Chengdu is China's fifth-largest city, but in contrast to some other urban centres, it has managed to preserve an atmosphere that evokes a sense of history. Founded over 2,000 years ago, it may be the only major city in China to have remained in the same location and still bear the same name. Amid the rapid development there are pockets of charming traditional streets here, such as Jinli Street, where you can find the old Chengdu and can get a valuable glimpse into everyday life. You can also sample some traditional Chinese tea at one of the wonderful old-fashioned tea houses here.

One of the main reasons for any visit to Chengdu is to see the the famous Panda Research & Breeding Centre, close to the city. Far from being a zoo, the ongoing conservation efforts made here are respected the world over and are crucial to the sustainment of the species. The inhabitants (including red pandas) have some 92 acres in which to roam, designed to replicate their natural habitat to encourage breeding. We visit in the morning to see the pandas at their most active.

A short drive south of Chengdu leads to the Leshan Giant Buddha, the largest carved stone Buddha in the world.

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