Chongqing travel notes

by on July 16, 2017 at 12:25 am in Food and Drink, Travel, Travels, Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Especially outside the immediate center of town, it feels as if something wacky is always happening.  Someone is screaming, backslapping, bumping fists, or screaming while backslapping and bumping fists.  Interactions appear to be random, highly intense, and short in duration.  The following interaction is more intense yet.  It reminds me of that old Humphrey Bogart movie “Beat the Devil.”

2. Every cabbie seems to know a random person standing on a street corner, who somehow mysteriously signals to that cab to be picked up, even if said cab already is delivering a Western passenger to some other location.  Shouting ensues, the random person is moved along in the cab only a short distance, always along the Westerner’s route, and then the person is let off again.  With a shout.  Rinse and repeat.

3. It is a better city for street food and stall food than is Chengdu.  The tastes are stronger and spicier, though I believe the peaks of Chengdu are higher and more subtle.

4. Don’t just stick to “the peninsula,” also travel to the alternate sides of the city’s two rivers, the Jialing and the Yangtze.

5. Haagen-Dazs is much more popular in China than in the United States, at least at the retail level.

6. “Sun Zhengcai, the former Communist Party chief of the Chinese city of Chongqing, is under investigation by authorities, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday, citing people it didn’t identify.”  He had been considered a possible successor to Uncle Xi.

7. On my flight from Kunming to Chongqing, I witnessed my first “facial surveillance” arrest.  Just as they were about to let us off the plane, two policemen appeared at the entrance, with a copy of a facial surveillance photograph.  (Before you board any plane in China, they photograph your face plenty, and match it to various databases.)  They walked down the aisle, turning left and right, looking for the passenger who matched the photo.  They found him and escorted him off the plane, with the crowd watching nervously.  He showed neither surprise nor did he protest his innocence.

8. An excellent room in a five-star luxury Chongqing hotel, with view and upgrade to a larger suite, costs $70 a night.

9. Nearby is “the world’s longest cantilevered glass skywalk.

The city’s “mind-blowing overpass has five layers, 20 ramps and eight directions,” good photos at that link.

Here is Wikipedia on Chongqing, by one measure it is China’s most populous metropolitan area.  “Its population is already bigger than that of Peru or Iraq, with half a million more arriving every year in search of a better life,” and that was written eleven years ago.

1 Enrique July 16, 2017 at 12:45 am

The trailer of the “Beat the Devil” made me want to see the film, so here it is: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xB4ifYWFvDA

2 Barkley Rosser July 16, 2017 at 12:57 am

I have been hearing for some time that it is China’s biggest city. But, referring back to a recent thread I shall point out that the “Pearl Delta City” complex with Guangzhou at its center is over 30 million, competing with Tokyo for being the world’s largest metro area. Chongqing is probably larger than most official stats put it, but I doubt it beats 30 million, and the real population of Tokyo is over 45 million as told to me by its Housing Minister, although you will not find that in any published source.

3 John July 16, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Isn’t it because Chongqing technically includes a bunch of rural land around it? China goes in the opposite direction of American metro areas which are divided into dozens of municipalities with massive municipalities that are often bigger than the actual metro area.

4 mkt42 July 17, 2017 at 1:05 am

Right, Chongqing is one of only a handful of Chinese cities which is so to speak its own province i.e. a “national central city”; it used to be part of the province of Sichuan but got split off.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Central_City

Colorado Springs strikes me as similar though on a smaller scale; it’s metro population and area are not much larger than its municipal population and area. It’s not that it’s a large city per se, rather its borders swallowed up what in most cities would’ve been neighboring suburbs and towns.

E.g. Colorado Springs’ “home rule municipality” area is larger than Seattle’s. But its metro population is less than 1/4 of Seattle’s. Ratio of metro population to municipal population is 1.7 for Colorado Springs and about 6.1 for Seattle (using wikipedia’s figures).

Regarding Tyler’s observations, it’s been over a decade since I’ve been to China, and I was only in Chongqing, Wuhan, and Shanghai but here are my reactions. The observed wacky street behavior struck me as not that different in all three cities. I didn’t get photographed boarding airplanes but China’s security measures have presumably increased over the years. I can’t compare Chengdu’s street food; Chongqing’s seemed to me to be not nearly as diverse as Shanghai’s and probably a lot spicier. And I’m not sure how Tyler’s measuring Haagen Dazs’ retail popularity. I see it in every supermarket and 7-11 in the US. It is true that Haagen Dazs ice cream parlors are rare; are they common in China? (None is Boston, Seattle, or Portland; three in the LA area — but nine in the DC area!)

5 A clockwork orange July 16, 2017 at 1:11 am

there is an article in nature about Wenzhou’s development. Innovation nation about sums it up. But ZJU’s (a school much like FGV in Brazil) professor law senior, Zhang Wenxian is a pioneer in the legal framework I suppose in the fact, that

a prefectural level city is a “city” (Chinese: 市; pinyin: shì) and “prefecture” (Chinese: 地区; pinyin: dìqū) that have been merged into one unified jurisdiction. As such it is simultaneously a city, which is a municipal entry with subordinate districts, and a prefecture with subordinate county-level cities and counties which is an administrative division of a province.

Unlearning is the key framework. 3,000 million people live there.

6 Just Another MR Commentor July 16, 2017 at 2:18 am

#3 I don’t believe you’ve spent enough time in either city to know this as fact

7 Steve Sailer July 16, 2017 at 4:42 am

Looks rather like Pittsburgh, although the suburbs beyond the merging rivers appear to be flatter and vastly more populated.

8 Thiago Ribeiro July 16, 2017 at 6:41 am

#6 This is the brutal system Americans love so much.

9 Brad July 16, 2017 at 8:11 am

Americans aren’t fans of Pittsburgh.

10 Thiago Ribeiro July 16, 2017 at 8:19 am

I am not talking about the economic system (I know actualling building things is considered démodé in the United States), I am talking about the totalitarian system Americans have come to admire.

11 Cpt Obvious July 16, 2017 at 9:18 am

So is that why Putin, is so demonized….not brutal enough? 😀

12 Thiago Ribeiro July 16, 2017 at 9:35 am

Compared to the Chinese Communists America kowtows to? Yes, Russia, whatever its many, many, many problems may be, is a civilizated country, its people values human life. It is not a totalitarian regime where every person ismlittle more than a little, gray cog in a omnipotent war machine.

13 rayward July 16, 2017 at 6:56 am

With all that moving around in China, are restrictive covenants not enforceable in China? According to the China Lawyer Blog, they are enforceable, contrary to popular belief. http://www.chinalawblog.org/law-topics/employment-law/384-enforceability-of-non-compete-under-chinese-law- (the analysis for enforceability is much the same as in most states, including my own). The concentration of tech start-ups, and their success, in California is often attributed to California law that makes covenants not to compete unenforceable; hence, the highly skilled can freely move from a mature company to a start-up. I understand that most of the in-migration in China is of the unskilled, but China has a whole lot of skilled workers. Is there much in-migration of the highly skilled? Do restrictive covenants limit their mobility? Will that hinder China’s economic growth? Restrictive covenants have limited mobility in the U.S. and, as a consequence, limited economic growth. At least that’s what Cowen wrote in his boo (about limited mobility, not restrictive covenants). Utah recently passed a law that makes mobility within Utah almost impossible. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/14/business/economy/boise-idaho-noncompete-law.html I thought red states believed in markets.

14 dearieme July 16, 2017 at 9:08 am

“I thought red states believed in markets.” Are there really Red and Blue states? Maybe there are only greenback states.

15 Thiago Ribeiro July 16, 2017 at 9:40 am

I guess if the balance of power forces someone to sign a noncompete deal or sell himself as slave, it is markets, too.

16 Ray Lopez July 16, 2017 at 10:26 am

Counsel I fail to find how you found restrictive covenants in TC’s post. But of interest the WSJ reports recently that Idaho is starting to enforce covenants not to compete more, and Idaho has a tech sector. MA’s Rt. 128 tried this and failed (say business gurus) while CA’s Si Valley tried the opposite and succeeded, so it will be an interesting natural experiment that your UCLA idol Dr. Farmer will harvest and feast on.

17 Scott Sumner July 16, 2017 at 9:04 am

Chongqing is a big city, but it’s population figures include a region of 32,000 square miles–in other words it should be thought of as a province. The actual urban area is more like 10 million—still large, but comparable to places like Wuhan.

In this satellite image it looks smaller than Chengdu, although in fairness it may be a bit more dense.

http://medias.planetobserver.com/portfolio-posts/china-at-night-planetsat-satellite-image/

18 Scoop July 16, 2017 at 10:05 am

What, exactly, do you do all day when visiting cities that are too new for any history? Cultural institutions, distinct cuisine, architectural complexity and everything else that makes places interesting take time to develop.

19 Ray Lopez July 16, 2017 at 10:29 am

Interesting post. I’ve visited this city as well as Chendu, but only at the airport. My takeaways: maybe people in western China shout more? Like the Arabs, and like the Greeks at times, it’s just the custom. Seems barbaric to the rest of us. Why is the Yellow river so brown? Lots of building causing soil erosion despite or because of the Three Gorges dam? I’m too lazy to fact-check whether the #ffff00 river in fact runs through Chongqing, but I think it does.

20 Ray Lopez July 16, 2017 at 10:40 am

Compare the Yellow river to the Nile. The only time the Nile turns brown, like the Yellow river at Chongqing seems to always be, is during flooding (the gift of the Nile as the ancients called it).

Bonus trivia: The Nile River has two major branches, the Blue Nile and the White Nile. Both branches are named for the color of their water. The Blue Nile is a bright blue at its source, and begins to darken when it reaches the Sudan, while the White Nile’s water is a whitish-gray (Hoyt, 2008).

21 Ray Lopez July 16, 2017 at 10:48 am

Oh, I see, the Yangtze river flows through the 3Gorgeous damn and Chongqing. And the Yellow river is farther north, and turns yellow due to the dry soil it flows through. So what is the excuse for the brown color of the Yangtze? I think it’s over-development and soil erosion…

22 Yijun July 16, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Not sure if Tyler has ever read Peter Hessler. His writing is relatively less superficial among foreign writers who write about China.

23 Melmoth July 17, 2017 at 10:16 am

His River Town is superb, but as it relates an experience which took place in 1996 it may not be so reflective of the place any more.

24 Alistair July 17, 2017 at 1:28 pm

TC reviews Chongqing (or any city in China)

Chongqing is a revelation to the western traveller. From the outside it looks like it is made of entirely glass, but inside there is a curious and unique mixture of western and local styles, with no air pollution once I was through the main doors. The main building material appears to be mahogany panels, but the streets are mostly of marble, with carpeted areas linking important shrines and facilities like the gym. There is a lot of public space, with soft leather armchairs and low tables whose function reflects the Chinese preference for communal interaction and the ambivalence of private space.

The people of Chongqing are very polite, and apart from visitors all wear the same local costume with name tags reflecting the Confucian focus on social distinction and hereditary honour. Travellers without Mandarin should be able to find get somewhere to stay for $100 a night, but I was able to use my loyalty card to upgrade to a $130 a night suite in the south-west corner, famed for it’s view of the Hilton Gardens. Transport was by a small electric train which took me vertically (there is no great stagnation!) to my suite. Outside I could see that the trees in the courtyard were all dead but had been painted interesting colours by an under-valued Chinese artist.

Despite the intimidating size of the city, I had no trouble finding my way around. Despite the lack of English signs much of the local mandarin characters can be understood by careful study of the ideograms (for example I Iearned that 2 wavy lines signified the pool). Consequently, I forsook a guide and walked about on foot. It took me no more than 15 minutes as it was surprisingly dense. Most of the city presents itself as a series of air-conditioned corridors wrapped about an older historical “centre” where most of the bars and restaurants are located. Land prices are extreme and the city is built vertically on 20 levels. There is little natural light, but many alleys, turns and passageways leading to innumerable private dwellings. Originally I was puzzled why each dwelling had a simple number of it until I realised this system was more efficient than using street names.

The streets and pavements were kept spotlessly clean by small trolleys, which I originally mistook for street food vendors. Most of the workforce in the day seemed to be female and they could be often see carrying bundles of towels around and where clearly linked to the burgeoning textile industry. Despite the large number of people in Chongqing (there were over 500 when I was staying), it never felt crowded and my room felt very modern. There was a television where I could watch programmes about ethnic minorities and other cultural things. There was a toilet which flushed in a western style and I noticed that their water looked mostly like US water.

Food is a unique experience. Some people may want to eat in the restaurants (There are 2; catering to any taste of modern international cuisine), but there is no reason when the bar food is so much fresher and more authentic. The Coke-Cola and Nachos are the best outside of Beijing. There were few beautiful women but many people who had different ethnicities and went to different Ivy league universities. I recognised at least 5 languages in the bar and I tried to observe their rituals and ceremonies. It is traditional to put coins in a small bowl to receive luck.

After dinner, I spent some time haggling in the small craft/gift shops near the food quarter and brought some soft toys at a very good price. I could see many small ceramic mugs bearing both Mandarin and English characters. There was a business centre nearby, with a photocopier and free wifi but I didn’t go in.

Chongqing was very well situated for exploring the area, and I found I could get a taxi to the Marriott or the airport easily. There’s plenty for the traveller to see and do for at least 2 or 3 nights; try to visit the historic fire escape in the south-east corner to get away from the crowds, or visit the service bay at the back of the city were goods are brought in at all hours from all over the world. Definitely recommend.

25 Uribe July 17, 2017 at 5:37 pm

I meant THIS one!

26 Uribe July 17, 2017 at 5:36 pm

Haha. Best MR comment in years. Thank you!

27 Pete M July 18, 2017 at 7:29 pm

Wikipedia puts the municipality population in 2015 at 36.7 million. If that is correct, it is more populous than Canada. Still trails the odd country called California.

28 FERNANDO IRARRAZAVAL July 18, 2017 at 9:26 pm

Number 2. is basically Uber Pool

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