Moving to China was one of THE most drastic decisions on my life. My main reason for moving here was because my boyfriend at the time and I decided to quit our jobs and explore the world! (VERY cliché I know) and I hate to quote Drake here, but YOLO.

When I subtly uttered this under my breath to my friends and family, naturally they responded with,  ‘Keeo…Are you joking?’. Even my father who is Chinese (Malaysian born, not China Chinese) was completely against the idea. He warned, as I am an asthmatic mouth breather, the pollution would be hazardous. “They’re sneaky, they spit, and they’re rude!” Thinking his rant was over, he then chimed in “and their country is overpopulated, Keeo! So, WHY? Of all places, would you choose China?” he asked with utter confusion and a hint of disappointment…

Truth is. Our glorious, cliché, South East Asian dream was careening to an inevitable halt. We had run out of moola, and I couldn’t bear to eat another cup of noodles if my life depended on it, although I couldn’t say the same for my swashbuckling companion. Luckily, our globetrotting Casanova of a friend (shout out to Santi Perez) was teaching English in China (Beijing) and praised it till the cows came home. “The money is good, you can eat and drink for about 3 quid a day, transportation is cheap, Chinese kids are the EPITOME of cute, and accommodation is ‘cheap as chips.’” We were sold. End of. 

We got our Chinese tourist visa and embarked on our mission to the Middle Kingdom. First stop, Beijing. Now, personally, I hated Beijing. I don’t know if it was the time of the year, but the pollution was HORRENDOUS. We were only there for 10 days and I coughed up black mucus for the entire duration. [Lovely].  I’m not shutting Beijing down completely, as there are plenty of awesome sights to see: millions of face mask wearing Bane’s and Sub-Zero’s swarming the streets on their electric scooters, babies wearing ass-less chaps as if in some sort of twisted ‘Mad Max’ remake but instead of homo-erotic bikers chasing Mel Gibson, they were babies… dropping dookie landmines everywhere. All defecation aside, Beijing is definitely worth a trip.

Scouring the internet like a couple of crack heads searching for our next clean, habitable fix.  Skype after Skype interview, sifting out the gold from the gravel, we conclusively decided that Chengduuuu Home of the panderrr and land of abundurrrnce was going to be our next YEAR crusade. I emphasise YEAR because, in fact, I’ve been reaping the benefits of Chengdu for 3 years now after unquestionably promising myself I would only stick it out for 365 days.

So I present to you, [queue the drumroll please], my top 7 reasons why you should move to the city of the black and white bear and oily stools.

1 | It’s Chill

Shanghai = London and Chengdu = York. York ranked the least stressed city in the U.K. Gives you an idea of how chilled this Chinese city is and for you American folk; Chengdu is the Boulder, Colorado of China.

From the dancing grannies you can find in any 25 sq. foot open space to the frog-legged lackadaisical bike riders on every inch of the road, Chengdu has a reputation for being a laid-back and relaxed city but with an added bit of spunk. Spending most of my summer days bronzing by Tongzilin pool before work, to meeting pals at the beer bar in Jiuyenqiao for an ‘after work’ devilishly cheap Hoegaarden. Chengdu-ites can be found going to cool Art/Film festivals, attending rooftop house parties and BBQ’s, or just chilling by the river with a bag of tinnies and a bottle of wine, without anyone batting an eyelid at you. What more could you ask for from a city that oozes coolness and culture?

The efficient system of Yin and Yang, where streets are immaculately clean yet people are constantly spitting. The traffic cops who are infuriating jobsworths one day and spread eagle on their bikes snoozing the next, and let’s not forget the abundance of toothsome food that will leave your nether regions in dire straights the next day. I give Chengdu two mighty thumbs up in terms of livability.

Doesn’t get more chilled than a Lab riding a motorbike.

2 |The Metro System

When I first arrived in Chengdu the struggle was real, getting taxi’s everywhere, showing the driver a tiny little map on my phone, whilst they Chatty Cathy-ed my ear off. Having limited Chinese was a real challenge and I often ended up at the wrong destination, until I discovered the efficient metro system of this fine city.

Chengdu metro is definitely hectic. Be prepared for someone undoubtedly cutting in front of you in a blasé fashion whilst you clench your fists in utter disbelief. Soon the rage subsides and you learn to simply shoulder barge your way through metro life guilt free, and to dodge the fingernail shrapnel flying at your face (because apparently, it’s ok to cut your nails on public transport at 7 am), but HEY it’s far better than the likes of the London Underground or the N.Y subway. [Shoot me]. 

I feared for my life when I travelled on the London and N.Y.C. underground. The fear of a bomb exploding, a homeless man giving his full life story declamation of why we should give him a dollar, profusely sweating due to the lack of air conditioning, and the VERY confusing layout of the both systems. Just horrid. Chengdu has a phenomenal metro game. Safe, clean, easy to use and you can get almost anywhere. In 2021 Chengdu Metro will look something like this. ↓

3 | Hot pot

Aaaahhh. The glorious and famous hot pot! Much like marmite. Love it or hate it, and I am most certainly a lover, not a hater. Granted it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, as my good friend, bland Markscoffs and describes it as “An unlucky dip of intestines, stomach lining, rock hard spuds and mystery ingredients in a disgustingly spicy, oily red broth”. Pffft. Some people have no palate…

Much like the dancing grannies, hot pot can be found probably every 4 meters, but unlike the grannies, you can smell hot pot a mile away, and OHHH boy is that scent intoxicating. A metal pot, containing liquid hot magma doused in chillis and peppercorns―attached to a gas canister going against every health and safety policy known to man―bubbling and spitting in the middle of a 10 man table, a social rejoice of 2% beer and a pick ‘n mix of meat, veggies, mystery meat, oily goodness dipped into more oily goodness lasting all night. These components leave you feeling addicted to the unique taste and the ying-yang of foul-smelling burps and the close relationship you’ll find yourself in…with your toilet the very next day.

For a more expert view and recommendation on where to go and how to eat this intimidating dish, check out my buddies website. Jordan Porter, this guy is a fountain of knowledge for the Chengdu food scene.   http://chengdufoodtours.com/

4 | Fitness Freaks

If fitness is your THANG and you’re worried you will come to Chengdu and be the only fitness freak in the village, you are mistaken. The fitness fanatics scene only came clear to me about a year ago. When I first arrived it was infuriatingly difficult to even find a gym, never mind a HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) or yoga class in my native tongue. The only thing I came across when I first arrived was Decathlon, a yoga mat, and a resistance band. Still, there’s nothing wrong with DIY home workouts, but it is a little lonely and demotivating.

Normally, gyms open in Chengdu at 10 and close at 10.   If you’re one of those nutcases that enjoy waking up early to catch a slimy worm, then this is far from ideal, but recently this has changed. Chengdu now has 24-hour gyms (bactive gym– located in Poly Center and Hangkonglu). Perhaps, I wasn’t looking properly before, but now there are more gyms than hot dinners. Cheap gyms, fancy gyms, overpriced gyms, underpriced gyms, gyms in the shopping mall so shoppers watch you work out like a fish in an aquarium. Gyms with weird amounts of mirrors so the Chinese can come take photos in their workout gear and leave, gyms with a pool, and gyms that stink of cottage cheese. You have the pick of the litter!

Apart from gyms, I discovered classes *praying hands emoji*. Classes are my personal fave because someone is yelling at you to not be a lazy shithead and put in some sweat.. (DIG DEEP as my brutal, yet loving HIIT trainer says, even when I feel like I’m already digging the Mariana Trench).

HIIT Classes:

These High-intensity interval training classes are located at the bactive gym at the Hangkonglu location, they are twice a week (Wed & Fri) and begin at 7:15 am (early worm vibes), rotating upper body & lower body, including weights which you can cater to your own ability, the typical class consists of Mobility, Dynamic Warm-up/Activation, skill (If there is one), HIIT circuit and finish. Run by Dani, a truly motivating American Wonder Woman with an inspiring backside. The classes are fun yet serious, starting and ending promptly on time. Leaving you feeling debilitated, but satisfied, ready to take on the world! Or your bed for a 3-hour cat nap…..

MoreFun Classes:

If you’re into naturally waking up… or sleeping in, MoreFun may be right up your alley. They have evening classes at 18:40 and 19:50, but I usually attend the Super O2 50-minute class that begins at 12:10. Located at the trendy Lan Kwai Fong, you are given a heart monitor band upon arrival, which you strap to your upper forearm, and forced into a group. One group will begin on the treadmill for interval running while the other group grab weights and do a variety of exercises, to which the groups then proceed to swap.

This class is predominantly in Chinese but it doesn’t take rocket science to figure it out. There are also mini Camillo’s showing you how to do each exercise on TV screens throughout the gym. The other cool thing is your heart is constantly being monitored on a screen so you can check your progress during the class and receive a rundown of how much work work work work work you put in. A 20-minute Speedplay class is also available, but I have yet to explore these waters.  

YOGA Class: Shamefully, I have yet to attend a yoga class, because some people (me) work on weekends….Nevertheless, I have heard nothing but good things. Also run by the American bombshell, Dani, the classes are located at the luxurious Temple House in Taikooli. Yoga action kicks off every Saturday at 9am, towels, water and mats included. At 10pm everyone retreats to enjoy a vast and healthy breakfast spread… for just 150rmb. Nothing better then a morning of yoga to detox after a weekend of debauchery.

5 | Social Scene

Whether you’re a party animal, a rock climber, a BINGO player, the next (The) Voice wannabe, Chengdu caters to every need in the social scene department. Compared to when I first arrived and was forcibly subjected to KTV (Karaoke) nights most weekends, there is an array of options now.

A stunning moment captured at KTV. Can’t them anywhere…

Our squad favourite is Wednesday Pub Quiz nights at the very British Underground Bar, owned by a very British, highly entertaining, terrrrrrrible Manchurian Gary and his partner Bernard. The quiz is from 9-11pm, with a healthy mix of rowdy, smutty, unruly British folk and a confused, disgruntled bunch of other nationals. The Bookworm also holds a quiz Tuesday nights at 7:30 pm for a more obedient and ostentatious crowd. Think you’re a comedian?  Try Open-Mic comedy night at the Bookworm, but prepare to be upstaged by one of the world-renowned comedians who stop by.  It is truly a hidden gem of Chengdu.

If you’re not one for the intellectual scene, and feel more at home with a dabber in your hand, The Range holds a BINGO night every Thursday at 9:30pm (perfect time for the teachers of the world) with awesome cocktails, drink deals and an uber charming Southern American vibe, owner and food menu.

Being an ex-gamer myself (Counter-Strike obsessed to be precise until I realised obesity isn’t just a river in the U.S.A), I can relate to needing that gamer fix, you can catch midweek gaming nights at Berlin Haus. More info here http://www.chengdugaming.com

Pool and Poker nights are on point at McElroy’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, for the competitive gamblers, both starting at 9 pm. Grab a cue on Wednesday nights and get ready to challenge the ruthless, dexterous locals for a pool tournament and prepare your best poker shades/face Thursday nights and with a bit of luck from the Irish, take home that money pot. 

There’s nothing worse than arriving in a foreign country and being billy no mates, I say this from experience because sadly, I literally had no friends for the first 6 months of living in Chengdu (due to my social anxiety and hatred of “small talk”) but primarily having no idea where to find PEOPLE. I eventually found human beings in a dark little dive bar called Hakka, which was the place to be in the glory days, but now it’s mainly for the Jay and Silent Bob types.

Nowadays the above-mentioned bars and restaurants are a good go-to for socializing. As well as Commune Bar, where drinks are suspiciously cheap, Funky Town with sweet beats and Pizza Corner right next door, where you can enjoy a naughty slice of pizza & catch the sports. Revolucion Cocktaillocated in the trendy part of town with extortionately priced cocktails (which you only need two of) but a busy vibe and great for dancing. Beer connoisseurs can be found at both Beer Nest locations and Hugos Bar with a summer loving beer garden and a mass variety of beers, ciders and IPAs.

6 | Outdoorsy 

When it comes to outdoorsy stuff, my motto is “seen one mountain, you’ve seen them all”. This is blasphemy to my mates ears when they plan the 100th trip of the year to yet another horrible little mountainous town/village to “immerse themselves in the culture” pffffft. Just jesting. I love fresh air, but some people like embracing the peasant camping life more than others. 

A rare photo of me painfully enjoying the great outdoors.

Chengdu being the Middle Kingdom gives access to heavenly landscapes, hot springs, Giant Buddha’s, mountains for the stick stealing hikers, the endearing smiles of the locals for the inspiring photographers and just a break away from city life.

Apart from blowing marshmallow bubbles up each other’s arses on the side of a mountain, there are plenty of things to do, more local to Chengdu. Flower Town (a squad fave). All you can eat cook-it-yourself BBQ and beer for 58RMB, ping pong, tandem bike rides or a leisurely pedal on a boat in the lake. Lovely day out.

#flowertownsquadgoals

Go-Karting, rock-climbing and even baseball batting cages are readily available in Chengdu as well as an irrefutable skater/bike rider scene.

Places of interest: Xiling mountain, Jiu Zhai Gou, Leshan Giant Buddha, Qingcheng Mountain, Liang Tai Gou, Shang Li, Jiulong Gou.

7 |Jobs Opportunities 

With the proper degree, experience and attitude, finding a job can be a walk in the park. This refers mainly to teaching. WeChat job groups, established training schools, recruitment companies, ‘white monkey’ jobs are all in abundance. If you’re coming to China for a job that isn’t teaching, I assume you have impeccable Chinese and relevant experience to that field.

I have worked for a company called i2 for the duration of my time in Chengdu and can vouch for them, but with that being said many use teaching as simply a foot in the door technique into China. If you’re interested in working for this company and would like more information you can contact me directly at [email protected]

Other companies such as Laowai Here (Laowai is a term you will become all too familiar with, out here) specialize in overseas recruitment and can easily help you start your career in China. More information can be found on their website (west2east.net) or by sending an email to [email protected]laowaihere.com

You might even find yourself on a billboard!