It is supposed to be an easy day today, but this is Chongqing, the cursed city (for us anyway) We are going to do the peninsula in the centre of the city. There are a couple of things to do here ranging from a temple to some caves (although there is a bit of confusion with this one at the moment, as we think it is a couple of very steep streets with the shops built into the hillside. The translator app has difficulty with words like cave, hole, grotto etc). Then there is the largest shopping mall in China or the world and everything in between. If Chongqing has anything going for it, it should be here (Or Cikiqou).
First off it looks grey and overcast. So we went out in summer gear. Playing the odds, as everything seems counter to logic here. Logic would have been to wear rain coats and have an umbrella. Logic won. When we got out of the lobby we found that it had started raining. Back up to get the umbrella and a coat.
At the subway we worked out the closest stop to the 3 gorges museum and Grand Theatre. This was fairly easy although it seemed like a long walk to the attractions from the subway. We were very happy to find out that there was a large tunnel dug through the hill for us to walk through. The ladies dancing at the subway station had also taken refuge here out of the rain. The tunnel dumped us out directly on a road at the entrance to a tunnel and a blind corner. Logical right? At least the square was on the other side of the road.
The Theatre (Called the Peoples Hall) is an amazing looking building. Apparently it is the same as the Beijing Temple of Heaven, just a smidgen bigger. The 3 gorges Museum is also a massive building that I assume is built in the shape of the actual dam. Both had steps leading up to them from the square. Steps. Really. Is there any attraction in china that does not involve steps? At least it is keeping us fit.
Trying the 3 gorges first, we were a bit saddened to find it closed. Mondays are their day off. This was a surprise to all the other people here, who had spent the effort walking up all those stairs as well. We stood around in the rain appreciating the beauty of the marble floored square with its few hawkers and tourists standing under a central archway dwarfed by the Theatre building on the other side.
Down, across, Up and we were at the building. It is somewhat less grand up close, but still impressive. Paying the 10 yuan each we got our tickets. The ticket salesperson then started saying something. With the translator we worked out that the building was under renovation. She could have told us that first! We had no idea on how much we could or couldn’t see, and thought what the hell. It could have just been the toilet block.
Going in was an incredible experience. The renovations were hardly noticeable except for the sound of electrical tools in the background. The inside appeared to be in all of its original 1950’s style and decor. The whole thing was underwhelming!
The only thing you could see was the main hall. Admitably it has a nice dome,that looks like it is being held up by the original 1950’s scaffolding that was used to erect it. The acoustics must not have been very good, as there is padding stapled all around the upper levels to dampen the sound and the lights stick out like inflamed melanomas on the walls.
The stage itself is a stage. There is the bare minimum of decoration at the top and nothing else. Here we were expecting a Theatre to rival the Florentine Theatre and we got a stage that you would expect your local high school to put its performances on.
Having said that it was dry and out of the rain. The seats were comfortable and we spent a bit of time in here. So did the other 30 or so people that had been suckered out of their money.
Back to the subway to the centre of the JieFangBei suburb. We were spat out at the central square with all the Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Rolex and other brand name stores. There was also a monument. We were surrounded by massive shopping centres. A bit more walking around looking for THE Shopping centre, but our map app was a bit off, and couldn’t work out where we were. It sent us in circles for a bit until it and us gave up. We walked over to the caves, or whatever they were. The map calls them “Green Water Drops from the Hongya Cave” It was a series of streets that worked their way up from the river bank to the top of the hill. Now it is a series of interconnected sections that house your typical Chinese tourist shops and food venues.
The first levels from the top you can look down on the roofs and river. An escalator will take you down a level then you have to take the lift to the bottom as the rest is now a hotel under construction. At the bottom there is a waterfall built over fake rocks. You can go behind this to take your selfies, but the bridge at the front has been closed off. Then up the other side we found where the original cave stores were. This has all been fenced off so you cant see it, but by jumping you could get a glimpse of a section or two.
Following this we found another part of the “original attraction” This was a section of the old staircase. In 2006 a Hong Kong Business man bought the Satay King Restaurant. To spice it up a bit he turned part of the hill into a Pirates Haven. This still exists. You can walk up it at the moment to see some of the scenes of European pirates with their barrels of satay.
You can also see how new the whole thing is, as the section that we had just done that felt as fake and soulless as a used car salesman was all show and no substance.
They had built the entire thing in front of the cliff wall! We were walking behind that on the cliff itself. The whole cliff used to be winding staircases and streets with all the little shops carved into the hillside.
Back at the top we went to find the temple on our list. Hoping that this was not some sort of second rate reconstruction as well. I know I have probably said this before, but the way China seems to do tourism is a number of steps: Step 1: Find an old place that people like to go to. Step 2: Check out how old it is. Step 3: If it is old, demolish it and rebuild it the way they think it should be. Step 4: Fill it with the same shops as every other tourist attraction in china has. Step 5: Charge money. Future Step 6: Wonder where everyone has gone.
So we got to the temple. There was scaffolding everywhere and a 10 yuan entry fee. We figured it was somewhere between steps 3 and 5. We didn’t bother and went into a wholesale shopping centre instead. I needed a pair of shoes for the DPRK anyway. The shopping centre was probably the coolest place we had seen. 8 levels with 2 circles of shops on each level. Everything from toys to underwear, jewelry to weird plastic strips for shower curtains and lots more.
Day done. Thanking whoever we can that we are leaving Chongqing tomorrow! It is probably a great place if you know people here, or even speak Chinese, but not for us.