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Sichuan is known mostly to the West for its spicy cuisine, her shy, gentle pandas and its skilful and comic 'mask-changing' opera. However this, 'the land of abundance', is not only a rich agricultural region but also home to some of China's precious ancient wonders as well as charming villages, sacred mountains and scenic spots of rare diversity and beauty.
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Chengdu, Panda Research Centre, Leshan Giant Buddha, Mount Emei, Dujiangyan, Maoxian, Huanglong, Jiuzhaigou, Chengdu
Depart London Heathrow on the non-stop British Airways flight to Chengdu departing at around 1630.
Visit the People’s Park. This is a busy square popular for tea houses and is home to one of the last statues of Mao. Head further into the city and stop to explore the thriving areas of Wide Alley & Narrow Alley. These are two rows of traditional courtyard buildings that have been saved and turned into hotels, restaurants and shops. Stay at the Tibet Hotel for 2 nights.
See the world’s beloved Giant Pandas at the Panda Research Centre. Afternoon visit to the beautifully carved and painted Wenshu Monastery founded in the 6th century during the Tang dynasty and renowned for its many precious works of art and hundreds of Buddhist statues. Nearby is China’s tallest cast iron pagoda with bells all the way up, a tranquil garden and atmospheric tea house. Continue to Jinli and the Tibetan Quarter before a visit to the Shu Brocade and Embroidery Museum. (B)
Drive to Leshan and visit the 8th century 234ft high Buddha in the Lingyun Temple hewn from the mountainside that guards the boatmen on the treacherous rivers below. Take a boat journey for around 20 minutes along the river at the foot of the Buddha. Continue to Emeishan, 35km away and the 4-star Century Sunshine Hotel for two nights. (BL)
Early morning rise to take a cable car to visit the summit of Mt Emei. Towering in the Southwest of the Chengdu Plain, Mt Emei has been considered holy by both Daoists and Buddhists since the Eastern Han dynasty and it was here that Buddhism first gained ground and spread through China. Around 20 temples dot the slopes, sometimes hidden amongst an amazing variety of trees and shrubs. At the summit (3,079 m) is the opulent Golden Temple where sunrise, cloud seas and other atmospheric phenomena are admired. Return down the mountain to your hotel (B)
Return to Chengdu pausing en-route at the traditional village of Huanglonxi, a rustic riverside village where you can see half a dozen Qing Dynasty narrow flag-stoned streets with their rickety wooden shops. Once an important market town it is now busy with visitors. Along the main street you can visit the Gulong Temple before taking some tea in one of the many teahouses. Return to the Tibet Hotel for an overnight stay. (B)
Depart for Mount Qingcheng, stopping en-route to visit the ingenious Dujiangyan irrigation system, built in 256 BC to bring water to an otherwise dry plain and control regular flooding. Nowadays it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered to be ‘Sichuan’s treasure’ by the Chinese. Continue east to the beautiful and evergreen Mount Qingcheng dubbed “the most peaceful and secluded mountain under the heavens”. Enjoy a shared cruise on the scenic Yuecheng Hu (Moon City Lake) and ascend by cable car to see the 4th century Shangqing Gong Temple and Laojin Pavilion. Drive (approx. 2 hours) through countryside to Maoxian and overnight at the 3-star Maoxian International Hotel or Guibinlou Hotel (best available). (BL)
Visit the Munigou Scenic Area, belonging to the western part of Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area and listed as a World Natural Heritage site. Drive to the Tibetan town of Songpan which stands at 2200m on the plateau. Once a Qing-era garrison town protecting a mountain pass with stone walls, gateways and a bridge across the Min River. Tibetan and Qiang villagers visit the town to buy supplies, shops are stocked with handmade woven blankets, jackets, ornate knives and jewellery – amber, silver and coral. You can climb the wall in some places for views over the town. Drive the final distance to Huanglong and stay for two nights at the Seercuo International Hotel (BLD).
Today is dependent on the weather. If it is fine cross the 4000m Xuebaoding pass to reach an area of alpine habitat. The road parallels the flanks of the 5000m Xuebaoding massif and with good weather the views could be excellent. If the weather is not hospitable to this high country then instead travel east to visit the forest habitat of the Dan Yun Xia Valley. (BLD)
Travel approx 2 hours to Jiuzhaigou, (around 90km). The name means ‘valley of the nine Tibetan villages' which sit amidst colourful lakes, dozens of waterfalls, snow-capped mountains and forests. According to legend, a Tibetan goddess shattered her mirror into a hundred pieces which were transformed into the lakes. Check-in to the Intercontinental Resort for 2 nights. The hotel is within Zhangzha Town which is at an altitude of 2000m. Depart for the park entrance then switch to a shared sightseeing coach (private vehicles are not permitted in this scenic area), which stops at various ‘scenic spots’ within the park. (BLD)
Full day sightseeing at Jiuzhaigou Valley. Farewell dinner in the evening. (BLD)
Fly to Chengdu and transfer to the M-Chengdu Hotel for a final night. (BL)
Homeward British Airways flight to London Heathrow departing at around 1245, arriving later the same day. (B)
The Tibet hotel has a selection of 300 guest rooms with modern comforts and conveniences. There are 2 restaurants providing both Chinese and Western cuisine, and a bar. There is also a beauty salon, fitness room, massage room and sauna.
The Century Sunshine Hotel is near to the centre of the town and within easy driving distance of Mount Emei. There is an outdoor swimming pool , sauna, and a restaurant serving Chinese cuisine. The guest rooms are comfortable with modern amenities.
This Jiuzhai hotel is an intimate upcountry retreat nestled high in the mountains, featuring design reminiscent of an ancient city protected under a glass atrium. With over 1,020 rooms, this hotel is the largest in the region and perfect for leisure travellers seeking comfort and relaxation. Feed your body, mind and soul at this oriental paradise with five restaurants offering Sichuan, Tibetan, Qiang and International cuisine, and the peaceful Tonayu Spa, with its two stunning pools. The guest rooms are well-appointed and are decorated with local Tibetan style and equipped with full modern appliances and a balcony.
The M Hotel Chengdu combines modern elegance with contemporary comforts. The guest rooms are modern, spacious and comfortable, all with flat screen TV, in-room safe, and a sofa. There is a fitness centre, and the M-Café – an all-day dining restaurant that serves traditional Southeast Asian cuisine such as Bak Kut Teh, Singapore Peranakan Laksa and other Peranakan dishes.
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