101 Things to Do While in Chengdu

Posted by Miya Yang • Friday, June 24, 2011 • Category: In Depth
There is loads of fun to be had during your time in Chengdu, whether you come for business, education, or leisure. To help you make the most of this "heavenly city" we have gathered together over 100 ideas into one handy guide. See how many you mangage to tick off before you leave - that is, if you manage to leave at all…

ACTIVITIES:

1. Learn Chinese! Even though you might not order food in Sichuanhua, at least try to teach yourself some characters that often appear on menus. It’s not so much fun to ask for Gongbao Jiding (Kung Pao Chicken) every time…

Chengdu Hotpot
© by Prince Roy
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/princeroy/432643061/]

2. Make new friends and then melt the ice by taking them out for fiery hot Malatang (麻辣烫) or Hotpot (火锅) - could be spicy but not too pricy!

3. Get to know more people by joining Chengdu's burgeouning CouchSurfing community (www.couchsurfing.org/group.html?gid=1460).

4. Go for a walk with your sweetheart or someone you have crush on, and casually pass the traffic light at Tianxianqiao South Road, near Hejiangting - you'll understand why when you get there!

5. Escape from your living room - you can also watch pirated DVDs back home! Get out there and engage this beautiful city and its hospitable residents. Maybe volunteer for a worthy cause - the locals will love you for that!

6. Look for the remnants of the old city among the high rise real estates (hints: No. 123 Daosangshu street, 倒桑树街, No.83 Baojiaxiang 包家巷, Xizhushi Street 西珠市街) - but don't blame us if another skyscraper popped up there in the meantime…

7. Queue for a bus during rush hour! Don't consider this to be an easy one.

Local Cycle Rickshaw
© by Jason Huang
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonhuang/241843603/]

8. Have a ride in one of the fast disappearing motorized pedi-cabs called San Lun Che (三轮车), which are analogous to the famed auto-rickshaws of South and South East Asia. Don't forget to fix the price in advance - you don't want to get a bad surprise at the other end.


SHOPPING:

9. Take a stroll along Chunxi Road and witness tens of thousands of people shopping and feel the solace of being anonymous amidst the crowd.

10. Buy fresh local tea just plucked from the fields and dried by hand in April. If you drink your tea in gallons and buy in bulks, then head to Xinan Cha Shichang (Southwest China Tea Market, 西南茶市场) at Wukuaishi (五块石).

11. Marvel at the diversity of vegies and fruits in one of the countless farmers' markets (Caishichang, 菜市场).

12. Immerse yourself in the chaotic Moziqiao IT Market where people just bump into you to sell their wares - though "authentic" pirated DVD shops are more and more difficult to find…

13. Get yourself a traditional Chinese dress tailor made, Tangzhuang (唐装) for men and Qipao (旗袍) for women.

14. Get an Alipay account and shop on Taobao.com. You can get everything, ranging from houseware, digital devices, cloths, and shoes (big size available!), to food (Chicken Feet? Yes. Cheese? Yes.) delivered to your door, with the price often considerably cheaper than anywhere else. For example, you can get the shadow play puppets (皮影) that tagged 138ish RMB in Jinli for something like 24 RMB on Taobao.

15. Pick an item you want to buy, check its price on Taobao.com, and then go out to a local Chengdu market and try to haggle the price below the cheapest Taobao quotation.

Taking a Rest from Shopping
© by McKay Savage
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/mckaysavage/135953421/]

16. Get yourself Mao's little "red book" at Songxianqiao Antique Market (送仙桥艺术城).

17. Check out the Traditional Chinese Medicine Market (中药材专业市场). Sichuan province is famous for its traditional Chinese medicine and many of these life-enhancing ingredients are in fact from around the province.

18. Visit the Seafood and Bird Markets at Qingshiqiao (青石桥), and wonder whether the beautiful animals in the cages and tanks lining the streets will end up on the dinner table or as a pet in somebody's home.

19. Buy yourself a T-shirt with weird "English" on it…

20. Join the regularly held second-hand markets at Hemp House (麻糖酒吧).

21. Explore Chengdu's traditional crafts and buy some for your friends home: bamboo products (竹编), such as mats, vases, lampshades, and the stunning intertwined bamboo and porcelain wares, such as gaiwan; lacquer ware (漆器); Shu brocades (蜀锦); and silk tapestries (蜀绣).


SIGHTS:

22. Visit People’s Park (Renmin Gongyuan) in the afternoon, have tea besides the lake, rest your ears and eyes after watching and listening to endless crowds of local people busy with their pastimes: card games, chess, weiqi, singing, making music, exercising, and just very much enjoying themselves! Bashi (巴适)!

Getting Your Ears Cleaned
© by Jason Huang
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonhuang/241797623/]

23. Get your ears cleaned, taoerduo (掏耳朵), if you dare. Local "experts" armed with a wide selection of "insertion tools" will astonish you by what they will manage to dig out.

24. Be one of the first in visiting the architecturally-striking Chengdu City Museum nearby as soon as it opens - don't blame us if it turns out to be rubbish though!

25. Qingyang Gong (Green Ram Temple) is said to be the oldest Daoist temple in Sichuan Province. You'd better go and have a quick look at it, too - just in case!

26. After you go to Du Fu’s Memorial Cottage, don't pass the chance to visit one of the quietest and least visited parks in the city, Huanhuaxi Park (浣花溪), where you can watch live water calligraphy.

Panda Love
© by mrs.gsoell
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/57550163@N07/5423432067/]

27. Get up really early and visit the Panda Research Base in the morning. You can even hug a panda bear for several hundred RMB - but watch out for their vicious kung fu!

28. Since you are already up in the "wild north", also visit Zhaojue Si, the Zoo (if you can stomach it), and the Botanical Garden…

29. Listen to the local musicians playing traditional Sichuanese tunes and perform opera beneath the Renmin Nanlu Flyover and be transported into another world.

30. Spend a week in Chengdu's dozens of remarkable museums, including Sichuan's stunning new Provincial Museum and the unique Industrial Civilization Museum (工业文明博物馆).

31. Also make it a point to check out the Wang Anting's Little Mao Museum (王安廷小小展览馆) at Wufu Road (五福路). It could very well rank as the oddest museum you have ever visited.

32. Note down Chengdu's real estate names and make it into an exotic map of Europe.

33. Travel on a bus to Tianfuxincheng in the south or Wenjiang in the west to have a view of the "sleeping city".

34. Pay a visit to Paotongshu Street and Xiaotong Alley near Kuanzhai Alley, and discover small independent cafes, bookshops, and teahouses.

35. Discover beautiful parks, rooftop gardens, and swimming pools inside private neighbourhoods - maybe you can convince one of your friends to host a private party…

Chairman Mao
© by Glenn J. Mason
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/glennji/4804450176/]

36. Go to Tianfu Square to take a photo with the giant Chairman Mao! Pay your honour, but don't extend your right arm straight in front of you 45 degrees to the sky to salute back…

37. Hitch a ride on a Chinese tank and or climb onto a fighter aircraft at National Defense Park (成都国防乐园), an almost forgotten military theme park just off the southern third ring road. This will definitely count among your most surreal experiences around town...


SPORTS:

38. Rent a bicycle or "electric donkey" (电驴子), or borrow one from a friend, and blend into the cycling masses…

39. Run the Chengdu Half-Marathon! Though we don't know what prevents the organiser organise a full marathon, just 21.0975 km further into the suburb…

40. Copy the moves of the Gong Fu, Taijiquan, and other martial arts enthusiasts - in almost any park near wherever you might stay…

41. Watch a football match in Renmin Stadium on weekends and support the players: 雄起 (xiongqi)!

42. Go running along the canals and rivers. Don't stumble over the fishing lines though…

43. Offer a local friend a game of badminton, pool or table tennis and you will have put a smile on somebody's face.

Chinese Chess
© by Mark Zastrow
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/alshain49/3654283097/in/photostream/]

44. Learn to play Chinese chess, local card games, or Weiqi (Go!) and test your mental agility (while quickly acquiring local celebrity status with the pensioneers).

45. Find a beautiful lake in the suburbs for swimming, such as at Baigongyan Park (百工堰公园) at Longquan, and become the attraction.

46. Go rafting along the river valley in Longxi-Hongkou National Nature Reserve and finish the day playing majiang with your feet in the river.

47. Learn about Traditional Chinese Medicine by getting it applied on your body. Get a medicinal foot bath or get some 火罐儿 (cupping jar) put on your back - you will be brandmarked for weeks!

48. Enjoy the ultimate in relaxation: get a traditional massage! Blind people are especially famed for their massaging skills and you can find their places all over town. Getting a massage is also a great way to relax with friends, but be aware that you might have a hard time to tell the authentic ones from erotic massage places - anyway, you will figure it out before the bill arrives...

49. Go traveling during Chunjie and get your shoulders and neck rubbed thoroughly for free…

Joining the Locals for Majiang
© by Prince Roy
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/princeroy/422925081/in/photostream/]

45. Try your luck at majiang. It is not only good for your brain, this rather addictive game can be lots of fun (and will make you rich or … - you get the point).


EXCURSIONS:

51. Do like the locals and go to a Nongjiale (农家乐, farmer's house) in the countryside over the weekend and enjoy the good life.

52. Do a day excursion to Mengdingshan learn about the origins of Chinese tea culture and enjoy the local ambrosia (amrit tea - ganlucha 甘露茶).

53. Take a bus to Flower Town (三圣乡花卉市场) about 15km southeast of town and enjoy the vivid colours and fragrances at Chengdu's largest flower market. You can also stay here for a night at one of the dozens of cozy bed and breakfasts run by locals…

Cave at Qingcheng Shan
© by Prince Roy
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/princeroy/432638536/]

54. Take a trip to Qingcheng Shan, the alleged origin of religious Daoism, and don't miss Qingcheng Back Mountain. If you dont want to return on the way walked, climb down the mountain along the footpath under the cable car.

55. Take an excursion to Baoguang Si (宝光寺), which contains a selection of 500 life-size statues of Luohans (Arhats), none of which are similar in appearance and which are famous all over China. Join the locals and count out your very own Luohan according to your age. Some are amiable, while others are grim or bizarre - don't get any nightmares...

56. Dream about an era begone by visiting Liu's Country House (刘家大院) at Dayi, and try to put what you see into the historical context of the 1950s propaganda - but the locals have more stories to tell…

57. Behold the inexplicable archaeological remains at Sanxingdui and realise why many locals think this could only have been a civilisation from outer space.

58. Go on a day trip to the Disney-like European town of Bailu near Pengzhou - and see the reason for these new constructions at the various earthquake sites nearby, including the recently rennovated historic Catholic church …

Wanfo Ding at Emei Shan
© by Lyle Vincent
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/lylevincent/4684799640/]

59. Make a somewhat longer excursion the the holy Buddhist mountain Emei and see the largest historical Buddha statue in the world at Leshan - hopefully you return somewhat more enlightened to Chengdu!

60. Explore the Sichuanese minorities. For example, visit Little Lhasa in Chengdu near Wuhouci and find yourself among Tibetan monks, music, shops, and restaurants, or join the Yi people southwest of Chengdu for their famed Torch Festival.


SEASONS:

61. Go to the Chengdu Flower Festival (celebrated for over a thousand years), which marks the supposed birthday of all flowers at the advent of spring. You will not only witness colourful flower displays, but also traditional acrobatic performances and food stalls selling local snacks.

Spring Time Near Chengdu
© by Jakob Montrasio
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/yakobusan/419646902/]

62. Visit any of the rural flower festivals around Chengdu in spring time, such as the Tulip Festival in early spring in Stone Elephant Lake Ecological Resort (石象湖), the Chengdu International Rapeseed Flower Festival in Baimiao Village in Jintang County, the Peach Blossoms at Longquan, the Cherry Blossom Tourism and Culture Festival near the Phoenix Lake Holiday Resort in Qingbaijiang district, and the Tianpeng Peony Fair in Pengzhou.

63. Try getting a sun tan over summers. Just hurry up to take off your clothes as soon as you hear all dogs starting to bark - seems like they don't quite know what to do of that bright ball up there in the sky (蜀犬吠日).

64. Visit the "Dujiangyan Summer Night Beer Festival" and join the thousands of people having Lengdanbei (冷淡杯) beside the river from May to October.

65. Once autumn sets in, head out into the mountains and marvel at the brilliant red hues in the tree leaves.

66. In winter, soak up the heat of the natural hot sulphur springs of Huashiwan in Dayi County.

67. Have a go at skiing or snowboarding at Xiling Snow Mountain on winter days.


FESTIVALS:

68. Get in the festive spirit of Chinese New Year and venture to Tazishan, Qingyanggong, and Cultural Park where festival celebrations include fairs with thousands of glowing lanterns and many other spectacles.

Dragon Dance at Huanglongxi
© by Yang Fan

69. Pay a visit to Huanglongxi (黄龙溪) Ancient Town during Chinese New Year and behold the stunning dragon and lion dances.

70. On Yuanxiao Festival light a sky lantern (kong ming deng, 孔明灯), paper lanterns said to be evented by local celebrity Zhuge Liang (learn as much as you can about him in Chengdu's Wuhouci), which ascend to the sky automatically after being lit.

71. Go to a dragon boat race at Jintang during dragon boat festival and watch the colourful, elaborately carved dragon boats propelled upstream by competing teams to the rhythm of beating drums.

72. Join the myriad of religious festivals of the various local communities, especially Buddhist (e.g. at Wenshuyuan), Daoist (e.g. at Qingyanggong), Muslim (e.g. in Chengdu's Huangcheng Mosque), and Christian (e.g. in the historic Ping'anqiao Church).


EVENTS/PARTIES:

73. Learn a Chinese song, oldies or new releases, just skip Yueliang Daibiao Wodexin.

74. Then get yourself embarrassed in a KTV. Hao shua de hen! 好耍得很!

75. Put on your dancing shoes and dance in a Chinese ballroom (for example, try Xihuo Ballroom hall at Sichuan University on Friday evenings) or just join the after-dinner dancing crowds in neighborhood plazas (at the entrance of Kuanzhai Alley, for instance).

76. Run your own film screening at Eight and a Half Bar (8又1/2水吧) in Wangjiang campus of Sichuan University! As long as you have the film it will cost you nothing.

Chengdu at Night
© by Daniel Lin
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/geeknerd99/1325600037/]

77. Check out Douban.com for interesting local events, whether it is a film shown in a café, an art exhibition, a second-hand market, or (how could we forget) an English Corner.

78. Also learn more about the capital city of Sichuan from the consistently excellent blog ChengduLiving.com.

79. Grab a copy of the free monthly magazine Chengdoo Citylife that you will find lying around at many venues. You will also find a free map of the city inside!

80. Check out No. 35 Hong Xing Rd. (成都红星路35号) for exhibitions, music, design, and creative arts.

81. Join the Bookworm International Literary Festival for a celebration of literature and ideas.

82. For theatre plays or concerts that could easily cost you a few hundreds, you can also hunt for cheap tickets from huangniu (黄牛, ticket touts) at the venue on the night of the event before it starts. Of course, there is no guarantee, but it generally works well for shows in Jincheng Art Palace, for instance.

Sichuan Opera
© by Kenneth Lu
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/toasty/2070941299/]

83. Watch Sichuan opera in an authentic setting at Shunxing Old Tea House (顺兴老茶馆) or at Yuelai Tea House (悦来茶馆), just don't lose yourself in speculating how bianlian (face change) is done.

84. Catch a live music gig at Little Bar or Machu Picchu.

85. Pair up with a friend who has a car and head to the Zebra Music Festival (热波成都音乐节) in spring - arguably one of Chengdu's most exciting events.

86. Check out what’s inside the Boat Building (万里号)! We have never been inside, so don’t blame (or praise) us if it turns out to be a "red light" KTV...


FOOD:

87. Drop by a street BBQ after partying and shout "laobaer, jia dianer lajiao" (boss, make it more spicy).

88. Try the ubiquitous "wu kuai qian yi jin" (5 yuan per half kg) cakes sold at markets and hole-in-a-wall bakeries.

Eye Candy
© by likeyesterday
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/likeyesterday/2732264086/]

89. Buy some tasty eye candy at Jinli or Kuanzhai Alley and see the sweet treats being made into dragons, phoenixes, and other Chinese zodiac animals in front of your eyes.

90. Have a full Chinese breakfast: Youtiao (油条, oil stick), Doujiang (soy bean milk), Chayedan (tea flavour boiled egg), Baozi (dumplings), and Pidanshourouzhou (皮蛋瘦肉粥, rotten egg and pork slice porridge).

91. Ask a rich friend to spoil your tastebuds at Shizilou (order the cabbage in boiled water), at Daronghe, or at Baguo Buyi (巴国布衣), all local Sichuan institutions famed for their local delicacies.

92. Have a feast without detrimental effects to your karma in the exclusively vegetarian Buddhist restaurant of the Wenshuyuan, the centre of the Chan (Zen) sect in Southwest China. Or alternatively visit Jujubetree Vegetarian Lifestyle Restaurant (枣子树素食馆) and try their many meat-imitation dishes.

93. Eat your way through the "a bit of everything" set at the Sichuanese snack restaurant Longchaoshou (龙抄手).

94. Go for a cuancuan (串串) experience, where you pay your food by the stick! Ask for jitangfan (鸡汤饭, rice in chicken soup) while figuring out increasingly creative ways to make the bill smaller and smaller...

Jinli Street
© by Jason Huang
[http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonhuang/241806093/]

95. If you really want to try all the snacks you can go to Jinli Street, which is the famous Chengdu snack street near the Wuhou Temple. Try at least one of the following: Dandan Mian (担担面), a spicy noodle dish made with peppers, minced meat, garlic, and peanuts; Hongyou Shuijiao (红油水饺), Chinese dumplings served in a sweet and spicy red oil; Douhua (豆花), a very soft doufu (tofu/beancurd) in a spicy sauce; Danhonggao (蛋烘糕), mini filled crepes where customers can choose their fillings; Laitangyuan (赖汤圆), balls made of glutinous rice flour with delicious sweet stuffings.

96. Sample the many sorts of Chinese medicine wine (药酒)! The quality varies from place to place, so if you think the first time was nasty, just keep on trying.

97. Experiment with some of the more obscure foods that are locally available, such as duck tongue, pig intestines, chicken feet, goose guts, and, how could we have missed it, the notorious Stinky Doufu (臭豆腐).

98. Have a bowl of Shangxin Liangfen (伤心凉粉), literally "heartbroken cold powder", consisting of starch jelly served cold with seasonings including soy sauce, vinegar, sesame paste, crushed garlic, and lots of chilli. Chances are that you will understand the origin of its name after trying.

99. Learn how to prepare a typical Sichuanese dish from your local friends' mothers.

100. Another local delicacy that you have to try is rabbit head (兔头). The juicy meat soaks up the Sichuanese spices and becomes all tender and succulent. Once you try you will keep smacking your lips!

101. Try not to gain too much weight during your stay!


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Please comment, discuss, and make additions on what to do while in Chengdu!


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  1. Great story! We've featured it in Best of the Net Weekly, our favorite China travel stories from around the web on ChinaTravel - The people's guide to China.
  2. Great story! We've featured it in Best of the Net Weekly, our favorite China travel stories from around the web on ChinaTravel - The people's guide to China. (http://blog.chinatravel.net/china-travel-tips-advice/top-china-travel-stories.html)
  3. Nice list, I'm going to work through it and see what things I have left to complete! I think I am most of the way there :-)

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