Sunday, 12 October 2014

China: Chengdu

Our trip from Xi'An to Chengdu was an overnight one which meant we got to experience our first sleeper train of the travels. Fortunately we managed to get a 'soft sleeper' cabin which meant we had actual beds for the impending 16.5 hour journey - some CRAZY people did the whole journey on hard plastic seats! Each cabin sleeps four people which meant we ended up sharing with a cute Chinese lady, and has a door so is basically private. We were really surprised to find our cabin came complete with a TV (which we soon came to hate when we found out we had no control over when it was switched on or off), a cute little rose, a kettle (for the obligatory english tea craving) and even complementary flip flops. We would definitely recommend the soft sleeper for journeys of this length if affordable - the beds were really comfortable and came with a duvet and pillow for extra comfort so we managed to sleep right through the night (excluding the occasional train jerks which made us feel like we were going to end up flying across the cabin).
Our First Overnight Sleeper Train - Excited Teds!

The hostel we stayed at whilst in Chengdu was called the Flip Flop Hostel and was really cosy. It was really central (about a 5 minute walk away from the Pedestrian Street and the subway) and had a really cute park next door which was often filled with locals playing games, exercising, or just generally chilling out which was really nice to see. The staff at the hostel were really friendly and always ready to help with any questions we had. We also had our first experience of laundry during our stay which was eventful. Apparently hanging clothes up to dry in your dorm room is a criminal offence to the maid who ranted at us for about 10 minutes after we did so.

We spent a lot of time wandering around whilst in Chengdu - the city is so huge that we had plenty to do. One recommendation we had from our hostel was to visit Master Kong Chef's Restaurant - rated as the 'best beef noodle restaurant in Chengdu'. Although it took us absolutely ages to find, (the map of the city we had was more of a hindrance than a help because half of the streets were missing) it definitely didn't disappoint - we ended up going back for a second night because it was so good. Although a little more pricey than we had recently been spending on meals because of our traveller budget (¥28) it was sooooo worth it. We tried both the beef and mushroom noodles and the beef and mushroom with rice - both were delicious.

The highlight of our stay in Chengdu was our visit to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, home to the most beautiful animals eeeevvvveeeeerrrrrr. As with all of our trips, we decided to do this by ourselves rather than going with the planned tour by the hostel because it would save us money. We had to get two local buses to get there which were only ¥1 each per person and entrance fee was just ¥58 when we arrived (the hostel tour was over ¥100!) The park is filled with bamboo forests and woods to simulate the pandas' natural environment and there were lots of climbing apparatus for the pandas to play on - they all looked really happy and had so much room to roam around. There are soooo many pandas there, of all different ages and lots of signposts to explain which panda you were looking at, how old they were and their personality etc. which was really cute. We were told before going that the best time to visit was around 9:30am because that is when the pandas eat and following this they tend to sleep for the rest of the day. We were able to get really close to them whilst they were eating, playing, and resting, giving us the perfect opportunity to take 12894269619437 photos and make multiple 'awwwww', 'eeeeeeek', and 'ooooooh' sounds simultaneously. They are seriously the most amazing animals - many of them genuinely look like men dressed up in suits - it's crazy just how human-like they are in some of their mannerisms. As cute as the giant pandas were, when we finally got to see the baby pandas in their nursery we literally could not stop cooing over how adorable they were - definitely worth the ridiculous queue to see them (the biggest queue of the whole day). There is also the opportunity to spend a half day actually holding/feeding/learning about the pandas but that was around £200 and unfortunately a bit too over-budget for us.

Another one of our favourite spots in Chengdu were the Jinli Ancient Streets which were a number of streets filled with local food, handmade ornaments, bars, live music, and pretty lanterns. The atmosphere was thriving which made it a really nice place to spend the evening. We spent hours just wandering up and down and sampled some street food whilst sitting amongst the locals which gave us a real feel for the town.

Here are some of our favourite pictures of our time in Chengdu:

Flipflop Hostel, Chengdu
Flipflop Hostel, Chengdu
Someone is happy she found 'real' milk!
Hellooooo Pandas!!

Tough Day?
The babies having a nap in the nursery
Jinli Ancient Street

Peace out Chengdu!

The Happy Wanderers 

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