With countless flights of endless stairs to tone those thighs and hot pot so spicy it will empty your bowels; those looking to lose weight might find a trip to Chongqing 重庆 is just the ticket.
Kiwese spent a few days in the south west mega city of Chongqing to see what’s up in a municipality population of almost 30 million people.
My first impressions of Chongqing were that it was eerie as hell. There is a spookiness about abandoned, decaying buildings in the night. The sheer amount of concrete debris and general trash that lay throughout the city was astonishing.
I guess it is worth noting that there are probably oceans of debris lying around every big city in China, concealed by walls of photoshopped blue skies and glamorous high rises, but the hilly topography of Chongqing means that you can view it from above.
Commentators from travel guides to political analysts to bloggers and international students will often say China is a land of great juxtaposition. Perhaps nowhere else can this contrast between new and old, decay and sparkle, be seen more acutely than Chongqing.
Chongqing is a short two hour high speed train journey from Chengdu. From Chongqing, you can get buses and trains to loads of different places in Guizhou, Sichuan and further afield.
The subway system in the city is well-planned, easy to use and just downright impressive. Chongqing subway ticket machines willingly accept wrinkled notes, unlike the unforgiving machines in Beijing, who will spit out any cash short of a crisp, clean bank note like a rude child sticking its tongue out. Humph!
1) TINA’S HOSTEL: If navigating your way through trash and human excrement is your kind of thing, look no further than Tina’s!
Tina’s is nestled away in an old, decaying building off Zhong Xing Road, about five minutes from the nearest subway station.
The dorm rooms are among some of the cheapest in town, albeit cold and musty. On the other hand, the staff are nice, they sell cheap beer and Tina’s unpopularity means the Wifi speed is second to none. Good on ya, Tina.
2) YANGTZE RIVER INTERNATIONAL YOUTH HOSTEL: Like finding a needle in a haystack, or a poo among rubble, Yangtze River was difficult to find amidst Chongqing’s winding streets and hidden staircases covered in debris.
While not the most ideal location, you can climb one of the narrow staircase streets, eat a bowl of noodles at a 45 degree angle and watch freight workers carrying gigantic loads across their shoulders up and down stairs three times the length of the Dixon Street steps.
Yangtze River Hostel provides a comfortable common area, a rickety fooz ball table and Chongqing Beer. The bunks are a bit tough and the nearby train line is a bit noisy, but the staff are super helpful and non-condescending when you speak Chinese.
3) GREEN FOREST HOSTEL: This is your best bet. Nice rooms, nice staff, nice location. Also known as Wa She 瓦舍. Offers a range of Chinese and Western food, taste factor somewhat lacking and subject to availability.
Walk Around and See Stuff
CIQIKOU 磁器口: Using Chongqing’s excellent subway system, one can visit this old porcelain trading hub on the Jialing River. We spent several hours wandering through the lanes and stairs of this old part of town, which while being a popular spot for tourists, has largely managed to avoid the cheesy ‘ancient town’ treatment of so many historic areas in China, see: Lijiang, Yangshuo etc. Cute coffee shops and tea houses are tucked into the laneways, while the main street caters to all sorts of street food hankerings.
There are many different areas to explore and get lost in. Across the river was a small village, where half the buildings were set for the 拆 and the other half were still inhabited by locals.
Women burning paper for their ancestors at the foot of colourful idols in the rock. Down at the river, women scrub their clothes and ducks waddle off a fishing boat over a wooden plank. Freshly killed pork skewered on a metal rod and slung over the shoulder, sold door to door. Sausages overhang the road, bai cai straddles the window. Abandoned wrecks of old homes dissolve into ferns and leaves.
Like many parts of Chongqing, the port area was undergoing large scale construction. Bulldozers and cranes clear land for development metres from where an elderly woman was tending to some crops. Buildings which looked as if they would collapse with a breath of wind have been marked off and left to rot.
1) I can’t remember what this fish is called, but you should eat it.
2) 小面 xiǎo miàn / little noodles. Nice, cheap breakfast or snack. And everyone else seems to be eating them, so why not.
3) 火锅 huǒ guō / hot pot. Hold onto your butts, Chongqing hotpot is renowned for being the spiciest in China! We got one with a broth in the middle to douse the flames. Feat. lotus, potato, various tofu, stomach and brain.
Drink and Dance Excessively
坚果 NUTS LIVEHOUSE: Established in 2007, NUTS is one of the oldest livehouses in the city. While NUTS is located in the lower part of a big fashion mall surrounded by the classic tacky bar zone of every big Chinese city, the music and atmosphere is notably different taste from its neighbouring counterparts.
Offers a range of decent beers on tap as well as lethally priced 10RMB tequila shots. Pool table and good vibes dance floor.
1) Don’t go swimming in the river. Graphic.
1) New life mantra: Well, THE QUEEN AINT.
2) Padded pyjama two piece. This is a hot fashion statement in Chongqing across a range of ages, men and women. No image, but yeah, padded pyjama two piece. Day or nightwear.
Favourite quotes from Chongqing
Chongqing local: “I heard that the air in New Zealand is so clean that when you blow your nose it comes out clear!!”
Chongqing local: “We call Beyonce “菜场B” on the internet, cos her clothes are like the grandmas at the vegetable market.”
Woo, Chongqing! Special thanks to Mat for being a pal and coming along.