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In the footsteps of pandas and poets

By Lee Hannon | China Daily | Updated: 2013-02-25 09:54


In the footsteps of pandas and poets

Local food is a major attraction in Chengdu.

Other great sites include the Temple of Marquis Wu with a shrine dedicated to Zhuge Liang of Three Kingdoms (AD 220-280) period. It is the only temple in China where both the king and his subjects are enshrined.

If you have a little more time, go see the Leshan Giant Buddha, located just over one hour from the city. It's the world's largest stone-carved image of Maitreya Buddha at 71 meters tall.

Work began in the year 713. It was built in the hope that its presence would calm the turbulent and dangerous waters of the passing rivers.

Emei Mountain is just 28 kilometers from Leshan and home to one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains of China.

But no trip to Sichuan would be complete without seeing a giant panda.

In the footsteps of pandas and poets

If you go

The region has long been known for having the largest number of pandas in the world. While it is rare to catch sight of them in their natural habitat, the Chengdu Panda Base houses some 60 giant pandas and is a research center dedicated to the breeding and conservation of the endangered species.

Wenshu Temple, Wangjianglou Park and Qingyang Palace are also major draws for visitors as is a trip to the home of Chuan Opera - one of China's oldest and most popular arts with magic face-changing.

But if you're looking for a quick change of face, you can now travel by high-speed rail between Chengdu and its rival city of Chongqing, which is now one of the four municipalities in China, in around 2 hours for 92 yuan. And the difference is truly a tale of two cities.

In the footsteps of pandas and poets

An enormous statue of late Chairman Mao Zedong looks over Tianfu Square.

Chongqing is called also Mountain City. It was once, and may still be, the fastest growing metropolis on the planet.

The streets of the city seem to zigzag everywhere with stone stairs leading to modern shopping malls in a city that looks and feels prosperous, rich in history and adorned by skyscrapers in every direction.

Cranes and scaffolding dot the skyline as far as the eye can see, as do rows of newly completed apartment buildings that overlook the small boats and cruise ships ferrying tourists along the Jialing and Yangtze rivers.

Cargo vessels carrying coal, building materials and raw minerals once provided the majority of traffic plying the river. Now, the most important inland port in China is the final stop for many luxury cruise ships.

There has always been a healthy inter-city rivalry running between Chengdu and Chongqing, not least over which has the best hotpot.

The other crown that is also long been contested is which of the two cities boasts the best-looking people in China. Both cities clearly have beauty, but as it is always in the eye of the beholder, take a trip and decide for yourself.

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