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Sichuan (四川) is known as the land of abundance in China for having amazing food production capabilities and lots of natural resources. For tourists Sichuan is known for stunning natural beauty, ancient history, super spicy food and very pretty girls. Sichuan is a favorite place for travelers when visiting China. One of the main attractions to Sichuan for tourist is that this province is the home to the mysterious panda. The Giant Panda has become representation of China in modern times.
Pandas are not the only major attraction in Sichuan. The Sichuan basin is home to many interesting ancient civilizations including some that predate a unified China. There are also stunning mountain retreats were monks still pray every morning. Along the southern border with Yunnan is the home to the rarely visited Yi people. Then the foothills of the Himalayas call for many travelers to visit them to see Tibetan communities still living a traditional life style. From the busy city of Chengdu to the beauty of Mount Emei and Jiuzhai Valley National Park, Sichuan has plenty to offer.
Sichuan’s geography can be defined as the Sichuan basin, with the Yangtze River flowing down it, framed by mountains to the north, south and west. In the mountains to the north and west there are long winters with mild summers. While in the basin the winters are mild and summers extremely hot and humid. The southern mountains have a moderate climate year round making them very nice. The Sichuan basin and southern areas of the province are cloudy most of the year, which is why the Republic of China moved the government to Sichuan during World War II, although current day Chongqing, to protect it from Japanese bombing.
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The mountains west of Chengdu rise to over 5,000 metres making these mountains home to Tibetans and their cousins the Qiang. The further west you get from Kangding the more you enter the world of tall mountains, deep valleys, grasslands, yaks and the nomads that live there. For many tourists this is an excellent way to experience Tibetan culture without having to deal with all the red tape involved in visiting the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
Northern Sichuan Tibetan Highway
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Southern Sichuan Tibetan Highway
Jiuzhai Valley is a national park situated in the north of Sichuan province. It is bordered by Huanglong National Park. It is thought by many to be China's most beautiful spot inspiring numerous poets over the years. Jiuzhaigou is Chinese for "nine village valley", named after the nine local Tibetan villages that inhabit it. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 and also has UNESCO Man and Biosphere, Green Globe 21 and various Chinese national accreditations.
The Leshan Giant Buddha a statue that was carved out of a cliff that lies at the confluence of the Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers in Sichuan province in China, just south of the city of Leshan. It was built between 731 and 903. The stone sculpture faces Mount Emei. This whole area was listed as an UNESCO world heritage site in 1996. It is the largest carved stone Buddha in the world and at the time of its construction it was the tallest statue in the world. From top to bottom it is 71 metres, and at the shoulders it’s 28 metres wide. Due to the pollution coming from nearby factories and the city, the old statue has suffered mainly superficial damage. Luckily it was not damaged during the Sichuan eartquake on May 12, 2008.
In the major cities in the Sichuan basin all Han Chinese holidays are celebrated. In the minority areas, mainly in the mountains, local festivals are celebrated.
The weather in Sichuan can range from bitterly cold winters (December-March) in the mountains to hot weather in the lower areas during summer (June-September), when temperatures can reach 35 °C or even a bit more.
The major hub for transport to and from Sichuan is in Chengdu. Therefore it makes sense to start any trip in Sichuan in Chengdu. Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport (CTU) is located 16 kilometres from downtown Chengdu and is one of the biggest and fastest growing airports in China. There are dozens of airlines serving both Chinese cities as well as destinations in the eastern part of Asia, like Macau, Hong Kong, Japan, Bangkok and South Korea. The only destination further away is Amsterdam, served by KLM.
To reach most of the other areas in Sichuan bus is really the only option, although there are some options of getting there by train.
Only a few towns in the eastern third of Sichuan have airports and most of them are pretty small. The only major airport is in Chengdu and there is a tourist airport near Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve that only operates during the summer.
It is possible to take trains to most major cities in the eastern third of Sichuan. There are no trains presently in western or northern Sichuan.
For traveling in the western or northern parts of Sichuan bus is the only way. Remember that the roads are pretty basic and there are frequent landslides. This can make a 6-hour bus ride turn into a 72-hour bus ride very quickly.
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With few airports and most trains not running in the western two thirds of the province, bus is the main option for getting around. Be prepared for frequent land slides and delays while traveling in western Sichuan. There are several new highways going in but most are in the Sichuan basin area.
Sichuan is known for spicy food! This is the spiciest of the spicy. Sichuan cooking has more chilies in it then there is actually food sometimes. Be prepared for everything to burn and rock your world. Just be gentle on the Sichuan Hot Pot (火锅) for it is known around the world for being one of the spiciest dishes in China.
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