Travel Destinations: Chongqing, China
Chongqing has found itself being promoted in recent years, with the government showering this wonderful city with money in order to hope that it would ripple effect amongst other cities and towns.
With a population of over five million, Chongqing is undergoing a unique transformation. With hardly any attention since the wartime, sky-scrapers stand behind old stilted homes, making it a wonderful city of contrasts.
This city has been inhabited for at least two million years, proven by stone tools found by excavators. It was once known as Chungking and was intended to be a treaty port in 1890 but there were very few foreigners who had little influence on this town.
There are many places to visit in Chongqing, all scattered across town. Why not start with a visit to Arhat Temple? This temple was built around 1000 years ago and at the height of its time, was home to 70 monks. Today their numbers have dwindled to around 18.
There are 500 terracotta arhats (a Buddhist term that refers to those who have released themselves from the illusions of delusion, greed and hate), a beautiful golden Buddha figure and an Indian jakata mural that shows Prince Siddhartha cutting his hair to renounce the world.
Amazingly, the wonderful rock carvings have survived not only time, but pollution and the Cultural Revolution.
Chongqing Planning Exhibition is a good place to visit. It highlights the Three Gorges Dam and local history with models, lasers, interactive consoles and lights, making it a unique place. Downstairs are 40 rooms, each one dedicated to a different Chongqing county.
Ciqikou Ancient Town is well worth a visit. Situated on a hilltop and overlooking the Jialing River in the west of town, Ciqikou Ancient Town dates back to late Ming times. The town has carefully tried to preserve the architecture, which it has done so quite wonderfully, giving it that ‘authentic’ feel.
In this town, there were once five temples, but sadly only Baolun Si has remained. This temple was built during the Western Wei dynasty (535 – 56 CE), making it over 1,500 years old.
There is also a small museum across the way from the temple. It is dedicated to the city’s coolies who used to bring ships up the Yangtze River against the current.
Red Cliff Village is another excellent place to go to. Outside the city, this village was used as the offices and living quarters of the Communists representatives to the Kuomintag during World War II. To gethere, take the number 104 bus on Beiqu Lu.
What about Gele Mountain Martyrs Memorial? In 1943, a secret agreement between the USA and Chiang Kaishek was signed to establish the Sino-American Cooperation Organisation (SACO). This was for the Americans to help train and dispatch secret agents for the Kuomintang, a body who never recognised the legality of the Communist Party. Communists have stated that many civilians were executed by the Kuomintang.
On Gele Mountain there are many plaques, statues and sites dedicated to this period. The three major sites are Zhazi Dong, the White House and the Martyrs Memorial.
Want something a little more relaxing? Pipa Mountain Park is recommended. The highest peak is 345m and the highest point on the Chongqing peninsular.
Riding on one of the two cable cars is a great way to see the beauty of this wonderful place. They span both the Jialing and Yangzi rivers and give you the opportunity to travel above the pollution and see the true beauty.
Chongqing is not the city for big spenders; there is little in the way of luxury hotels, but there are some very good options no matter what your budget is. This is the same with restaurants – it is best to do some research before you go.
To get here, fly into Jiangbei airport. It is about 25km north of the centre of the city. If you are coming from Yichang, you can always take a boat to Chongqing down the Yangtze River.