When we go on holiday, we have a bad habit of NOT taking things slowly and getting exhausted part way through the trip – our first day in Chengdu is a prime example of this! We had quite a bit of time in Chengdu, so we could have taken things slowly, but instead we ended up walking all over the city and seeing so much in our first day.
First up was the beautiful Wenshu Monastery, the monastery was just a short walk from our backpackers – when walking there, you passed through quite a few chaotic streets, until you arrived at an “old town” style area where the monastery was located.
The monastery felt so calm and quiet, after the walk there – Rich and I were never really sure what the road rules where in China in terms of crossing the road and who should give way, also the scooters and bicycles seems to have just as much right to the footpath as pedestrians. So heading into a monastery where there were only people, mostly speaking in quiet tones was quite a relief.
The fact that the monastery was also incredibly beautiful also helped to calm the soul as well.
When we were in Chengdu it was autumn, which I think may be my favourite time to travel (last year we went to Korea/Japan in autumn) as the trees look so pretty and it’s still warm enough to just wear a light jacket and scarf. Perfect weather for exploring really!
The monastery also had a tea house and restaurant, so we decided to have a vegan hot pot while we were there. I know this doesn’t look like much, but believe me, it was delicious. When we were in China it was so hard to find any vegan or vegetarian food – so when we did find “real” food we can eat (i.e: not just bread, or street snacks) we kind of went all out.
This photo shows a bit more of the “old town” surrounding the monastery, it was really lovely and there were some nice restaurants, tea houses, bubble tea places and artists in the area. It’s just a really nice place to wander around and take in the atmosphere.
After visiting the monastery and the surrounding area, we decided we also wanted to visit People’s Park that day – but after being in a plane, on a long flight the day before we decided that we really wanted to get some decent exercise so we decided to walk to People’s Park. It turned out to be a LONG walk – with some surprises along the way!!
The first surprise was Chunxi Road, which is a big shopping area – I think we’d both read about this area before we left and Rich found a couple of vegetarian/vegan restaurants in this area – so we would have ended up here at some point.
It was, however, a shock to the system turning up here without having time to mentally prepare what we were walking into! I mean, it’s A LOT – a lot of stores, a lot of street vendors, a lot of people outside stores yelling at you to come in and buy stuff, guys that want you to go somewhere with them so you can buy (probably fake) labelled clothing.
Also all of this chaos was happening on a Tuesday afternoon, hardly high shopping time here in New Zealand, but this is China. I have to admit, despite being to a lot of large Asian cities, this felt a little overwhelming to begin with – bit I did finally begin to adjust to all of the chaos.
We did end up coming to this area quite a few times during our stay in Chengdu, so it wasn’t that scary – but it’s a lot when you’re not ready for it!
Our next stop on our way to the People’s Park, was Tianfu Square – I was actually pretty happy to stop here. It’s a really nice area that I’d seen from the taxi while we were in the taxi from the airport to our backpackers.
I didn’t really get any good photos from the square on our first day in China, but here’s a view from the square – on the other side of the road there was a science and technology museum and a statute of Chairman Mao.
Finally we arrived at the People’s Park and it was BUSY! It looked like there was some kind of flower festival on (probably in it’s last days as some of the flowers were dying), the park was nice enough, but to be honest, I find it weird being in parks with a tonne of other people – that said, it’s really well taken care of and obviously well loved by the locals.
Well that’s it for the first day of our trip – it was A LOT, but on reflection, I don’t think I’d really have it any other way.