After some unfortunate timing with my friend’s visa renewal, I ended up taking a solo trip to Chengdu to see the pandas.
It wasn’t my first time travelling solo across China but it was the first time in a full year that I spent 3 consecutive days without my friends. Initially I thought I’d get lost or be lonely, but it actually opened my eyes to the positives of solo travelling.
Before you travel alone you imagine its going to difficult and stressful, but I found it to be the exact opposite. There were some hiccups and I got lost once of twice but it just made it all the more exciting. Of course I had the benefit of understanding Chinese as I had been living in China for a year at this stage.
The pandas were the highlight of my trip. But an unexpected highlight of my trip was Jinli Street.
A stereotype of China is that all the streets are over-crowded and loud – a full sensory overload. In my experience living in Hefei I found this to be untrue. Of course there are busy areas of the city, but no busier than Oxford Street in December. But in Jinli Street, Chengdu I was able to immerse myself in the stereotype in the bustling alleyways.
It is possible to spend a full day wandering the streets, watching the performers, inspecting the wares, tasting the food or enjoying my favourite hobby, people watching. Just beyond the intricate maze of alleyways is a lake surrounded by cafes and bars. A perfect spot to sit and relax. The tranquillity in the areas is juxtaposed to the craziness over the bridge. As you sip your Harbin beer surrounded by trees, water and traditional looking Chinese buildings, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that outside the Jinli Street walls exists a modern Chinese city brimming with glass skyscrapers.
So, if you’re taking a trip to Chengdu to see the pandas, don’t forget to schedule in a trip to Jinli Street.