A June 2005 trip
to Chongqing by ToddieD
Quote: Our trip to China focused on Chongqing, because that is where we adopted our new daughter. As the most dreaded of all species, the parent/tourist, we descended upon shops, zoos, and museums to find out more about our daughter's beautiful homeland.
We arrived in Chongqing at night, and pretty late at night, not arriving at our hotel until around 10pm, still early enough that the black was interrupted by bursts of neon. Chongqing (pronounced “Chun-ching,” where we Americans come up with our pronunciation of “Chunking,” as in the supermarket canned noodles) translates as “double celebration,” and the city looks like it is trying to live up to its name, with many colored lights punctuating the darkness. According to Wikipedia, Chongqing (which means "double celebration") is one of four of China's provincial-level municipalities; while provinces (like Hunan or Sichuan) are the most common type of province-level division, China's four municipalities have the same administrative level as a province. Beijing is another of China's municipalities, for example. In theory, municipalities are large cities, but Chongqing is an example where the rural population is greater than the urban population. Chongqing has over 32 million people within its borders, most of them living outside of the city over hundreds of miles of farmland. In 2004, Chongqing ranked as the tenth-largest urban area of China. Chongqing is located in central China, at the edge of the Yungui Plateau, and is intersected by the Jialing River and the upper reaches of the Yangtze. It is very hilly and gets very hot and humid in the summer; Greg has seen a quote calling it "China's furnace." The controversial Three Gorges Dam, in the Three Gorges area between Yichang and Fuling, has been under construction since 1994; its reservoir began filling in 2003 and is expected to be complete in 2009, and it will be the largest hydroelectric dam in the world when it is complete.
After we had received our daughter, we spent almost a week in Chongqing getting to know the city and our daughter's homeland. Our hotel, the JW Marriott, was lush and beautiful and a real bargain at approximately a night, and we spent the days going to the zoo and the Three Gorges Museum, with its 100m mural depicting the before and after of the effects of the dam and tea houses and simply wandering the street and attempting to buy books, diapers, baby food, and other souvenirs and basics of parenthood.
Hotel | "JW Marriott"
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on February 2, 2006
JW Marriott Chongqing
77 Qing Nian Rd Yu Zhong Distr
Chongqing, China 400010
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 5, 2006
Three Gorges Project Museum
Do you ever go into a situation expecting one thing and having something utterly different happen? This was one of those times. I think I expected what a Japanese tea ceremony might be like (I can't say for certain, having never experienced a Japanese tea ceremony): quiet serenity and an elaborate ritual of pouring tea in cups from a tea pot with a long spout. This was nothing like that: much less elegant but a lot more fun.
Our group sat at a long table (with all our newly adopted daughters in tow), glass canisters of tea pods, plates of crackers, and yellow oval tubules facing us. The yellow things ended up being candied olives, which were very tasty indeed, slightly chewy, sweet, with no olive brininess. A group of three women faced us. Frankly, it looked like an infomercial spiel. Rows of tablespoon-size cups sat on a draining rack as the pots of tea were prepared. The tea pots were rinsed with hot water. (Interesting tidbit: the way they saw if the water was hot enough was to dip a little naked ceramic man in the water and pull him out. If the water was the right temperature, a jet of water streamed from the man's little ceramic penis. Terribly entertaining and also for sale; we bought two.) Then the water was poured over the pods of tea in the tea pots and the tea was steeped for only about 30 seconds. The hostess poured the tea over all the cups on the tray in one unending stream. We sampled Oolong, rose petal, and jasmine, and the differences in taste and color were striking. I originally thought the small size of the tea cups was a marketing thing, like getting thimbles of beer at the end of a brewery tour. But interestingly enough, this was an honest-to-Pete Chinese tea ceremony. There are any number of tea houses all through Chongqing or any other Chinese city. Tea is, after all, one of the things the Chinese are most noted for, and the experience will be the same at any tea house. This is what they do. And the tea was delicious.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 8, 2006
Chongqing, next to Three Gorges Project Museum
Since we stayed at the JW Marriott, we were within walking distance of the Liberation Monument area, a prosperous commercial district. Our favorite stores were a bookstore that covered five floors and had a large children's section as well as bestsellers such as Harry Potter in Chinese. It also had an electronics section with every form of digital camera and MP3 player you could imagine. We ended up buying maps of the area, scads of children's picture books, and a Chinese-English dictionary for about $8. Directly across the street from the bookstore was a department store with everything you'd expect to find at a Macy's or Nordstrom. It even had a roomful of massage chairs, a welcome respite for my tired calves.
Shopping in China is interesting, though. Say you find a shirt that you like. You must find a salesperson who will write up a ticket for that item. Then you head to a cashier to pay for said item and they stamp the ticket. Then you take the ticket back to the salesperson and collect your goods. Woe be the unwary consumer who tries to gather up goods from different departments and pay for them all at once at the cashiers.
At the basement of the department store was a Chinese grocery store. This is a must-do for anyone in China. You can find Western-style snack foods, like Oreos and Ritz crackers; oddly enough, we saw flavors of Western crackers that have never shown up in the States. But there are also meat and produce sections offering dim sum, cooked duck, octopus, and durian. We found ourselves doing double-takes several times during our shopping foray. One of our favorite finds was a pineapple beer for the equivalent of $0.25. It was light and refreshing but undeniably beer. Since we were toting along our new daughter in her Baby Bjorn, we had probably more interaction with locals than if we had been alone. People were very open and kind, even the older Chinese women who checked her clothing to make certain our daughter was neither too hot nor too cold. They do love their babies. Altogether, shopping in China immediately immerses you in local culture and makes you feel like you've gone beyond tourism and really checked out the soul of the place.