Trip to Sichuan over National Day Holiday

Last week, over the October holiday, Robbie and I flew to Sichuan for a week, where we met up with his cousin, Roger and girlfriend Eva who were spending a month backpacking around China. We visited some amazing places and it really reminded me how much fun you can have travelling around this country – something that my Beijing-fueled cynicsm had made me forget. It was also great to finally get to go to Sichuan which I had wanted to visit ever since I first arrived here. There were a lot a pics so I have split them over two photo streams:

  • Part 1 – Sichuan Opera, Pandas, Leshan & Emei Shan (01-04 October 2005)
  • Part 2 – Taoping (Qiang), Shangmeng (Jiarong Tibetan), Chengdu Teahouse (05-07 October 2005)
  • Robbie & Roger and friendsOlly taking a restEva tries out Traditional Tibetan Dress

    We spent the first day in Chendu itself visiting some local temples and parks, taking in a Sichuan opera show (which I slept through the majority of), and investigating the local nightlife – Club Babi – before heading out the following morning and the crack of dawn to visit the Panda Breeding Centre outside the city. This this was the best time of day to see the Panda’s at their most active and we managed to catch them being fed and even saw a very small baby being protected by its mother.

    Robbie, Eva & Roger with Sichuan Opera PerformersPanda Breeding Centre, Chengdu
    Cheeky Monkey on Emei ShanLater that day we left Chengdu and headed south to visit the LeShan Great Buddha, an en enormous Buddha carved into a cliff facing on to the river below. It was crawling with people because of the October holiday but this actually made the experience the more amusing to see these ants crawling all over this huge carved edifice. That evening we headed on to the base of Emei Shan, one of China’s most sacred buddhist mountains. Early the following morning we hopped on the local bus the the drop off point near the summit, hoping for spectacular views out acroos Sichuan. Unfortunately we arrived in thick fog so the views were not to be and we began our descent. We then spend two days trecking along the steep steps carved into the mountain, visiting the monasteries along the way, and avoiding the thieving hands of the monkeys en route. Going was hard work and by the time we returned to Chengdu the following day we were all hobbling and nursing our aching legs.

    Dafo, the Great Buddha, LeChanPavilion on Emei Shan
    After a night of rest and recovery in Chengdu, we headed north on the bus following the river towards Li County, where we planned to spend two days in a tibetan area about 7 hours north of Chengdu. On the way we stopped of in a small village called Taoping which was home to the Quiang ethnic minority. For the first time on the whole trip the weather was spectacular and Roger and I quickly turned into wannabe National Geographic photographers. The people were warm and friendly and thankfully this was a place yet to be discovered by either the Lonely Planet or Rough Guide so it was relatively few of tourists. After several pleasant hours wandering around the town and visiting peoples homes, we headed on for another hour up a valley to the remote tibetan area., recommended to us by the man in the camping shop in Chengdu.

    Qiang WomanTower in Taoping VillageQiang Man
    We then spent two wonderfuldays as the only guests in a tibetan family’s home, exploring the surrounding countryside and village, and getting to know the familly and other villagers, who were utterly charming.

    Liaorong Tibetan WomenLiarong Tibetan Children
    Finally, exhausted, we bussed back to Chengdu on Friday, spending a few hours in a tea house in the park, before taking the flight back to Beijing. All in all it was a fantastic trip but I felt I was only really getting a taste of what Sichuan has to offer, and I am determined to return before leaving China to see more of it.