When I first arrived in Chengdu almost two years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the provincial capital of Sichuan was familiar yet refreshingly different. Like my birthplace of Singapore, it is a modern city with clean, paved streets and towering skyscrapers. But the hustle and bustle of urban life here is somewhat tempered by the charm of tradition, the pace of leisure and the call of nature. Footsteps are less rushed and even time seems to flow a little slower.
Visitors to Chengdu will come to realise that wellness is a way of life here, and that the community spirit runs strong. Taking our cue from local culture, the three Ascott properties in the city — Ascott Raffles City Chengdu, Citadines South Chengdu and Somerset Riverview Chengdu — have been working together since May 2015 to foster a sense of community among our residents.
We formed a committee with staff representation from each of the three properties to organise resident activities under the Ascott Lifestyle programme, which is a global initiative to help guests experience what each city has to offer.
Earlier this year, it was announced that the Ascott Lifestyle programme would be introducing a new pillar, Community, in addition to its existing focus on Culture, Wellness and Gastronomy. The Community concept is based on residents creating activities for fellow residents, which is right up our alley in Chengdu!
An internal contest was held for properties around the world to develop their own unique Community activities. Shortlisted entries were presented at the Ascott Global Conference in May 2016 and I’m beyond delighted to share that Chengdu won by popular vote!
Our winning entry is a two-day programme led by Somerset resident couple Steve and Megumi, who run a yoga studio and vegan restaurant in Japan and who were in Chengdu to explore business opportunities. Through the programme, they shared their passions with fellow residents.
Cleanse the Body
Vegetarian food has a place in local cuisine, mainly due to a large Buddhist community and, more recently, a growing population of health-conscious locals. Steve and Megumi held a culinary class in their own apartment, guiding fellow residents in preparing vegan pizza and vegan tiramisu. That tiramisu could be prepared vegan (without eggs or dairy) came as a surprise to many participants!
Those keen on learning more about Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism will enjoy Chengdu’s many eminent shrines and historic temples. The Giant Buddha of Leshan, which lies two hours outside Chengdu, is a remarkable sight — a 71m tall statue of a seated Buddha carved into the face of a cliff.
I would also recommend a day trip to Mount Qingcheng, one of the most sacred mountains and an important centre of Taoism in China. A 90-minute drive from Chengdu will take you to the beautiful mountain where you are free to wonder through its lush greenery and discover the cultural relics and historic Taoist temples nestled within.
Calm the Mind
On the second day of our Ascott Lifestyle Community programme, residents were treated to a yoga class by Steve and Megumi, who are both yoga practitioners. The basic tenet of yoga is to unite the body, mind and soul through exercise and meditation. In Chengdu, like many cities in the world, people are turning to yoga to de-stress. So if you ask me, yoga’s focus on holistic wellness is very much in line with Chengdu’s offerings.
If you need more inspiration on how to relax, the giant pandas of Chengdu have plenty to teach you! Visit the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, better known as the Chengdu Panda Base, just 30 minutes from the city to visit these national treasures. In case you’re wondering, Singapore’s giant pandas Jia Jia and Kai Kai are from Ya’an Bifengxia Panda Base, which is also in Sichuan but a farther two-hour trip from Chengdu.
At either reserve, you’ll be able to watch the black-and-white pandas up close and personal, in an environment that replicates their natural habitat. Go early to catch them munching on a breakfast of bamboo before they retire for their mid-morning nap.
Community in Chengdu
Through the Ascott Lifestyle Community programme, we will continue encouraging residents to share their interests and showcase their talents with fellow residents. I hope to see our Ascott community in Chengdu grow in size, scale and vibrancy. If you have the chance to visit our lovely city, I welcome you to be part of our community!