Where to sleep in Sichuan
Wenjun Mansion Hotel (Chengdu) this style hotel is located in a nice and convenient area of Chengdu. The rooms are nice and big, and the staff is really nice. They speak good English and are able to help you organize various trips. The quality / price ratio is excellent: a double grade costs less than 40 euros / night.
The Chinese visa: how to get it
To go to Sichuan you will have to get a visa before leaving (there are Chinese consular offices in both Rome and Milan). To obtain it, you must present a passport photo, fill in the form you find online, and provide a copy of the hotel and flight reservation. A single-entry visa costs around € 100 and takes 5 working days to obtain (with the normal procedure).
Internet in China: you need a VPN
In China, social networks don't work (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), as well as Google (and gmail email accounts) and other sites that are banned by the Chinese government. Obviously there is sgamo! Just download a app VPN (there are many!). They are free for the first 20 MB, then for a fee (ranging from 5 to 15 euros per month).
What to see in Sichuan: all the places not to be missed
Il buddha di Leshan
In the small town of Leshan 180 km south of Chengdu is situated Dafo, the largest buddha in the world. It was dug into the rock in 700 AD and, with its 71 meters in height, it is something truly impressive. It is located in a park where you can also visit several temples surrounded by beautiful nature. It can be visited either "from the ground", climbing up to the height of his face and then descending with the ladders that flank it, or "by river". It is in fact located on the bank of a river and only from the boats it is possible to see it in its entirety. I saw it from the ground and I have not regretted the choice at all. Finding yourself next to his face more than 20 meters high is something impressive. It can be visited in a day from Chengdu. A 2h bus ride (90 Yuan) takes you to Leshan, then from there an urban bus (No. 13) takes you directly to the park entrance. The entrance fee is 90 Yuan (about 12 euros).
A 5h by bus or 4h by car from Chengdu is theLangzhong ancient village; it is said to benefit from perfect feng shui. It was the capital of Sichuan and many famous people of China are linked to this town. It is one of the very few villages of ancient China that have remained intact. It has a protected historic center made up of narrow cobbled streets illuminated by classic red lanterns, beautiful roofs, temples, pagodas, and suggestive hotels in an atmosphere of other times. It is really nice to get lost in its lanes! Look for Mingzhòu Yìnshi Restaurant (the address is 6 Shanghua Jie) and ask for Grace! The owner of this restaurant, besides being an excellent cook, is also an English teacher (the only one in the village). You will eat well and above all .. you can order without going at random! If you want to visit it in a day from Chengdu, you can only do it by renting a car with driver (it costs about 1500 Yuan - 200 euros, far from cheap!). The bus (100 Yuan) takes 5h and does not arrive at the entrance to the old city. If you decide to go there by bus, you should stay and sleep in one of the many old hotels; if you have time it is absolutely worth it !!
Jiuzhaigou National Park
To say that I was blown away by this park is an understatement! It definitely is one of the most beautiful natural spectacles I have ever seen traveling, and I had never seen anything vaguely similar until then. AND one of the most famous parks in China, although it is quite difficult to reach it; to give you an idea of its fame, just think that the entrance is "limited", "only" 40000 people can enter a day! It is at the north end of the region, set by mountains that reach 5600 meters, and can be reached by 9 / 10h by bus (270 Yuan A / R, the road is good! Few hairpin bends and many tunnels) or with a (very expensive) I fly to Songpan, a town located 2h from the park. The country of Jiuzhaigou (where there is the entrance to the park) is located 2000 meters above sea level and the park (which extends for 50 km) reaches 3100 meters. The park is very well organized! As soon as you enter (the ticket costs around 160-200 Yuan, depending on the season) there are (very frequent) shuttles that take you everywhere in the park, and wooden walkways / paths for those who want to walk. The park is really big, if you only have one day to visit it (as it was for me), you should go directly to the farthest point and then get off making the various stops and some walking trails. It is an incredible succession of crystal clear lakes (it looks photoshopped!), Half-frozen waterfalls, forest, and breathtaking landscapes. I continued to have these incredible landscapes in my eyes for several days. Sorry for repeating myself, but the visit to the park alone is worth a trip to China !!
Chengdu and the Giant Panda Research Center
The capital of Sichuan is a decidedly modern city, which has developed dramatically in recent years. In itself it would not even be a bad city (it has parks, temples, small renovated old neighborhoods), but it does have significant traffic and smog. To see the sunlight you have to go at least 100 km from the city! But the main reason why it is worth staying at least one day in Chengdu is the Giant Panda Research Center! 80% of the pandas in the world are found in Sichuan, but it is practically impossible to see one in the wild now. In this large research and breeding center, on the other hand, you will be able to see many of them (puppies included) in a habitat similar to the natural one. Saying that you can spend hours watching them play, sleep or eat tons of bamboo .. is superfluous! They are beautiful and super clumsy.
If you have more time, another place to visit in Sichuan is definitely it Emei Shan, the sacred mountain. Here you can make several treks to the summit, or see the many temples that are located at the base.