Ancient towns near Chengdu offer a chance to explore ancient Chinese culture and just get a break from the crowded, nagging modernity of the city. There are a plethora of towns that can be reached within one hour. Such places are great for those living in Chengdu with a family. Snacks and souvenirs usually abound in these towns. So plan your excursion now by first having a read about some of the nicest ancient towns around.
Huanglongxi Ancient Town. Photo: china-tour.net
1) Huanglongxi Ancient Town 黄龙溪古镇
With narrow, stone alleyways, countless candy shops and architecture from the Ming and Qing Dynasties, a visit to the Huanglongxi ancient town is as much a lesson in history as it is a visual experience. The houses have been pretty well maintained and the whole town has preserved its authenticity more so than other ancient towns. This is why it's been featured in many Chinese films.
Watch locals churn tofu, smash together various handmade candies, and flip noodles. Talk with small parrots, literally. One of the fish restaurants has a parrot who can say over 30 phrases, and that includes "Hello" and "I love you". If you want to see temples, check out Chaoyin Temple, Zhenjiang Temple and Gulong Temple located on the main street. Lazy boat rides along the Huanglong River cost 13 to 26 RMB per ride. Local foods like the sesame cakes (Zhimagao 芝麻糕) and small fish (Maomaoyu猫猫鱼) are quite delicious. Festivals are held on day nine of the lunar months six and nine.
Located within 50 kilometres from Chengdu, getting here is quick and easy. Take a bus from Xinnamen Bus Station (Xi'nanmen Qichezhan 西南门汽车站) anytime before nightfall.
2) Pingle Ancient Town 平乐古镇
Slow and worry free, the atmosphere of Pingle is far different from rush hour Chengdu. The town has history dating back to the West Han Dynasty and has strived to keep its culture intact. It's not as commercial as other ancient towns near Chengdu. Since it held a spot along China's Silk Road, bargaining here is extra cool. The local shop owners are tough to talk down, so be prepared to haggle your best.
The town is situated at the base of beautiful mountains and beneath clearer skies. The Milk Soup Noodles (Naitangmian奶汤面), Grilled Goose (Kaotu'e烤土鹅), and sticky candy (Niupitang 牛皮糖) are all worth a bite. One restaurant has an impressive amount of dead chickens hung up, soaking in the seasonings. The teahouses here are also architecturally beautiful and quite relaxing. Take some time to relax by the stream that runs through town as well.
Getting here is simple and cheap from Xinanmen Bus Station.
3) Jiezi Ancient Town 街子古镇
This town is not as well known as others. And this is a good thing. You can actually enjoy many of the same things other ancient towns have, but with less people. And less people is a good thing. The main bridge, emblazoned with red dragons, is back-dropped by the stunning Qingcheng Mountain – one of the best nature getaways around – and the golden sun above.
Paddle along the slow river as the "shifu" uses a large bamboo stick to move the vessel. If you ask, he will let you paddle yourself. The river is not too deep and you can actually walk in it if you so please. For those who want to hike, a trail that measures over 5,000 metres is close by. See statues of famous academics like the Tang Dynasty Poet Tang Qiu. Bargain for classical Chinese paintings at the shops. Listen to the sounds of the gourd flute melodically float through the air. And munch on some spicy rabbit heads from the local stands. A trip here would not be complete without taking a trek across the wobbly Yulong Bridge as well.
To get here, take the Harmony Bullet Train to the Qingcheng Mountain stop. Then transfer to bus line 102 to the last stop. All together it costs less than 20 RMB to get here from Chengdu.
Luodai Ancient Town. Photo: flickr.com
4) Luodai Ancient Town 洛带古镇
Home to the Hakka people, this town has some seriously strong and surprisingly tasty homemade liquor and wine. If you desire, purchase a bottle when you visit. Walking through Luodai town truly awakens the senses. Seniors play mah-jong constantly, local farmers have every sort of veggie or fruit available in bunches, and games abound.
Upon first stepping into the town you understand that it's built for fun. You can even ride on bumper cars. This is also one of the best places to buy Mao Zedong accessories. One shop showcases a wide array of matches, posters and t-shirts. At the end of town sits the Guangdong Guildhall. Here you can relax in the courtyard amidst finely scented flowers, a goldfish pool, and curved roof architecture. Enjoy a cup of tea while inside too.
Take a bus from the bus station at Wugui Qiao (五桂桥) to Luodai. These leave every five minutes.
5) Anren Ancient Town 安仁古镇
This town has 27 large Qing Dynasty mansions that are being preserved culturally and architecturally as museums. While there, take some time to explore these. Being only 65 kilometres from Chengdu, this ancient town offers an experience that is a bit different from others. The town itself, with black-tile roofing, zigzagging alley streets, and stone-slab walkways, has plenty for visitors to buy and eat. The shops, while selling the usual ancient town style souvenirs, do feature antiques like old dial phones, bicycles and furniture. Note that you can't buy the antique memorabilia. An old theatre hosts live shows all the time as well. Taking the old town tram, even if you don't need transportation anywhere, is worth it. It feels like a trip back in time, China style.
Take a bus from the Jinsha Bus Station (Jinsha Qiche Keyun Zhan 金沙汽车客运站) to Anren town. They leave every 45 minutes or so. Remember that the last bus back leaves at six in the evening.
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Keywords: ancient towns near Chengdu traditional old towns Sichuan sightseeing Sichuan culture and travel Sichuan Chengdu travelling
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