Friday, 6 September 2013

Living life the Chengdu way

I'm safely back home after spending a few weeks basking in the wonderfully warm welcome my wife's family never fail to offer in her home city of Chengdu. Unlike a lot of trips where we've packed the schedule so full of sightseeing there's barely been time to draw breath, this trip was designed to be at a more leisurely pace, meaning lots more time strolling around the city, exploring its shopping areas and a few new historic sites such as Wenshu Monastery and the Sichuan Provincial Museum. Of course, being Chengdu it also meant a fair amount of drinking tea, eating copious amounts of delicious food and brushing up on my mahjong skills too!

mahjong majiang china game

sichuan china food meal

We did manage to slip in a few notable visits though - namely a drive up onto the Tibetan plateau and a day at the ancient dams at nearby Dujiangyan - both things I've wanted to do for a very long time.

No visit to Chengdu would be complete without seeing the city's famous furry black and white residents, so expect some more panda photos for the panda page very soon, as well as posts about my other experiences.

The lengthy travelling involved is always a bugbear when going back to China, especially if, like me, flying isn't exactly your favourite activity. Thankfully more and more airlines are offering international flights directly into Chengdu without having to fly right across China to Beijing or Shanghai only to fly right back across it again. It's about time they realised that Chengdu should be the hub for international flights into western China. Sadly our outward journey turned into something of an unwanted epic. What should have been a journey of 16 hours from Heathrow via Abu Dhabi turned into a 36 hour marathon - the knock on effect of a single earlier flight having a minor technical problem in the UAE.

The delay of our first flight from London led to a 13 hour wait in Abu Dhabi airport, followed by a diversion via Beijing - the flights to Chengdu are only every two days. To cap it all, a cocked-up booking by Air China meant that even the unplanned-for Beijing to Chengdu flight was missed and we had to wait another 3 hours in Beijing. Nightmare! Thankfully the return flight went to plan and 16 hours almost seemed short by comparison...

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