Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Travelling with AirAsiaX to Chengdu China

When the wanderlust bug in my stomach starts to get cranky, there is no point avoiding it. I will be down with depression, lack of appetite, lack of interest in everything. To those who know me, they will quickly get me the mouse. The cure is to get to my hero airline- AirAsia! *with tadaa sound* AirAsia offers 12 destinations in China from Kuala Lumpur. Which part of the republic? This time, to the land of adorable giants, Chengdu!
When the wanderlust bug in my stomach starts to get cranky
The cure is to hop on an AirAsia flight
Quiet Zone in AirAsiaX

There are certain things that I would like to keep to myself but that would be called selfish. So, I will reveal my new flying approach- I flew to Chengdu via AirAsiaX Quiet Zone. This zone is right after the Premium Flatbed cabin and spans from row 7-14. It is only available in AirAsiaX (flights above 4 hours).  I felt a relief when I discovered this zone. This zone aims to maintain a quiet environment. Lights on these rows are dimmer to create a softer ambience for relaxation. Only passengers above 10 years of age are allowed in this zone. This means, no putting up with wailing babies and tantrum-throwing kids. Best of all, meals will be served first so that passengers can tuck themselves in for a more undisturbed sleep. I have been served a splendid combination of marinated roasted chicken with special stuffing with sweet and savoury cranberry gravy, roasted potatoes and vegetables. AirAsiaX displayed their dedication in in-flight meals by preserving the taste and quality. The flight to Chengdu took approximately 4 hours 20 minutes. I was more rested and touched down China looking as fresh as a daisy!

Peace and quiet in the AirAsiaX Quiet Zone
Off to Pandaland
Good hospitality by AirAsiaX stewards
My meal- Roasted chicken stuffed with special filling with cranberry sauce and vegetables
Departing for Chengdu
When I arrived in Shuangliu International Airport, summer was evident as I felt no difference in the weather from where I came from. A lot of Chinese words greeted and me and verified that I have reached China. I started my journey in Chengdu in a car, cruising from the airport to the hotel. “Chengdu should not be underestimated” I monologued. Structured highways illuminated beautifully at night. The city is organized in a way that merchandize of the same types are cluttered together to ease shopping. It was also exciting to see Chinese versions of Starbucks and McDs. Chengdu is a rising star alongside Shanghai and Beijing as tourism and business hub. These are what you should not miss when in Chengdu.
Arrived at Shuangliu International Airport
Chinese Starbucks
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

You cannot leave Chengdu without seeing a single panda. This research base is the pioneer in protecting and breeding the endangered animal. If you are uninitiated about pandas or bears at all, this visit will surely have you converted into a panda fan. These national treasures come in the most adorable and fuzzy form. Seeing them chew bamboos and frolicking in the outdoors is certainly an antidote to stress. Blending among the flora and fauna of that park makes a great family outdoor activity. The verdant park offers many photographing opportunity with nature. I went in the park as a tourist and came out with panda fever! I promised myself a panda soft toy before returning to Malaysia.
Entrance of the Panda Research Base
Pandamania!
Adolescent pandas lazing
Adult pandas in the outdoors
Capture the peacock fanning his tail for goodluck
Serene bamboo forest
Le Shan Giant Buddha

When in Chengdu, do not miss the opportunity to see the Le Shan Giant Buddha with your very own eyes. This UNESCO World Heritage site is indeed a magnificence to behold. It is quite unbelievable that the 71m high sitting Buddha is hand-carved out of a cliff. To me, it looks like a scene out of Storm Riders where Ekin Cheng and Aaron Kwok battled swords. It took ancient people 90 years to build in year 713 in the Tang Dynasty. Anyone before the Buddha will be awed with dropped jaws. The statue of Maitreya has symmetrical posture and looks which have been elegantly captured in its solemn stillness. Charter a boat to view the Buddha from the river or to the island itself to climb up to the top of the Buddha. It is truly Chengdu’s wonder and trademark.

Amazed at the Le Shan Giant Buddha
Popi popi
TaoPing Qiang Village

Modernization can consume tradition and culture in the city. For those who have a relish for undiluted culture, a visit to the TaoPing Qiang is a must. It is a 2 ½ hour drive away from city center. It is one of the few preserved ancient villages in China. The way of life and home structure are still the same as it is 1000 years ago. The architecture unintentionally survived battles, wars and earthquakes. The technique used to build the homes has already extinct. Till now, there are still native dwellers living in the same ancient buildings that homed 56 generations. Take a look at olden water and drainage systems that are maintained. Villagers are still seen in their ethnic costumes. In TaoPing Qiang, I tried my luck with dried yak meat and got some trinkets back home as souvenir.

Interesting trinkets at the village
The structure that survived wars and earthquakes
Kitchen of real homes still used till today
Corn dried as fodder 
The view of from the village is native and untainted
98-year old native still going strong
She brought out a headgear just for the photoshot!
Wuhou Memorial

Wuhou Memorial holds the Legend of the Three Kingdoms. This place will definitely captivate those with a penchant for Chinese history. Even to people without Chinese education like myself, the depths of Chinese intelligence and stories of emperors, warriors and imperial advisors will blow you away. The memorial ultimately homes 2 grand treasures and the tomb of Liu Bei. The first treasure is ancient poem from Zhu Ge Liang and the second is a pair of tablets by Zhao Fan, indoctrinated by Mao Ze Dong. Liu Bei’s tomb is famed for its modesty was built by Zhu Ge Liang. Visitors also get to walk on paths that have been stepped upon by Zhu Ge Liang thousands of years ago, capturing what the legendary figure experienced when strategizing his battles. Here, take home a replica of Zhu Ge Liang’s fan made of crane feathers that inspired him a long time ago.

1st treasure- Zhu Ge Liang's ancient poem
2nd treasure- ancient tables by Zhao Fan
Path frequented by Zhu Ge Liang while strategizing
Deep thoughts on Chinese legends
Mount Emei

Mount Emei is one of the four Sacred Buddhist Mountains in China. It is also listed as one of UNESCOs World Heritage site. This trip is for those who are physically inclined. It is 3099m above sea level and climate is cold due to the latitude. 663 steps had to be trodden before reaching the cable car which brought us up to the peak. During the 663 steps, there is no escape from fresh air. Lush greenery and its pristine surrounding are rare from what we get from the city. At the top, sits Buddhism architectures that hinted martial arts practice long ago. All along the trail, there were stalls selling food like sausages, buns, instant noodles and hot drinks to thaw the fingers. I savoured my beef instant noodles amidst the chilly weather backdroped by the green forrest. It was the best tea-time of the year!
Primates greeting us on the way hiking up the mountain
Stalls selling snacks but beware if you have a weak tummy
Lush greenery along the trail
Buddhist structure and temple
Golden temple at the peak

Best tea break ever!
Shopping in Chengdu

To those who need some retail therapy, there are plenty of prestigious international brands at the IFS shopping mall. Find for the building with a giant panda climbing to the top. It is just next to Chunxi street which offers just as much opportunity to swipe the credit card. Tai Koo Li is a also another recommendation for shopping.  For street bargains and budget buys, I went to Kuan Xiang Zi alley and Lotus Pool. Resist the urge to buy your keychain souvenirs until you reach there. You can thank me for it later.

IFS shopping mall
Go to the sky roof of IFS mall to look at the panda face-to-face
Chun Xi street
Do not get your keychains anywhere else buy here at Lotus Pool Market
Taking a breather after shopping
Kuan Xiang Zi Alley
Budget buys and lots of souvenirs for loved ones at home
Food in Chengdu

Food in Sichuan is one of its kind. Famed for spicy food, I had my fair chance to tease my tongue. The kick of authentic Sichuan food is contributed by the Sichuan pepper. The pepper, still attached to the stem is added not only for the spiciness but also the numbing sensation. Of course I had to try the Ma Po taufu which originates from Sichuan. The Sichuan hotpot is a must when in Chengdu. The favourite meal comes in herbal or spicy soup with lots of meat and veggies to be cooked in the soup. Dinner over the steamy pot certainly compliments a merry environment with family and friends. In Pandaland, fresh fruit stalls selling local fruits like peaches, lychees and fresh figs were really tantalizing as it is a rare sight back in Malaysia. Chinese pastry shops also caught my attention. I caught whiffs of the aromatic biscuits and could not resist from getting a few home. 

MaPo Taufu
Sichuan food is spicy
Try the Sichuan hotpot
Jiu Jai Gou and Tibet

Destiny has not brought me to Jiu Jai Gou yet. This superb wonder land is said to be magical beyond words. Chengdu is so far the only hub for people to reach there. Chengdu is also a famous interchange for travelers to Tibet.  I will return for my magical moment in Jiu Jai Gou.
 
Jiu Jai Gou- My magical dream
All good things have to come to an end. My summer trip left me mesmerized and ready to take on the daily challenge when I am home. It was a very insightful visit with cultures experienced and scenery savoured. I left Chengdu with a heavy heart. However, my Quiet Zone was waiting ahead. An early snack and peaceful slumber all the way back to my home sweet home safely- a great way to wrap up my wonderful summer holiday.

Disclaimer:
This trip is courtesy of Sarah Mai from www.smallnhot.com
Check out http://www.smallnhot.com/2015/07/flying-with-airasiax-holiday-experience-chengdu-china-2015.html