We had some time and energy to kill, so we went for a half-day visit to Luodai, 45 minutes east of Chengdu. Easy to get to – frequent buses, leave when they are almost full, fare was 7RMB per person one way from Chengdu Xinnanmen Passenger Station.
The main street of Luodai Ancient Town may have sort of a fun-fair atmosphere. However, what stands out is that Luodai Ancient Town has an impressive collection of Hakka guildhalls with traditional Hakka architecture. My first impression was that these guildhalls (and some of the other structures) are OLD! These beautiful guildhalls looked like they have undergone some maintenance works but their original state has been preserved. They have large courtyards, enormous halls and wonderfully flamboyant arching roofs stretching in layers. Don’t miss visiting the Hubei Hunan (Huguang) Guildhall which houses the Sichuan Hakka Museum (free entry). Randeng Temple in the vicinity is also worth a visit.
Luodai is also known for its Hakka dishes and snacks. There were many food stands that attract customers with various kinds of snacks. We saw farmers from the nearby countryside selling fresh vegetables and fruit in baskets by the road; and street vendors peddling food items and other wares in a traditional manner (balancing two baskets attached to each end of a wooden/bamboo carrying pole on the shoulders).
It is surely interesting to deviate from the main street as you never know what you may see. Wandering and snooping around the back streets and side alleys, we found the local market (though it was closed at the time in the afternoon); teahouses with wicker chairs and wooden tables in Luodai Park where locals were engrossed in their games of Mahjong and cards; and shops that cater to the locals and not tourists. The ‘real’Luodai is a big contrast to the fancy and well-kept ‘touristy’ Luodai!
Personally, we found Luodai with its historical Hakka guildhalls to be more authenthic than Jinli Ancient Street and Kuanzhaixiangzi. It is nearby enough and makes an interesting half-day outing.
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