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Mega city bursts with energy, chilies, sights

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Spending only 72 hours in the formidable mega city of Chongqing, population of almost 30 million, can be intense, but in a good way. There is so much to see, to eat, to experience and scheduling can be tricky.

But in the near future, many foreign tourists will be faced with Chongqing choices, since China has issued a transit-without-visa policy for the mountain city in southwestern China.

Tourists from 45 countries and regions will be able to stay in Chongqing for 72 hours, as long as they hold visa or air tickets to a third country.

The urban area of Chongqing Municipality is divided into three parts: Yuzhong Peninsula, Jiangbei Area and South Area, which are naturally divided by Jialing River and Yangtze River. The city has more than 10 counties and suburban districts, which offer treasures of natural and cultural heritage. Here are suggestions by Shanghai Daily on making the best use of your time.

Day 1 Ciqikou Ancient Town, Eling Park and Joseph Stilwell Museum

1:30pm

Flights to Chongqing tend to land around noon.

Ciqikou Ancient Town is a half-hour ride from the airport, so itÕs a good place for lunch after you arrive.

Located on Jialing River, it dates back around 1,000 years. All the buildings are traditional stilted structures (diaojiaolou) built on stilts because of heavy rains and the humid climate. The first floor of the buildings was traditionally used for storerooms or livestock pens. Residents live on upper floors.

Today, the first floors are all stores and snack shops. This is the best place to buy Chongqing specialties and taste authentic snacks, such as fried, twisted dough. Stores in one area sell the snacks and every day people are lined up in front of every vendor.

Dough is salty or sweet; the most common is spiced salty, but honey flavor is also popular.

Other snacks and foods include barbecue and peach kernel cake (Hechuan Taopian). Specialties, such as beef jerky and chillies, are frequently bought by visitors.

Ciqikou Ancient Town

Address: Ciqikou, Shapingba District

Tel: 023-6540-6719

How to get there: Take a taxi from the airport. From downtown Chongqing, take Metro Line 1 to Ciqikou Station.

3pm

From the ancient town, take the metro to downtown Chongqing for a quick visit to Eling Park in the afternoon. Originally a businessman’s private garden in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Eling Park is an excellent spot to take in a panoramic view of Chongqing. Liangjiang Tower in the park offers the best view.

Feige Pavilion in the park is the former residence of Chiang Kai-shek, former leader of the Republic of China (1912-49). Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, British Ambassador to China (1936-42), once stayed in the pavilion.

Very close to Eling Park is the Joseph Stilwell Museum, visited by many foreign tourists. During World War II, US Army General Stilwell (1883-1946) was dispatched to China after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1942. Stilwell, known as “Vinegar Joe,” was famous in the China, Burma and India theater.

The museum is the former residence of Stilwell from 1942 to 1944. The residence was restored in the 1990s and relics and memorabilia such as manuscripts, uniforms and daily use items, are exhibited.

Eling Park

Address: 181, Elingzheng St, near 1 Changjiang Rd

Tel: 023-6890-8606

Admission: Free, but entering Liangjiang Tower costs five yuan (80 cents).

How to get there: Metro Line 1 to Eling Station; or bus No. 829 to Eling Park Station.

Joseph Stilwell Museum

Address: 63 Jialingxin Rd

Tel: 023-6360-9515

Admission: 15 yuan

How to get there: Walk to the museum from Eling Park. From other places, take Metro Line 2 to Liziba Station.

6pm

It’s time for hotpot. Many visitors go to Chongqing to experience the fiery and numbing Sichuan chilis and peppers. Chongqing is heaven for people who prefer hot and spicy food. But it’s exceedingly hot. Hotpots, fish filets in hot chili oil, grilled fish with chili and peppery chicken are famous.

Nanbin Road along the Jialing River contains a wide range of restaurants, where all the popular dishes are served. The eateries mainly target visitors, which means the heat and spice are toned down. For authentic Chongqing hotpot, visitors should seek out some small restaurants on the streets. They serve extremely pungent and spicy soup, and the only type of dip available is sesame oil. Animal organs and innards are popular ingredients in hotpot, including ox trips, goose intestine, pig kidney and pig brain.

For people preferring relatively lighter food, there are fish-flavored pork slices, stir-fried preserved meat with vegetables and dumplings. Bean curd soup is a hit.

8pm

Let’s call it a day early, the first travel day can be stressful. Since public transport is best in the Jiefangbei area, that’s a good place to find accommodation.

Jiefangbei, which means the Monument of Liberation, stands in memory of China’s War of Liberation from 1946 to 1949. The area around the monument has been developed into a pedestrian street. Shopping malls, bars, restaurants and hotels are located everywhere.

Day 2 A day in scenic Wulong

8am

It takes around two hours to reach Wulong, a spectacular geological site, from downtown Chongqing. Long distance buses go to Wulong every half hour from the Sigongli Bus Station. Metro Line 3 goes to the station.

10am

Arrival. The reason to visit Wulong scenic area is to appreciate the wonders of nature. The karstic (limestone) formations create the very rare Three Natural Bridges. The three huge arch bridges, Tianlong, Qinglong and Heilong bridges, all have spans wider than 300 meters and widths of more than 200 meters. The bridges stretch over two enormous natural pits, forming a marvelous spectacle.

As the largest natural bridge group in Asia, the three bridges are part of UNESCO’s World Natural Heritage.

2pm

After lunching in a small restaurant in the scenic area (try rice noodle), tourists can visit Furong Cave.

The cave is considered a subterranean hall of art. After thousands of years of limestone deposits, the stalactites and stalagmites form waterfalls, flowers, clusters of grapes and shields, formations rarely seen in other karst caves in China.

The whole cavern extends 2,700 meters and a typical visit takes two hours.

8:30pm

The 70-minute live-action musical “Impressions of Wulong” is staged every night, weather permitting. With Wulong as a backdrop, it tells the story of boat haulers, the boatmen who literally pulled boats along rivers before marine engines were introduced. Director Zhang Yimou is the show’s consultant.

Afterward, visitors can spend the night at Xiannushan Town, which contains both hotels and family-run inns.

Admission:

Three Natural Bridges:

135 yuan (March-October)

95 yuan (November-February)

Furong Cave:

120 yuan (March-October)

65 yuan (November-February)

“Impressions of Wulong”

238 to 588 yuan

How to get there:

Those who don’t want to travel by themselves, can book a one- or two-day trip at the Chongqing Sightseeing Bus Center, which is in the Tower B, ASE Center at Jiefangbei. The bus leaves from the same place.

Address: 89 Minquan Rd

Day 3 Wulong continued and back to town

9am

Tourists can visit other scenic spots, notably Longshui Gorge. The gorge is around an hour’s ride from Xiannushan Town. Visitors walk for around 2km at the bottom of the gorge, 200-500 meters deep.

Waterfalls, deep ponds and forest create a gorgeous landscape deep in the gorge. The walk is both physically and mentally relaxing.

Admission:

115 yuan (March-October)

85 yuan (November-February)

2pm

After returning to Chongqing from Wulong, it’s time to visit the Three Gorges Museum for history and culture. Before the Three Gorges Hydropower Station project started in 1996, Chinese archeologists rescued 12,000 cultural relics from the area to be flooded, including ancient sculptures and cliff inscriptions. Some are exhibited in the museum.

Relics are representative of the Ba-Shu culture; Ba was the ancient name of the Chongqing area and Shu was the name of Sichuan. The culture, with a history of around 4,000 years, had many high points in Chinese history. Relics reflect the prosperous Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), the heroes during the Three Kingdom’s Period (AD 220-280), and the great poets and writers, such as Li Bai and Du Fu.

The museum is also a Chongqing Municipality Museum, so it records the history and development of the city, World War II capital of the Kuomintang government, which was bombed many times by the Japanese.

Opposite the museum stands the grand People’s Hall, built in the 1950s in updated style of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties. The hall has become an important venue for major meetings, conferences and exhibitions with both national and international participants.

Address: 236 Renmin Rd, Yuzhong District

Tel: 023-6367-9014

Admission: Free. Chinese guide service costs 100 yuan while English costs 150 yuan.

How to get there:

Take Metro Line 2 to Zengjiayan Station; or public buses, such as Nos. 181 and 421, to the People’s Hall Station. Most buses in Chongqing don’t have English-language service.

7pm

Hongyadong is a fashionable area popular for its nightlife. The general area is like a mountain. Hongyadong leans against a cliff and Jiefanbei is on the top.

Hongyadong dates back more than 2,600 years. Before the area was redeveloped, it contained a large area of buildings on stilts (diaojiaolou), typical architecture in China’s middle western region. Now the area has been turned into an entertainment and dining zone, retaining the style of stilted buildings in new architecture.

The area is visually dramatic at night; the outlines of stilted buildings are lighted with gold and silver and red lanterns hang from the eves. The scene at night is similar to the scene of the bathhouse Auraya in Hayao Miyazaki’s movie “Spirited Away.”

Visitors can climb from the bottom of Hongyadong all the way up to Jiefangbei.

Hongyadong

Address: Cangbai Rd, Jiefangbei

How to get there: Metro Line 2 to Linjiangmen Station

 


 

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