Their are plenty of “ancient towns” to be found in China – streets made up to look like the alleys of old China, only prettier. On the whole I’ve found most of them disappointing and they can be summed up fairly accurately as “tourist traps”. Expect to find the same, or similar, street food and souvenirs sold at each ancient town. In most cases once you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all.
If you’re in Chengdu and you decide to pick an ancient town to visit, I recommend Luodai. Having visited a few of these ancient towns (mostly unwillingly) I consider Luodai to be the most interesting one. It takes about 40 minutes to one hour to reach Luodai from Xinnamen bus station, at the cost of 6.5 yuan (about 65p). From Luodai bus station you will be greeted by a number of drivers on three-wheelers, but walk past them and you will reach the old town in a speedy 5 minutes.
Whilst most stalls sell the usual tourist tack, there are some beautiful art and ceramic shops as well as some delightful jewellery stores.
A particularly treasured souvenir I picked up was from an artist who would write your name (Chinese or English) using his beautiful paints to spell out your name in a mixture of bamboo, butterfly and flower-like symbols. It’s not even that expensive – 10 yuan (£1) for the paper painting and 40 yuan (£4) if you wanted to laminate it.
If this isn’t enough to convince you to give Luodai a quick visit, perhaps knowing that the ancient town is also home to the creepiest and cheapest celebrity waxwork museum will persuade you to pick Luodai over the other ancient towns in the Chengdu area?
This waxwork of the Queen has to be the worst in history…
So, if you’re looking for an ancient town to explore for a few hours, I recommend Luodai. To see more of Luodai, check out our vlog on youtube: