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.
Ya'an's museum on the south bank of the river (one can enter from Wending Street (文定街)) is as modern as almost anything in China but this archaeological collection is understandably somewhat small. Open until 4 pm, admission is free.
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 never garnered favorable reviews for its culinary delights. The food, like the city, is cheap but unremarkable. Just pick any place and have some noodles or something.
About a block due south of the museum on the south side of West St (Xidàjiē) a family run establishment has satisfactory rooms and WiFi for 90元/night but the proprietor will want to escort you to the local police station about a block or two away some time after you've checked in for registration purposes.
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.