Located in western China and the capital of the Sichuan province, Chengdu has a population of 14- million people and it is the fifth largest city in China.
Home to the giant panda, Chengdu is most well-known for having a huge research base dedicated to the survival of these rare animals. Amazingly, about 80% of the worlds 1500 remaining giant panda’s are located in the Sichuan province!
The Chengdu Panda Base, which is open to the public, is a research and breeding centre that intends to increase the staggeringly low panda numbers.
The Research Base started with 6 giant panda’s and it currently has a captive population of 83. In 2012, six panda’s were released into a nearby semi-wild environment. This was seen as a huge success and a positive development for future panda numbers in the area.
Although the centre appears rather zoo-like in places, there are areas where panda’s can roam free in a semi-natural environment without a steady stream of visitors.
Although, they seem to be rather content just sitting around, eating bamboo..
*The giant panda diet consists of 99% bamboo and these animals can get up to 160 kg in size! Due to their struggle to digest bamboo – and the lack of energy or protein created from it, panda’s are required to eat 20-30 lbs of bamboo per day!
*That’s a lot of eating!
The centre has tried to introduce other types of food like fruit, honey, eggs, fish and yams to the panda’s diet but they tend to only stick to the bamboo.
Above is a red panda. Barely bigger than a house cat, the red panda was initially named ‘panda’ before the white and black one’s were discovered. They look like a mixture of a little bear, fox and raccoon!
Also endangered, the red panda numbers aren’t as bleak as the giant panda’s, as there are about 10,000 in the world today. There are a few roaming around the Research Centre but the red panda seems to prefer hiding up in trees instead of being out in the open.
Located about 10-15 minutes from downtown Chengdu and only costing 60 Yuan (about $10 cdn), the Research Base is very accessible and affordable. I’d recommend going early in the day to see them at their most active state and give yourself 2 or 3 hours to see the entire facility!
Besides the Panda Research Centre, there are a few other cool things to check out in Chengdu.
The Wenshu Monastery is the best preserved Buddhist monastery in Chengdu.
Built in the 700’s, this monastery is one of the more peaceful ‘tourist sites’ you’ll ever find.
Everyone is just sitting, praying and/or offering incense. A really nice place!
If you’re looking for a more urban/commercial district, head to Jinli. This area is full of teahouses, artisan shops, restaurants, bars and local vendors.
The Chengdu region is apparently really fond of eating rabbit head so I regrettably figured that I should try this local delicacy.
Not great….. but I’m somewhat more ok with my choice after seeing what this girl was about to devour!
Overall, I found Chengdu to be far more laid-back than other Chinese cities I visited. In fact, a local told me that people refer to Chengdu as ‘Changsterdam’ alluding to it’s relaxed vibe.
Despite having a population of 14-million, Chengdu has enough areas with green space to make it seem like you’re in a smaller city. Unfortunately, I only spent two-and-a-half days here and I’d recommend giving yourself at least four in order to get a proper grasp of the city.
And hey, Chengdu is home to the biggest mall in the world – so don’t miss out on the indoor beach and water park like I did ; ) !