Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Photos from New and Old Chengdu

Across the street from my hostel near the center of Chengdu was a small local restaurant. Tiled floors, white plastic tables and swivel chairs bolted to the floor. As soon as I arrived in the Sichuan capital, I dropped my bags and headed here. I realized that this province in Southwest China was known for its literally mouth-numbing spicy food, so I took pains to point out in the English menu the spice level I wanted for my dumpling soup: "mild."

It took two seconds for me to realize after I took my first sip that I should have ordered "not spicy." I coughed as I felt the Sichuan pepper-infused oils of the soup creep though my mouth, my tongue, and my throat, and then numb them. It was weird, and it was wonderful.

The experience will forever define my first impression of Chengdu. To the Sichuanese, mild means a bold and strong punch in the throat. On that note, let me present a few photos I took in the very short time I transited in the city. The couple of days I was in the bold and strong Sichuan capital was enough to get a taste of both new and old Chengdu.

China: Chengdu
The center of the center of Chengdu, Tianfu Square

China: Chengdu
Tianfu Square is perhaps Chengdu's answer to Shanghai's Waitan, or the Bund. In the evenings, buildings around the square light up to showcase growth in one of the fastest growing cities in China.

China: Chengdu
Tianfu Square has an underground station along Chengdu's first metro line (only two lines open at the time of writing). The station is smack-dab in the center of the square.

China: Chengdu
Even here in Southwest China, 1800 kilometers away from Beijing, Chairman Mao holds sway as he stands guard in front of the Sichuan Science and Technology Museum, north of Tianfu Square.

China: Chengdu
Being one of the fastest growing cities in China, Chengdu is developing fast, with buildings popping up left and right. When I visited, I came across at least five construction sites just around Tianfu Square.

China: Chengdu
The neighborhood around Wenshu Temple, Chengdu's oldest and largest Buddhist monastery, makes up one of Chengdu's old quarter. It is located two metro stops north of the city center.

China: Chengdu
Chengdu's old quarter has been "touristified" with cafes, restaurants, and shops. One good thing about this, however, is cheap street food. Lunch that day was two long skewers of Xinjiang-style lamb kebabs. Score!

China: Chengdu
Though touristy, Chengdu's old quarter near Wenshu Temple still has narrow, quiet streets with traditional architecture. Had weather been better, I would have wandered around here longer.

China: Chengdu
Is it dedication or just the way of life here in Chengdu's old quarter that even on a drizzy winter day, locals choose the bicycle to get around?

China: Chengdu
Chengdu can be gloomy and drizzly for the better part of the year, but it's worth coming here, I promise.

My visit to Chengdu was short, too short. However, Sichuan is one of the 10 Asian destinations on top of my to-do list. So at some point, I have to head back here. And I will.


Which city in China piqued your interest to see more of the country?


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