What else is there to do in Chengdu?

Once we arrived back in the city it was still quite early and as we had not eaten all day we decided to venture out again into the big city. First stop was the brand new shopping mall near our hotel just to have a look really. Once inside we explored the 7 shiny new floors of this place only to find that the majority of the shops were actually empty. It did, however, have a cinema, a handful of restaurants, a fitness centre and even a big ice skating rink.
On the ground floor there were more shops and we had a mooch around Muji and then C&A. Joyce was very excited to see that the latter’s brand name ‘Clockhouse’ was still in use. Once we’d had enough of this we found Pacific Coast Coffee house which looked just like a Starbucks and decided to go in (yes- there are plenty of the real Starbucks but not seen a Costa yet).By now I was starting to have serious Carb withdrawal symptoms and so indulged in a good cappuccino and slice of walnut and caramel cake. We also enjoyed a bit of an Internet interlude as this seemed to be very much what all the other young people were doing.
Right, now we’d eaten it was time to find somewhere to have dinner! We were walking down a really busy street and we soon realised that there must be something going on at the stadium..a concert or something. The only restaurants we could find were fast food places and we didn’t fancy those much. We were just about to give up and entertain having dinner in the Holiday Inn’s sterile restaurant, when we stumbled across a very lively side street with lots of tables outside packed with young diners. One particular place was REALLY loud and buzzing and we poked our noses in and realised it was one of the local specialty ‘Hotpot’ restaurants. Ah now this was the place for us so in we went.
This Sichuan speciality is not like your Lancashire Hotpot back home (Mike, you are right…and we’d already tried this before your recommended it!) and guess what? There were absolutely no other Westerners in here. Luckily, they had a nice young man to serve us who spoke some English and he explained what we had to do.
Basically, here you all sit around a wooden table which has a gas ring sunk into the middle of it. This is used to heat a very large metal pot of water which has an inner part full of dirty hot water and an outer part which is full of oil containing hundreds of chillies and Sichuan peppercorns. Next you fill a small bowl with a can of sesame oil , some chopped coriander and some salt and what looked like Parmesan cheese but presumably it wasn’t (Jane says it was garlic). Then the nice boy makes suggestions of things off the menu that you’d like to cook in the Hotpot. We chose mushrooms, beef, pork, potatoes and tofu strips. Whilst this all cooked we ate some of the side snacks such as quails eggs and some little fried bits which were a bit of a mystery but tasted very good. At one point a very drunk man came up and shouted ‘Hallo!’ and then rambled on a bit in Chinese before leaving with his mates who all pointed at our fried snacks and tittered. Now what did that mean do you think? Best not to ask….
Once cooked you then dip the bits in the marinade bowl you’ve made and scoff them. What was it like then I hear you ask? Well…….it was ok actually. I don’t think I’ve converted to Tofu just yet and all the other bits that went in the hot oil part tasted very hot and dry. The bits cooked in the less spicy middle part tasted rather bland in comparison. All of this was washed down with beer and in Jane’s case a very, very large glass stein of beer! Joyce hardly ate anything that night and says she really did not enjoy it.
Ah well..the next day we had our final day in Chengdu or in fact we had another long drive to see the Lashan or ‘Da Fu’ Buddha which is the worlds tallest sitting Buddha at 71 metres. We had a 20 mins boat trip with lots of Health and Safety issues to see this and it was pretty impressive carved out of the rocks. Then we had a walk up the worryingly named ‘small mountain’ to get to the top of the Buddhas head. It was by now very hot and sweaty so you can imagine how impressed we were when we heard that there was a queue of 1.5 hours to climb down the steps to the Buddhas feet. It was ridiculously crowded with tourists all of whom were Chinese except us!
Much to Elena’s relief, I think, we said we couldn’t be bothered to wait and instead would visit the Buddhist temple. Here it was the normal incense and oil burning madness.
That night we returned to Chengdu for our last night. We followed Elena’s advice and visited a part of the city called ‘Narrow and Broad Alley’. This was a really lovely pedestrianised area full of little shops, bars and smart places to eat. We found a French Patisserie and stood ogling the beautiful cakes in the window when the French chef came out and started describing them all to us. Well of course we couldn’t resist this and so we each ordered one of them and then sat at a table outside eating our chosen one with tea and coffee. I chose the Blue Plum tart which was slightly warmed and possibly the best thing I have ever tasted. Or was I just having one of those Carb moments again?
Once again, after pudding we the got a taxi across town to tonight’s chosen restaurant which was a very popular spot with a long queue outside. After a 30 mins wait we got in and it was a very poor experience indeed. Of course they didn’t speak English and had nothing on the menu in English. Luckily Elena had prepared us a new list of dishes we could try and so we showed this to the waitress. She seemed very unhappy in her work. There was a lot of shouting and tutting in this restaurant which I always think adds to the ambience.
When the food came it was also some of the worst we have eaten although some of it never did actually arrive, which was a blessing really as the portions were huge! What was the attraction of this popular place then? When the bill arrived it became clear as we paid just £10 to feed four of us including 3 very large local beers.
So there you have it. There’s plenty to do in Chengdu.













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5 thoughts on “What else is there to do in Chengdu?

  1. Amanda

    Beautiful pictures. Hope Joyce caught up on the eating front! I’m a bit concerned about Jane’s lager intake too – not sure she’s getting enough………

    • Thanks Amanda. All Jane’s good work on the photo front. We are in Guilin now and I have had a night off as I have not been very well today. Think I will be ok tomorrow for our boat trip. Jane is indeed loving the ‘local beer’!! Xx

  2. Mike

    On your return make sure u watch a BBC programme on iplayer called Sacred Rivers – you’ll find the episode on the Yangtze particularly interesting. Glad u enjoyed your hotpot.

    • Ok Mike will do. The Hotpot experience was really fun. I don’t think any of us were convinced by the food but the atmosphere was brilliant. Hope all is well your end. I have found the photo of Sian with the famous Chinese popstar as I remembered this when we were in Chengdu. I am going to show it to our guide here in Guilin tomorrow and see if she knows him!! Xx

      • Mike

        yeah, maybe you should have taken your guide to dinner so she could help you choose ingredients etc. Otherwise, you’re pretty much the cook and what do you know about hotpots (other than you prefer the Lancashire version)

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