Chongqing & Kunming - Impressions of Southwestern China
25 November 2011
Travelling in Chongqing is like living life in a bubble, a world unto itself. Alternatively known as the fog capital of China as well as a hill city, Chongqing carries a mysterious identity as hills and skyscrapers rise up only to disappear into a blanket of whiteness like a modern Jack and the Beanstalk fairytale.
Chongqing, one of four special municipalities (the others being Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin), is well-known for its three ‘beauties’ - its women, scenery and food. The origins of their culture stems from a port heritage meaning that its people has a particular openness towards foreigners.
Relive the genesis of this history at Ciqikou Old Town overlooking the Jialing River. The authenticity of the architecture and roads were maintained till this day.
At Chaotian Gate, tourists behold the convergence of two mighty rivers: the Yangtze River with the Jialing River. It is a reminder that the waterways remain an important aspect of modern commerce in China today.
There is no lack of shopping indulgence in Chongqing where mammoth retail complexes constantly dazzle the senses. Whether one loiters around the Central Business District in Jiefangbei or the suburban district of Shabingba, the growth of modern consumerism is evident at every turn.
From bustling Chongqing, slow down the tempo a bit as you travel down to the city of Kunming in Yunnan Province for a slightly different takeaway.
Join the winter migration of thousands of Siberian seagulls from China’s northerly neighbours as they made the annual 4,000 or more kilometers journey to Kunming, a.k.a. the Eternal Spring City, before flying back in March. Meet them at Green Lake Park in Kunming and witness a natural phenomenon that began in 1985.
Yunnan is a place of much romantic nostalgia. Local food like the Cross Bridge Rice Noodle tells the story of a wife bringing her husband lunch from across the bridge in two separate containers to prevent the noodles from becoming soggy. That is what you would see today in a typical restaurant offering that dish today.
Yunnan is also known for its minority races (though not exclusively as the Province also boosts other attractions). Of the 56 minority races in China (if we include the Han), 26 are represented here in Yunnan of which the Bai ethnic group constitutes one of the largest.
For a race that does not have a written language, the Bai ethnic group has managed to project itself to become one of the more progressive groups. Meet them in person and many others at the Yunnan Ethnic Village for a brief history of their lives and architecture through songs and dance routines as well as physical exhibits.
Another interesting phenomenon here in Yunnan is jade stone gambling. Fortunes have been made (and busted) through this sport. Check out jewellery and jade stores around Kunming with a dedicated corner for this activity as stones of different shapes and varying colours (and a different price tag) await the next maverick to cast that next dollar.