Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province, located on the western side of the Red Basin, China's rice basket. The city has existed since the fourth century, and sometimes it feels as though the laidback locals love nothing better than to hang out at one of their favourite tea houses, sipping on a steamy brew in much the same manner as their ancestors have for generations.
The city is home to the usual Chinese high-rise buildings and residential blocks, but a sprinkling of flourishing parks injects a colourful cheer to the proceedings. These are lined with long-established teahouses, some of which are over a thousand years old. From jasmine to exquisite green teas produced in the nearby hills, Chengdu has long created liquid inspiration for writers and travellers passing through.
Chengdu may be the gateway to the wider Sichuan region, but before heading on you should immerse yourself in the city's many cultural activities, The Chengdu and Sichuan Art Museums are packed with relics and art, both old and new. Visit the Jinsha site and learn about a major archaeological discovery made in 2001, while browsing thousands of unearthed treasures.
If you fancy cooing over adorable giant pandas, Chengdu's Giant Breeding and Research Base, on the outskirts of the city, is a firm favourite. Early morning marks the best time to pay a visit. You'll find the pandas happily munching away at their bamboo breakfast and rolling around playing with each other in a carefully constructed environment, designed to mimic their own natural habitat.
For those who like to spice up their life, there's nowhere better to try the famously fiery Sichuan cuisine than in the capital. The regional culinary style is famously busy with the chilli but beware, even pro chilli fiends should proceed with caution when trying Sichuan sizzling and spicy hot pots and stir fries. You have been warned, and we can recommend the best restaurants in town in which to test those taste buds.
If you're one for post dinner activities, this buzzing city has plenty to keep your evenings occupied. Witness the psychedelic mask changes in a traditional Sichuan opera, or head to one of many modern bars and clubs in the city - enjoying Chengdu after dark is a telling insight into local life.