Chengdu

Chengdu abounded with new-found affluence and is bent on modernizing. Many of the city's older wooden buildings have been pushed aside and replaced with trendy opulent department stores and high-rise commercial and residential blocks. This may well be a positive change for residents who associate the older buildings with the poverty of generations past and, despite the transformation, the city has surprisingly managed to retain much of its charm.

Although they're disappearing quickly, there are still some bustling side streets to explore, where you will stumble upon markets, commercial districts, underground shopping malls, countless tiny restaurants specializing in Sichuan snacks, and old men walking their song birds to hunch over a game of chess. You will also encounter the city's artisans: small-time basket-weavers, cobbles, itinerant dentists, tailors, house ware merchants and snack hawkers who swarm the streets and contribute to Chengdu's lively atmosphere.
 
For a capital city, Chengdu is a manageable size and it's abundance of greenery and friendly characters make it one of China's more laid-back cities.