We said goodbye to our local guide, Lily, at the airport and flew to Chongqing (pronouced Chong Ching) , getting into our hotel around 11:15 and receiving our luggage about midnight. A tired bunch!! Today's good news is that Betsy has no broken bones, but some serious soft tissue injuries. By now her son should be with her to return her home.
Friday, September 23 - Chongqing and Dazu
It was a long trek in the rain, but well worthwhile. We drove two hours or a bit more to Dazu to see the
stone wall carvings.
Chongqing is in a very hilly area and apparently it rains about 110 days a year. It's damp, misty and foggy ( or smoggy ) most of the time. With a population in the large "regional municipality" greater than Canada's, it's pretty dense and busy. The outskirts are agricultural and we saw rice paddies, fields of lotus and corn, and artificial ponds where fish are raised. People working in the fields have large flat staw hats and simple tools. We saw a man ploughing a field on foot (barefoot) with his pant legs rolled up walking behind a water buffalo. Every yard has chickens, ducks, geese, and dogs. The wealthy farmers have 2-storey houses and the poorer ones single-storey. Their fields are terraced. There are orange groves, pear ,
pomegranate and apple orchards and vineyards.
We were stared at by residents, kids waved and so on -- especially when we stopped to
photograph one farm area.
We took trams to the entrance to a grotto, then gradually descended to the bottom, admiring 1000-year old
Buddhist carvings on the walls of the valley and in little caves. Originally they were coloured and covered with gold, but much of that has worn away. The last few are unfinished because either a war or an
argument broke out and the sculptors fled for their lives.
Also the foundation there was a bit shaky. It was wet and slippery and there were few handholds but everyone in our group made it through ok.
Several people have "touristitis" today, and a few others are just recovering. Thank goodness for Imodium! The trip to and from Dazu includes a couple of long tunnels.
Since traffic is very chaotic in China, those were a bit of a relief because for 2 to 4 minutes at a time most vehicles stayed more or less in their own lanes. As usual we
saw a great deal of constructions and lots of buildings being torn down. Thousands of unoccupied apartments in new-looking high-rises.
We hear much about the 'one family 1 child' rules and we see evidence of both dismaying poverty and tremendous economic growth. People seem to be happy with their life style even though we can't imagine living as they do.
We also learned today that we're in the general area of a Panda bear reserve. We'd have loved to go there, but it's a 12-hour drive, so out the question. Tonight many of us have skipped the group dinner in favour of the hotel bar fare. It's western and we're ready for that. Every lunch and dinner seems similar, (though much better than North American Chinese food) so it was an easy choice to make.
Bar food and drink made us quite the lively group in the bar with much chatter and laughter. The live music started, so we were up
dancing before our food even arrived, and carried on 'til we wore out the band [ and me ]. We were joined in our frolic by some Aussies, and even some locals. What a riot, and what a good way to spend an evening!!
Saturday, 24 September - Chongqing to the Yangtzie
This was the day we actually toured Chongqing. We began by wandering and old (restored) market area near the harbour, called Ciqikou Old Street. It had stalls for
everything and throngs of people. I tried to buy a cheap fake jade bangle, but none was large enough for my hand. Lots of people found bargains though.
Next was the very interesting General Stillwell Museum, which honours American airman who supported China in the 1940s against the Japanese. There was an art gallery attached to that, so more shopping ensued.
After lunch we drove to the Erling Park. I should mention that our lunch was in a large restaurant where a wedding banquet was taking place. [We took lots of pics of the wedding bride etc. Their customs are strange. They have a wedding lunch then play cards and games all afternoon waiting for the wedding dinner. Not sure if dancing occurs after dinner or not. It was inside a
huge shopping complex with modern, expensive shops, so we got to do some high-end window shopping. At Erling Park [ on the other side of the river/city ], we enjoyed the views from high above the city,
Then we toured Three Gorges Museum. At the gift shop there I finally found a jade pendant that I liked and could afford. Then onto a Tea House where we sampled several teas and were
taught how to make and enjoy them. Luckily there was a gift shop because some of us were feeling a bit of withdrawal [ Ha!!!!!].
The bus then took us to the square in front of the People's Grand Hall, which we admired briefly before bolting to a nearby grocery/department store to stock up for the cruise. We got bottles of water, crackers, beer and chocolate. Then to dinner at the New York Hotel - [ they love US stuff here and also putting English on all their signs. It is considered fashionable according to our guide. ] very posh, but the fancy chopsticks didn't seem
as well balanced so we were all a bit klutzy. Afterward, the walk back to the bus was amazing - the city was all neon - lit and full of people. There were girls doing fan dancing in a public open area and lots of others [ doing their thing. ]
Pictures - Chongqing and Dazu
[ClickPic:The group, Dazu
ClickPic:Jan & stone wall carvings, Dazu
ClickPic: Ciqikou Old Street
ClickPic: Restaurant Wedding
Pictures - Chongqing and Dazu