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72 hours in Chengdu, China

Hello again China,

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So last week I was invited to go visit Chengdu, China for 72 hours to try out their new 72 hour in-transit VISA.

Now for those of you who aren’t familiar with what a VISA is, basically it’s

a legal document that allows you to enter another country or territory and remain there for a limited duration and under a specific purpose. I.E. to visit, work or study.

To work or study in a foreign country you will almost always need to have a VISA, but to visit you only sometimes need one.

If you require a visiting VISA and it’s not a visa-on-arrival, meaning you get it at customs,  you’ll need to visit that foreign country’s embassy to obtain it.  A huge hassle and quite expensive as well, averaging on $20-200 USD per VISA.

This is what I had to do last time I visited Chengdu and China.

But now, with the introduction of the 72 hour free in-transit VISA, things are far more simpler.

There are a couple of limitations,

  • you cannot leave that one city you are visiting,
  • you must have a departing flight going to a different country than which you had arrived from.

However, those are nothing to worry about if you are just looking to experience Chengdu or China for a few days.

So what did I do with my 72 hours?

Day 1 -Yum, Food

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The first day consisted of a fantastic Chinese buffet style lunch. There I filled up on a variety of local dishes plus got my first taste of Szechuan Spice, famous from this region of the Sichuan province. After all, UNESCO did declared Chengdu the city of gastronomy in 2011, so I like to think I am trying the best.

After filling up  it was off to Kuan Zhai Alley.

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Kuan Zhai is a pedestrian area and cultural site consisting of renovated Ming and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD)  hutongs. These hutongs, which once used to be courtyards houses, are now shops, cafe bars and themed hotels.

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That evening it was time for another regional tradition, the Sichuan Opera. 

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The Sichuan Opera is a fascinating performance of singers and storytellers, with the real star and highlight of the opera being the Face Changing. It’s quite hard to describe but much easier to show, hence why you should watch the video.

Basically, by using a series of strings a performer dances while wiping away sets of masks on his face, hence the face changing. It truly is something magical to watch as they can switch faces in literally half a second.

For dinner, it was round 2 for the spicy Sichuan foods, this time with a Chengdu favourite: Hot Pot!

Basically, you have two boiling flavoured soups over a open flame, that you place meat  and other items like:

  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Beef
  • Duck
  • Tripe
  • Meatballs
  • Shrimp
  • Dumplings
  • Quails Egg
  • Rice Cakes
  • Bamboo
  • Seaweed
  • Tofu
  • Cabbage
  • Mushrooms
  • Bean Sprouts

The boiling soups cook the food and then you take each piece out individually and dip them in a mixture of sweet oil, chopped peanuts, garlic and cilantro. A fantastic way to socialize over dinner, since it takes quite awhile to eat.

Day 2- Pandas, Pandas, Pandas

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It was time for the #1 thing to do here in Chengdu, visit the Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding .

It was very excited to come back and see all the new pens and enclosures they have for the pandas, since the last time I visited they were still constructing all new buildings. Oh, and of course, to see the pandas again.

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Pandas truly are a remarkable creature. Very picky and awfully stubborn, they are foremost solitary mammals in adulthood and eat a diet of primary bamboo. However, because they have a digestive system of a carnivore they actually get little energy and even less protein from the consumption of bamboo. In regards to mating, their season is between March and May, but they can only reproduce in the time frame of when a female goes into estrus, which lasts for two or three days and only occurs once a year. Oh yes, and males tend to loose their libido in captivity, which makes matters even worse.

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Although I do wish them the very best in their “endeavours” as baby pandas are one of the cutest animals on the planet.

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In the afternoon we stopped by  local park to play the famous Chinese game of Mahjong. It is a four player game which uses tiles and is similar to Rummy and Uno.

The traditional four player game uses 144 rectangular tiles bearing numbers and images. The images represent different suits, and the basic object of the game is to collect similar tiles through picking up and discarding until a player holds a complete set and wins. – [source]

Although it is a slight bit confusing at first, since you need to learn to read Chinese numbers, Mahjong was quite an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon in Chengdu.

Day 3- Temple and More Temples

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It’s time for some architecture and history.

First temple was the Wenshu Monastery, Chengdu’s oldest and largest temple. It also happens to be the best preserved Buddhist temple in Chengdu and is home to the Buddhist Association of the Sichuan Province and Chengdu City.

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It even comes complete with a pagoda. I really like pagodas.

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Last stop on day 3 was to go to the very famous Jinli Street.  Jinli was one of the busiest commercial areas during the Shu Kingdom (221-263 AD) and has since been remodelled on the architectural style of a traditional old town in the western Sichuan Province from the Qing Dynasty.

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One of the best things to do in Jinli is to stroll down food street.  There is literally stall after stall of traditional Sichuan dishes for you to taste, and I just so happen to go at the perfect time: lunchtime! I wanted to try them all, and I was actually quite successful.

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Most were delicious, exciting flavours, but a few… well I could definitely pass on the bean curds and spring rolls.

I also dabbed in a bit of bubble tea;  green milk tea with tapioca pearls, heavenly.

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Parallel to the food alley in Jinli was the Wuhou Shrine,  THE major shrine to Sichuan’ s ancient past as the Shu Kingdom and to the heroes that made it legendary during the Three Kingdoms period (220–280 AD) .

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It always surprises me how much green space there is in Chengdu, since it is a city of over 8 million people. It’s huge, and so are it’s parks.

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I also caught the shrine in the perfect light; the sun was setting on a beautiful, sunny, spring day.

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So I was told Jinli Street was beautiful during the day, and as you can see that is indeed the case. But, when visiting Chengdu I would say no visit is complete without sitting down for a warm, or cold beverage and waiting for the lanterns to light up.

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The reflections are magical and it is undoubtably the best way to finish off a very eventful 72 hours in Chengdu.

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Want to learn more about Chengdu? Check out their facebook page  Visit Chengdu   for more information.