Before I headed to China, I was advised by one of my best friends Barbara, who was my inspiration to travel, to buy a book called China Lonely Planet. She has used it before during her Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam trip. I bought it online for about £19.00, but it is worth spending every penny as without this book my life in China would be much more difficult. Here, you can find many inspirational photos, very clear and specific maps which will help you find any directions and the way back to the nearest hostel or hotel in case you get lost. Moreover, the book provides in-depth background of each province you are planning to go to, comprehensive planning tools and lots of advice on what you are allowed to/ must/ can/ should do in China or what you are not allowed to do. In general, this book should be your number 1 on the list of things you need to pack to China.
How about Chongqing?
If you have a look at the map of China, you will see that Chongqing is located in Southwest China and it’s surrounded by such provinces as Sichuan (from the West), Shaanxi (from the North), Hunan (from the East, that’s the province I currently live in) and Guizhou (from the South). If you want to travel from one province to another, it might even take you up to 20 hours (or more) by train to get there as the distance between them is enormous. All tickets must be usually booked at least 2 days before you depart. Otherwise, you might not get the ticket you want and spend all the way standing on the train as all tickets are being sold out quite quickly. I often book it 3 days in advance, it’s safe and convenient for me (of course, there are always some exceptions).
Chongqing is believed to become the most economically important city in West China and is certainly already the biggest inland city of the country. The size of this city is impressive. It looks like it never ends, the building are very high (as high as some buildings in Shanghai) and the place looks very modern. The thing I like about Chongqing the most is that you can find a huge shopping centre with the most expensive products provided by world-famous brands, and just 5 minutes from this posh area, you can find very poor people selling some fruits and vegetables on the street and you are a witness of poverty and very low living conditions. By comparison of these two sides of China, the rich and the poor one, you can realise that China is developing itself at a breath-taking speed but the poverty will always exist here, no matter how powerful this country will be in the future. Some tourist come to visit this place because they are attracted by the iconic Yangzi River, some want to taste a traditional food of this region: spicy Hot Pot. I was here because of my job, thanks to which I could enjoy my time in this country day after day, minute after minute, get to know great people, get some more teaching experience and not to be worry about my finance.
Hot Pot experience.
Hot Pot, as I mentioned before, it a typical dish of this province. As the name suggests, it is very spicy, probably more than anyone can imagine Simmering metal pot of stock is put at the centre of the dining table, when it keeps simmering, all ingredients, selected by a customer in advance, are placed into the pot and cooked for more or less 5-10 minutes at the table. You can put there some sliced meat (different kinds), leafy vegetables, mushrooms, eggs, dumplings with a meat filling or any kind of seafood. The dish is very delicious but after all you need to drink a lot of water as for some people it is way too spicy. On my second day in Chongqing, I was taken by a German couple and some hostel staff to the nearest restaurant to try this dish and I found it so spicy that I could barely breathe. I was about to cry after I had tasted one piece of potato. The German couple found it very tasty and they ate a lot though. The weather was exhausting: hot, hot, hot, about 40C every day, very high humidity. I must admit that the temperature change (raining and cold England vs. steam bath in Chongqing) was a big problem for me. I kept sweating and shivering and needed to take a shower at least twice a day. Nevertheless, the nights were a little bit cooler so I could enjoy a stroll with some guys from my hostel. By the way, the city at 2 am looks lovely and very romantic.
When I arrived at the airport in Chongqing (I didn’t know how massive this city was), I decided to be a brave girl and get into my hostel on my own, taking different buses and trains. After a few minutes, I ended up in some dodgy place with no idea where I was and how I could get out of this place, I took a taxi:-P Yes, sometimes cheap doesn’t mean safe. After 45 minutes, I was here. Of course, the taxi driver didn’t run the meter so he quoted a price (probably 10 times more than he should charge me), he pissed me off (taking an advantage of me because I’m a blonde girl from Europe is unacceptable!), so I gave him 40 Yuan (the price I should pay according to my book) and said goodbye to him. He looked a little bit embarrassed. I was finally in my hotel, after a nearly 20-hour flight! What a feeling! Relief and happiness. My hostel was great (I will upload some pictures of it at the end of the note). I booked it online about 2 weeks before I went to China, great staff, very friendly people, they did everything I asked for, young university students working 12 hours a day with such a passion and commitment. They spoke great English so I didn’t need to make an effort to use my basic Chinese (we are still in touch, sending e-mails to each other every weekend and planning to meet up next summer at the same place). They showed me around the city and explained where everything was. Of course, I met some American guys: “party animals” so they took me out twice to show me how China can party. The clubs were massive, the variety of alcohol was unbelievable (I used to work in a bar for a year during my first year at the university so I have some experience), the girls in clubs were pole dancing, looked almost naked wearing only white or black sexy underwear. My first thought was: “Wow, these people can party hard”. After a few drinks we always came back to our hostel, meeting random people and eating some Chinese food. Good times. I really miss the guys. One of them came back to America already; the second one is still in China, working as a teacher of English language. We even text each other from time to time. Who knows, we might meet up soon, that would be awesome.
Unfortunately, the good things must come to an end. My Chongqing paradise was over, after 7 amazing days, which I consider so far as the most exciting in China, I had to go to another province called Hebei to see my boss before I started my job. Luckily, Hebei is very close to Beijing, so after all I headed to Beijing for 4 days to have another great time. But I will describe my Beijing trip another time, making a special note about the top places worth seeing here. If you have any questions regarding Chongqing province or you are already here and you need some help or advice, place send me an e-mail and I will get back to you as soon as possible. I can also advise you where to go to have fun or do some shopping. Because of the time limit and many responsibilities I have regarding my teaching job, I’m not able to write about everything and everyone. Therefore, if I miss something important or you have any additional questions, just feel free to e-mail me.
Thanks for your time and see you soon tramps!