Just One Day in Chongqing

Written by Dec 19, 2006 02:12
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I spent one day in Chongqing. It was my last stop on a whirlwind tour of major cities of China over Spring Festival during my first year in China. Whereas most people who visit Chongqing go out on the Yangtze River or see the Dazu Rock Carvings, I saw nothing in the China guidebook. At least, not on purpose.

My day in Chongqing happened in mid-February, when it was cold, but not so cold that one had to wear a hat and scarf. My friend I was traveling with and I dropped off our bags at our hotel and immediately set off on foot to see what we could of the city. We had our hotel's card, which had the address in Chinese on it, so we knew that we didn't have to worry about getting lost.


We picked a direction and began to walk. Chongqing is a city of rivers, mountains, and hills. Above the skyline of the city, if you're looking from the right perspective, you can see a line of low, rounded mountains. The city itself isn't built on flat land, which should hardly be surprising. The roads and alleys often climb or fall steeply, which might explain in part the lack of bicycles and the abundance of smog I noticed there. The hilliness of the city, though, was what made Chongqing for me. When I think back to it now, that's what I think of.

Chongqing has a long history as a city, as so many of the cities in China do, and as I walked around, the history felt like it was right there in the open for all to see. We began turning down alleys, trying to get away from the major, clean, touristy streets. It didn't take much effort to find ourselves surrounded by dilapidated buildings that looked on the verge of falling down and people who carried heavy loads of this or that on either end of bamboo sticks across their shoulders.

Like I said, the alleys in Chongqing stand out in my mind because they're built on hills. Some people would have their stands where they cooked up bread or noodles on steep stairs with no railings. It seemed like every alley led higher and every view you caught off of the alley was vertigo-inducing.

Open Market

Our one stop indoors was at a huge produce market. The market was packed full of people and sold about every kind of fresh food you could imagine. There were waist-high burlap sacks of every kind of pepper i knew existed and more. There were live chickens and other animals, plus fresh meat on meat hooks. There were buckets of snakes in water, and a woman picking them out, live, and filleting them. There were containers full of eggs, each container with a different kind. There were fruits, vegetables, fish... it was all there, and some things I couldn't name.

A Tour Guide We Didn't Ask For

Outside of the market, we found a steep set of stairs that looked interesting. As we began climbing, a man began trying to talk to us. This didn't go too well, as he spoke some dialect neither my friend nor I could understand very well. As he climbed with us, he kept trying to point out interesting things to us, apparently trying to talk us into staying at some hotel a friend of his ran at the top of the stairs. At the top of the stairs was a nice view of that part of the city, a man selling all kinds of birds in wooden cages, and the hotel the man with us had been talking about. We stayed at the top for a while, resting and enjoying the view. The man stayed with us, still trying to communicate. He began to demand money from us for being our "tour guide," as he said. We tried to say, no, you just tagged along with us so we won't give you any money. As we climbed back down, we tried to lose the man, but he stayed with us, still trying to point out things so as to qualify as a tour guide. Had we known how to say it, we could have told him most tour guides can speak the same language as the people they're showing around. Once down the hill, the man stayed with us as we left the alley. We went into a store, and he waited for us outside. Eventually, my friend told him as clearly as he could that he would be getting no money from us. He shouted some kind of a curse on our families and went on his way.


We caught a taxi back to our hotel before looking for a place for dinner. We asked at the front desk if there were any good places nearby to eat that famous Chongqing food. I was a bit nervous, as I don't especially enjoy spicy food, but I figured one meal should be fine. We got directions to a place just around the corner and off we went. In the restaurant, as we were escorted to our table, I looked at the food on other people's plates. I had a hard time seeing any food that wasn't peppers. There were plates on tables that appeared to be nothing but peppers. We got the menu and asked the waiter if they had any food that wasn't spicy. He thought for a long moment, and then said no, but they had a couple dishes that weren't VERY spicy. We ordered both of those, plus one other dish. The "not very" spicy dishes were about as spicy as I'll eat, which was good enough for me.

The next morning, we had planned to take a cablecar ride across the Yangtze, but instead we slept in, got up just in time to catch the complementary breakfast at the hotel, and window shop a little more before our flight back to Beijing took off. And with that, it was back to the cold and snow of north-eastern China.

 More Chongqing Travel Reviews
1. One day in Chongqing CONNY129 from CN Aug 30, 2006 04:08
2. Happy Returns JABAROOTOO from CN Jun 18, 2006 06:06
3. Ripples of the Revolution JABAROOTOO from CN Feb 8, 2006 00:02
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