We Booked A China Trip On Xiamen Air!

Filed Under: Other Airlines, SkyTeam

A few weeks ago Ben posted about Xiamen Air’s really good business class fares later this year to a bunch of cities in China from LAX. The fares are still available starting in September (around $1,850 round trip), but with somewhat more limited dates.

I asked for ideas on where in China we should go, and you all had some really awesome suggestions on what to do and see there over a long weekend. Ben eventually found an itinerary that would allow us to spend a bit of time in two different cities. It cost a little over $1,900, so it wasn’t quite as cheap as the cheapest fares, but it was still a great deal.

The seats on the 787-9 look like pretty standard reverse herringbone seats, which are great.

So, where are we going?


The flight from Xiamen to Chengdu is a bit under 3 hours, and the idea of seeing some pandas really appealed to me. From some cursory research, it looks like there are a few different panda facilities. The most popular one is the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding (the name rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?), but there’s also the Dujiangyan Panda Base a little farther outside the city. Does anyone have any insight into which one is better?

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding Website

And while we’re there, do you have any other suggestions for Chengdu’s to check out and “Chengdon’ts” to avoid? 😉


Xiamen is, unsurprisingly, Xiamen Air’s hub, so it’s a logical place to have a stopover. We’ll be there for about 24 hours. I’ve heard that they have cool street markets at night. Not sure what else is worth doing on such a short trip, so any other ideas for must-sees are welcome (keeping in mind that Ben doesn’t like museums and has the attention span of a goldfish with severe ADD).

I’m really excited, since it’s been a couple years since I’ve gone on a trip with Ben (you can read about my last one, if you’d like). I’ll be sure to report back on how it goes!

  1. Do you want to hold a panda or not? Chengdu Research Base is much closer to the city and is better laid out for tourists, however, Dujiangyan lets you hold a panda for a fee. It’s about 50km out of the city center, so it will take time to get out there.

    People’s Park is great for some people watching. There’s multiple tea houses within it and if you want to be adventurous, you can get your ears cleaned by the various wandering vendors.

    Get some Sichuan Hot Pot or at least some La Zi Ji (dry-fried chicken with chilies. Remember to get a decent amount of rice to help with the numbness and burn.

  2. Quanzhou, about 1.5 hours from Xiamen has a few historical sites, including Kaiyuan Temple (one of the few intact Buddhist temples of this scope in China) and Qingjing Mosque (a very old mosque).

  3. I just visited the Research Base and it was awesome. They have a nice trail laid out to take you around the whole park. With some leisurely panda viewing, I was there about 4 hours. I would highly recommend going as soon as the park opens. The last hour was not as pleasant as the crowds and tour groups arrived.

  4. If you go to the research base, go first thing in the morning before the tourist groups get there. As soon as you enter go STRAIGHT to the nursery to see the tiny baby pandas. You can spend your time looking at them. Once the crowds get bad you’ll only get to walk past the windows and not have time to stop and watch.

  5. I am not totally sure if the Dujiangyan base still offer the panda hugging service, after one panda allegedly fell ill after being hugged in 2014(?). However I would still recommend the Dujiangyan base as you would probably interested in visiting the Dujiangyan Irrigation System anyway.

    If you are into museums, Guanghan Sanxingdui Museum is my best recommendation. It’s about the same distance from the city, as Dujiangyan, but in slightly different directions.

    I hope you enjoy Chengdu my hometown! But I have to warn you, it’s horribly humid and hot there at this time of the year XD

  6. Chengdu = food. This is the place to do nothing but a foodie tour of all of those great restaurants. The Temple House is a truly superb hotel.

    If you’re in Chengdu just for the pandas, then how about staying at the Six Senses resort outside of the city. It would be great to read an OMAAT review of the place.

  7. This is very important; please read.

    When are you going? There is a Chinese national holiday during the first week in October. If you are going then, be prepared to fight through hordes of Chinese tourists. Search the internet for videos, the lines are ridiculously long.

  8. Chengdu – the Research Base is great for seeing pandas and has it all. They also have a holding panda program , but your timing needs to be right , there needs to be a baby panda of the right age. As others have mentioned – get there early , be there when the park opens.
    Other great parts of Chengdu is the food – Dan Dan Noodles and Ma Po Tofu were both invented there and need to try the hot pot as well

    Xiamen – take a trip to Gulangyu island , is a pretty nice spot. good time to go is late afternoon , as there are some nice markets at night
    Other great part of Xiamen is the seafood. Just be prepared if you do not speak Chinese. The menu is a walk around the giant fish tanks and you pick your fish and then tell them the preparation , is not simple but worth it

  9. Xiamen is actually a really small city and you should be able to go round a lot of it in 24hrs. I’d say the things I enjoyed most was the grafeti tunnel which can be located in the grounds of the university. It’s about 2km long and has hundreds of little scenes and pictures painted all along it. The other thing I would suggest is taking a boat to piano island, the boat ride is short maybe ten minutes and then you have a island full of food, pianos (obviously) shops, small boutique hotels, bars, resorts, statues etc etc it’s got enough to make you explore a bit. It’s got small hills and you will find yourself walking a good few km easily. You can also hire bikes. If you do go I would suggest taking an umbrella, it absolutely pissed down when we were a long way fr the boat port and we discovered a total lack of places selling them on the island (they had some at the port but by that time it was pointless as you cannot keep dry one soaking wet). Overall Xiamen is mostly a quiet place, even the bar streets don’t get too lively nor are they very big and nor is Xiamen. Oh and Xiamen is a big draw for young lovers, so you won’t find too many fancy food options. The street food there is famous but I found it mosty overpriced and not so delicious. Don’t expect to be blown away just enjoy it for its small laid back vibe and for the fact it’s a bit different to the usual massive cities. Enjoy!

  10. Gday feel free to get in touch! I’m an Aussie who has lived in Chengdu now for more than 4 years (and been reading this blog most of this time) and would be cool to catch up. Lot of the suggestions above totally agree with, but also depends totally on what you’d like to see (I.e some recommend tea houses, id recommend going for a day trip to the megacity 1.5 hours east on the 300km an hour train called Chongqing.. all depends on time). Get in touch!

  11. Since seems that you guys pay more and redeem less every day…when we change the name of the blog to OneDollaratatime?

  12. About chengdu, Kuangzhai xiangzi and Jinli have local stores, street food, and a huge amount of people. Jinli is beautiful at night. Jiuyanqiao is the nightclub area. Face-changing is the most famous show there. A lot of places offer this type of show but the quality is different. Anthony Bourdain had an episode talking about food there if you are interested in food.

  13. @Mark- how can you redeem miles if you havent paid for flights in the first place? You gotta pay to receive, my friend. 😉

  14. Sounds awesome. Xiamen airlines is a pretty nice airlines actually. Even the economy class is comfortable and service there is good. Only thing I did not like is the stopover in Xiamen but as yours is 24 hours, take the time and visit the city.

  15. My wife is from Xiamen and it’s a lively city. Gulangyu island is the most famous tourist attraction, there East meets West in what used to be a free trade area full of European embassies several centuries ago. It’s a place to wander, and enjoy the architecture and ambiance. And enjoy tea of course.

  16. We are flying Xiamen Air LAX-XMN-PEK/SHA-XMN-LAX in September — also visiting Chengdu and Xiamen — so we’ll have to compare notes!

  17. The Conrad Xiamen is a STUNNING hotel. In my view it’s comparable with any of the Park Hyatts in East Asia. And the evening club lounge spread is awesome. Conrad is in the highest building in the city and provides you a great view of the Gulangyu Island that other people have mentioned. The only negative is that the hotel is very stingy with suite upgrades for Diamond members, but they will give you a beautiful corner room with floor to ceiling views out into the ocean.

  18. In Xiamen if your looking for a more “expat scene” Try hitting the Marco Polo area – theres the bar street at night you can bar hop mingling with expats. Theres a Canadian oyster place right beside too. Theres also a nice hidden scotch and whiskey bar called F. Spirits right beside their F. Bakery. They also have a great French bistro in the Marco Polo area, all of these places are 5 within 5 mins walking. Typically I’ll hit the bistro and then walk to the Spirits bar and maybe hit the revolution club bar after. Besides Gulangyu theres not much to see, the weather is typically very humid so pack linen’s or light cotton.

    To be close to the area there’s the Marco Polo hotel itself which is a bit dated, The PanPacific is 5 mins walk away and pretty decent to have some decent food within walking distance.

    Largely with the new car hailing apps etc its typically harder to get a taxi.

  19. Oh, and Xiamen Air is pretty much the best Chinese airline out there. I’ve flown them dozens of times and have always found the staff friendly.

  20. You can make it quite visit to Kinmen, an island controlled by Taiwan reachable with an hour boat trip away. Boats are very frequent and that island is just a world apart from Xiamen. I think you will need double entry Chinese visa. That’s a great escape from the crowded and chaotic Xiamen. While Xiamen’s Gulanyu has just been added to the list of World Heritages this week, I found it overrated and overcrowded when I visited three years ago.

  21. The Chengdu Research base of giant panda breeding is much better then the dujiangyan one. It takes less time to get there, and it is bigger and newer. But it gets really crowed, so be sure to be there early, the parking is also at all very convenient.

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