Monday, July 21, 2014

Chongqing: the biggest city you've never heard of...

Chongqing is my favorite city visited in China so far. It sits right in the middle of two rivers converging (on one side a yellow colored river and on the other a giant palette of swirling, mixing paint).  Some people in our group have compared the landscape here to that of New York or Pitsburgh. Compared to Beijing and Xi'an, this city is very quaint and charming...yet just as bustling. The population is almost at 25 million; larger than Beijing but less dense.

Chongqing has a rich past dating back over 3,000 years and was a capital city during certain Imperial dynasties.  Recent scientific findings even suggest that the human activities in this area date as far back as the end of the old Stone Age-approximately 2 million years ago-which is the oldest evidence of humans in China.  During WWII, Chongqing was major post for the Allies; at first under the guidance of General Stillwell. Between 1938-1943 the Japanese launched an indiscriminate bombing campaign on the area (fist real evidence of "terrorism" as we know it).  In these 5 years there were around 11,500 bombs dropped during 5,000 separate bombings.  Many targeted areas included schools, hospitals, and residential areas.  This became a part of daily life here and many tunnels we set up as bomb shelters...unfortunately the chaos and crowding led to many tragic deaths due to lack of oxygen and trampling.  We had our hot-pot dinner in one of the old tunnel bomb shelters. The wartime culture transformed Chongqing from an already established city and set it off on the trajectory to become the city it is today.  It is currently listed as #65 on a list of global cities and the GDP here is growing at twice the rate of the Chinese national average.  In 1997, the status of Chongqing was promoted to be the 4th provincial level city in China; and the only one in West China.  In 2007, president Hu Jintao  delivered an important speech about the importance of Chongqing and it was also designated as one of two cities (the other Chengdu) to enact experimential policy changes to narrow the urban-rural gap (think affirmitive action and other US policies of that nature).

The climate, food and people are spicy! In Chinese people call the hot pot (which was created in Chongqing long ago by the workers as a respite from the long cold winter days) Ma-la-tang. This means numb-spicy-hot! The Sichuan peppers are numbing and I joked that there was new ring road of numbness built around my lips when I was eating my hot pot dinner.  The people here are so friendly and easy going!

One nickname for Chongqing is Bridge City. There are 29 bridges here and this one looks like a needle being threaded.

We went on a 1 hour river cruise at sunset and got to see the city transform into a bright nightscape.

In Ci Qi Kou, they have created an old town feel with quaint architecture that is a nice juxtaposition to the towering skyscrapers.  There are lots of beautiful scrolls and other art for sale here as well as various other touristy shops and food vendors.

An talented, yet armless, man paints animals from the Chinese zodiac on the street!

Giant cotton candy...

Making noodles...

Hot pot (to be sung to the tune of the hot pocket jingle) ;). The meat to the left of the twisty bread is pig kidneys.

Tim eats what we were told is eel, but looks and tastes more like a small fish (bones, fins, and all).

Boiling away...

MSG on the table...

We went for a 100 minute reflexology foot massage and this guy greeted us when we entered the building.

Waiting for my massage...

Towards the end of the massage a flame was put inside this bamboo cup and suctioned onto my foot ( this Traditional Chinese Medicine method is called cupping).

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely fascinating. One of my favorite posts ever.