In a seemingly forgotten and isolated part of Hongya County, around 130 kilometers southwest of Chengdu, is Liujiang Old Town (柳江古镇), one of Sichuan's 10 largest old towns.
The 800-year-old town today is a showcase for the typical old-town wooden structures shared by some of the more well-known old towns in Sichuan, such as Ping'le. From the swaths of art students from the city sitting in front of easels to the elderly hawking their wares along the narrow lanes to the lazy teahouses and restaurants, there's not much to distinguish Liujiang from other old towns.
It is nonetheless, a quiet getaway from the city, and the wide river running along the town in front of evergreen hills makes for a picturesque setting. The area is home to an abundance of wild fish, mushrooms, and kiwifruits, and some of the trees have been dated to 1,000 years ago.
It's not a place to go for action or excitement, although crossing the river—at your choice of crossings, either the widely spaced, slippery stone blocks rising up from the water, or the wood-slatted bridge, neither with railings of any sort—is enough to get some people's hearts pumping quickly.
An afternoon can easily be spent here, but considering the amount of time it takes to travel from Chengdu (around 3 hours total), those looking for true leisure might opt to spend the night in one of the inexpensive, simple lodgings in the town. Single, double, and four-person bikes are available for rent as well. Alternatively, the trip could be combined with a visit to nearby hot springs or to E'mei Shan, Le Shan, Meihan, or Wawu Shan, all of which are in relatively close proximity.
Buses leave from Xinnanmen Bus Station (新南门汽车站) to Hongya (洪雅) roughly every 40 minutes between 7:40 a.m. and 5:40 p.m. (RMB41, 2 to 3 hours). At Hongya station, transfer to a bus (50 minutes) or take a taxi (30 minutes, RMB80 without meter) for the 30km journey to Liujiang Old Town (柳江古镇). The last bus to Chengdu from Hongya leaves just after 5 p.m. and arrives at Shiyangchang Bus Station (石羊场客运站-公交车站).