Chengdu of Sichuan Province is one of China’s most famous cities and travel destinations. There are many iconic spots in urban Chengdu: Chunxi Road, Tianfu Square, Sanxingdui Relics, among many others. However, there are two places that are heard worldwide as must-go destinations to this southwestern city: Kuaizhai Alleys and Jinli Street. While there is argument about which one tops others, these places actually provide many similar experiences that are worth a try.
- Sichuan Opera Houses
For your information, Kuaizhai Alleys are actually three alleys: the Kuan (Wide) Alley, the Zhai (Narrow) Alley and the Jing (Water well) Alley. There were built on three very old alleys and made into a major tourism attraction for leisure, romance, culture and arts as well as business. On the other hand, Jinli Street is built also on a historical site, but restored more of the ancient appearance of it, and presents mostly traditional arts, from opera to snacks. Both sites emphasize a lot on traditional cultures, especially the famous Sichuan Opera. In both Kuaizhai Alleys and Jinli Street, you can find grand opera houses that host shows restlessly. Pieces of state-of-the-art works ignited by the amazing face-changing tricks entertain tourists year and year around. You won’t be disappointed by going into any one of these houses at reasonable prices. Recommended are Xilaishu Yunyuan Opera House in the Alleys and Jieyilou Opera House & Restaurant in Jinli.
- Eat Around
Many say the true purpose of a trip to Chengdu is eating. No doubt, this is a city of endless forms of food: from simple Mapo Tofu to rich hot pot, anyone can find his own favorite. In Kuaizhai Alleys, you can see a street of snacks. Bundles of sticks of foods like shrimps, squids and guts, noodles served in shiny red pepper oil, creepy yet crispy rabbit heads…all washed into your entertained belly with a bowl of hot tea. Similarly, Jinli also offers numerous stalls of delicacies. Do have a try of those tofus with chilies on a hot oil plate: you can never expect something with so complicated texture and taste but mixed so well together in a single cube of bean product. Teahouses in both sites are also a good choice to enjoy an amiable afternoon. When night falls, walk into one of those neon-ignited bars, or just the impressively featured Starbucks to meet with life enjoyers from China and abroad.
- Music and other amusement
Unlike any parks, the Alleys or the Street possess no vast open air to host concerts, but it doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy music there. With bars open all-day, you can just push open a door and find singers of various levels of fame on the stage: singers just arrived from a nearby music academy, singers with internet-viral songs, and singers competed in TV shows nationwide. Chengdu is home to many famous folk musicians, and Kuanzhai Alleys are an important cradle for them. Tourists come to bars not just for a shot of good spirit. They video-shoot a clip of bar music performance, post it online and wait for it to go viral. Every night a star is born. Every night a dream comes true.
In Jinli Street, it is a little different, a little less romantic. Jinli is a stage for traditional performing arts. You can see from its gigantic opera stage that is frequently fulfilled by local Sichuan Opera artists. With their own orchestra, they sing traditional masterpieces day and night. Under this high arch, arts prosper in more forms: Shuoshu arts (monologue store-telling arts, performed by professionals in gowns), square-dance (crew dance performed and enjoyed by aged people in uniforms), and still copper men shows (men dressed and painted in copper). Your way of entertainment will find you anyhow.
- Ear-picking in Traditional Way
You know it is a private thing, cleaning your own ears. However, in Chengdu, it is also a way of physical enjoyment like a massage or a spa. Middle-aged men specialists, dressed in traditional Chinese jackets, will greet you in both the Alleys and Jinli, and invite you to their cozy wooden chairs. As you sit down, they will begin sanitizing your ears, then use their super-long metal ear-pick spoon to reach the inside of your ears in every conceivable angle. Their skills are so sophisticated you won’t feel anything alien; instead, you will find your ears well taken care of, and your nerve eased. Ear-picking is an enjoyment adored by locals in Chengdu.
- Postcards to your friends
Sending postcards is a good way to share memories with friends and family. Chengdu offers some of the best postcards in the world. Giant pandas are a most favorite topic. Other popular topics include Chengdu scenery, skyscrapers, local delicacies, and Sichuan Opera. Both sites are deployed with panda postboxes. You can write your best wishes to your family and friends, and send them with local postmarks.