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Chongqing

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Chongqing (重庆; Chóngqìng), (formerly spelled Chungking), is one of the most famous cities in West China. Politically it consists of a "provincial" municipality by the same name. Chongqing City is the launching point for boat trips down the Yangtze River through the Three Gorges Dam. The spectacular Buddhist Dazu Rock Carvings are located three hours west of Chongqing City in the outlying Chongqing Municipality.

Geography

Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) 10 13 18 23 27 29 33 34 31 22 17 12
Nightly lows (°C) 6 7 11 15 19 22 24 24 21 16 12 7
Precipitation (mm) 2 2 4 9 15 17 15 13 14 10 5 2

Chongqing (105°17'-110°11' East, 28°10'-32°13' North) is humid yearround, cold December - February and hot June - September.

Chongqing is one of four municipalities in China, large cities that are not part of a province but report directly to the national government; it is the only municipality not located on the east coast, (the other three are Beijing, Shanghai and TianJin). Chongqing municipality is the largest city in China and therefore could be defined better as a "provincial" municipality due to its massive size. While independent since 1997, it is historically and culturally part of Sichuan.

Neighbouring Provinces: Hubei (east), Hunan (east), Guizhou (south), Sichuan (west), Shaanxi (north)

Located on the edge of the Yungui Plateau, Chongqing City is intersected by the Jialing River and the upper reaches of the Yangtze. It contains Daba Shan in the north, Wu Shan in the east, Wuling Shan in the southeast, and Dalou Mountain to the south. Chongqing is notorious for its hot and humid weather. The air quality in the warmer months can be challenging to people with respiratory problems.

Get in

By plane

Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport (CKG; [1]) is served by flights from Nagoya, Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore, Bangkok, Munich, and and other Chinese cities, as below: Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Tianjin, Shenzhen, Sanya, Xiamen, Wenzhou, Lhasa, Zhuhai, Haikou, Urumqi, Shenyang, Wuhan, Zhengzhou, Xi'an, Jinan, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Taiyuan, Nanning, Kunming, Ningbo, Panzhihua, Guiyang, Changchun, Jinjiang, Hefei, Chengdu, Yichang.(Airport GPS 29.720030-106.634060)(Airport bus stop in City GPS 29.562860-106.544200)

By train

Trains arrive daily at the Chongqing station, including the daily T9/T10 express train from/to Beijing, a 25-hour ride.

There are three train stations in Chongqing: Caiyuanba (in Yuzhong District), Shapingba (in Shapingba District), Chongqingbeizhan (in Jiangbei District)(Old Railway Stn Yuzhong GPS 29.552740-106.545920, new railway stn Jiangbei GPS 29.610270-106.546260)

Get around

The bike is the worst choice for people who understand the layout and structure of "the mountain city". Added the fact that it is incredibly dangerous to bike on city streets it is just not a good idea. First timers to Chongqing should be warned it is very easy to get lost due to the many hills and valleys added the two major rivers. The bus system and monorail are advised as the best forms of transportation and are very cheap and efficient.

By Monorail

The first part of Chongqing's new monorail [2] system opened in June 2005. The current system (see map [3]) is only somewhat useful for getting around in the city center, but major expansions are under construction, including a link to the major railway station. Announcements are made both in Mandarin and English.

By bus

The buses are frequent and cheap, but unless you can read Chinese you have to know where they are going and choose the right number bus going in the right direction. If you are going to one of the city centres, simply ask each bus if they go there. There are four city centres, so be sure you know the name of the place you want to go to. They are called Shapingba (Sandplains)(GPS 29.559900-106.457440) NW part of town and is an academic and university centre, Jiangbei (Northplace)(GPS 29.577000-106.528000), Nanping (Southernplains) (GPS 29.530531-106.561379) and Jiefangbei (GPS 29.560454-106.573400), which is one of the oldest centres and a shopping centre and near Chaotianmen harbour where there are lots of small markets and shops (often called the "fleamarkets" locally)(GPS 29.566742-106.583977). The bus station in Shaping ba is at GPS 29.559300-106.455450, there are two bus stations in Jiefangbei, south and west of the monument, and two in Jiangbei near the pedestrian street.

By taxi

Taxis are relatively cheap (start by ¥5 and ¥1.2/km) and can be easily found 24 hours a day. Few drivers speak anything but Chinese, so you must know where you are going. Either have your destination written for you in Chinese, learn how to say it, or be able to direct the driver. A good way to use taxis is to gather cards from hotels, then simply show the driver the one you want to go to or is nearest to your destination.

See and Do

While on the surface there may appear to be not much to do, further investigation will uncover a city with its own character and a number of interesting sites worth looking into.

Chongqing served as the capital of China for seven years during the late 1930's and early 1940's. With this political history comes a number of historic sights which are worth visiting. Chongqing is also the largest city in West China and is the focus of China's "Go West" strategy to help further develop the western part of China. As a result, it is a very lively and rapidly modernizing city, although it does get a bit hectic at times.

Zhou Enlai's old residence

Located by the Jialing river north west of Jiefangbei, and now a museum and open to the public for a small fee. It has been preserved as it was the day it was used. (GPS 29.568520-106.547700)

HongYaDong

Near Jiefangbei, a recreation of the old Chongqing, clinging to the side of the mountain with many small shops. A tourist place but you can find recreations of old local crafts here and genuine local food. (GPS 29.564730-106.575160)

Foreign Street

An entertainment and amusement park area northwest of Jiefangbei on the other side of the river and a bit north, where foreigners have been encouraged to set up shops. You can find a church, an upside-down house, an Australian bar (GPS 29.613330-106.598510), a small train, the world's largest public restroom and many other attractions. (Foreign Street GPS 29.612220-106.594560)

Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-Shek) old military headquarters

When Chongqing was the capital of China during the WWII, Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-Shek) established his military headquarters up in the mountains above Chongqing. As a result the Japanese bombers never found it, and it is now a museum, preserved as it was during the war. There are many buildings in the beautiful compound and you can visit his work room with the motto over his desk "all officials must serve the people" (in free translation), his bedroom, and his meeting room, and sit in his chair where he negotiated with the American advisers, with his American educated wife usually to his left. The location is a bit out of town and a taxi is the easiest transport. (GPS 29.568940 106.614350)

Chongqing Jiefangbei Pedestrian Street (Jiefangbei Shangye Buxingjie)

Jiefangbei stands in the most prosperous downtown section of Chongqing. Jiefangbei, or the People’ s Liberation Monument, formerly known as the Monument of Victory in the War of Resistance (locally usually called the "Anti Japanese war"), is a 27.5 meter highs structure. It is the center of the city marked as Chongqing’s commercial heart. It is isolated by broad, paved pedestrian square and glassy office buildings. The shopping square, completed at the end of 1997, is 400 meters from east to west, and 350 meters from north to south, covering an area of 24,400 square meters. (Pedestrian St and food street GPS 29.559030-106.574380)(Liberation monument GPS 29.560454-106.573400)

Around the square are more than 3,000 stores various kinds of shops, with two dozen large malls and shopping centers, a dozen star-graded hotels, and over 300 establishments and offices such as banks, stock markets, postal and telecommunication services and places of entertainment.

Great Hall of the People

Chongqing's Great Hall of the People (and the People's Square in front of the Hall) is an architectural symbol of Chongqing City. Its construction began in 1951, but its design is traditional and mirrors those of China's ancient classical dynasties. It somewhat resembles an enlarged version of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. The People's Square was only completed in 1997 and is decorated with trees and flowers. The ground of the square is paved with smooth marble tiles; there is magic music fountain; at the southern end of the square stands a stage for performances in the open air. You may see thousands of people dancing on the square in the numerous beautiful lights in the evening. (GPS 29.5646-106.549)

Three Gorges Museum

Across the People's Square is Three Gorges Museum, well worth a visit.

Zha Zi Dong

This is one of two Guomingdang prisons located in Shapingba, the other being Bai Gong Guan. Both are located at the base of Ge Le Mountain in Lie Shi Mu. Za Zi Dong offers a unique look at a 1940's era prison and the horrors that took place there when nearly 300 communist political prisoners were massacred at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. The entire area was also once the location of the Sino-American Cooperative Organization (SACO), a camp where Jiang Jie Shi's (Chang Kai Shek) elite troops were trained. Unfortunately the attrocities that took place and the American presence are often connected, while it's not universally agreed that they were.

Red Rock Village (Hong Yan Cun)

Red Rock Village (Hong Yan Cun, located near Shapingba centre on the road following the river) is a very important tourism site in Chongqing City. This is the location where the Chongqing Negotiations between Mao Zedong and Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-Shek) took place, and the historic aspect of the place is nice. To get to the history, you will have to go through an exhibition center which is worth going to.

Joseph Stilwell Residence

Not far from Red Crag Village is the former residence and office of General Joseph W. Stilwell ("Vinegar Joe" Stilwell), who headed American operations in China during the Anti-Japanese War. Stilwell is an impressive person, not only for his leadership ability but also for his understanding of China and Chinese culture (he could write in Chinese with a brush). His former residence is a 1930's modernist house with great views overlooking the Yangtze river. The main level is set up as it was during Stilwell's tenure. The lower level is filled with photos and bilingual descriptions of the Chinese Front during the Second World War. Location: No. 63 Jialingxin Road, Liziba, Yuzhong District, Chongqing. The Museum is also in easy walking distance of a monorail station.

Song Qing Ling's Residence

Another interesting site to visit (especially if your staying at the Hilton Hotel) is Song Qing Ling's former residence, from the period of the Second World War when Japan occupied much of China and Chongqing was the temporary capital.

There were three Song (also spelled Soong) sisters. The eldest married a businessman. Middle sister Qing Ling married Sun Yat Sen, the founder of modern China. She was herself an important political figure, especially after his death. The youngest married Chiang Kai Shek. A saying about them is "One loved money, one loved power, and one loved China". Qing Ling is the one who loved China. There is an interesting movie [4] with an English soundtrack and a book, "The Soong Dynasty" about the family.

This house wedged in between tall, ugly buildings is a nice German design (the original owner was an engineer who studied in Germany) that is not unlike many of the pre-liberation colonial architecture that can be found here and there in and around Chongqing. The house is located about 100 meters south of the main entrance to the Hilton Hotel.

Tour Boat

A 2 hour 30 mins trip on Jialing and Yangtse (Chang Jiang) rivers for ¥20 (or more depending on class) give you a night view of Chongqing's modern skyline. All the boats depart from the Chaotianmen dock, which is located at the north east extremity of the Yuzhong district.

Cable car ride

There are two cable car rides: one over the Yangtze and the other over the Jialing River. ¥4 return for a 5 minutes cable car trip above the Yangtse or the Jialing river - great view of the city.

Chongqing Old Town

Called Ci Qi Kou Zheng Jie, or sometimes the porcelain village as porcelain has long been made there, is still sold there, located in ShaPingBa, this is a few streets of Chongqing as it was, (and still is in some places). It is mostly comprised of small shops selling tourist stuff, but does lead down to the river where it is possible to board a restaurant boat and where the present Hostel is located. Several buses go there including 808 and 843. Worth a visit for a couple of hours. (GPS 29.581350-106.448260)

Computer and electronics markets

A place with several huge computers department stores. (GPS 29.529110-106.482140) There are also smaller such department stores in Jiefangbei, Jiangbei, and Shapingba.

Dazu Rock Carvings

Driving three hours west of Chongqing city, you can find the Dazu Rock Carvings. The spectacular Buddhist carvings date from the 9th to the 13th century and are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. There is also a fascinating temple complex on the grounds. The caves can be reached by bus from the main long distance bus station in Chongqing (Chen Jiaping). For more information see the main Dazu Rock Carvings article.

Dafo Temple

Located about two hours north of Chongqing City is the city of Tongnan. Just north of downtown on the Fuijiang River is the Dafo Temple. It is located 30 min. outside the downtown area along the winding river banks. The highlight is a large several meter high Buddha carved into the rock. Tourists are a rare occurance at the temple and in this town you will be greeted with wonderful interest and excitement on the part of the locals as is common in rural China. Tongnan can be reached by the long distance bus station in Chongqing (Chen Jiaping) for about ¥38.

Fengdu Ghost Towne

Located about three hours north-east of Chongqing City is Fengdu. Fengdu is a river towne on the banks of the Yangtse (Chang Jiang) River. Across the river from the city is the Ghost Towne which can be reached by ferry. Highlights include the authentic Buddhist Temple on Mt. Ming. The admission price is expensive. Bus service is provided via the Chaotianmen bus station.

Yangtze River Cruise

Yangtze River Cruise will take you through the cradle of China, while giving you the opportunity to see some spectacular scenery.

Chongqing Hua Yan Tourist Spot

A temple complex including a Buddhist monastery and a large golden Buddha overlooking the whole place. Tucked in a green valley on a small lake, surprisingly in the middle of an urban built up area of Chongqing City. Admission 10 RMB

Buy

Food:

  • Preserved Dried Beef (Niu Rou Gan)
  • Spicy Fine Beef Threads (Deng Ying Niu Rou ) (highly recommended)
  • Curiously Flavoured Horsebean (Guai Wei Hu Dou)


Souvenirs:

The local "Tan Mu Jiang" (Carpenter Tan) carpentry shop is worth a visit for its fine wood artwares. (http://www.crpttan.cn/doce/index.html)


Eat

Chongqing is a harbor city and with this comes what is called "matou wenhua" or "dockside culture". This culture is blamed for a lot of things from cursing to...Hot Pot.

Hot Pot, called huoguo, or "firepot" in Chinese is one of Chongqing's claims to fame. In cities across China, one can find hot pot restaurants, but only Chongqing people can really stand a real hot pot, so if you want authenticity, get it while you can in Chongqing.

When ordering Hot Pot you have a a choice between three kinds. First, the spicy version called "hong tang" or "red soup". Then there is one without any spices. This is basically a bone soup, and it is tasty. To get this, simply ask for "yuan wei" or tell them "wo bu yao la" which means "I don't want the spicy stuff!" Finally there is a compromise with Yuan Yang Huo Guo (Yuan Yang Hot Pot), which is basically a pot split down the middle with the spicy stuff on one side and the mild on the other.

For those who like spicy but don't like it too spicy, it is possible to order "wei la hong tang" which is "red soup without the jolt". It's a nice mild experience.

For those who can not speak Chinese, it would be best to grab a Chinese friend to take you, though be warned, you'll have to put up with a lot of drinking, you'll be forced to smoke more than you normally would, and some of the things they go slipping into the pot might not be your cup of tea.

Aside from Hot Pot there are hundreds of dishes worth trying out while you're in the city. Suggested dishes:

At nicer restaurants:

  • hui guo rou (Twiced cooked spicy pork slices) (highly recommended)
  • suan cai yu (Fish slices in sour and spicy pickled vegetable soup)(recommended)
  • tang cu liji (Fried pork fillet slices in sweet and sour sauce)
  • shao bai (Steamed fatty pork with preserved vegetables)
  • yu xiang qie zi ("Fish Flavoured" aubergine) (highly recommended)
  • lao hu cai (Onions and parsleys in spicy mustard)
  • doufu yu (Fish with tofu)
  • yuxiang rou si ("Fish flavoured" pork shreads) (recommended)
  • hong shao rou (Chinese bouilli)
  • gong pao jiding (Gongpao Chicken)(recommended)
  • mu er rou pian (Black Agaric and pork slice stir-fries)
  • shui zhu rou pian (Pork/beef slices in hot and spicy soup) ( very spicy but recommended)
  • mapo tofu (Numbing and spicy tofu) (spicy but highly recommended)

"Friendship Restaurant" next to the Maison Mode Plaza is highly recommended. You can also find loads of street restaurants around that area.

At noodle shops:

  • xiao mian (Noodle with no tops)¥3.0
  • niu rou mian (Beef noodle)¥5.0
  • liang mian (Cold noodle)¥2.5
  • liang fen'r (fer) (Rice/soybean pudding slices)¥2.5
  • hun dun (T'sao sou) ( Szechuan dumplings)¥4

All of the above served in the noodle shops can be either spicy flavoured or plain flavoured, though spicy flavour is preferably recommended for a trial.)

Overall it is also a good experience to try some "gou rou" or"dog meat" in winter.

There are many "Western Restaurants", but it is very difficult to find any real western food in them. Many smallish restaurants will have a reasonable stab at spaghetti bolognaise, and some will have menus in "Chinglish" and even pictures of dishes. However as an exception, you can find quite nice fusion dishes (ranging from Japanese Sushi and Tempura to American Sirloin Steak in the "Ali&Ade" on the second floor of the Pacific Dept. Store inside the Metropolitan Plaza (Daduhui) right next to the Harbour View Hotel in the downtown area of Jiefangbei. Another recommneded "Western restaurant" in the downtown area is "Casablanca" in Dekang Dept. Store. For less than ¥50, you can enjoy a decent meal served with a cup of nice drink, salad and dessert. Shapingba also offers some great western choices; 'Why Not' a Belgian style restaurant owned by a Belgian couple. Authentic fries and an ecclectic menu at below the high Jiefagbei prices.

Drink

There are many bars in Chongqing, but most are underpopulated. Several branches of the Newcastle Arms (This bar has closed 2008) offer the closest thing to proper beer, but be sure they get your beer from the pump and not the slop tray. A pint of McEwan's will cost you ¥25, but during happy hour you can get two for one. The best (debatable) Bar in Chongqing is Dee Dee's bar (usually empty except Tuesdays and Fridays) located in Nanping south of the Yangtze river near to the Holiday Inn (Holiday Inn is being demolished December 2008). You will usually find some non-Chinese there most nights. (GPS 29.537980-106.563850) Just west of Jiefangbei war memorial there is a semi underground entertainment centre at the same place as the last monorail station. (GPS 29.557200-106.572120) In Jiangbei (North) there is also an underground arcade with many bars and restaurants. The entrance is across from the big hotel near McDonalds Hamburgers. (GPS 29.580360-106.529700)Above this arcade are two outside beer gardens that serve reasonably priced drinks and is always crowded with good atmosphere and live premiership matches on big screens - do not eat here though!!! Shapingba (West) is a "young people" and university place and have many places for entertainment. Generally the local bottled beer is ¥10, and the variety includes several local beers and even Guinness (expensive) on occasions. If you go to one of the small restaurants to eat, you can buy bottles of local beer at ¥3 upwards.

==As a warning==, many bars have recently (2008)adopted a less pleasant method to send pretty girls to accompany and entertain you, and then ask for huge additional sums when you leave. Take care.

Sleep

There are hundreds of hotels all over the city ranging from dormitary style for ¥50 per night, through adequate three star hotels for ¥150, up to the top hotels for ¥600-800 per night. They are rarely fully booked. You can always check the room before you commit.

Budget

  • Yangtze River Youth Hostel

No.80 Changbin Road, Yuzhong District, Chongqing. Ph: 023-63104208 (English speaking) Possibly the best option for budget accommodation in Chongqing. Hostel is centrally located, exceptionally clean and has great and helpful staff. Hostel also offers a range of rooms at cheap prices ranging from ¥30 through to ¥150 for a chinese style double room with ensuite and air conditioning. Also offers a range of budget tours.

Mid-range

  • Chung King Hotel. Prices aren't over-expensive, rooms are slightly on the small side but on the whole well decorated and furnished. Rooms come with Pay-Per-View and regular Satellite TV. A couple of the channels are English-language. Even better, Room Service will happily provide you with the best Club Sandwich East of Britain. Somewhere in the hotel is a western restaurant which will provide you with the biggest Spaghetti Bolognaise you've ever seen. The friendly staff in the lobby can provide you with currency exchange, luggage holding and travel tickets.
  • Railway Guesthouse, Conveniently located at the Chongqing train station, rooms range from 4-bed (¥100) to 2-bed ensuite with a/c (¥160). (Note, there are two train stations in Chongqing, the old station and the new Northern station in Jiangbei)
  • Southwest Hotel, Nanping. A good 3 star for ¥148. (Note this hotel was demolished in 2008)
  • The Grand, Shapingba. Has rooms from ¥150 upwards.
  • HomeHome Inn, 6 Fenghuangia, Nanjimen. Friendly English speaking staff. ¥280 for a double with Chinese/western breakfast.
  • Chongqing Jinjiang Oriental Hotel, No. 6 Xihu Road, Yubei District, 86-23-67306666, [5]. 313 air-conditioned guest rooms. CNY 457.81+.

Splurge

  • Holiday Inn, Nanping, (10 minutes' ride to the downtown).(This hotel is being demolished Dec 2008)
  • Holiday Inn, Jiangbei.
  • Carlton Hotel, south west of Jiefangbei.
  • Hilton, a bit west of Jiefangbei, and bit "off the beaten track" today, but a classical old stopover for visitors.
  • InterContinental, recent hotel in Jiefangbei.
  • Harbour Plaza, in Jiefangbei.
  • JW Marriott, downtown. Expensive and luxurious.
  • Harbour View Hotel, downtown. Excellent facilities, good location .
  • Golden Resources Hotel, Jiangbei District. Overlooks a wonderful local park with dancing musical fountains and directly connects to the Sleepless Underground Town, a vast shopping/entertainment complex built beneath the city square. ¥500 but worth every yuan!
  • Howard Johnson Hotel New hotel in Jiefangbei.

Get out

By bus

Long distance buses travel to almost anywhere. To the west Chengdu is 5 hours, (By the time 18 April,2007,it will be reduced to only 2.5 hours)and to the east WanZhou is three hours, both on good roads and good buses. Avoid the "sleeper" buses as they must be the most uncomfortable way to travel ever invented. The main bus / rail station is Cai Yuan Ba (pronounced Tsai Yuan Ba, the old station) and is complete mayhem most of the time. Many hotels will sell rail tickets thus avoiding the madness of the station. People in Chongqing do not queue.

  • Chaotianmen Station, Buses to points eastward (Fuling, Pengshui, Yunyang, etc.)
  • Chen Jiaping Station, Buses to the west and in particular towards Sichuan Province

Other

Immigration

The immigration, or Public Security Bureau (PBS) was earlier in Jiefangbei, but has moved to Jiangbei and new premises (GPS 29.599932-106.530928)

Marriage and adoption

Chongqing has a special office for foreigners concerning marriage and adoption. It is in Jiangbei and has recently moved (2007). (GPS 29.577998-106.527338)


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