I started the day by going to the Sichuan Science and Technology Museum, but it was closed for renovations, so I walked around the neighborhood and found some incredibly cheap dumplings for breakfast. On my way back to collect my bag, I stopped by the Sichuan Library just to get a sense for its size and collection.
After watching an unusual sight near what I consider a “wheelchair street” (lots of shops selling wheel chairs), I made my way to the train station and headed to Chongqing, the largest city in the world (depending on your definition).
As we approached Chongqing, I noticed the huge mountain ranges then realized that the city is built in the mountains. Many streets were incredibly steep and difficult to climb. It was also very difficult to locate the Airbnb style accommodation, but with some help from locals and inaccurate GPS (due to the elevation and walls of dense concrete buildings), I finally checked in and caught a great view of the city from up high.
To my surprise, one of the other guests had stayed in the same place as me in Chengdu and struck up a conversation with me. He wanted to practice his English and invited me to dinner to try out Chongqing’s famous numbingly spicy hot pot, supposedly the origin of today’s hot pot. We struggled a little with the hills then made our way to a little hole in the wall entrance, which lead to a larger restaurant upstairs.
I was surprised by the style and format of Chongqing’s hotpot, but it was exciting to try the original form of hot pot, which was quite different than what I had in Xi’an. I liked how it was a combination of skewers and hot pot. You grab various sticks of meats and vegetables in a refrigerated room. Then you throw the skewers in the incredibly red and spicy boiling hot pot pan. Instead of sauces, you get a small can of oil which is used to cool the food. When you take out the item, you immediately dip it into the oil and eat it. If things get too hot, they give you soy milk.
My new friend had just finished taking some tests and had spent a few days vacationing in Chengdu with friends, but he was now on his way back home to visit his family near Guangzhou.
After dinner, he suggested we take the metro to visit Hongya Cave so we could capture views of the skyline as the metro glided hundreds of feet above ground. As I rode the metro, I began to understand how China has such an advanced rail system that can go all the way up to Tibet – Chongqing served as a template to develop bridge building and other major construction technologies. The Three Gorges Dam is also linked to the city.
When we arrived at Hongya Cave, I realized it’s not a cave. We walked partially across the bridge over the Jialing River to capture some great shots of the beautifully lit shops along the river, with the city center in the backdrop. The creatively efficient use of space attests to the city’s capacity to support such a large population of over 30+ million.
Don’t turn down a meal invitation. They’re great ways to get to know locals and learn about things to do.