Ya'an is an unmemorable city located 2 hours southwest of Chengdu on the Sichuan-Tibet highway. Without any discernable attractions, travelers need not linger any longer than it takes them to find onward transport to the more inviting Shangli or Wangyu.
Fast busses from Chengdu’s Xinnanmen bus station (730-1900, every 35mins, 2 hrs, Y46) leave throughout the day.
Even though your ticket says Ya’an, there is a possibility you may be directed onto a bus bound for the inane Bifengxia Nature Park near Ya’an. If you are the discerning type and forgo the parks dancing tigers the driver will drop you off at the first intersection inside Ya’an. From here you can flag down a Shangli bound mini van or get a taxi to the Wangyu minivan depot.
Various forms of transport ply the street willing to take you to your destination at maximum speed for a minimum cost. Taxis charge around Y5 to anywhere.
There is a wall-size map in the bus station so you can see all the other places in Sichuan more interesting than Ya’an. This includes Labahe Nature Reserve.
If you went to BiFengXia you could have bought a hat made from a fern frond. Its not much good for keeping the sun off your face but you will fit in with the crowd.
Ya’an has many small restaurants and street food stands that serve fried and spicy foods. Specialty foods include Ya fish (a freshwater fish that is native to the area), dandan noodles (hand pulled thick noodles in a mala spicy broth), and bamboo shoots (which grow wild in the mountains, are often served in salads or stir fried with salted ham, and can be purchased dried for Y60/kg at many tourist locations.
Is Chengdu really that far away? Its only 2 hours on the bus and the guesthouses will still have a few beds by the time you arrive.
Chengdu bound busses (730-1900, every 35mins, 2 hrs, Y46) leave throughout the day from the tourist bus station.
Shangli bound minivans (20mins, Y6.5) can be flagged down on the main road outside the Tourist bus station.
Wangyu bound minivans (1hr, Y8.5) leave from a secret location known only to the local taxi drivers who park near the Tourist bus station (10mins, 5Y). The minivans leave when full but will continue to pick up passengers along the way. Hopefully the road has been repaired by the time you go.