The plane ride was uneventful and the first night in Chongqing a tired blur. I had been running on empty most of the afternoon so at landing I was basically a zombie. We took a (very long) shuttle bus from the airport to the city center, and from there a taxi to the neat little hostel we were staying at. After stuffing our luggage in the room, we went out to find a late bite to eat. As our later experiences in the city would verify, it is impossible to get anywhere in Chongqing, because of the cliffs. It's like an ultra San Francisco. Point is, we wandered around fruitlessly for a long time and ended up back at the hostel, sleeping, with empty stomachs.9/30:
Waking up surprisingly early – I went & spent some much needed time on the internet, waiting for her to wake up. When she did, we had breakfast at the hostel and watched the drizzly rain. The weather in Chongqing this time of year really reminded me of Portland, overcast and rainy and a pleasant temperature, but with way more smog.
After breakfast we headed into town, walking along the Yangtze river, which was right by our hostel. I spent a lot of time admiring the very interesting architecture. In Chinese they call Chongqing 'the city built on air'. I would say the city built on cliffs and stilts, but you can get the idea. Because, also, it is quite ancient, you can find chiseled stone steps in the cliff-faces that don't go anywhere, or slums built on top of each other (like 'ya do).
It was raining when we left and, as I should have planned but didn't, it got much worse quickly and soon the single umbrella between the two of us wasn't cutting it anymore. This was the catalyst to, what I would call, a heated debate – which is good because the rain was cold and I was getting increasingly wet. At the end of the 'debate' we took a taxi away from the river to a famous bridge Chao had wanted to see and, luckily, closer to more businesses. We walked the bridge and took pictures, most of which turned out poorly thanks to the smog.
From here we wanted to go to Dazu to see the famous Buddha there, so we took a bus to the long distance bus station – found out that the money we had on us wasn't enough to afford the tickets – then decided to go to another famous site in the city. After another bus we went to the Ciqikou ancient city area. There we walked in old style streets with lots of modern, money grubbing vendors for a long time, took pictures and bought stuff (like 'ya do). It reminded me of 'Ancient Culture Street' back in Tianjin, except actually ancient and actually cultural. All in all we picked up: a novelty lighter, a bamboo cup, a fan, a bracelet and a panda bookmark – because being a consumer fills the void in your soul.
Once we milked this area for it's worth it was starting to get late so we decided to fore-go the other nearby attractions and took a bus back into the city. We used a public phone and called up on one of the fliers we had picked up at the hostel, arranged for a pickup – and soon we were on a short river cruise. The cruise was pretty cheap and lasted for about an hour, it was called the 'Two River Cruise' and ran each of the two congruent rivers for a ways. I was pretty cold in my T-shirt, but it was very relaxing, as was being hungry, looking at a menu, then laughing at the prices.
After the cruise, we walked back to the hostel which wasn't far from the dock. We dropped off some of our acquisitions and grabbed jackets – and went off to find some food stuffs. Of
course, we wanted to have the famous Chongqing hot pot if we could handle it. We walked 20 minutes or so & found a couple late night street hot pot places. It was absolutely delicious and like an inferno in my mouth. The guys eating next to us had obviously been drinking, but were quite nice and ended up talking to us. Then, after most had left, two of them stayed to buy me drinks and I'm pretty fuzzy on the rest, but apparently one of the men paid for our hotpot. All in all, great experience – I really love Chongqing people.10/1:
After another early morning we ate at the hostel again. It was again raining, so we were in no hurry to go out and about. The lazy morning lasted until about 11 when we finally went out and walked towards what I had finally figured out was the downtown. The walk was rather arduous up many many a stone step and packed markets.
At the summit we finally found some shopping centers and took some pictures of Mao's 'Victory' monument. Chongqing was one of the last cities held by the Nationalists when they were fighting against the red commies. Of course, that's why they had to put a giant victory monument in the middle of the city as a 'guess who won' bit. I read later that the monument was originally for victory in WWII (as Chongqing was the capital in the later stages of the war), but was 'modified' by the reds after their take over. This attitude may also explain why such an important city like Chongqing has been ignored and unheard of for so long. As today was National Day (day of the communists final take-over) it seemed funny to see how little celebration and fireworks were in Chongqing (and later Chengdu) as compared with Tianjin and Chengde that we had experienced the year before. But, as they say, 'history is written by the victors' and, since everyone roots for the underdog, smart people always assume the worst of the victors, which really isn't that smart – the Nationalists would have done no better if they had won (just look at Taiwan... no wait...).
Anyways, after leaving the monument & shopping area, we took a trolley over the Yangtze river since it seemed like something worth doing. On the other side there was really nothing to do though and we took a taxi back to the hostel since it was still raining and kind of miserable. We had coffee and read maps and internet, planning for Chengdu. Took a taxi to the north train station at rush hour so it took more than an hour, had some hot lunch and then got on our bullet train headed for Chengdu. We had no seats this time, but I had no qualms about sitting on the floor, something the locals seem to think is taboo (I can't find the consistent standard here). I was, luckily, able to sleep a lot of the way to Chengdu.