Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province
Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan and sooner or later you will enter the city. It's a big city, it can be expensive too. Sichuan food is famous in China. Especially the gong bao (rice with spicy chicken and cashew nuts) and Sichuan hotpot.
Giant Panda in Panda Breeding and Research Center
Getting around in the city can be done by bicycle though I would suggest to take taxis or local city busses. Bicycle theft seems to be a serious problem in the city even though bicycles have to be parked in designated areas for a few jiao (10 jiao is Y1).
More and more of the old city is almost vanished for new modern buildings. Just south of the center, you may be able to find some of the older areas where you can the famous hotpot and barbecue.
The capital of Sichuan is also a good place to extend your visa. The PSB (Public Security Bureau) immigration office was extremely helpful both times I was there for an extension.
There's an English speaking staff and the process usually doesn't take more then 1 or 2 days.
The Panda Breeding and Research center is a good place to see pandas. It's just north of the city center and easy to reach by bicycle. Among other nice places to visit is the Du Fu cottage, strangely not visited too much.
Du Fu (also known as Tu Fu) wrote in the High Tang period. He lived from 712 to 770 including 5 years in the city center. His work is very diverse, but his most characteristic poems are autobiographical and historical, recording the effects of war on his own life.
It is said that he wrote more then 240 poems here. Since 1961 the cottage is officially declared "an important national cultural relic" and it is since then on the list of protected areas. The cottage is now a small museum and park. It is located a few kilometers west of the city center and to me, a well worth visit.
The cottage is situated off Xi Yihuan, opening hours: Daily 9:00-17:00.
Another good place in the city center to relax is the Renmin (peoples) Park. There's a great teahouse. Many Chinese come here to enjoy the peace of the park and bring their birds.
It's not recommended to bring your own bicycle to the park as you have to park it outside (bicycle theft seems to be heavy in the city). You can take trolleybus No.4 from the center of town. The park is open from 6.30 in the early morning until very late at night, entrance is Y 2.
The city contains many parks and teahouses. The tradition says the teahouses were ground for heavy intellectual discussion among the people. Nowadays many people play mahjong, cards and Chinese chess.
The first time I visited Sichuan and its capital, it seemed the sun never shines in the city. The winters can be quite grey and cold. Chengdu enjoys a subtropical monsoon climate characterized by an early spring, hot summer, cool (and wet) autumn and warm winter.
The average annual temperature for the year is 16 ºC. The best time to visit is between March and June or between September and November. The hottest season here is during July and August when temperatures can be almost unbearable.
This is also however the rainy season and it is awkward juggling the two types of weather at once!
In summer the heat is wet with a high temperature of 35ºC. and in winter, the average temperature is approximately 5ºC. The humidity is increased by the cities pollution, as in many other big Chinese cities.
Accommodation in Chengdu
Plenty of accommodation available in Chengdu. In the early years of Chinese tourism there were few hotels for travelers available. Times have changed, fortunately. Chengdu is now a metropolis with high standard hotels. Fortunately there are very decent budget options available.
If you are in search for budget hotels and hostels, Sam's Guesthouse was one of the first in town and with a very central location, good tours and great service, still a favorite.
There are several bicycle shops close to the city center. The best is Che Buru Zixing. It is located at Qing Yang District, Dong Cheng Gen Xia Jie Honq Qiang Xiang 56.
The Xinhua bookstore has a small section English books available as provincial maps and city maps. For cycling I recommend the local made Chinese province maps. The city maps are in Chinese but still useful to get out of the city as that is not as easy as coming in.
Chengdu is the main transport hub in the province. It's like the spider in the web. Many major cities in China can be reach from here by either train or flight. For shorter distances, there are busses available leaving from different bus stations. It's possible to bring your bicycle in the planes, busses and trains.
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West of Chengdu
Danba and Barkam are usually skipped by travelers on their way into Tibet. However, it's an easy area to get a good view of the Tibetan culture outside Tibet
Cycling in China visiting tourist sites means collecting entrance tickets. It seem the Chinese do want to give you value for your money. And I admit ... many are very nice:
Map of Sichuan
Going south ...
Usually cyclist use the "Tibetan road", the road to Kangding, Litang and then south to Yunnan. It's a magnificent road as you can read here.
A less traveled road goes from Chengdu to Leshan, Zigong and then south to Junlian (bamboo forest) into Yunnan. Here are two pages about that road from Chengdu to Kunming: