Have a gan­der at a panda

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

HEN plot­ting a Chi­nese adventure it’s Bei­jing, Shang­hai and Xi’an that are the ob­vi­ous citys­tay op­tions. But Chengdu – the cap­i­tal of Sichuan prov­ince that boasts a pop­u­la­tion of 14 mil­lion peo­ple – is a tourist mecca with pan­das, an el­e­gant tea­house cul­ture, tra­di­tional neigh­bour­hoods and lots of spicy food best en­joyed in the lively fam­ily-run restau­rants that line the pedes­trian av­enues.

The des­ti­na­tion, which will en­gage pho­tog­ra­phers and de­light food­ies, en­joys an easy­go­ing rep­u­ta­tion, with a stay in Chengdu pro­vid­ing a re­prieve from the fre­netic pace of China’s big­gest cities.

This cor­ner of China is fa­mous for pan­das, with more than 100,000 vis­i­tors call­ing at the Chengdu Panda Re­search Base (1375 Xiong­mao Ave; panda.org.cn/english) ev­ery year, and lo­cals sug­gest ar­riv­ing early if you’re keen to see a lit­tle ac­tiv­ity with the crea­tures eat­ing in the morn­ing be­fore sleep­ing through the af­ter­noon.

Af­ter stop­ping to see the stars of the show it’s time to ex­plore a city, so start at Wen­shu Tem­ple (66 Wen­shuyuan St) – the city’s largest Bud­dhist sanc­tu­ary ded­i­cated to the Bod­hisattva of Wis­dom – be­fore sur­vey­ing the sur­round­ing neigh­bour­hood’s buzzing streets packed with lo­cal stores, tra­di­tional tea­houses and snack stalls.

Dis­cover arte­facts from the Shu king­dom at the vast Jin­sha Site Mu­seum (2 Jin­sha Site Road; jin­sh­a­site­mu­seum .com/en), see the Wang Jian Tomb (10 Yongling Rd), which is the only above-ground crypt ex­ca­vated in China, and stroll through Peo­ple’s Park, which is busy with ac­tiv­ity on the week­end.

Jinli Street, 350m from Wuhu Tem­ple (321 Wuhou Tem­ple Rd), is a pedes­trian precinct re­stored to look like a quaint dy­nasty-era en­clave with lots of tra­di­tional ar­chi­tec­ture and stalls to sam­ple Sichuan street food.

China’s city of Chengdu is a tourist haven filled with pan­das, spicy hot­pots and even the an­cient art of handweav­ing, writes Sarah Ni­chol­son.

The Ritz-Carl­ton Chengdu (269 Shuncheng Ave; ritzcarl­ton.com) opened in 2013, the Nic­colo by Marco Polo (Hongx­ing Rd; mar­copolo ho­tels.com/nic­colo) is set to be un­veiled at the end of this month, and whis­pers sug­gest the Fair­mont Chengdu (Tianfu Ave; fair­mont.com) will wel­come its first guests later this year.

The Tem­ple House (81 Bi­tieshi St; thetem­ple­house ho­tel.com/en) – a sis­ter prop­erty to Op­po­site House in Bei­jing and Hong Kong’s Up­per House – is near­ing com­ple­tion, with gue­strooms flank­ing a her­itage Qing Dy­nasty struc­ture near the city’s Daci Tem­ple., while the Six Senses Qing Cheng Moun­tain (2 Dong Ruan Rd, Qingcheng Moun­tain Town; sixsenses.com) opens next month and the Banyan Tree Chongqing Beibei (101 Hot Spring Rd, Chengjiang; banyantree.com) is a new spa re­sort with ev­ery suite boasting a pri­vate hot-spring pool.

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