Chengdu is probably one of the most unrecognised cities in China. Dirty, crowded and lacking architectural splendour, most would overlook it as simply the stopping point on their way to Lhasa.
Chengdu retains the teahouses of old, where tea is not just for drinking, but an aid for whiling away the day, chatting and playing mah jong. Its provincial dish, hot pot, is renowned throughout the country for setting your mouth and heart on fire during dinner. Bustling markets are a way of life. And in this home of the Giant Panda, its image is emblazoned upon every taxi and pedi-cab.
If teahouses and pandas aren’t enough, it is easy to saunter down the fashionable Chun Qi Lu shopping district, find the much-needed fix from home at nearly a dozen different restaurants, and the wee hours of the morning always beckon from the windows of a pub, where you have just spent the last few hours listening to a punk band whose members are from a Chinese village and Stockholm.
There are more layers to this city than just its coal dust.kirstenallen.com