Day 24 - 25th April - Jinsha to Chongqing

I like the word juxtaposition. It sets the contrast between Jinsha and Chongqing.

Green was my Navigator and we lead for the day. Loris was the Navigator for Burgundy (Tony). Rain prevailed for most of the 320k drive to Chongqing. Clouds swirled amongst the wooded mountains. A few cleared fields, but it was difficult to determine what they were growing.

We hit the outskirts of Chongqing 70k from our hotel. It is one of 4 autonomous city/ states in the country. Shanghai and Beijing being 2 of the others. They are all administered by the National Government rather than being part of a Provence.

The population of the Chongqing municipality is 30m, while the city itself has grown to 14m. Despite the spaghetti like structure of the freeways and ring roads we managed to navigate directly to the hotel with ease and little traffic.

Chongqing boasts an important part in the national history. In recent times it was the capital of the country during the Japanese WW2 occupation. It was also and important part of Mao’s Long March. It was where silk worm cultivation and production started. And today it is a dynamic and vibrant financial and manufacturing centre.

While Jinsha was a raw industrial town plagued with pollution. Chongqing was modern, clean and incredibly vibrant. It was full of domestic tourists, many of whom were starting their 3 day Three Gorges boat trip down the Yangtze River. The largest river in Asia and one we will follow for the next 7 days until we arrive in Shanghai.

Little remains of the historic old town of Chongqing, our hotel is one of the few remnants. Converted, renovated and repurposed it is also the tourist centre of the city on the banks of the Jia Ling River, a smaller river that merges with the Yangtze 500m downstream from the hotel.

They do property development on a grand scale here. One development at the merge of the 2 rivers, makes Barangaroo look like a kindergarten in comparison. I think there are 8, 50 story towers all being constructed simultaneously. When completed they will look like the splayed bow of a ship on the point with the top of each building leaning out towards the rivers.

It seems that the focus of urban planning in the cities at least, is ‘liveability’. The streets are clean and all tree lined. By night the sky line lights up into a kaleidoscope of lightshows like the Sydney Vivid, except in Chongqing they are on every night of the year.

Chongqing is noted for its hotpot cuisine. A vat of vegetable oil, Szechwan pepper and chilies is boiled at the table into which you dip your meat, offal and vegetables. I am not sure whether it’s the heat of the chillies or the flames that does the cooking, but even cold the food was burning my tongue. Much cold beer (yes, they have worked out that beer should be served cold here) was required to make it digestible.

Tomorrow we head down the Yangtze to Wushan.