Although it's the fifth largest city in China with a population around 11 million, Chengdu probably isn't that well-known to the average foreigner. If you've heard of it, it's probably because of the large panda breeding and research center at the outskirts of town. My hosts, who have been here now for almost two months, are still getting to know the area, so last weekend we set out to explore some areas that were new to all of us.
1. Wenshu Temple, a sprawling Buddhist complex including a monastery and beautiful gardens.
2. Jinli Street, one of several recreated "ancient" pedestrian areas. It's kitschy, with a decidedly Epcot Center-like vibe, but fun for people-watching and sampling street food.
3. The so-called Wide and Narrow Alley, a network of pedestrian streets similar to above. But instead of cheap souvenirs, the businesses here are more of the handicraft shop, restaurant and bar variety.
4 & 5. People's Park. Whereas in other countries a park is somewhere one might go to find peace and solace, or perhaps a bench to sleep on if homeless, here parks are intended for large social gatherings and activities. From dancing to tai chi to karaoke, passing through an urban Chinese park on a weekend epitomizes the colloquial phrase for having a good time, which roughly translates to "hot and noisy" in English. Chinese people also have no qualms about setting up amplifiers and subwoofers within proximity of other groups' amps and subwoofers. Hot and noisy indeed.
Photos will be posted to Flickr asap; the website seems to be blocked by the Great Firewall.