About the Author
Rosie Wigmore is from the U.K. Travelling the world since the age of two, Rosie has lived and worked in countries, such as Australia and Sierra Leone. Having always been an avid writer, Rosie has written for online magazines and journals, but is now turning attention to combining her passions: Chengdu and writing.
I still clearly remember my first journey to Wenjiang. It was October 2015 and I was in the mood for adventure. At the time I was in downtown (Chengdu) for a two-month internship. The briefness of my trip combined with my assumption that I would not be returning to this corner of the world had made me hungry to explore as much as possible. By the end of the two months I had travelled to Beijing, Zhangjiajie, Changsha, Xichang and Kangding, as well as the tourist hot spots scattered around Chengdu: Leshan, Mount Qingcheng, and of course, the panda base.
As well as places, I had also made friends from around the world, which only led to more adventure. On this occasion, I found myself travelling to Wenjiang, a district west of Chengdu, and way outside of the third ring road, to meet some people I had met on a night out. To most living in Chengdu, journeying to destinations based outside of Chengdu's third ring road is treated as if it's a journey to another city. Telling someone that you live in Wenjiang will generally be met with shock followed by a string of questions: "But…why?!" "How long does it take/cost you to get back from downtown?" And of course: "How do you get back from Jellyfish?" To a lot of foreigners, this last question is the most important question of all.
But even from my first trip to Wenjiang I felt there was something special about the place, which made it worth the trip. It was hard to put my finger on it at the time but I already felt the curious combination that Wenjiang's atmosphere exudes - both excitement and tranquility. The Didi dropped me at a similarly vacant area. I stood next to my Didi at a grand entrance flanked by a long, white stone frieze. It was almost deserted. My lack of credit forced me to use the Didi driver's mobile and fortunately my friend answered at the first ring. As it turned out, I was in the wrong place, although it would become a place I knew very well: the north gate of the SWUFE University, and before I knew it my friend had whisked me away to the real, enchanting Wenjiang.
I would normally leave for Wenjiang on a Friday and I'd spend the day in a daze, waiting for the moment that I would be free from work and travelling back to Wenjiang. On arrival, a sea of calm would wash over me; the weekend seemed to stretch out before me like the wide horizon. All my troubles, all my responsibilities were left far behind me in downtown.
My arrival point was always "east gate." Nestled between several university campuses, it is Wenjiang's most vibrant area. This is what ignites Wenjiang's spark - students. A high proportion of students situated in one area leads to creativity, social events, cheap food and drink, and a great atmosphere. East gate is the epitome of this. Spread over a long high street littered with quirky gift shops, cool cafes serving good coffee and endless tea flavours, handmade jewelry stores, amazing restaurants serving food from India to Italy, and endless, endless street food and fruit stalls. The high street is just the beginning. Stretching off the main road are little side roads offering even more gems waiting to be uncovered. At peak times, when students pour from the campuses after class or during eating hours, everywhere something is happening. Friends walk arm in arm eating ice cream, people give away flashing balloons, dancers advertise a new club or bar and music blares from all sides, spurring on the action.
But if tranquility is something you crave more, then Wenjiang also has that on offer. The university campuses themselves are beautiful places to walk and relax. The university campuses offer huge swathes of grass to relax on, as well as lakes and some stunning architecture. Wenjiang's high point is hinted in its name: its many rivers. Beautifully preserved with pagodas and intricately designed bridges, these rivers can be strolled, ran, cycled or sat along in one of the numerous teahouses.
My favourite thing about Wenjiang is the size. When I lived in downtown my social life was a fixed schedule dictated by large distances. In Wenjiang I can stroll five minutes down the road to meet a friend for a huge, tasty dinner that would cost twice the amount in Chengdu, or simply bump into a friend whilst strolling home and go for a quick coffee.
Perhaps this is Wenjiang's best quality: the cost. Everything is cheap. Rent is almost three times less than some places in downtown, and for much bigger and nicer apartments. Not to mention the food and drink. Surprisingly, there is great foreign food on offer, but at a much lower cost in larger portions and better quality, due to the many foreigners studying in Wenjiang.
But Wenjiang is far from being a place as people are led to believe. If culture and the "real" China is what you seek then yes, Wenjiang certainly has that. It only takes a short walk to find genuinely very old architecture or an elder performing an ancient ritual. However, a just as short distance can lead you to giant shopping malls, cinemas and even the giant theme park, Flora Land.
It is contradictions such as these that make me constantly fall in love with Wenjiang. Despite being far from the city I never grow bored of Wenjiang and I always crave the peace that it gives me after visiting downtown.
So if you have the time, come visit us in Wenjiang. I promise you it's not so far.
Excerpted from HELLO Chengdu February&March Issue