If you step back from the beautiful relief of Baodingshan, you find a smal stair, which leads into the valley. After a few steps you'll feel completely alone. The green leafs of the trees will hide the tourist masses and even swallow the noices. And when you sit qiet for a while you'll discover beautifull butterflies and lovely small flowers.
Pipa Shan is hardly a mountain, rising to just 345 metres above sea level, and in hilly Chongqing, Pipa Shan is almost hidden by the forest of skyscrapers all around. The park was originally the garden of the governor of Sichuan, and became a public place in the 1950s.
Now it is a tangle of semi-wild tropical plants, mildewed pavilions and huts, linked by damp stone and concrete paths.
On the wide, flat summit, Chongqing's elderly people come to give some fresh air to their caged birds, wander around with their grand-children and play mahjong. In the drier months, open air art exhibitions are held in the rose garden. Nearby, the octagonal Red Star Pavilion provides impressive views over the valley of the Jialing and towards the Chinag Jiang.
The former Chongqing Municipal Museum - rated by many - is no longer open, presumably it will reopen in one of the new museums being built in the city. The semi-private Natural History Museum is still there, in an annexe to the old museum.
Hidden away, and closely hemmed in by a canyon of tower blocks, is the delightful ivy-covered old St Joseph's church. It is entirely invisible from busy Minsheng Lu. It is reached down a flight of steep, worn stone steps. At the bottom, a worn wooden gate opens onto a small courtyard. To the left, office and accommodation locks form a cloister, while the church stands on its own, apart from the rush of noise on the street above. The rich green ivy has clambered over every surface, seemingly hiding the church from aetheistic view.
Inside, the walls are bare and clean. A steady succession of worhshippers come in to pray and to leave gifts. When I was there, a young lady was loudly planning her wedding, and clearly causing some consternation to the staff. I guess she was demanding all kinds of things that one would not normally expect in a church. Hope it all went well.
It is easy in Chongqing to ignore the mundane, yet the back-streets of the city are a fascinating mix of the old and the new. Old European-style buildings are fading gently, and being swept away for new tower-blocks, but there are still many areas where the black stone buildings, with obvious German and Russian features, live happily on.
Below, in the streets and alleyways, every square metre is filled with stands and stalls, selling vegetable, fruit, fabrics, bicycles, meat, animals, drinks, cigarettes, computers, flowers..... This is local China, away from the malls and China Unicom shops, where people live, work and shop.
A classic little piece of China is on every street and every corner.
Chongqing is a Great city to just wander. I didn't see a whole lot of "must see" places but just taking in the city is what I enjoyed! This part that is shown in the photo is a great place to wander for a day or a few hours....but be prepared for lot's of hill climbing. The hill is very steep and the streets are a jumble of ups and downs. Some of the walkways appeared to go right through peoples homes...I was lost the whole time I was wandering but had a great time..I wish I would have made more photos from the experiences but I felt funny taking my camera out and pointing it right at people...I didn't want to ruin the fun time I was having by possibly scaring anyone with my camera. I'm sure if you are in a large group it would be better to break up into smaller groups...I don't know if the people would be so welcoming to a group of 25 wandering through their kitchen!
If you need a zipper or shoe fixed while traveling in China you can get a quick fix from one of these guys. They are located in many "hole-in-the-wall" type shops. There are so many to chose from and they have always treated me well as I have used them in many countries!
Visitors to China quickly get used to Chinese culture being packaged and sanitised. Little is left to find its own way: anything interesting and anything that can be commercialised generally is commercialised as quickly as possible for as many people as possible.
Ciqikou is just one example, but it has many redeeming features. It is a collection of lovely buildings, alleyways, and temples that has been 'touristifed'. Fortunately, Ciqikou has remained higgledy-piggledy and only partially planned, and so it retains much of its charm. The village sits high on the banks of the Jialing river in the eastern part of Chongqing, and is home to many artists. Around it, the usual banal and excessive collection of rather pathetic, uninspiring concrete restaurants, cafes and tourist shops.
Tellingly, the monstrous riverside highway, on huge 30 metre concrete stilts has devastated the banks of the river the whole way out from Chongqing, and ends abruptly by Ciqikou. No matter how long you live in China, you can never cease to be amazed at how insensitive much of the development has been.
Ciqikou is recommended because of the artists, some lovely old buildings and there are some good restaurants, but it could have been so much more if the authorities had just considered the humanity of its grand development plans.
The Dazu Grottos, 160 kilometers northwest of Chongqing, include over 60,000 figures scattered in more than 100 places. They are primarily Buddhist cave sculptures noted for unusual domestic detail as well as purely religious themes. They were carved during the times of the Tang 618-907), Five Dynasties (907-960), and Song (960-1279) dynasties. The two major sites are Beishan (North Hill) and Baodingshan (Baoding Hill).
China is getting more and more liberal, not only in places like Shanghai, but also deep in the West. A Chinese told me that those selling machines in public would have been unthinkable five years a go.....well, love is in the air......
Next stop along the Chiang Jiang (Yangzi) River Cruise was at Qutang Xia (first gorge). I had waited quite a bit for this... after all, who hasn't head about the imfamous Three Gorges? I was really pleased on this trip, and really pleased to be there, the first Gorge of the trip. I remember reading somewhere that this is the narrowest of the Gorges, about 50 meters at it's narrowest.
Cruise down river to the imfamous Three Gorges at Chiang Jiang (Yangzi) River and sourounding areas. Sadly, this tip is time sensitive for the construction of the Three Gorge Dam will leave most if not all of the attractions of the Three Gorges River Cruise underwater. So, hurry up and visit this places before mid-2003. The cruise takes you through the following destinations: Fengdu (ghost city), Shibao Tower,
Fengie, Qutang Xia (first gorge), Little Gorges, Wu Xia (Gorge), and Xiling Xia (Gorge). After the last gorge, you can opt to disembark at the city of Yichang, which is a good jump of point to see the Three Gorge Dam construction (scheduled to be done by 2009). More information on this river cruise can be found on the following tips and several pics of my trip are available on my travelogue.
Next stop along the Chiang Jiang (Yangzi) River Cruise was at the Little Gorges. At this point you get off the boat for what must have been 5 hours. Some people decide to just hang around town, but the best thing to do is take the optional tour to see the Little Gorges. This was one of the highlights on my short trip to China. You see so many wonderful cliffs. In short, you get up close and personal with the little gorges, while on the larger ones you just see them from the boat. Also, you get to see many of the tourists (chinese and others) wonder about the sights so it's great to people watch too.
Next stop along the Chiang Jiang (Yangzi) River Cruise was at the Wu Xia (Gorge) and the Xiling Xia (Gorge). The trip trails down to the end at this point. You get to see the last two Gorges. As I said earlier, I trully loved this experience and would recommend it to anyone while the Three Gorges are still around.
My lost stop along the Chiang Jiang (Yangzi) River Cruise was at Yichang. At that point I disembarked from the boat and headed by bus to the Three Gorge Dam Construction (visited during 2001). This is set to be the largest dam in the world when completed in 2009. There is more info on this sight at my Yichang page.
Our first stop along the Chiang Jiang (Yangzi) River Cruise was at the Gohst City of Fengdu. There is a lovely temple and a palace on the city. The ironic thing is that the city will be totally underwater once the Three Gorge Dam is complete.