It was in last summer that I first visited the city of Chongqing in China. It was a childhood dream of mine, and when the moment finally arrived, I was just in awe of this astounding monster. I bring you my story of not just visiting Chongqing but the journey that took me there and the reasons why.
While some of us tend to put Sydney Opera house, the Taj Mahal, the Dead Sea and some of the more classic destinations on our must travel to bucket list, my choices are a little more obscure. Despite my longing to visit this gem in China, I kept Chongqing out of my travel plans for a long, long time. In fact, I had been to China more than ten times before I finally stepped foot in this beast. So finally, last summer, I made the journey to Chongqing – China’s hidden monster, alone.
First up, the hard truth: CHONGQING is the biggest city in the world. Chongqing is an almost secret, hidden, mega metropolis in China’s countryside. The entire Chongqing Municipality area officially houses between 29 – 33 million people. Chongqing is the largest direct-controlled municipality in China, and comprises 19 districts, 15 counties, and 4 autonomous counties.
The official abbreviation of the city, 渝 (Yú), has been in existence since 1997. Its abbreviated name is derived from the old name of a part of the Jialing River that runs through Chongqing and feeds into the Yangtze River. Chongqing has a significant history and culture and serves as the economic centre of the upstream Yangtze basin. It is a major manufacturing centre and transportation hub and in a July 2012 report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, was named as one of the 13 emerging megacities, or megalopolises, in China.
Chongqing is actually classed as a separate Chinese Province, from Sichuan Province where it was traditionally part of, and even the Lonely Planet China (Travel Guide)has a separate section on Chongqing. It’s mammoth, it’s massive, it’s mega, it’s a monster and….the skyscrapers don’t seem to end.
I was on the metro for an hour out of the city and it was a constant display of people and skyscrapers, out every window, at every station. And bear in mind that the metro here isn’t as busy or well known as Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei etc. I took a few buses out of the city too and they were the same – insanely busy, crowded and sprawling.
On the metro system, the madness is clear to see.
Michael Palin of the BBC was one of my early travel heroes. I watched his 1908s series Around the World in 80 Days as a child and we later watched Full Circle. It was on Full Circle that Michael Palin arrived by boat along the dreamy Yangtze River into what he described as “the town of Chongqing”. (quite the understatement to class this place as a “town”. He then went on to walk through the old town as the TV shots focused on a seemingly magnificent metropolis sunk deep into countryside amidst polluted air and the waft of Chinese cuisine. From that moment, I was intrigued and it was on the must visit bucket list every since then.
Chongqing Metro System, China.
I flew direct from Hong Kong Airport. Life had been busy. I worked on a Monday in June at our Kindergarten Graduation End of Year event. It was held at Tsuen Wan Town Hall, and was a marvellous spectacle. It was the second time I had been to a K3 Kindergarten Graduation event in Hong Kong (2012, 2013). Also on that same Monday morning, I was in Guangxi Province of China, at Guilin Airport flying to Shenzhen (within 20 hours I’d have visited 4 airports in China, spanning 4 provinces and worked a full shift in a school). We had toured Yangshou and Guilin for a few days, then I was back in Hong Kong to do this graduation for a day before flying to Chongqing. Manic.
You could call it “taking advantage of my China Visa while I had it”, but then again, I’ve had another two Chinese visas since!
From the graduation event in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong to flying to Chongqing, China.
I left work at the graduation in Tsuen Wan town hall in Hong Kong, and headed straight to Tung Chung on the MTR and then a bus to Hong Kong international airport. I was still in my shirt and tie at check in, got through immigration and security and checked into my Chongqing flight. I was buzzing.
Checked in and time for a quick beer on route to Chongqing.
I was the only foreigner on board my flight and I tend to get sentimental when traveling alone. Hong Kong Airlines includes water, snack, tea and a Tsingtao beer.
When I landed in Jiangbei International Airport in Chongqing, it wasn’t quite the elaborate Yangtze River Cruise entrance that Michael Palin had done years before, but I was buzzing at the thought of being there. But sprawling and enormous it is.
Top and bottom photo credit: Wikipedia and globeimages.net.