loads of famous Buddhist mountains around Sichuan province, and we had read Qingcheng was one of the quieter, less touristy hikes. The fast train and bus took us around an hour to get there, and after paying the entrance fee (every attraction in China costs money), we set off up the mountain.
After about 50 steps, we began to question why we hadn’t just taken the cable car to the top like everyone else – the muggy closeness of the heat was intense. But we persevered, and were rewarded with amazing temples, tree covered mountains appearing in and out of the mist and at times it felt like we were the only people there. We made it to the top temple in around two hours, climbing to the highest temple for the amazing panorama view.
Using our excellent Chinese menu reading skills, we managed to order some dumplings and noodles, before cheating slightly and taking the cable car back down – it did help to see our walking route from this view though, putting into context the epic trek!
For our final day in Chengdu, we were both quite tired, and the previous days exploits had taught us a valuable lesson: Sam’s clothes are not up to the heat! So we went shopping in town for some cheap outdoor gear, before getting ourselves to the airport for our flight to Guilin (we couldn’t face another hard sleeper so soon). After being impressed at making our way there with little time to spare, the flight was delayed for two hours! We did eventually get going though, getting to the incredibly hot Guilin just after midnight.