Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Chengdu, Can Do!

I've been intrigued by the Sichuan region of China for a long time.  I've enjoyed Sichuan food since college when a chef who moved from China opened a small restaurant outside Boston and we went in, became his friend, and experienced the great, spicy, tastes of the region.  Now, I'm on my way to Chengdu, capital of the Sichuan province and a small (by Chinese standards) city, with only about 10 million people.  Doing a little research, I find that Chendu, in addition to being a culinary destination and one of the most important commercial/economic areas of western China, is the site of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, a park that also allows visitors to see the pandas (stay tuned).

 Sichuan peppers and panda

I arrive in Chengdu as the sun rises and find my way to the hotel with a little help from strangers. None of the taxi drivers speak English and my pronunciation of the hotel name just brings puzzled looks.  The next person in the taxi line is a young man who speaks English and tells the driver where I am going.  The taxi driver then says that's too close and doesn't want to take me so my new friend gets in the cab and tells me to hop in, he'll drop my on his way.

I immediately head out to walk from my hotel up a Renmin South Road to Tianfu Square in the middle of the city, about an hour walk.  The wide boulevard is impressive and the traffic seems light compared with Shanghai or Beijing.

 Grand boulevards, light traffic

As I walk under an overpass at the 2nd Elevated Ring Road around the city, I see creative use of space, the underpass is decorated and an art mall is located underneath (different use of space than our homeless tents under the freeway back home).

 Decorative intersection

Art mall underneath

Everywhere I see bicycles standing, waiting.  The bicycle rental program in Chengdu (and much of China) is simple:  if you see a bicycle, scan the QR code on the frame with your phone, your account is charged an amount around 1 RMB ($0.14 USD), and the bicycle is unlocked.  When you are done, just leave the bike where your ride ends and it locks itself waiting for the next user.  This also means that there are bikes everywhere, clustered especially near metro and bus stops.

Rent me

About half an hour into the walk, I pass by a large city hospital complex.  The old hospital is preserved, next to the new, modern replacement.

 Old hospital, new hospital

Soon after that, I cross the Jin River and pass through an area of high end shops to reach Tianfu Square, the center of the city.

 River through the center of town, bridge plantings

Tianfu Square contains Chengdu's central subway station and the top of the square features a 30 meter (98 foot) statue of Mao Zedong, with his arm raised, looking out over the square, in front of the Sichuan Science and Technology Museum.  The square was formerly the site of the Imperial Palace, which was torn down during the cultural revolution.

Mao Zedong looking over the square

The square itself is decorated with flowers and fountains and surrounded by museums and other public sites, including the Chengdu Museum, the Sichuan Museum of Science and Technology (behind the Mao Zedong statue), the Sichuan Art Museum, and the Sichuan Library, one of the oldest public libraries in China (established in 1912).

 Inside the park, central subway station in the middle

 Floral plantings



After exploring the square, I head back to the hotel, past the commercial district and the campus of Sichuan University, originally founded in 1740.

 Sichuan University

 But, more interestingly, I pass small parks and people out and about on their daily routines.

Corner park

People hanging out

Everywhere I see signs "Chengdu, Can Do!"  According to China Daily, many government offices have adopted this slogan to say that anything is possible in Chengdu.  Let me keep exploring and find out!

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