From Yichang to Chongqing: This Time on A Century Cruise Ship

century cruisesMy One-Day Chongqing Travel Experience I arrived in Chongqing early in the morning, excited for my four-day cruise on the Yangtze River. I had plenty of time to kill since boarding time on the Victoria Jenna was not until seven in the evening. Many tourists choose to fly in late in the afternoon, just in time for the cruises to depart. I, on the other hand, decided to arrive early.

Who knew when I would be able to visit again anyway, so why not make the most out of my time and squeeze in a little Chongqing travel excursion? With that, I left all my bags at the Chongqing Port Ticket Hall and dashed off to see what the city had to offer.

Truth be told, I really wanted to go on a day-trip to the Dazu Rock Carvings. These rock carvings are located in Dazu country outside the city proper and are popular for their history and art. Unfortunately, I learned that it would take around two hours to get to Dazu from Chongqing and another two hours to get back. That would mean four hours of land travel. While thought of the rock carvings was quite tempting, but going there would mean that I would not be able to visit or see anything else. I also did not want to risk getting left behind by my cruise ship, so I stayed in the city instead.

Chongqing’s Scenery

Chongqing is a city of many rivers and mountains. In fact, the city itself is not built on flat land but on a number of very hills. Thus, any Chongqing travel excursion would require riding or walking on alleys and roads that steeply rise and fall with the terrain. Interestingly, there are no bicycles in this part of China, which is probably because of its topography. John King Fairbank, a prominent American academic and historian once described the topography as “a most unfortunate human habitation.” Even with that, I would like to believe that it is its hilliness, steep roads – and smog - that makes Chongqing distinct from any other city in China.

Old World Meets New World

The city is home to more than thirty million people and is a blend of both modern and old. Huge buildings, skyscrapers, new shops and new infrastructure deck the city’s business district, their lights providing a delightful spectacle at night. However, not far from the main streets are crowded and narrow alleyways that are decked with rickety and dilapidated structures. True enough, the business district is quite clean and inviting, especially for tourists. Even with the smog, the streets were orderly and there were many shops, restaurants and parks where the rich and the working class flock. However, the other side of Chongqing is a more raucous experience. Dirty and crowded streets, disabled beggars sitting on streets, older people carrying produce on basket and rowdy locals drinking local beers in decrepit restaurants are a common sight in these places.

Fun Shopping Experiences

While there are plenty of shops and boutiques in the city proper, it is also home to many open markets. Any Chongqing travel is never complete without a visit to one of their produce markets. Produced markets are not for the faint of heart, but they are for the adventurous.

Dozens of peppers and spices were displayed in burlap sacks. There were many animals – chickens, pigs, goats, fishes and even snakes. On the other side of the market, I saw fresh mean hung on meat hooks. One part of the market had fruits and vegetables of all shapes, sizes and colors.

I also visited the Chaotianmen Market. Located in East Jiefang Road, the market is home to hundreds of stalls that sell a wide range of garments, house wear, handicrafts, flowers, plants and anything else that you can find. Haggling is acceptable, and I was surprised to get a cap for half the price!

Very Good Food

Of course, if there’s one other thing that I cannot forget about the city, it’s the food! Chongqing cuisine is uniquely Sichuan. Sichuan food is known for being spicy, rich and pungent. They use a wide range of spices, causing a burst of flavor in the mouth. I was able to try the hotpot, which is a meal the city is most popular for. They say that your Chongqing travel never complete without it. Apparently, the city is said to be the birthplace of hotpot, and I would like to agree so! I also had some noodles, and they were like no other. Again, the distinct Chongqing flavor was there, even in their street noodles. There were also plenty of stalls that sold local snacks like honey cakes, steamed buns, fried dumplings and glutinous rice balls. My Chongqing travel consisted of several hundreds of steps and a couple of taxi rides – and it was all good. All in all, I was glad I was able to fly in earlier just so I could get lost in this big city for one full day.