For the past 7 months or so I have been having the time of my life in the InternChina Qingdao office. I’ve been lucky enough to meet most of the IC team when they visited here in October, and Qingdao’s location means I have been able to visit quite a few places, including Beijing, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai and Suzhou. However when I was offered the opportunity to visit the Chengdu office, how could I say no?
So two weeks ago I headed off for the capital of Sichuan, excited to see what all the fuss was about, but apart from knowing about the pandas, spicy food and the boom of growth I really didn’t know much about Chengdu at all. I obviously spent a lot of my time in Chengdu comparing the city to my beloved Qingdao, although I have to admit that the longer I was in Chengdu the less vocal I was in my defending of Qingdao- sorry Clare!
Qingdao is known for its wonderfully fresh, light seafood and of course, convenient access to Tsingtao Beer. Dongbei cuisine is amazing, and I have grown to love some of the classic dishes such as deep fried aubergine, shredded spicy potatoes and even the simple barbequed bread. Crispy sweet and sour pork, tu dou si and street barbeque have become my go to favourites here in Qingdao, but I was excited about the prospect of mouth- numbing Sichuan spices. I have tried Sichuan food in Qingdao but I knew it would be different, and definitely better, in Chengdu.
I quickly found my favourite dish- twice cooked pork, crispy potatoes and peppers on rice. The Irish in me draws me to every potato based dish within a ten mile radius, so I was ecstatic when Paul (the Chengdu Branch Manager) introduced me to this. I also got to try Chuan Chuan, where we picked skewers of different meat and vegetables which were then cooked together in a pot and served with either dry or oily spices. At 1 kuai per skewer, it was an absolute bargain, and insanely delicious, and the spice was totally manageable!
Lunch time was an ideal chance to compare the food. I’ve always felt spoiled for choice in Qingdao, with 3 food courts, easy delivery from local restaurants and some Western options right beside the office (RIP Pizza Monday). The legendary kebab from Qingdao was never going to find an equal in Chengdu, but the food court in the nearby shopping centre was a more than suitable replacement. There is also an amazing food street right beside the office, so I was able to indulge in Lan Zhou Lao Mian and other local Chengdu dishes to my heart’s content.
Qingdao’s nightlife is laid back and generally quite relaxed, and due to the people of Qingdao enjoying an early night things tend to wind down quite early. In Chengdu however, the people are wide awake and ready for anything well into the early hours of the morning!
Aside from bars and clubs staying open, people in Chengdu seem to enjoy doing everything later. When we went for a run along the river at 10pm I expected it to be pretty peaceful, but we were surrounded by people running, walking their dogs or even just sitting around talking. It wasn’t uncommon to see restaurants full of people well into the early hours of the morning, but the famous relaxed Chengdu vibe never disappeared. Even when I was in my taxi to the airport at 3am the restaurants were full!
Things to Do
I like to think that I’ve managed to cover a lot of what Qingdao has to offer in the 8 months I’ve been here, however I know there’s still plenty I didn’t get the chance to experience (who wants to go to the beach in January after all?)
The weather in Chengdu was a lot warmer than here in Qingdao, so I was able to get out exploring without wanting to run inside again after 5 minutes. The biggest attraction for me was the Chengdu Panda Base (something else ticked off the bucket list!), and it did not disappoint. After an early start to get there for 8am, we were lucky enough to see the pandas being fed and being slightly more active than they usually are- which admittedly wasn’t much, but the red pandas had enough energy between them to make up for their lazier, fatter counterparts.
Over the weekend, we visited the Pujiang Tea Fields, around a two hour bus journey outside of Chengdu. Here we all hopped on some tandem bikes and cycled around the tea fields, before enjoying a very very fresh lunch of rabbit (fresh as in the restaurant killed it around half an hour before we ate) and picking some tea… which none of us were very good at.
In Chengdu I visited the Wenshu Monastery, the Global Centre (aka the world’s widest shopping centre) and a fake “Great Wall” of China in nearby Luodai, and the famous Wide and Narrow Alleys.
If you want to experience everything Chengdu has to offer for yourself, apply now!