Huanglongxi Ancient Town is a bit of a drive from Chengdu, something like an hour and a half. It is not a good trip if you're not well rested, as you will do plenty of walking once you get there.
Huanglongxi is an absolutely charming place. A small stream runs through the walking street area of this lovely town. On both sides of it are sidewalks that go past traditional Sichuan shop houses that sell everything from local delicacies to more kitschy souvenir items. But that's not all. Another charm of Huanglongxi is that it sits next to 2 rivers, so there is a lot of great scenery to take in. Yes, it is a touristy place, but who doesn't want to have a stroll through this town, which is both traditional and modern at the same time. I admire the local government for being able to maintain a remarkable preservation effort of centuries-old buildings and public areas. It is a testament to how correct care for cultural heritage can have benefits for the local communities of today. Huanglongxi apparently does a thriving tourist business that depends heavily on giving the customers what they come for - a step back in time to when the local shops and not shopping malls were the focal points in one's life.
For me, the best thing about visiting Huanglongxi is to go beyond the main tourist congregation areas in the town and venture along the more quieter alleys and lanes that sit behind the town center. There, I saw people just relaxing in their shops and homes, playing Mahjong or preparing goods for sale. On those small streets, you can take slow walks and just soak in the atmosphere.
I guess many people would miss Huanglongxi because they would spend more time in Chengdu city, which is a shame. It is one of the few places in China worth going out of your way for.
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