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Where memory lanes meet 21st century (2)

By Li Anlan (Shanghai Daily)

08:34, December 05, 2012

Da Miao (大妙) serves authentic Sichuan-style hotpot, one of the most popular delicacies of Sichuan cuisine and a must-try for visitors. Located in Zhai Lane, it is the only restaurant of its kind in Kuanzhai Lane. While savoring the great spicy food, famed for its numbing heat, you can also enjoy a bian lian performance.

Traditionally, only males were allowed to learn the secret art of bian lian when it was passed down within the family. It was feared because women would marry into another family, they may reveal the art's mysteries to outsiders. But at Da Miao, there is a female performer.

Shang Xi (上席), also named Seat of Honor, is a private restaurant offering authentic Sichuan dishes. Founded by famous Chengdu poet and food critic Shi Guanghua, this restaurant seeks to revive traditional Sichuan dishes that have almost been lost.

Wei Dian (味典), or Sichuan Snack, at Jing Lane, is a restaurant that offers more than 70 kinds of special Chengdu snacks. From baked egg cake (蛋烘糕) to Northern Sichuan-style bean jelly (川北凉粉), visitors can find treats to suit all tastes.

Tea houses are also hard to miss in Kuanzhai Lane, offering a taste of a slower Chengdu culture.

At Yi Yin Tian Xia (一饮天下) in Kuan Lane you can experience an old-style tea house experience. Drinking tea and playing mahjong or just chatting with friends is a good way of whiling away some time and getting away from busy city life.

Lu Fu Tea House (陆福茶艺) is situated in a courtyard in Kuan Lane. In the evenings, visitors can relax with top quality teas while enjoying performances such as magic, fire breathing, cross talk comedy and bian lian.

Western cafes and bars blend in harmoniously with the traditional Chengdu alleys. Starbucks in Zhai Lane, which embraces traditional style with paper-cutting decorations and red lanterns, has the largest outdoor area in Chengdu.

White Night Bar (白夜酒吧) was opened by famous poet Zhai Yongming in Zhai Lane more than a decade ago. The décor embodies elements of history, art, literature and culture, and the bar holds regular cultural events, exhibitions and parties.

When visiting Chengdu, it is also fun to stay at an interesting quality inn at Kuanzhai Lane. Dragon Town Hostel (龙堂客栈)of Kuan Lane established in July 2002, receives more than 10,000 guests a year - 80 percent of whom are from abroad - and is a very popular choice with backpackers. Emphasizing its casual and homely vibe, the hostel once hung a light-hearted sign stating: "People in suits and leather shoes are not welcome."

Retail stores in Kuanzhai Lane sell traditional Sichuan handicrafts such as Shu embroidery, as well as works from young designers. Also, check out the interesting book shops while exploring the alleys.

Kuanzhai Lane is almost like a city within the city, a double-sided mirror that reflects the lifestyles of both a magnificent past and an energetic present; the splendor of the East and the elegance of the West. To both locals and visitors, it is a fascinating destination that epitomizes Chengdu City: at once traditional and leisurely, modern and dynamic.

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