China Travel Guide
Yangtze River Travel Guide & Tours Information - Chongqing
Chongqing is a major city in central-western China. Administratively, it is one of the People's Republic of China's four provincial-level municipalities, and the only such municipality in western China. The municipality was created on 14 March 1997, succeeding the sub-provincial city administration that was part of Sichuan Province. The municipality of Chongqing has a registered population of 31,442,300 as of 2005. The boundaries of Chongqing municipality reach much farther into the city's hinterland than the boundaries of the other three provincial level municipalities (Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin), and much of its administrative area, which spans over 80 000 km², is rural. It has jurisdiction over 19 districts, 17 counties, and four autonomous counties. The population of the urban area of Chongqing proper was 5.09 million (2000).
The municipal abbreviation, Yú, was approved by the State Council on 18 April 1997. Chongqing was also a municipality of the Republic of China administration, serving as its wartime capital during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Its abbreviated name is derived from the old name of a part of the Jialing River that runs through Chongqing and feeds the Yangtze River.
Chongqing is one of four municipalities in China, large cities that are not part of a province but report directly to the national government; it is the only municipality not located on the east coast, (the other three are Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin). Chongqing municipality is technically the largest city in China in surface area and therefore could be defined better as a "provincial" municipality due to its massive size. While independent since 1997, it was historically and culturally part of south east Sichuan and still shares the same love for hot and spicy food dishes.
Neighbouring provinces: Hubei (east), Hunan (east), Guizhou (south), Sichuan (west), Shaanxi (north)
Located on the edge of the Yungui Plateau, and surrounded by small green capped mountains, Chongqing City is intersected by the Jialing River and the upper reaches of the Yangtze. It contains the Daba Shan in the north, Wu Shan in the east, Wuling Shan in the southeast, and Dalou Mountain to the south. Chongqing is notorious for its hot and humid weather. The air quality in the warmer months as well as the winter can be challenging to people with respiratory problems do massive amounts of smog.
|Daily highs °C)||10||13||18||23||27||29||33||34||31||22||17||12|
|Nightly lows (°C)||6||7||11||15||19||22||24||24||21||16||12||7|
Chongqing (105°17'-110°11' East, 28°10'-32°13' North) is humid yearround, cold December - February and hot June - September.
Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport is served by International flights from Bangkok, Hong Kong, Munich, Nagoya, Seoul, Singapore, Tokyo and Chinese cities and destinations, as below: Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Tianjin, Shenzhen, Sanya, Xiamen, Wenzhou, Lhasa, Zhuhai, Haikou, Urumqi, Shenyang, Wuhan, Zhengzhou, Xi'an, Jinan, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Taiyuan, Nanning, Kunming, Ningbo, Panzhihua, Guiyang, Changchun, Jinjiang, Hefei, Chengdu, Yichang, and Jiuzhaigou.(Airport GPS 29.720030-106.634060)(Airport bus stop in City GPS 29.562860-106.544200)
Trains arrive daily at the Chongqing station, including the daily T9/T10 express train from/to Beijing, a 25-hour ride.
If arriving from Chengdu, the T88xx express trains provide a 2 hours 30 minutes link between the two cities. This is the ideal choice of transportation for the two cities.
T88xx, Chongqing Bei - Chengdu , 2.5 hrs, ~ 87 Yuan
There are three train stations in Chongqing:
- Caiyuanba (in Yuzhong District),
- Shapingba (in Shapingba District),
- Chongqing Beizhan (in Jiangbei District)(Old Railway Stn Yuzhong GPS 29.552740-106.545920, new railway stn Jiangbei GPS 29.610270-106.546260)
Most train tickets can be purchased through the help of the hotel your are staying. The tickets are then delivered to the hotel for you to pick up.
Long distance buses travel to Chongqing from almost anywhere. There are numerous busses into ChongQing, most notably is the hourly service to and from Chengdu, Nanchong, and Xian. From the west Chengdu is 2.5 hours and to the east WanZhou is three hours, both on good highways and good buses. Avoid the "sleeper" buses as they must be the most uncomfortable way to travel ever invented.
The main bus / rail station is Cai Yuan Ba (pronounced Tsai Yuan Ba, the old station) and is complete mayhem most of the time. Many hotels will sell rail tickets thus avoiding the madness of the station. People in Chongqing do not queue.
- Chaotianmen Station, Buses to points eastward (Fuling, Pengshui, Yunyang, etc.)
- Chen Jiaping Station, Buses to the west and in particular towards Sichuan Province
The bike is the worst choice for people who understand the layout and structure of "the mountain city". Added the fact that it is incredibly dangerous to bike on city streets it is just not a good idea. First timers to Chongqing should be warned it is very easy to get lost due to the many hills and valleys added the two major rivers. The bus system and monorail are advised as the best forms of transportation and are very cheap and efficient.
By subway/monorail The first part of Chongqing's new rapid transit system opened as a monorail in June 2005. The current system is only somewhat useful for getting around in the city center, but major expansions are under construction, including a subway link to the major railway stations and airport. Announcements are made both in Mandarin and English.
By bus Buses are frequent and cheap, but unless you can read Chinese you have to know where they are going and choose the right number bus going in the right direction. If you are going to one of the city centres in Chongqing city, simply ask each bus if they go there. There are four city centres, so be sure you know the name of the place you want to go to.
The four city centers in Chongqing are called Shapingba (Sandplains)(GPS 29.559900-106.457440) NW part of town and is an academic and university centre, Jiangbei (Northplace)(GPS 29.577000-106.528000), Nanping (Southernplains) (GPS 29.530531-106.561379) and Jiefangbei (GPS 29.560454-106.573400), which is one of the oldest centres and a shopping centre and near Chaotianmen harbour where there are lots of small markets and shops (often called the "fleamarkets" locally)(GPS 29.566742-106.583977).
The bus station in Shapingba is at GPS 29.559300-106.455450. There are two bus stations in Jiefangbei, south and west of the monument. There are two bus stations in Jiangbei near the pedestrian street.
By taxi Taxis are relatively cheap (start by ¥5 and ¥1.8/km, ¥5.9 and ¥2.25/km after midnight) and can be easily found 24 hours a day. Few drivers speak anything but Chinese, so you must know where you are going. Either have your destination written for you in Chinese, learn how to say it, or be able to direct the driver. A good way to use taxis is to gather cards from hotels, then simply show the driver the one you want to go to or is nearest to your destination.
Caution: Empty Taxis are hard to find on extremely hot days. It is advisable to seek alternative transportation or stay indoors. The reason is due to the fact that most Taxis have A/C running thus making more frequent stops to the gas station. Added to the fact that there aren't many gas stations around and the pump pressure is frequently inadequate, most taxis will be stranded lining up for gas.
On the surface the city appears rough around the edges and bit grungy and thus there may appear to be not much to do, but further investigation will uncover a city with truly its own character and a number of interesting sites actually worth looking into.
Chongqing served as the capital of China for seven years during the late 1930's and early 1940's during the Anti-Japanese War (WWII). With this political history comes a number of historic sights which are worth visiting. Chongqing has the largest population in West China and is the focus of China's "Go West" strategy to help further develop the western part of China. As a result, it is a very lively and rapidly modernizing city, although it does get a bit hectic at times.
- Zhou Enlai's old residence. Located by the Jialing river north west of Jiefangbei, and now a museum and open to the public for a small fee. It has been preserved as it was the day it was used. (29.568520,106.547700)
- HongYaDong. Near Jiefangbei, a recreation of the old Chongqing, clinging to the side of the mountain with many small shops. A tourist place but you can find recreations of old local crafts here and genuine local food. (29.564730,106.575160)
- Foreign Street. An entertainment and amusement park area northwest of Jiefangbei on the other side of the river and a bit north, where foreigners have been encouraged to set up shops. You can find a church, an upside-down house, an Australian bar, a small train, the world's largest public restroom and many other attractions. (29.612220,106.594560)
- Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-Shek) old military headquarters. When Chongqing was the capital of China during the WWII, Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-Shek) established his military headquarters up in the mountains above Chongqing. As a result the Japanese bombers never found it, and it is now a museum, preserved as it was during the war. There are many buildings in the beautiful compound and you can visit his work room with the motto over his desk "all officials must serve the people" (in free translation), his bedroom, and his meeting room, and sit in his chair where he negotiated with the American advisers, with his American educated wife usually to his left. The location is a bit out of town and a taxi is the easiest transport. (29.568940,106.614350)
- Chongqing Jiefangbei Pedestrian Street (Jiefangbei Shangye Buxingjie). Jiefangbei stands in the most prosperous downtown center of Chongqing. Jiefangbei, or the People’ s Liberation Monument, formerly known as the Monument of Victory in the War of Resistance (locally usually called the "Anti Japanese war"), is a 27.5 meter highs structure. It is the center of the city marked as Chongqing’s commercial heart. It is isolated by broad, paved pedestrian square and numerous glassy office skyscrapers and highrise hotels, reminicent of New York's or Tokyo's Times Square district. Jeifangbei Shopping Square, itself completed at the end of 1997, is 400 meters from east to west, and 350 meters from north to south, covering an area of 24,400 square meters. (Pedestrian St and food street GPS 29.559030-106.574380)(Liberation monument GPS 29.560454-106.573400). Around the square are more than 3,000 stores various kinds of shops, with more than two dozen large malls and shopping centers, dozens of star-graded hotels, and offices such as banks, stock markets, trade and finance companies, postal and telecommunication services, and places of entertainment.
- Great Hall of the People. Chongqing's Great Hall of the People (and the People's Square in front of the Hall) is an architectural symbol of Chongqing City. Its construction began in 1951, but its design is traditional and mirrors those of China's ancient classical dynasties. It somewhat resembles an enlarged version of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. The People's Square was only completed in 1997 and is decorated with trees and flowers. The ground of the square is paved with smooth marble tiles; there is magic music fountain; at the southern end of the square stands a stage for performances in the open air. You may see thousands of people dancing on the square in the numerous beautiful lights in the evening. (29.5646,106.549)
- Three Gorges Museum. Across the People's Square is Three Gorges Museum, well worth a visit for its exhibits on the Ba culture and the area of the three gorges downriver from Chongqing. Also noteworthy are a series of exhibits on life in Chongqing during the Qing dynasty, the early republic, and the Word War II era.
- Zha Zi Dong. This is one of two Guomingdang prisons located in Shapingba, the other being Bai Gong Guan. Both are located at the base of Ge Le Mountain in Lie Shi Mu. Za Zi Dong offers a unique look at a 1940's era prison and the horrors that took place there when nearly 300 communist political prisoners were massacred at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. The entire area was also once the location of the Sino-American Cooperative Organization (SACO), a camp where Jiang Jie Shi's (Chang Kai Shek) elite troops were trained. Unfortunately the attrocities that took place and the American presence are often connected, while it's not universally agreed that they were.
- Red Rock Village (Hong Yan Cun). Red Rock Village (Hong Yan Cun, located near Shapingba centre on the road following the river) is a very important tourism site in Chongqing City. This is the location where the Chongqing Negotiations between Mao Zedong and Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-Shek) took place, and the historic aspect of the place is nice. To get to the history, you will have to go through an exhibition center which is worth going to.
- Joseph Stilwell Residence. Not far from Red Crag Village is the former residence and office of General Joseph W. Stilwell ("Vinegar Joe" Stilwell), who headed American operations in China during the Anti-Japanese War. Stilwell is an impressive person, not only for his leadership ability but also for his understanding of China and Chinese culture (he could write in Chinese with a brush). His former residence is a 1930's modernist house with great views overlooking the Yangtze river. The main level is set up as it was during Stilwell's tenure. The lower level is filled with photos and bilingual descriptions of the Chinese Front during the Second World War. Location: No. 63 Jialingxin Road, Liziba, Yuzhong District, Chongqing. The Museum is also in easy walking distance of a monorail station.
- Song Qing Ling's Residence. Another interesting site to visit (especially if you're staying at the Hilton Hotel) is Song Qing Ling's former residence, from the period of the Second World War when Japan occupied much of China and Chongqing was the temporary capital. There were three Song (also spelled Soong) sisters. The eldest married a businessman. Middle sister Qing Ling married Sun Yat Sen, the founder of modern China. She was herself an important political figure, especially after his death. The youngest married Chiang Kai Shek. A saying about them is "One loved money, one loved power, and one loved China". Qing Ling is the one who loved China. There is an interesting movie with an English soundtrack and a book, "The Soong Dynasty" about the family. This house wedged in between tall, ugly buildings is a nice German design (the original owner was an engineer who studied in Germany) that is not unlike many of the pre-liberation colonial architecture that can be found here and there in and around Chongqing. The house is located about 100 meters south of the main entrance to the Hilton Hotel.
- Chongqing Ancient Town. Called Ci Qi Kou Zheng Jie, or sometimes the porcelain village as porcelain has long been made there, is still sold there, located in ShaPingBa, near the banks of the river this is a few streets of Chongqing as it was, (and still is in some places). It is mostly comprised of small shops selling tourist stuff, but does lead down to the river where it is possible to board a restaurant boat and where the present Hostel is located. The temple at the top of the hill is worth a visit. Several buses go there including 808 and 843. Worth a visit for a couple of hours. (29.581350,106.448260)
- Dazu Rock Carvings. Driving three hours west of Chongqing city, you can find the Dazu Rock Carvings. The spectacular Buddhist carvings date from the 9th to the 13th century and are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. There is also a fascinating temple complex on the grounds. The caves can be reached by bus from the main long distance bus station in Chongqing (Chen Jiaping). For more information see the main Dazu Rock Carvings article.
- Dafo Temple. Located about two hours north of Chongqing City is the city of Tongnan. Just north of downtown on the Fuijiang River is the Dafo Temple. It is located 30 min. outside the downtown area along the winding river banks. The highlight is a large several meter high Buddha carved into the rock. Tourists are a rare occurance at the temple and in this town you will be greeted with wonderful interest and excitement on the part of the locals as is common in rural China. Tongnan can be reached by the long distance bus station in Chongqing (Chen Jiaping) for about ¥38.
- Fengdu Ghost Town. Located about three hours north-east of Chongqing City is Fengdu. Fengdu is a river towne on the banks of the Yangtse (Chang Jiang) River. Across the river from the city is the Ghost Towne which can be reached by ferry. Highlights include the authentic Buddhist Temple on Mt. Ming. The admission price is expensive. Bus service is provided via the Chaotianmen bus station.
- Chongqing Hua Yan Tourist Spot. A temple complex including a Buddhist monastery and a large golden Buddha overlooking the whole place. Tucked in a green valley on a small lake, surprisingly in the middle of an urban built up area of Chongqing City. ¥10.
- Yangtze River Cruise. Yangtze River Cruise will take you through the cradle of China, while giving you the opportunity to see some spectacular scenery.
- Tour Boat. A 1 hour trip on Jialing and Yangtse (Chang Jiang) rivers for ¥58-88 or more depending on class) give you a night view of Chongqing's modern skyline. All the boats depart from the Chaotianmen dock, which is located at the north east extremity of the Yuzhong district.
- Cable car ride. There are two cable car rides: one over the Yangtze and the other over the Jialing River. ¥5 one way for a 5 minutes cable car trip above the Yangtse or the Jialing river - great view of the city.
- Preserved Dried Beef (Niu Rou Gan)
- Spicy Fine Beef Threads (Deng Ying Niu Rou ) (highly recommended)
- Curiously Flavoured Horsebean (Guai Wei Hu Dou)
- Carpenter Tan (Tan Mu Jiang). This local carpentry shop is worth a visit for its fine wood artwares.
Local food Chongqing is a harbor city and with this comes what is called dockside culture (matou wenhua). This culture is blamed for a lot of things from cursing to...Hot Pot.
Hot pot Hot Pot (huoguo, lit.: firepot) is one of Chongqing's claims to fame. In cities across China, one can find hot pot restaurants, but only Chongqing people can really stand a real hot pot, so if you want authenticity, get it while you can in Chongqing.
When ordering hot pot you have a a choice between three kinds. First, the spicy version called red soup (hong tang). Then there is one without any spices. This is basically a bone soup, and it is tasty. To get this, simply ask for "yuan wei" or tell them "wo bu yao la" which means "I don't want the spicy stuff!" Finally there is a compromise with Yuan Yang Hot Pot (Yuan Yang Huo Guo), which is basically a pot split down the middle with the spicy stuff on one side and the mild on the other.
For those who like spicy but do not like it too spicy, it is possible to order red soup without the jolt (wei la hong tang). It is a nice mild experience.
For those who can not speak Chinese, it would be best to grab a Chinese friend to take you, though be warned, you will have to put up with a lot of drinking, you will be forced to smoke more than you normally would, and some of the things they go slipping into the pot might not be your cup of tea. You will also have to be aware that you will be fed with a lot of dishes from your Chinese friends because they like to see your bowl is full of food so you might feel a little uncomfortable by being fed like a child but that is the way Chinese show their concern and enthusiastic to their friends especially when eating hot pot.
Suggested dishes at nicher restuarants
- Twiced cooked spicy pork slices (huiguorou) (highly recommended)
- Fish slices in sour and spicy pickled vegetable soup (suancaiyu)(recommended)
- Fried pork fillet slices in sweet and sour sauce (tangculiji)
- Steamed fatty pork with preserved vegetables (shaobai)
- Fish flavoured aubergine (yuxiangqiezi) (highly recommended)
- Onions and parsleys in spicy mustard (laohucai)
- Fish with tofu (doufuyu)
- Fish flavoured pork shreads (yuxiangrousi) (recommended)
- Chinese bouilli (hongshaorou)
- Gongpao Chicken (gongpaojiding)(recommended)
- Black agaric and pork slice stir-fries (muerroupian)
- Pork/beef slices in hot and spicy soup (shuizhuroupian) ( very spicy but recommended)
- Numbing and spicy tofu (mapodoufu) (spicy but highly recommended)
Suggested dishes at noodle shops
All dishes served in the noodle shops can be either spicy flavoured or plain flavoured, though spicy flavour is preferably recommended for a trial.
- Noodle with no tops (xiaomian) ¥3.0
- Beef noodle (niuroumian) ¥5.0
- Cold noodle (liangmian) ¥2.5
- Rice/soybean pudding slices (liangfen'r (fer)) ¥2.5
- Szechuan dumplings (hundun (T'sao sou)) ¥4
There are many "Western Restaurants", but it is very difficult to find any real western food in them. Many smallish restaurants will have a reasonable stab at spaghetti bolognaise, and some will have menus in "Chinglish" and even pictures of dishes. However as an exception, you can find quite nice fusion dishes (ranging from Japanese Sushi and Tempura to American Sirloin Steak
- Friendship Restaurant, (Next to the Maison Mode Plaza). Highly recommended. You can also find loads of street restaurants around that area.
- Ali&Ade, (On the second floor of the Pacific Department Store, inside the Metropolitan Plaza (Daduhui) right next to the Harbour View Hotel in the downtown area of Jiefangbei).
- Casablanca, (In Dekang Department Store, in the downtown area). Recommneded Western restaurant. Less than ¥50 for a decent meal served with a nice drink, salad and dessert.
- Why Not, (Shapingba). A Belgian style restaurant owned by a Belgian couple. Authentic fries and an ecclectic menu at below the high Jiefagbei prices.
There are many bars in Chongqing, but most are underpopulated. Generally the local bottled beer is ¥10, and the variety includes several local beers and even Guinness (expensive) on occasions. If you go to one of the small restaurants to eat, you can buy bottles of local beer at ¥3 upwards.