Sichuan, China Chengdu 2002.05.29 - 06.03

Pandas and Teahouses

The province of Sichuan is China's most populated with close to 90 million people. The provincial capital city Chengdu houses 10 million of them. Despite Chengdu's enormous size, the atmosphere is relaxed.

City parks and temples, often containing subdued teahouses, are sanctuaries from city commotion and allow the local populace to lounge, de-stress, and mentally rejuvenate. Our favorite is Wenshu Yuan (admission ¥1). The relaxing temple grounds contain flowering tree lined walking paths, a turtle pond, a wooden covered bridge, pavilions, and sitting areas where locals sing, play musical instruments, play cards and mahjong, read newspapers, and discuss current events. Within the grounds are also a vegetarian restaurant and two teahouses. The restaurant is cheap. Food quality differs by day, probably depending on who cooks. The teahouses are fabulous. A bottomless cup of tea costs between ¥2~10 depending on the type of tea selected. The ¥2 tea we tried was good. The ¥6 tea we sipped all afternoon was extraordinary with flowers, herbs, roots, and other flavorful ingredients.

Not to the missed in the northern section of Chengdu is the Panda Breeding Center. A dozen pandas are housed in spacious moated grounds. Feeding time is most entertaining and generally occurs between 08:00~11:00. When not eating, the pandas find a secluded shaded area to nap. Morning tours to the Panda Breeding Center are advertised by travel agents at Chengdu hotels for ¥50. Alternatively, bus #9 from the train station (¥1 non-AC, or ¥2 with AC) stops just north of the zoo where trishaws travel the remaining 6km distance for ¥5. Panda Breeding Center admission is ¥10. By public transport from the Traffic Hotel, budget 1½ hours to the Breeding Center.

Pandas at feeding time at the Panda Breeding Center.
Flowering tree lined walkways at Wenshu Yuan in downtown Chengdu calm city dwellers.
At Wenshu Yuan Teahouse, choose a tea. The jasmine tea on the left is ¥2 and the fancy tea on the right with a variety of flavorful ingredients is ¥6. Men carrying large teakettles continuously refill these bottomless cups.
An elderly Chengdu local relaxes at Wenshu Yuan Teahouse with his cup of tea.

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