COUNTRY B&Bs 农家乐
Chengdu's countless Nong Jia Le (a type of bed-n-breakfast inn) seal the city's reputation as a leisure haven and a center of economic development in western China.
One example is the village of Nong Ke, nestled in Pixian county in the west of Chengdu. This village is considered to be the first to develop the Nong Jia Le business model and the first to coin the term. In the late 1980s, Nong Ke villagers began moving away from vegetable and rice farming and turned to flowers - roses, lilies, plum blossoms, orchids - and transformed their terraced fields into row after row of colorful, fragrant flowers. The business proved so successful that the villagers were compelled to offer their homes and kitchens to customers who wanted to enjoy the experience of choosing and buying flowers along with a cup of tea and country fare. Thus, the first Nong Jia Le was born.
Since then, the annual income per capita in Nong Ke village has been increasing tremendously, and those pioneers have moved from their old homes into large villas. One proprietor has built three villas on his property, one for each of his sons, and a park with a pagoda and a small lake.
The meteoric rise in living standards through Chengdu-style bed-n-breakfast has spread to other counties, where people have begun opening their homes and gardens to visitors from the mainland's big cities. Dujiangyan in the north is a favorite, with its mountain scenery, Taoist history, excellent food and comfaortable accommodation.
The effect this developmental model has had on the lifestyle of suburban Chengdunese cannot be underestimated. A typical Nong Jia Le uses traditional Chinese architecture and Feng Shui principles. Gardens are immaculately maintained, often housing dozens of crafted plants and small trees, fountains, pagodas and walkways. The emphasis is on an experience devoid of pollution and filled with a sense of China's past.
Paintings and poems hang on the walls, and bamboo walkways, stone bridges and wooden arches span the gardens. Foo is often prepared from ingredients plucked from the gardens. Farmers who once would have welcomed a factory or highway now spend their efforts maintaining the natural beauty of the region. With the advent of riches and development, the proprietors of Nong Jia Le have also gained power and influence.
Xing Fu Mei Lin in the Jinjiang district of Chengdu city has one of the largest and most impressive Nong Jia Le, a perfect example of co-operation between local villagers, the government and private businessman. It, covering 3.8 square kilometers, is one of six villages on the outskirts of the district. This development is an amalgamation of several Nong Jia Le. Hundreds of homes in Xing Fu Mei Lin offer bed-n-breakfast services. The park is connected by carts that carry visitors from the lakes, through the flower gardens and across bridges to a series of cozy teahouses and finally to the patio of a Sichuan-style kitchen. Vast flower-growing enterprises, including Speedlings from US, provide high-grade flowers and plants for locals, wholesalers and customers.
Locals are given the option to invest in any enterprises, from the construction of a new bridge or garden to the establishment of a new flower-growing business, increasing their financial security and giving them a say in development matters.
Xing Fu Mei Lin plans to expand even further, playing host to flower exhibitions and conventions and providing more land for homes and gardens to meet demand not just from Sichuan province, and but also Beijing, Shanghai, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. It also caters for visitors from Japan, Korea and a small but growing number of westerners.