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02/07/2013

What things to do in Chongqing I

Before your Yangtze River cruise, you can consider the following things to do in Chongqing

1. Boarding the Yangzte River Boat

After an afternoon visiting Chongqing it was time to board the boat for the Yangtze River cruise. The river was a long way down from the street level and you had to go down a lot of stairs along a steep wall. There I found that the boat is moored along way out in the river which was shallow at this time of year (April) and was approached over a series of decks joined by floating pontoons - just like a Bailey Bridge.

There were porters everywhere and the going rate was 10 CNY (unit for Chinese currency) per bag. They slung the bags onto a pole which they then hoisted onto their shoulder and off they went. I had trouble keeping up with them. Nearly all of the stores for the voyage were brought aboard the same way.

On the main pontoon there was a brass band playing to welcome you aboard.

Then you had to find your boat - not as easy as you would think. They moore side by side sometimes 3 deep and you had to go through one or two other boats to get to yours. The same system used by the Nile boats in Egypt.

2. Eling Park

Eling Park is the earliest private garden to be built in Chongqing. It is built on a high piece of land between the Yangtze and Jialing Rivers and is known for its superb views over the city.

Also known as 'Courteous Park' it was built as a private garden in 1909 and was originally the home of a wealthy merchant. It became the home of Chiang Kai-shek during the war against Japan and several embassies were built there. In 1958 it became a public park and was named Eling or 'Goose Neck' Park because of its narrow shape.

The park has many species of plants and small landscapes and has a beautiful stone bridge with intricately carved railings in the shape of rope. The lake is stocked with fish and is a popular place with the local people.

3. Flying Tiger Museum

The 'Flying Tigers' is the name given to the 1st American Volunteer Group who work with the Chinese Airforce during World War Two.

Major Claire Chennault, an American from Louisianna, was hired by Chiang Kai-shek as one of a group of instructors and advisors for the Chinese Air Force. He was serving in China when the Japanese invaded China in 1937 reaulting the the move of the capital to Chongqing. The Flying Tigers are famous for keeping open the 'Hump Route' - the route over the Himalayas from India and Burma used to transport supplies into the otherwise blockaded China.

The museum in Chongqing, although not well publicised is very interesting with many photographs and artefacts of the time. A museum attendant gives visitors an informative talk on the Flying Tigers for China tour deals.

The museum is still raising funds and shares the building with an art gallery. There is also a Chinese artisan of watercolour painting on rice paper who sells his art to help the museum.

4. Dazu Rock Carvings

The Dazu Rock Carvings can be found at any of 75 protected sites located in the steep hillsides of Dazu County (Chongqing Municipality). They are a series of religious statues and carvings showing aspects of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism and can be dated back as far as 7th century AD. The best examples are found at Mount Baoding and Mount Beishan.

The carvings were made over a period of time, some as early as 650 AD but were mostly created starting in the late 9th century at Mount Beishan. The elaborate work at Mount Baoding was a life work of the monk Zhao Zhifeng during the 12th century. He dedicted 70 years of his life to the work.

It was only in 1961 that the carvings were opened to the Chinese public and a muddy track kept them reasonably unknown until 1975. This helped keep them safe during the Cultural Revolution when anti-religious vandalism was rife. In 1980 the carving were opened to foreign visitors. The carvings were listed as a World Heritage Site in 1999.

Our local guide Albert had great knowledge of the area at Mount Baoding and explained a lot about the concepts and of, and differences between Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. One of the features of this site is the 'Reclining Buddha' or 'Buddha Entering Nirvana' Dazu Rock Carvings is a top spot for top China tours.

5. Shopping in Chongqing

1> Jiefangbei --- the central business district and the center of economic development of Chongqing

The Jiefangbei commercial Pedestrian Street centers this well-known shopping area. Clusters of modern shopping malls and exclusive shops line the roadsides. Banks, theatres, KTV clubs, bookstores, hotels, bars and pubs are also quite easy to find. Some of the main buildings worth seeing include Chongqing Department Store, New Century Department Store, Commercial Mansion, Friendship Shopping Center, Carrefour Supermarket and New Oriental Women Plaza.

2> Chaotianmen Market -- the biggest market in Chongqing

Located on East Jiefang Road, Chaotianmen Market is dealing primarily in Garment wholesale and is reported that goods traded in the market come from or are sold to more than 200 counties in Sichuan, Hubei and Hunan provinces. Shoppers can expect to find stylish clothes and very reasonable prices. Still, bargaining with the vendors in most stalls and shops will ensure a great deal.

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