Family Travels: Chengdu

Friday, 20 March 2009

Travelers: Americans Tom and Lisa Kunde, and their daughters Cheryl (13) and Audrey (5).

The Plan: Three nights in Chengdu to see the Giant Pandas.

Panda Experience: The Kunde family loved their visit to the Panda Research and Breeding Center. They had been told the Center only allows visitors to touch smaller red pandas, however, after paying an extra fee, they were given some time with a one-year-old panda. Lisa says this was one of the highlights of her life. The Kundes also enjoyed an educational movie about pandas, and there is a very interesting museum onsite (26 Panda Road, 028 8351 0033, http://www.panda.org.cn/). If you want to assure giant panda interaction, travel to the Wolong Panda Research Station, 138km from Chengdu, but expect to pay 1,000RMB per person to hold one – perhaps worth it when you realize there are only around 1,000 pandas left in the world.

Where to learn: The Jinsha Site Museum is well worth a visit, according to the family. Stuffed with recently-discovered archaeological treasures dating back 4,000 years or more, visitors can see the actual archaeological dig as well as a plethora of unearthed items on display. Guides are available to shed light on the fascinating finds in this treasure-trove (80RMB, 2 Jinsha Relics Road, 028 873 0352, www.jinshasitemuseum.com/homee.asp, 8am-6pm daily).

Where to stay: The family recommend the Shangri-La where they enjoyed a beautiful, modern hotel with great service (from 1,098RMB triple-share, 9 Binjiang Dong Road, 028 8888 9999, www.shangri-la.com/en/property/chengdu/shangrila).

Where to hike: The Kunde family loved the hike up Qing Cheng Mountain, past Taoist temples and wonderful views. Dubbed the quietest mountain in the world, the trek features many steps, so younger children may need to be carried. Stop half-way at the restaurant for lunch. A third of the way up the mountain, you can take a ferry across a lake, brimming with fish that sound like babies crying. Cheryl had her fortune told (in Chinese) at one of the temples and found a very special jade amulet (www.qcs.cn/qcenglish).

Where to hotpot: Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province – so what more authentic place to sample hotpot? The family loved a meal at the famous Huang Cheng Lao Ma restaurant where they enjoyed a traditional 'Changing Faces' show. Dishes can be adjusted for heat (14 Shi Sheng Long Jie, 028 8523 1777).

Panda tip: Lisa says the Panda Breeding Center has multilingual guides available, but after hiring one, she soon realized they knew nothing about the giant panda. If you want to learn about these fascinating creatures, be sure to find an English-speaking guide who knows their panda facts.

First published, in part, in beijingkids magazine and on the beijingkids website.

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