Having lived a year in Chengdu it was shameful I still hadn’t seen ‘Global Center’, also known as the largest building in the world. Despite my huge interest for architecture I was discouraged by the distance, but having just acquired a great deal on a bike it was finally time to make the journey!
Having never heard of Chengdu I assumed it must be a small town when I first received my job offer. I was surprised to learn that it’s a city of 14 million inhabitants, containing such landmarks as the the largest building in the world, and more famously, the largest panda center in the world.
Having seen too many episodes of the documentary Megastructures, my excitement for ambitious architecture far outweighs my rare chance to hold a baby panda. It was time to jump onto my new bike and make a visit, but the journey was perhaps more interesting than the building itself!
How to get to Global Center
The easiest way would be by metro, but with the usual lack of signs I was skeptical about the many bus and metro exchanges it would require. Going by bike might be equally unhelpful regarding signs but at least I get some level of control.
I acquired the biggest tourist map I could find, only to discover that so called Global CENTER is so remote that my tent-sized map didn’t cover the full distance! How can such an ambitious project be built so remotely, I asked my Chinese friend. I was given a surprisingly simple answer. the politicians simply decided that the far south of Chengdu is hereby declared as the new center. Interesting problem-solving, but I’m unsure how many will be convinced.
After an hour of bicycling I approached the edge of my map. Using guesswork to find the remaining way was no issue, as the building is so freakishly large you can see its outline from far away. Now I just needed to park my bicycle and step in, easier said than done, it turned out!
Parking at Global Center
Tho there were open spaces everywhere I had good reasons for wanting to find a proper garage. A Chinese colleague told me a unguarded bike can be stolen within minutes. He learned this the hard way from having had six of his bikes stolen. Shocked by this number I said it doesn’t sound like he learned his lesson at all! This warning made me relieved to see the bicycle parking sign marking entire way down to the bicycle garage.
Far from actually helpful however, the sign lead me down a tunnel that was completely irrelevant, if not creepy! Practicing my patience I tried bicycling to the end of this seemingly never-ending tunnel, but chickened out as the warning signs written in mysterious Chinese character were somehow appearing increasing hostile.
Global Center Bicycle Garage
Coming back up to where I started I had to resort to my limited Mandarin to ask for directions. Failing miserably I lowered my standards and merely pointed to my bicycle while asking 哪儿 (Where?).
After ten requests for directions I was finally lead to the most camouflaged entrance of them all. I found it hilariously ironic that out of all underground entrances this was the only one with a clear sign AGAINST bicycling. Only later did I realize it means you should slowly lead your bike down rather than come racing the dangerous turn.
Having arrived and bicycle securely locked I was finally ready to take my first step inside! Will I make it out alive or would I get lost in the labyrinth of endless shops? Stay tuned for next post to find out. Make sure you don’t miss it by signing up to blog updates by email!