Chongqing Travel Guide
Chongqing has long been a staging post for river journeys and a gateway to China's wild west. With its steep hills, raging rivers and spicy food, there's something for everyone.
Overlooking the confluence of the Yangtze and the Jialing Rivers, Chongqing is known throughout China as the "Mountain City."Many of city's hills are so precipitous that bicycles are scarce and motorcycles a farmore common sight. Largely determined byits mountainous topography, Chongqing'sdistricts are spread over a series of hilltopsand separated by major rivers. As your taxior bus zips across the overpasses linking theareas, check out the precariously stackedapartment buildings clinging to the hillsides.It's possible for one of these buildings tohave both the first floor and the fifth floor atground level.
Although Chongqing's major tourist destination, the Three Gorges, is now being inundated by waters from the Three Gorges Dam, the city has its own inherent charm and the region is worth exploring. Known for its spicy food and hot tempered people, Chongqing, with its mountains and fog and its bubbling hotpots has secured a place in the Chinese imagination.
While the entire Chongqing municipality contains over 30 million people and like Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai, reports directly to the Central Government and is no longer a part of Sichuan Province, the actual city itself has a population of only 5.8 million.
Due to its strategic location on the Yangtze River, for over 4,000 years every dynasty has had a provincial capital there. This climaxed during the Second World War when Chongqing, then known as Chunking, was made the wartime capital of the Republic of China. Its population exploded, filling the city with refugees and government officials. During the war, the city endured severe air raids by the Japanese and what followed was an intense period of poverty.
Since then, it has rebounded with fervor. Chongqing became southwest China's key industrial center and a focal point for China's "Go West" program to bring investment to China's underdeveloped west. Its rapid modernization can be felt most clearly around the Liberation Monument, Chongqing's commercial and entertainment center. The actual monument, originally made of wood and dedicated to Sun Yat-sen, was rebuilt in 1945 to celebrate the end of the war with Japan. The monument is within walking distance of most of Chongqing's major hotels and shops.
If you want a taste of old Chongqing, the best place to begin is Chaotian Gate, the only remaining city gate and Chongqing's chief wharf on the Jialing River. Traffic is intense with freight and passenger ships docking day and night. From Chaotian Gate, there are great views of the green waters of the Jialing meeting the murky brown currents of the Yangtze. Within walking distance are the two cable cars crossing the Jialing and the Yangtze and providing stunning views of Chongqing's surroundings.
Though Chongqing's modern historical sites are plentiful, ancient ones are sparse. A short walk from the main commercial center is the Arhat Temple. Occupying the same site for over a thousand years, the temple has since undergone reconstruction. Inside are some 500 sculpted arhats (beings that have reached Nirvana) and a large golden Buddha. If you want to know your future, in the temple there's a specific route to follow based on your date of birth to find an arhat whose life course yours will closely follow.
A 45-minute bus ride outside the city takes you to the SACO Prisons(Sino- American Cooperation Organization). Developed in secret by the US in conjunction with Chiang Kai-shek, this was a training camp for Nationalist agents and a prison camp for captured communists. Although the Nationalists and the Communists briefly formed a united front against the Japanese, civilian communists suffered severe crackdowns under Nationalists hands and hundreds were kept captive. Rather unique amongst Chinese historical sites is the Stillwell Museum, honoring the US involvement in the Second World War. Located in the former Nationalists VIP guesthouse and the private residence of General Stillwell, the commander of the China-Burma-India Theater, it displays the wartime heroics of the Flying Tigers. These volunteer American pilots fought the Japanese over China, India and Burma in late 1941 for seven months, racking up an impressive kill ratio at a time when Japanese air supremacy was unrivaled.
If the urban congestion has gotten you down, try a stroll through the People's Park. Featuring a palatial conference and concert hall modeled after the Temple of Heaven, the park is large enough for an afternoon stroll and its trees and gardens are a welcome change of pace from Chongqing's urban development.Ciqi Kouwas Chongqing's old harbor and was once the home of many of Chongqing's rich merchants. Ming and Qing dynasty architecture abound throughout the town. Tea houses, dragon dances and temple fairs all makes this a great place to really soak up the atmosphere of old Chongqing.
Chongqing Memorable Experiences
Standing by Chaotian Gate on a foggy morning and watching the ships sail in and out.
A cable car rides across the Yangtze River.
Dazu when the setting sun turns the cliff carvings golden.
Chongqing hotpot with cold beer and sampling the numerous food stalls by the Liberation Monument.
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- Days: 4
- Destination: Chongqing
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- Days: 8
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- Tour Code: YR01
- Days: 12
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- Tour Code: VF-CQ02
- Days: 4
- Destination: Chongqing
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- Days: 4
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