By Xie Zongming
Different cities have certain features shown to their citizens and tourists. Some might have a long history that the solemnity is hidden in every aspect of them, whereas others highlight their modernity that everyone is the potential wolf of Wall Street. Chongqing, as one of the municipalities of China, is included in neither of them. The city carries an unreal futuristic sense that can't be simply categorized, for which it attracts young tourists who are willing to have a glance at this oddly vibrant future.
Mountains, neon lights, skyscrapers, and more neon lights
Chongqing is located near Sichuan, right on the rim of Sichuan Basin, to be specific. In China, Chongqing enjoys the name of “Mountain City”. Judging from the city’s construction, it is more likely to say the city is carved out of a mountain rather than located in it. Here, you will be clearer than ever to realize the fact that humans are puny, three-dimensional creatures. Even with GPS, tourists can easily get confused by endless stairs and escalators that remind you of Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin, confusing elevators that somehow lead you to a parking lot on the 8th floor, and underground trains that occasionally go through gaps between residential buildings. The city is like the real-life scene in Inception to new visitors. These are the results of their mountainous location: the infrastructure needs to be almost exquisite to connect the communities of different altitudes. Such bizarre adventures will definitely impress, if not traumatize, you for the rest of your life.
Aside from the oddity in transport, the city also has a unique aesthetic sense in the buildings. Even though the place has a long history, the city prefers to show the vibrant side instead of the solemn side. In fact, it is one of the most futuristic cities in the world in terms of city scenery. For fans of the movie Blade Runner or the anime Ghost in Shells, Chongqing might impress you with its cyberpunk-ish building designs. During the day in the central area, dizzy-high skyscrapers cover the sky like a giant forest made of cement and steel, whose glass windows on the surface lit the streets under by reflecting the sunshine. Considering the altitude of the city, fogs appear from time to time in the early morning, blinding people’s sense of time. At night, neon lights glow brighter than the stars, as if banishing the darkness was not enough for the human to prove the might of our technology… Then, the visitors’ thoughts might continue flowing to some cyberpunk fantasies. It is these special thoughts that will occur to you during the visit that makes the city so special. Nevertheless, when you put all your random sentiment aside, you will still see the beauty of the city.
Tips: Because it is geographically close to Sichuan, Chongqing shares the culture of Sichuan, including historic events, food, and dialect. In fact, Chongqing was part of Sichuan for a long time. Although Chongqing boasts a young and vibrant city character, historical sites like memorials and Buddhist temples also make up for a big part of its tourist destinations.
Though visitors to Chongqing might be impressed by the city’s futuristic atmosphere, thinking about how fast the life pace would be, the citizen’s recreation is actually at a slow pace. Having identical cultures, people in Chongqing share a similarly relaxed temper as Sichuan people. Regarding daily recreation, the elder locals prefer to play mahjong and poker games with friends, which seems to grow into a feature of this city. The younger generation is likely to keep up with trendy Internet content like video games. However, despite the differences between generations, they both enjoy chats and probably will enjoy more if tea drinks are provided.
Aside from the things mentioned, the locals like to go for a walk and end up sitting in a hot pot restaurant. Hot pot is now a symbol of Chongqing, which earns the hearts of people across the country and even the world with its strong and spicy aroma. Such fame has made hot pot the first dining option once tourists arrived in Chongqing. For spicy food lovers, hot pot can deliver the most direct hit to the palate along with flavors of other spices. However, for those who can’t handle spicy food, there are several local desserts like the bingfen (ice jelly), less spicy cuisines like xiaomian (Chongqing noodles), and countless dishes of Sichuan food.
After a gluttonous feast, visitors now have the strength to explore this mysterious maze named Chongqing. Around the Memorial of Liberation, there lie several pedestrian streets with malls alongside. A little quick shopping can help you forget the guilt about eating too much high-calorie food. It is recommended to visit the place at night, so that you can see the night scene at the Hongyadong, one of Chongqing’s most beautiful sites, after a 20-minute walk. The architecture of the buildings is based on traditional Chinese designs, only that there are neon lights attached to them. Wandering around the place gives you the feeling that you have entered the world of Spirited Away.
Another feature of Chongqing that should not be missed is the panda. Chongqing Zoo is one of the zoos in China that has the largest number of pandas because Sichuan and Chongqing are the two main ranges of the giant panda. Visitors are recommended to see the pandas in the morning when they are in the most active period. Nothing is more relaxing than watching adorable creatures rolling around.
Indeed, Chongqing is a neon labyrinth with futuristic flavor, but the lifestyle of the people is not as bizarre as the city’s appearance. Visitors might take their time and try to imitate the pace of the locals, so as to savor this beautiful oddity.
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