Huanglongxi: The Magical Ancient Town
November 11, 2015
Huanglongxi is very close to Chengdu, in fact it’s located just 40 km in southerly direction from the Sichuan provincial capital, exactly in Shuangliu County and at the confluence of the Jin and Lu Rivers.
How to get there, best time and cost
By Bus: catch the bus from “XinNanMen Chengdu Bus Station” to “Huanglongxi Bus station”, available from 07.30 to 15.10 and the ticket price is 14 RMB one way in more or less 90 minutes.
By Car or Bike: ride in southerly direction along the road between Chengdu and Huayang, then pass through Huayang City and Gongxing Town (公兴镇) and arrive at Honglongxi Ancient Town just after some kilometer from Yongan Town (永安镇).
How to get Huanglongxi ancient town entrance: there is only one bus station in Huanglongxi so you can’t miss it and from there turn right and go straight on for 1 km until the main entrance.
Cost: there is no need to buy a ticket to enter in the ancient town, so you have just to get the bus ticket and that’s it.
The best time to visit Huanglongxi is in spring or summer, so from March/April to September.
With more over than 1700 year history Huanglongxi is considered one of the most beautiful ancient town in China. This pearl still hold some building of its old glory and nowadays, due to its ancient beautiful chinese architecture, it’s chiefly known to be the perfect location for models shots and very famous chinese movies and TV plays such as “Sima Xiangru”, “The Songstresses” and many others. But a part from this we have to underline that in its glorious past Huanglongxi was a strategical militar point in the Shu State during the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280 AD).
Actually I was planning to visit the Leshan Giant Buddha on that weekend, but I had to change my mind because of adverse weather conditions. I was thinking about to find some alternative place not so far from Chengdu that it was worthwhile visiting, and my chinese friend suggested me to go in a little ancient town that I have never heard before…and yes, it was the right choice. So my friend Moises and I took the bus in Chengdu at 10.30 am and we arrived at Huanglongxi Bus Station just before lunch time. At the beginning we didn’t find the ancient town entrance…we were in the middle of nothing and we could just saw countryside in every directions and old women selling fresh fruit and some weird animal, so our worries were about: “shit, where are we? Our first impression was that we were in the wrong city, and luckily after 10 minutes we found someone who spoke english and they told us where the ancient town exactly was.
Once arrived at the main entrance, we stood facing the ancient gate completely made by wood, clearly restored, and just behind come into view a typical chinese lion statue that protects the ancient town door. A short distance away a small street full of handcraft stores and completely adorned with chinese red lanterns brung us until the Huanglongxi main square, really characteristic with its big fountain in the middle and completely rounded by extraordinary totems and decorated walls. Just beside the square there is a fun fair with a spooky house and some attraction, I didn’t try it but chinese people look like having fun 😀 .
Following the central street you arrive at a little creek that separate the ancient street in two parts…each side is reachable by bridges or animal statues placed in the middle of the torrent, creating a magical path that intrigue not only children but also adults (actually I prefered to use these “curious” tracks as well). This place is the most suggestive of the town and I think we were lucky to go there since that day was the Huanglongxi festival, thus everybody was happy, girls and women weared flower head wreaths and the atmosphere was really magic.
It’s also the most crowded place, due to the multitude stores, cafeterias and street restaurants: you can buy very cheap souvenirs, see pastry chefs using a special technique to make sweets (sesame cakes above all), have a coffee or, as usual in Sichuan, taste some delicious spicy food such as: fried noodles, octopus, potatoes and insects…yeah, insects, if you didn’t have the opportunity to taste them yet you can do it in Huanglongxi, just choose which one looks less disgusting and that’s it; if you are too easily influenced just close your eyes and think they are chips, sometimes works 😉 . We tried scorpions and we can say they were quite crunchy and the taste was not so bad, but maybe due to the fact that the real favor was covered by the spices.
During your walk I suggest you to visit the three ancient temples Gulong, Chaoyin and Zhenjiang in the central street and, in addition, along the river you can see the typical shu stilt houses that represents a piece of history of Huanglongxi, don’t miss it out. Well, until this point, despite of everything was really awesome, Huanglongxi didn’t look so “ancient”, in effect everything appeared almost fake, and at the beginning was quite disappointing, but leaving behind us the new part we discovered the real ancient city. The old part is divided in seven streets that still preserve the original architecture belonging to Ming and Qing Dynasties. Walking through the alleys you can jump into the culture and see shu people in their daily life, so cordials and hospitable, they invite you insiede their house to have a cup of tea and finally try to sell you some stuff from the shop next to their home place just to make some extra money, smart people 🙂 .
So guys if you want to discover the old chinese culture and customs and see a beautiful ancient town this is the right place.
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In other posts I usually suggested you to avoid weekends and crowded days, not this time…best days are on weekends, especially on Sunday when foreigner tourists and locals use to visit this old town.
Take with you analgesics if you are planning to eat some local specialities, insects above all 😀 .
Remember to check it out the weather conditions, in my opinion it’s totally better to go in a sunny or cloudy day rather than rainy day, you want to take great pictures.
If you decide to go by bus don’t forget to have a look to an update timetable, in particular on weekends you could miss the bus to come back to Chengdu, because sometime there are too much people but not so many buses, becareful. I really suggest you to buy the return ticket just arrived in Huanglongxi, in this way you can enjoy your visit with no worries.
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