Published: August 15th 2009July 13th 2009
Greetings from Chongqing, the most populous city in China with 30 million people. Though huge and imposing, with the craziest streets I've seen, this city has its charms. I was only here 4 days, so the list is short.
1. The people in Chongqing are the nicest and friendliest I've encountered on my trip. And that's saying a lot. They don't see many foreigners, but they are not afraid to try to help me and will go out of their way to do so. Nor do they stare at me, point me out to their friends, or constantly try to take my picture. This is a refreshing bit of air in the hottest city I've been in since SZ.
2. The shoes. You know me, I love shoes. The women's shoes here are some of the most impressive and I wonder how they walk in them. But they do. And they make it look effortless. You try on 4 inch heels and let me know how you do.
3. Granted, I haven't ventured all over the city, but everywhere you go in the main part it seems like you're always right by the river. Yes, there are 2 rivers, thus increasing the probability of being by one, but it's still kind of neat. And you can walk right next to the river, too. There aren't huge fences like in the US. I guess the Chinese aren't afraid people will do something stupid and fall in.
4. For as westernized as this city is, it still feels really Chinese, unlike SZ which sometimes feels like a suburb or any major American city (minus the signs I can't read). Chongqing has really struck quite the balance. I can go to Subway or Pizza Hut, but those places are wedged in between little family owned restaurants with 5 tables and a cat or baby running around. I can go to Carrefour (a French chain, like a Walmart) but that's next to all the little shops the size of my bathroom with more things in them than my whole apartment. Blink and you'll miss what you're looking for.
5. The streets here are crazy. I grew up hearing jokes about the streets of St Paul being designed by drunk Irishmen because they are confusing. St Paul has nothing on this place. One minute I think I'm headed north, but then I'm suddenly headed west. And there's a flight of stairs in front of me. While this would qualify as charming after some familiarity set in, it's frustrating when you only have 4 days. At one point we got so turned around and lost that we had to call our hostel and they sent someone to find us. The worst part was that we had directions from the people at our hostel. I was so embarrassed and glad I wasn't the leader of that outing, but rather just someone along for the adventure of it.
5. Chongqing is the hottest city and most humid city I've been in since Shenzhen. Part of the reason I headed west was to cool off. Yet, in spite of the stifling heat, they still run un-air conditioned buses. People just carry fans with them. Though, while they do help (yep, I bought one) they only help a little. Real China lives on.