Chengdu wasn't on our initial itinerary but the flights from Xi'an to Lijiang on ctrip.com (China’s version of kayak.com) were cheapest via the capital of Sichuan so we decided to stop there for a day to taste some spicy Sichuan food in the province itself and visit the giant pandas. My taste buds were thanking us. Sichuan peppercorn is the predominant flavor in Sichuanese cuisine; it has a tingly, numbing effect (in contrast with chili pepper spice) that remains with you long after eating. The night we arrived I went straight to the nearest little snack shop for some fiery Sichuan dumplings – hot and spicy and mouth-numbingly delightful. And you can't go wrong for US$0.60! They were so good I went back for another bowl before our flight the next evening.