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Sichuan - China - Chengdu - Chongqing - March / April 2013 - Page 3

Day 7 - Friday, 29 March 2013

Mountain garden

The day looked fairly bright, so it was time to navigate to a nearby mountain.
The one I selected had a world famous botanical garden, I know its world famous because google revealed that old people who do some sort of global botanical garden pilgrimage have it on their list of 10 in the world to visit.
I am not sure it is worth that effort, but I might be missing the significance of the species on offer.
What they do have is a significant formal bonsai garden, and separate areas for plums, cherries, roses, camelias etc.
They also have a massive indoor greenhouse, that is also split into multiple areas such as alpine, desert, tropical etc.

Thats probably more than enough text about gardens, time for stories from the subway/monorail.
All station platforms and the trains themselves have multiple tv screens, normally showing ads, interspersed with something from national geographic channel or funny home videos.
My favourite ad is about this little girl, who grows up with her head wrapped in bandages, unable to see.
Eventually due to the wonders of modern China, a hospital makes her better, and they unwrap the bandages and she can see!
Only then she looks out the window and sees how polluted the world has become, all she sees is chimneys spewing black smoke.
She immediately starts crying and re wraps her face in bandages.

Whilst we are on the topic of wrapping, my favourite funniest home video is also a kind of propoganda.
It features American children un wrapping their xmas presents and throwing a massive tantrum because they didnt get what they want.
Many resort to physical violence against their parents.

Now onto the photos!

Another day, another bus station. This one is in Nanping, a very nice place indeed as we shall see later.
I have now visited all the town centres of Chongqing.

My bus is a mid level bus, which means it costs 2 yuan, instead of 1 or 3. It seems fairly crapppy to me, a manual transmission required for the mountain, but an old style crash gear box. The driver crunches every gear change.
This made for very slow going, which was fine by me as its steep cliffs for most of the journey.

I never did see a pink skyscraper before.

And whilst I have seen gold ones, none as impressive as this twin tower gold monolith.

The entrance to the botanical gardens. It was on the far side of the south mountain (Nan Shan, which literally means south mountain). This means there were no views of the city, and I couldnt really capture any good photos from the bus window.
The park layout is confusing, theres basically no English signage, and the maps they have never really show which way you are facing or the whole park in one image.
As best I can tell, you start at the top, and walk downhill and then back up again to get out.

Inside the impressive greenhouse.

Which features fake waterfalls and cave systems made of concrete.

The indoor highlight for me was the cactus garden. You really have to watch your head in places, as not only will you walk into something, it will be very prickly.

Alternatively, you can climb over the prickly things to carve your name into these less prickly bushes.

Outside the greenhouse is the as expected highly maintained, quite formal Chinese garden.

The park is the go to place for people getting married. Subtracting for my usual exaggeration factor, there were at least 20 couples getting photos taken. Heres 3 in one shot competing for the best spot.

The entrance to the bonsai area.

I like bonsai, the road up the mountain had a number of nurseries specialising in bonsai.

There are also many nice water areas, all in all its a nice place to visit, clear fresh air, and lots of people enjoying themselves. Many people bring elaborate picnics with them and blaring radios in backpacks to accompany them on their peaceful walk with gangnam style.

Back in Nanping now, and the number of great food venues is unbelievable. I settled for a Taiwanese / Sichuan fusion place, which was amazing. First up was chilli and cucumber, my favourite side dish.

Followed by the spicy fusion noodle soup, which is Taiwanese beef noodle with added sichuan peppers and peanuts. 10 out of 10!

The Nanping area is 'finished' and seems to be for wealthier younger people to live in apartments directly above the extensive shopping, dining, cinema area. Its also on the monorail line that connects the airport with the high speed rail terminal.
Note to self, if I ever have to live in Chongqing, live in Nanping.
Second note to self, unintentional bad art.

The apartments are of high quality.

The shopping is underground, as are the nicer restaurants. This on the left is Wanda Plaza, which seems to go forever underground, I never got to the bottom of it.

Finally on the way back, you cross the mighty Yangtze river, whos scale is not properly illustrated in photographs.

Down by the docks

Tonights walk to me to the very tip of the central part of Chongqing, at the confluence of the Jialing and Yangtze rivers.
I am fairly certain thats the first time I have every typed the word confluence.

This is a very interesting walk, you can get right down into the mud, where there are then floating gangways out to various boats. It is however a giant construction zone with new bridges, new tunnels and massive new buildings being constructed right at the tip.
Once you get around you end up walking along the highway out over the water, you can then pass back under this to get to the cliff face where there is a 14 storey faux ancient village thing which is mainly restaurants and tourist shops.
I know this sounds crap, but the construction of this is awesome. Its a maddening labyrinth of tourist traps, only there were almost no tourists. The only ones I saw, all 2 of them who are the only 2 I have seen since getting here were sitting at an Irish bar, drunk out of their minds yelling at people. When they saw me they invited me over for a fag and a lager. I declined.

Heading down to the docks is mostly construction site. Some places you have no footpath so you walk into oncoming cars, trucks etc.
One thing about Chongqing, no horns, no scooters. Both are banned at least in the central parts of the city. The same applies in the modern side of Shanghai. It makes walking about a lot easier when there isnt scooters coming at you on the footpath.
This has a flow on effect to cars, if they cant use horns and cant follow scooters to illegally go through red lights, they seem to obey the traffic laws.

Once you get past all that, you get to a square which is actually a circle, with many people flying kites.
There were even a couple of guys trying to sell crap to tourists here, wanna buy a tshirt? wanna buy a watch? First time thats happened to me on this trip.

Like I said you can get right down to the mud / water. Its a lot of steps and presumably the water sometimes comes up the steps. Theres anchor points and chains coming out of the wall way above where you can walk to.

I cant get enough of photos like this.

This is the faux tourist complex with the pirate ships etc. It actually goes below this photo too, the highway I am standing on is on giant pillars.

At the top of this picture you can see where the bridge will connect to. A bit further down theres a tunnel which is either a drain or the subway. The bridge will be double decker with cars on top and trains underneath.
A return visit is warranted.

Looking up from near the bottom of the cliff. I cant really capture how cliff like it is.

This is actually inside that tourist thing. It is huge.

The pirate cave. It exists to advertise a restaurant, which seemed to have no customers on a Friday night. That might be because their sign advertised mainly bullfrog, pigs blood and brains of various animals as their highlight dishes.

This is where the Irish bar and a Tex Mex grill were located. There were also a number of flash looking nightclubs in the complex.

This photo is here only to show the 3 wheeled car. They are everywhere, and I have only seen them in Chongqing, not in any other Chinese city.
If you recall the Top Gear episode, they flip without warning. I was on high alert.

Past the end of the pedestrian mall area you get to what passes as the red light district I guess. Which means karaoke bars.

Around the town there are a number of concert spaces like this. All of them seem to be open mic night. The crowd seems appreciative no matter what someone does to Gangnam Style. I saw this guy sing it, and 4 older ladies dance to it.

Finally, after my large lunch, I didnt feel like dinner. But I couldnt resist these lays potato chips. Authentic Sichuan flavour. If you ate these in Australia and your mouth went numb, you might assume you had been poisoned.

David on 2013-03-29 said:
Its not that easy to have a proper cook it yourself at the table hotpot.
The tables with the burners are for 4 people minimum, many of them a lot more.
The pots are enormous, its not something I can order on my own.
A few places do mini ones with everything already in it, which I had in Chengdu.

As for toilets, its a mixed bag. The city has some really run down areas, next door to ultra modern shopping centres.
I think everything apart from the disabled toilets will be squatters though!
All bathrooms in shopping centres have a full time attendant armed with a mop, much like Hong Kong.
Most city blocks have their own public toilet block too, but you would probably be frightened of those.

mother on 2013-03-29 said:
Chonqing definitely looks like an exciting place to visit. Brian's Chinese guy he delivers to reckons it realy beautiful. what I want to know is are there lots of public toilets and are they state of the art like the buildings? students say hot pot in Chongqing diffrent to hot pot in Chengdu - have you tested this out yet?

Day 8 - Saturday, 30 March 2013

More brides

Todays walk took me along the water to peoples square and the three gorges museum. Using my Chinese language skills, I quickly worked out this was simply called san xia, and could recognise the signs, because I like to think I am clever.
The sun was blazing and it felt hot, yet the locals still get around in pleather jackets and g-star raw jeans. It must get really hot here in summer, Chongqing is known as one of the three furnaces of China along with Nanjing and I forget the other.

The museum itself is an impressive building, more so because its opposite the great hall of the people. Chongqing was briefly the capital when Japan invaded, and hence the museum also has a section on how Japanese people immediately rape everyone when ever they have the opportunity. Much like the memorial in Nanjing I went to but missing many of the more graphic photos.
There is a 360 degree movie experience about the building of the damn, however the damn thing was not scheduled again until the mid afternoon so I would miss out. A shame because other than the movie theres not much damn stuff to see about the damn other than some relics they managed to dig up and move before they flooded the entire region with water 100 metres deep.

The first photo today isnt a construction photo. Its not a panda either. Its the number 3 most seen site in this part of China. Brides having their photos taken.

The three gorges museum, made to look like a damn.

The great hall of the people. Hastily constructed when Chongqing briefly became the capital.
It had no public admittance, so I am not sure if its still the municipal parliament. I think Chongqing was the capital only very briefly, hence the construction was probably completed sometime after the capital was moved back to.... ? Nanjing? Wikipedia time later.

One of the many things controversally removed from the three gorges area. There was a series of photos about an ancient road which had inscriptions on the stones which is now at the bottom of the lake. However its still a road as they built something like an aquarium over it and you can walk under the water along an ancient road.

Inside the museum.

Photo of a photo. This is in the 1890's I think. Note the tip there is where I was last night.

If you were a lady of the ruling class, you would be carried around in one of these. Sparing you the horrors of the streets.

A wall sculpture depicting the horrors inflicted by Japan.

Now from the expected to the bizzarre. A large chunk of the museum space is devoted to an exhibition about modern Wales. Yes the Wales which belongs to England and is ruled by Prince Charles where they speak the hobbit language and everyones drunk.
I dont know why this was in the museum, it was mainly tv's showing rugby from Cardiff stadium, a couple of flags, the name of the train station thats ridiculously long and thats about it.

For the journey back to my hotel, even though it was only an hours walk, I decided to take the monorail that goes along the cliff face. It was exciting.

I was wrong

I think yesterday I declared I had been to all the different centres of Chongqing, I was wrong, there was one more.
For sake of completeness, that was my destination. On google maps it looked small, it was also the only centre north of the Yangtze, named Guan yin qiao. Turns out it was the best of the...5 different city centres.

By best I mean most vibrant, with the most restaurants, the most people and possibly the biggest.
It was a slightly maddening layout and I managed to get properly lost looking for the subway to get home.

Like much of China, on a Saturday night in particular, I had no hope at all of getting a seat at a restaurant on the upper floors of a shopping centre. Generally the top 3 floors are all large (as in 100+ seat) restaurants. The basement is your more informal restaurants and cafes. The 2nd level below ground is fast food places. I am a basement kind of guy.

One of the large indoor / outdoor shopping centres called Paradise Walk actually had 2 competing cinema complexes within it, each having 20 or more screens, advertising themselves as imax or digital or high frame rate or 3d or a combo of all.
I have not yet been to a Chinese cinema, but I hear if you go and see a non dubbed western film with Chinese subtitles, the audience feels the need to read them out loud, as a group of 1000 people, simultaneously, for the full 2 hours.

I emerged from the subway to just one of a maze of pedestrian steets, on the side of a hill. This city centre has more man made natural features than the others, but I couldnt work out what the theme was.

One of the restaurants is called 'the modern toilet' which I believe is a rip off of something similar I have seen in Japan.

All restaurants on upper floors had people lined up waiting to get in. Much like Mamak or Din Tai Fung in Australia, I dont think anyone in China makes bookings, you just turn up and wait. That way they can serve a lot more people in a single evening.

Eventually after moving between multiple mega malls either by skywalks or underground, I had become completely lost.

I headed back to the basement for some numbing and spicy beef in oil. I was a source of great excitement and or amusement for the staff. The usual charade of presenting me with beer, followed by a fork etc. ensued. But everyone seemed to be waiting for me to eat it.
The tension heightened as I pulled out my camera first and fiddled with it. Chefs turned to each other and commented, what is this crazy guy doing etc.
Eventually when I ate, there were sighs of relief (I think). The beef / horse / dog was actually of high quality. The only vegetables were of the choy variety, I would prefer less beef and more variety of vegetables such as eggplant, potato, capsicum, celery etc.
I use etc. too much. I also use pretty as in pretty good, and seems as in seems to, too much. Now I use too much too much.

Still lost, this is another street.

I crossed back over a road which I presume I previously went under. An opportunity to mess about with my camera.

I passed the homoerotic b-boy dancing. Grown men standing around holding their penis's whilst one of them spins on his head and gets sweaty. Note the lack of audience.

And finally I was back to where I wanted to be. Except mass dancing had erupted. The grandest scale yet. Note there is no lack of audience here.
Honestly the sea of people goes for hundreds of metres on all sides from my vantage point. As far as I know this is just a regular Saturday night in Chongqing. Not an alcoholic beverage anywhere to be seen.

Nearby, people are waiting for an elaborate fountain display timed with music and lights to start. At least thats what I think the sign said.
I decided to not wait, getting the train back from under all these people was quite challenging, I had to wait for 3 to fill up without me before I could get on. Luckily it was only 3 stops.
A great night out, I might have to go back again on one of my 2 remaining nights in Chongqing before I head back to Chengdu.

Day 9 - Sunday, 31 March 2013

Ancient dune buggy street

Listed as a tourist attraction is the ancient pottery street called Ci Qi Kou. I expected this to be a modern re creation of an ancient street with very little pottery, lots of things on sticks, and a few million people, and I was right.
What I didnt expect to find at the end of the maze of narrow streets was a descent into the river bed with a bizzarre setup of outdoor cafes, dune buggies, kite fying and amusement rides.
It was not a particularly inviting place, dirty, dusty, hard to walk, no toilets, and yet people came in droves to hang out in an industrial waste land.

On the way there, the train was quite crowded, I had a seat and a young executive style Chinese couple sat next to me with their baby. You can tell they are well to do because their baby has a nappy, they have iphones, brand name clothes, and they are quite happy to sit next to me!
Anyway, most babies are terrified of me, but this one decided to adopt me. He couldnt walk without holding on to something and decided to clamp himself onto my leg, dribble on it, and not let go for the 40 minute train ride.
This caused a mixture of great amusement and concern to those around me, depending on how they felt about strange looking people like me getting on the train wearing shorts.

I got here quite early to escape the rush. Early signs suggest that might have paid off. Surprisingly everything was open at 9am on a Sunday.

Thats racist.

This is mainly a mixture of nuts, which you beat flat, then fold over a couple of times, then beat some more. Do this about 100 times then cut up and serve. Its hard work to produce a few cents worth of nut slice thing.

Predictable honeyed fruit on sticks.

With all these snacks and crappy products around, a sign has been erected as a warning.

The streets got narrower, and busier. As far as I can tell there was only one way in and out. Enjoy your fire.

Heres a different kind of noodle. Put this grey goop in a sieve with a few holes in it, beat the liquid with your palm to force it through into waiting boiling water.
Despite the dough mix appearing grey, the noodles come out of the water yellow.

These shops (and theres a lot of them the same) sell nothing but chilli, sichuan pepper or blends of both in oil.

There were long lines for these freshly made things that look like they would have the consistency of a donut. They had free tastings, its basically the same as a plain milk arrowroot biscuit thats been left out for a few days. Very boring yet the locals seem to buy giant bags of the stuff.

When I got to the end of the acient street, I couldnt believe my eyes. It looks as bad as an English beach.

Various makeshift activities have been set up, here kids can catch tiny fish in a trap, its a tarp.

Here you can enjoy a relaxing beer or coffee with table service whilst the construction of a freeway overpass goes on overhead and other workers are suring up the open sewer running into the river.

Alternatively, someone has pumped some filthy water into a temporary pond to put kids inside air tight plastic cocoons and then ? They didnt seem to go anywhere once locked inside.

Off in the distance I saw dune buggies. I thought I might have a go but once I made the trek over boulders and construction material they were about as fast as walking pace and being driven by small children. They did however make more noise than a trail bike with no muffler.

Another popular activity is to fly a kite. Nylon strings are going everywhere. The risk of hilarious decapitation was high.

Back inside the ancient street complex, I got to one of 4 temples. The staircase up to it was very steep. Theres a group of old monks who sit at the bottom. Their job seemingly is to look up girls dresses and nudge each other all day.

I didnt see any no photo signs. So photo I did.

Most people dont seem to know what to do. Someone has to show them where they are supposed to pray, light the incense etc.

Another monk upsold me for a few more cents to climb the bell tower. How could I refuse. Heres a bell.

The view from the top was worth it. I started pondering climbing those hills.

Looking back from where I had come and you can see the dune buggy track in the distance.

The further into the complex of streets you go, the less commercial it became. These are all teahouses, bookshops, handcrafts etc.

Finally, I bought these things. They are almost weightless and tasteless pockets of colored air. I dont really know why they exist!

Steak night

Not many photos tonight as I mainly wandered around inside supermarkets, bookshops, electronic shops and whatever. Stopping only to have a matcha tea latte.

For anyone who is concerned they cant eat sichuan food or authentic non western Chinese food, you can indeed find steakhouses in China.
There are ultra high end ones where they just about lead the cow to your table and you can pick the piece you want, I believe some hotels have places where you could spend $500 on a steak.
Then there are the mid range places like where I went tonight. You still allegedly get to pick the origin of your steak, with Australia, USA and Brazil available for beef options.
I opted for Brazil, pointing at the menu. I worried that it would come well done by default, but much to my surprise the girl asked 'how you want heat?' in Chinese (wo yao you re), which I took for how do I want it cooked.
I now had a dilemma, throughout the ordering process it was clear she couldnt speak any English, so I didnt know how to ask for rare or medium rare in Chinese. So after a pause she asked, ware, medium, well. I opted for ware. Presumably there are no Chinese terms for how you want your steak cooked so they use the Engrish ones.

What came out was actually really rare, raw on the inside, despite coming on a hot plate. Still for $6 I cant complain, even if that is the most I have spent on a meal so far on this holiday.

In addition to the sizeable steak, you get chicken and sweetcorn soup, 2 small pieces of passable garlic bread and access to a salad bar. The salad bar was amusing, only 4 vegetables, a heap of fruit, grass jelly, and lots of creamy sauces.
Most people opted for grass jelly, cabbage, tomato and about a gallon of thousand island looking dressing.

This is a Chinese bulk bin. Note its enclosed with lids so you cant over fill it. Not such a silly idea! This trip just became a potential tax write off.

Me, bathing in neon.

No wonder I am always lost. My hotel is on Minzu road. Every road around here is Minzu road. Why?

mother on 2013-03-31 said:
I was beginning to wonder if there were any old allyways left. That elevated roadway doesn't look like it would withstand much of an earthquake.

On page 4 I will be heading back to Chengdu and taking photos of washing machines.


Latest Update

Day 1 - Saturday, 23 March 2013
  3 flights to get there
  Planes broken
  Not enough air
Day 2 - Sunday, 24 March 2013
  Numbing and spicy
  No dinner
Day 3 - Monday, 25 March 2013
  The plane
  Never so lost
Day 4 - Tuesday, 26 March 2013
  Researching Pandas
  Eastern culture
Day 5 - Wednesday, 27 March 2013
  The waiting train
  I made my own dinner
Day 6 - Thursday, 28 March 2013
  Panda overload
  No panda photos
Day 7 - Friday, 29 March 2013
  Mountain garden
  Down by the docks
Day 8 - Saturday, 30 March 2013
  More brides
  I was wrong
Day 9 - Sunday, 31 March 2013
  Ancient dune buggy street
  Steak night
Day 10 - Monday, 1 April 2013
  Dog heads
  Its like a sauna in here
Day 11 - Tuesday, 2 April 2013
  Barbecue night
Day 12 - Wednesday, 3 April 2013
  Bad science
  Swedish horse meatballs
Day 13 - Thursday, 4 April 2013
  Ocean world where are you?
  Drunken Chengdu
Day 14 - Friday, 5 April 2013
  Lets try that again
  An old street
Day 15 - Saturday, 6 April 2013
  New old ancient street
  Mapo Doufu
Day 16 - Sunday, 7 April 2013
  Mountain full of temples
  Quiet night out
Day 17 - Monday, 8 April 2013
  Tibetan beggars
  Massive restaurant night
Day 18 - Tuesday, 9 April 2013
  Lets get out of here
  Still 2 flights to go