Chongqing: A gain in vision

WHEN we left Beijing and headed to Chongqing, China to continue our educational tour, I wasn't expecting much. I thought I already had enough after our Palace Museum and Great Wall of China visit. But Chongqing is screaming of charm and there are plenty good reasons why it has become a tourism magnet in China recently.

Upon arrival, its busy airport -- Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport -- will give one a prelude of how vibrant and booming this city is. One dominant observation I had just minutes after setting foot on this place is it has towering skyscrapers cut through forests of old buildings on a wavy terrain -- no wonder it is called "Mountain City." Visitors are truly treated with a three-dimensional magic, making it unique from other major cities in China.

For my 70 hours stay in Chongqing, here are five things that struck my attention.

Hot Pot

Beijing friends warned us: Be extra careful with the Hot Pot! I did not take it seriously because I thought I can endure hot things but Chongqing definition of hot and spicy is way beyond my capacity. There is no better way to start our Chongqing experience than a Hot Pot dinner. It looks a bit scary but I knew I had to try it. I did and minutes after, I was literally crying and asking for more glasses of milk. The flavor is uniquely "spicy-numby."

Various brands of hot pot restaurants can be found throughout the city, so there is no reason for you not to try one. Don't worry, milk will

rescue you or will it?

Honya-dong (Hongya Cave)

On our last day in Chongqing, after our visit in multiple companies, ports, and parks, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs -- the office who invited us for an educational tour -- gave us half day to discover Chongqing on our own. I told my colleagues I wanted to visit Hon Ya Dong and I was glad we did as it is my favorite spot in Chongqing.

The place speaks volume of culture, history, and modernity. What was then a military fortress from the ancient Ba State (1046 B.C.-256 B.C.) to the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911) is now an 11-storey, 75 meters (245 feet) stilt house abutting a steep cliff on the bank of Jialing River.

The complex is filled with shopping arcades and restaurants on multiple levels. I bought a few souvenir items here and had dinner at Quanjude, a famous heritage Chinese restaurant known for its Peking roast duck.

Honya-dong looks most stunning at night plus this spot is a vantage point of the beautiful view of the Jialing River and the Qiansimen Bridge.

Guotai Arts Center

While navigating our way to Honya-dong, we encountered other interesting attractions in Chongqing and one is Guotai Arts Center. One cannot not notice this unusual yet beautiful architecture; it is unique and groundbreaking. It resembles a signature chop, and chopsticks and a hotpot. The landmark structure was designed by ui Kai Studio of China Architecture Design and Research Group.

Jiefangbei, the People's Liberation Monument

Located at a very busy intersection and most prosperous business area in Chongqing, commonly known as Jiefangbei CBD, the People's Liberation Monument is said to be the only monument to commemorate the Chinese people's victory in the Sino-Japanese War.

It is an octagonal building about 27.5m (90 feet) high and has a clock, above the clock is a circular balcony offering stunning views of the city.

Guanyinqiao Shopping Street

This one is near our hotel (DoubleTree by Hilton). The night scene here is very alive with dancing lights from towering buildings. It's a large comprehensive business center, shopping, leisure, dining, and entertainment rolled in one. I did not shop here as it is not part of my budget, but I enjoyed the bright lights and people watching.

Chongqing is a city of many. It offers a different charm and vision. And now that Chongqing is at the forefront of China's Belt and Road Initiative, the future for this mountain city looks bright.

For suggestions, comments, and questions, email me at aceperez.manlalakbay@gmail.com. Follow me @acejunerell.


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