Recently I visited the amazing city of Chengdu in Sichuan province. Some people who know me and others who have read earlier blog posts may know that before getting a job offer, China had never really been one of the places that I ever imagined going. As soon as I heard about the opportunity to teach here though I started reading up on all the different places I could visit.
Through this research one place stood out; Leshan, the Giant Buddha carved into a mountain. This was easily top of my bucket list and the close by city of Chengdu seemed an appealing place to stay. On top of that, once I got to Fuzhou one of my workmates told me all about how Chengdu has been her favourite place in China.
In China it can be really difficult to find vegan food for two reasons. Firstly, the language barrier. If you don’t speak the language communicating to waitstaff that your don’t eat meat is extremely difficult. Secondly, meat is seen as a sign of money and therefore a status symbol in China. Logic suggests that if you have money you want meat. As China’s economy grows meat becomes more common and sort of seen as a dietary requirement.
One of the first things I do when I travel is to check out Happy Cow. I find this is a good way to see if I am going to be able to find food easily. I found many options on this app including one place called Vegan and another called Veganheart Vegan. What was even more exciting was the majority of them were buffets. Not only could I get vegan food easily but I would definitely be able to fill my belly.
The other food related reason I was excited for Chengdu was that it is located in Sichuan province. A place well known for being spicy and in particular hot pot. One of the vegan restaurants I found (Yusuge Garden) offered a vegan buffet/hotpot where if you chose the hotpot they also gave your free access to the buffet. All for 28RMB!
Leshan (Giant Buddha)
As mentioned above Leshan was one of the few places I have been wanting to see in China and it lived up to expectation. There are not many places I would go where standing in line for over 2 and a half hours, only to slowly progress through a sea of people to the bottom of a mountain, but Leshan was worth it.
Don’t be mistaken! Leshan is not just about the Giant Buddha but there are many beautiful and fascinating places in and around the park that are breathtaking.Places such as the little fishing village selling souvenirs and the temple at the top of the mountain.
Like with many cities in China there are are some impressive temples/monasteries in Chengdu. The main monastery to visit is called Wenshu Yuan Monastery. This was absolutely stunning. The gardens made you feel at peace and gave a sense of belonging. It was a nice quiet place to sit and relax for a few hours.
What excites me most about going to monasteries is that often they have a vegan restaurant. However, when I got to Wenshu, looking at the beauty of the place it was difficult to leave.
This reason might not be as big a deal to people who haven’t spent much time in certain parts of China. It is acceptable behaviour to spit in the middle of the street. However, in Chengdu there are ad campaigns to reduce this behaviour in order to keep the city clean. This was a nice change of pace from what is common in Fuzhou.
Additionally, there also seems to be less trash on the streets and there is much less noise pollution from all the cars honking and beeping at everyone.
The amount of people
I am putting this in my list more as a novelty than anything else. Being constantly surrounded by so many people would drive me crazy. The population of Chengdu is staggering. Not to mention the amount of tourists everywhere. It is impressive though to see all these people in one place functioning peacefully instead of complete mayhem.
To give you an idea of the amount of people there are in any place imagine Times Square (if you’ve never been, what you have grasped from movies etc. is ok) is really just a small town like Adelaide. In this scenario Chengdu would be Times Square on steroids and then turned China. It is mind-blowing!
Though you can’t rely on the idea that there will be someone who speaks English anywhere in China, Chengdu is a tourist focused city. This means that people are fairly used to dealing with foreigners and can often speak at least a little English. Having someone who can speak your language is a big comfort when traveling in a foreign country especially on your own.
There are many more reasons to visit Chengdu but if I wrote about them all I would never stop writing. Basically, what you need to know is that it is well worth a visit. With so much beauty and culture it is a great way for a foreigner to experience China.
If you would like to see more pictures from my time in Chengdu, please check out my Instagram. Or check out my latest post on the York website..