The city of Chengdu is a magnet for tourists keen to see pandas during their stay in China. Although visitors can see China’s national treasures in zoos in other cities, the Panda Research Base in Chengdu is home to over 180 pandas, with the babies in the nursery the most popular. My visit to the city was also to see the pandas, but I soon discovered Chengdu is an interesting spot to explore, leaving me wishing I had more than two nights.
My base while in Chengdu was the Holiday Inn High-Tech Center which is located about 40 minutes from the Panda Research Centre. As you would expect of a hotel bearing the Holiday Inn name, the hotel is comfortable, well appointed and caters well to guests from around the world.
I was particularly keen to check out the standard of the accessible accommodation and fortunately two of my fellow travellers allowed me to visit their room. The room may look a little lived in as they weren’t expecting company but I was extremely grateful to have access to the room so I can share it with you.
The accessible accommodation is large with good circulation space throughout, particularly on either side of the bed.
The queen size bed doesn’t have clearance under the bed for a hoist but has plenty of room for transferring from a wheelchair to the bed.
Luggage racks allow bags to be stored out of the corridor, leaving the room clutter free. The wardrobe has a lowered hanging rail for easy access.
The accessible room was equipped with a spacious bathroom, though some of the rail locations seemed a little counter productive for a wheelchair user.
The shower is fitted with a flip-down shower seat, height adjustable hand-held shower and lever taps.
After examining many public toilets during the trip (I know, my life is so glamorous!) I later realised that this set-up is fairly standard in China. Given the majority of locals use the squat toilets, I can only imagine this arrangement is designed for those unable to use those, rather than a wheelchair user needing to transfer from their chair to the toilet seat.
The magnifying mirror is placed at a regular room’s height making it too high for a wheelchair user.
Arriving in my room at 3am I couldn’t wait to have a shower, order room service (the Spaghetti Bolognese was surprisingly good) and sink into the super comfy bed.
The room I stayed in was spacious and well equipped with a kettle, tea and coffee supplies (though you need to ask for milk as they don’t supply the long life milk), mini-fridge and safe.
As the tap water in China is not recommended for drinking, the hotel provides two free bottles of water each day.
After two flights from Sydney to get to Chengdu, I was appreciative of the large shower head and modern shower. If you’re looking at the exposed shower in the picture above, don’t worry, if you’re sharing with a pal there’s a blind which can be lowered for privacy between the bedroom and the shower.
A buffet breakfast was included in my stay which offered an extensive array of dishes each morning including eggs cooked-to-order, cereal, hot dishes, pastries, toast and more.
The Sichuan Hot Pot is a famous dish in the region which appeared to be a highlight for many on my tour.
It wasn’t to my taste so thanks to my travel buddy Belinda for sharing her hot pot pic.
A small shopping and restaurant district is within walking distance of the hotel. There’s a range of stores including a Walmart. I highly suggest downloading Google translate prior to leaving home because it may avoid misunderstandings. I had my bananas taken away when I got to the register and I had no idea why as no-one spoke English. It turned out I should have had them weighed prior to getting to the register. I did eventually get them back but I spent quite a bit of time wondering what I’d done wrong and the lady serving me just laughed at my expressions.
Walmart’s downstairs supermarket was the perfect spot to pick up some snacks for my six hour train trip the next day and I found it fascinating looking at the varieties available in the supermarket. Anyone for Lays squid flavoured chips? They didn’t entice me but I did bring home some cucumber chips for the kids to try.
Although short on time in Chengdu I was determined to see something of the main town. I hopped in a taxi and took the 30 minute trip into a historical area of the city. With only a few hours for exploring I settled on Wide & Narrow Alleys. Consisting of Wide Alley (Kuan Xiangzi), Narrow Alley (Zhai Xiangzi), Well Alley (Jing Xiangzi) three parallel ancient city alleys and 45 courtyards along them, Wide and Narrow Alley is one of Chengdu’s historical and cultural areas. I had a wonderful time wandering the alleys filled with restaurants, tea houses and tourist shops. I was able to get the family some lovely gifts here including a beautiful silver necklace for AJ.
I was disappointed to find the majority of this vibrant area is not wheelchair accessible with steps leading to many of the stores and restaurants. Notice the large barrier step into the store in the picture above? This is common at temples as well and we were told it is to keep the zombies out. True story! Zombies don’t have knees apparently and the barriers are therefore supposed to ensure they can’t enter.
There is much to see without going into the stores with people entertaining tourists on the street with displays, performances and food stalls with some curious looking delights on offer.
The Chinese take their tea seriously and in many locations you’ll find tea houses and tea ceremonies being performed.
At every turn I found something of interest but I do recommend this area for people with some mobility due to the restrictions with getting into the buildings.
And if you are wondering what kind of public toilets you’d find in a tourist area like this, I can tell you there are stand-alone unisex washrooms which have an attendant. The attendant looked most concerned at me opening the door to photograph it and did a quick check to see all was in order.
Once again, the rails are fixed and either side of the toilet.
I was hosted by SNA Tours on their Pandamonium tour of China but as always, my opinions are my own.