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Travel around Chengdu in 36 hours – part 2

6. Tea and a Show | 2 p.m.

6. 茶室表演 | 下午2点


With its
earsplitting falsettos and crashing percussion instruments, Chinese
opera is not for everyone. But for a taste of one of Chengdu’s most
famous and enduring art forms — without the commitment of a pricey,
hours-long performance at a theater — drop in to Yuelai Teahouse to
watch for a bit in a more informal setting. Once a week, troupes from
the Chengdu Sichuan Opera Theater perform on the small, lantern-lined
stage at the century-old teahouse, one of the oldest in Chengdu, for a
tea-sipping crowd of retirees (a ticket, with tea, is just 20 renminbi).
There are no English subtitles, but the elaborate costumes and
acrobatic, sleeve-twirling dancing can be entertaining enough without
our necessarily following the plot.


7. Taste of Tibet | 4 p.m.

7. 体验西藏 | 下午4点


Known as Little
Lhasa, Chengdu’s colorful Tibetan quarter is as close as one can get to
Tibet without traveling to the remote Sichuan countryside or crossing
the border to Tibet itself. Wander down Wuhouci Heng Jie, directly
opposite Wuhou Temple, and take in the sights: monks wrapped in maroon
robes counting beads behind their backs, vendors selling yak butter on
the street, and shop after shop of Tibetan Buddhist religious icons,
prayer flags and wheels, tapestries, incense, wildly patterned leather
boots, and beads of every hue, size and price. Don’t pay the asking
price in any shop; bargaining is a must.


8. Searing Stew | 7 p.m.

8. 沸腾的汤锅 | 晚上7点


The quintessential
Chengdu dining experience is crowding around a furiously boiling pot of
broth and dunking in every manner of sliced meat, balled seafood and
leafy greens while throwing back copious bottles of Snow beer. While
there are hot pot restaurants on practically every corner, Lao Ma Tou is
one of Chengdu’s most famous, as much for the noisy, convivial
atmosphere as for the throat-burning spiciness of the hot pots. (The
pots can be divided into spicy and nonspicy broths for those wary of too
much heat; prices start at 78 renminbi for broth, other ingredients
vary by plate.) Servers in crisp white shirts prepare the dipping sauce —
sesame oil mixed with garlic, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and a little
MSG — and supervise the cooking process for hot pot neophytes.


9. A Little Night Music | 9 p.m.

9. 一点晚间音乐 | 晚上9点


When it comes to
live music, few Chinese cities are as rocking as Chengdu. The pioneer of
the local scene is Little Bar, which opened nearly 20 years ago and
became a hub for the city’s underground artists and musicians. (The
longtime owner, Tang Lei, is known by regulars as Sister Tang.) These
days, the bar has a second, larger location (New Little Bar) with
Belgian beers on the menu and a rotating schedule of national touring
acts and local indie musicians. The crowd skews young — bespectacled
20-somethings with ripped jeans and Converse shoes who raise cellphones
overhead during shows instead of lighters.




10. Panda Overload | 7:30 a.m.

10. 熊猫出没 | 早上7点半


After coming all
this way to see the pandas, a visit to the Chengdu Research Base of
Giant Panda Breeding requires a little strategizing to maximize alone
time with the cuddly bears (more than 135 in all). Skip the hotel
breakfast to be there for the 7:30 a.m. opening when the park is silent
and the cubs in the Sunshine Nursery are just waking up (admission, 58
renminbi). Feeding time for the adolescent giant pandas happens next at
the adjacent open-air enclosure — this is when the pandas are most
active, stripping stalks of bamboo, lying back and eating their weight
in leaves. After the 8:30 a.m. tour buses roll in, escape the crowds for
a leisurely stroll through the beautifully manicured grounds to see the
red panda enclosure. By midmorning, the pandas are ready for their
siesta and the show’s over. Just another lazy day in mellow Chengdu.



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