Chengdu, China was not on our radar when we started planning our trip. That definitely changed once we read about the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, China. Although many travelers visit Chengdu just to see the giant pandas, the city has a lot more to offer. It is a great place to view traditional Sichuanese opera, taste the spicy Sichuan cuisine and partake in the teahouse culture.
Visiting China Without a Visa
We used the 72 hour visa free rule for Chengdu so our visit was relatively short. Most foreigners (including U.S. citizens) need a visa to visit China, however, Chengdu is one of the few Chinese cities that allow 72 hour visa free entry. With this rule, citizens of certain countries are allowed to enter certain Chinese cities for less than 72 hours if they are traveling by air to a third country. See How to Visit (Parts of) China without a Chinese Visa for more details on requirements for 72 visa free entry.
Day 1 – Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, China is a research and breeding facility dedicated to the preservation of endangered giant pandas. Visitors to the panda base have the opportunity to not only observe numerous pandas (who can resist cute baby pandas!) but actually hold a young panda.
While at the base, we took part in two little-known experiences. First, we participated in a half-day panda keeper experience program where we toured the reserve with a keeper, pitching in with taking care of the pandas. See Our Day as Panda Keepers in Chengdu, China for our experience as volunteer panda keepers.
Following our panda keeper duties, we signed up for an experience that still makes us smile…actually hugging a real live panda!
See Hugging a Panda in Chengdu, China for photos and details on how you too can hug a panda at the Chengdu Panda Base.
In addition to the super cuddly giant pandas, the base is home to red pandas. Interesting fact: giant pandas are part of the bear family but red pandas are related to raccoons.
Park signs warn to keep away from the red pandas as they are somewhat vicious and have bitten visitors. A keeper confirmed this but stated that it only happens if they are provoked. He then encouraged us to take photos next to a sleeping red panda.
The panda base was large and very pleasant to explore. We enjoyed walking as it kept us warm in the chillier-than-expected weather, however, carts are also available to drive you around.
Day 2- More Walking and Jinli Pedestrian Street
After spending our entire first day in Chengdu at the panda base, we decided our second day should be spent exploring the city. We walked to Tianfu Square and then two miles to Jinli Pedestrian Street. Really, it was probably longer than two miles since we took detours (some intentional, some not) along the way.
Although Jinli was quite touristy, it did have numerous places to shop and sample local food.
Overall, Chengdu is a pleasant city worth visiting and the 72 hour visa free policy makes it even easier to do so.
Index: (rest of series)
American Airlines Flagship Lounge – Chicago
American Airlines – First Class – Chicago to Tokyo Narita
Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu
2 Days in Tokyo: Devils and Sumo
Asiana Business Class Lounge – Seoul, Korea
Asiana Airlines – Business Class – Seoul Incheon to Chengdu
Fraser Suites – Chengdu, China
Chengdu, China: Pandas, Pandas and Pandas (this post)
Air China (Star Alliance) First Class Lounge – Chengdu, China
Air China – Business Class – Chengdu to Taipei
Forte Orange Hotel Kaifong (Taipei, Taiwan)
Eva Air Lounge – Taipei Taoyuan
Eva Airlines – Business Class – Taipei Taoyuan to Shanghai Pudong
Marriott Executive Apartments, Shanghai, Tomorrow Square
Dragonair/Cathay Pacific Lounge – Shanghai Pudong
American Airlines – First Class – Shanghai Pudong to Chicago