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Kuan and Zhai Xiangzi (Wide and Narrow Alleys)

Chengdu, China

A fancy and lucrative spin to the old school alleys is what you get in Kuanzhai Xiangzi in Chengdu. The name literally translates in to Wide (Kuan), Narrow (Zhai) and Alley (Xiangzi) although the Well (Jing) Alley is also part of this complex. The streets predate to the time of the last Qing dynasty and were constructed to house soldiers. Out of the 42 alleys built, only 3 remain whose signage and architecture has been preserved. In fact, new life has been breathed in to these parts that attract even more crowds.

You can get here simply by exiting at Kuanzhai Xiangzi station on metro line 4 or if you’re taking metro line 2, take the Changshun Upper Road route by alighting at People’s Park station to reach Kuanzhai Alley. Plenty of public buses will also make a stop here. However you arrive, you will be overwhelmed by the eclectic rows of shops and food vendors that will greet you there!

All three streets have accumulated their own little tale to tell. The Wide Alley depicts the leisurely life of locals and speaks for tradition and folk stories. There are mostly typical stylized hotels (great for a stay since the metro is also close by), tea houses, restaurants and inn that are a throwback to the simple lives of old times. By nightfall, barbecues and little shows such as calligraphy demos, puppet and shadow shows make their appearances. Along the street there is a museum known as the Chengdu Real-Life Experience Hall that throws light on the everyday life of families in Chinese Republic period from 1912-1949.

The Narrow Alley is centered around the courtyard trend and its associated slow life; a main feature of Chinese homes in old days but invariably the biggest difference is that this street has a more Western atmosphere and the shops, restaurants and buildings are mostly American, German, French with Japanese and Indian thrown in for a balanced mix.

Last, but certainly not the least, is the Well Alley with a ‘modern life’ theme. There are many bars along this one making it great for a night out. That isn’t to say it has nothing for you in the day. The 400 m wall that features bricks from different time periods in imperial history is a good picture op! And the hip and trendy decoration of the buildings and street elements is also worth taking in.

The place is a very happening promenade where locals and foreigners alike love to hang out. It is crowded there most of the time but since it is pedestrian only, you can relax and absorb the atmospheric beauty of this protected space. There are plenty of souvenirs you can get from the vendors around here, though they are still pricier then on Jinli street (right next to Wuhou Temple). The food as well is more costly here, but it is worth the price once you consider the entertainment provided in the form of traditional shows and upscale facilities.

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