Xian Nov 6th 2011:
I arrived in Xian on an early flight from Beijing, flying from the current capital of China, Beijing, to the ancient capital of China, Xian. When i arrived at the airport, i was already left with an indelible impression that the city's residents were overall quite wealthy as the first ad i saw at the airport was for Porsche. Indeed, the city is quite wealthy as i saw huge shops selling luxury watches along the main shopping fare and other luxury food places such as Haagen Daz Ice-cream parlours..which i ate in,hahaha;-)
I visited the Bell Tower of Xian (or was that the Clock Tower of Xian?!) and the view atop from the Tower was amazing, walked along the ancient city walls and also visited the Muslim Quarters of Xian, trying out the fantastic and cheap food there. However, commercialisation was to be seen everywhere, with the Muslim Quarter's shops selling very touristy and over marked prices. The food streets of the Quarters were great though!
I spent only a day in Xian and took the overnighter train to Chongqing (formerly known as Chungking) in the interiors of China. One little quirky, interesting, and at-the-time horrifying experience i had was that as i was abit late for the train and so had to hurry to find my carriage. As i had bought the overnight tickets very last minute (and even had the horrific experience in the morning thinking i had lost it meaning i would have to stay overnight in Xian and lose one day in Chongqing due to the delay which would be catastrophic given my very tight holiday schedule) and wasn't familiar that soft bed carriages could be added, my carriage was Jia-Yi Meaning the 'Plus One Carriage' and NOT the 'One Carriage', which was like the cheapest and most crowded carriage. I went onboard and knew something had to be wrong as there were no beds, only seats for the whole night and it was overcrowded with people standing along the aisles. I had boarded an overnighter during the Dongbei/Manchurian leg of my holiday and knew this couldn't be it but then briefly thought maybe the interior Chinese trains were much more backwards..i asked the conductor(whom thankfully was on the carriage!) and he said my carriage was right at the other end of the train! I hurriedly got off and ran with all my might to the other end and got on in time as the train was leaving! And thankfully, this was heaven, being the soft-sleeper trains with comfy beds!! But it was a forever memorable experience as i got to see what the 'hard seat' carriages are like in China's trains (which i would never have known had i not been mistaken!)
Chongqing Nov 7th-8th 2011:
I arrived in the North Chongqing Station, if i remember correctly, and took the MRT to the city centre. The MRT station line had just been opened recently i think and everything looked swanky new. In fact, the design and overall atmosphere of the MRT metro in Chongqing was probably one of the best i had in China and surpassing even Hong Kong's MRT metro i think!
I have always wanted to visit Chongqing, it having been the WW2 wartime capital city of China from 1938-1945. It is one of the 4 directly-controlled central govt municipalities and the only one in the interior away from the coast of China. It is highly modern and i loved the city. It was actually one of my favourite cities in China during this trip, together with Changchun, for their lovely and unique 'feel' and city atmosphere. The landscape here is mountainous with alot of slopes up and down the hills and the rivers criss crossing the city.
I visited the main commercial Jiefangbei shopping and eating district and tried out the lovely Sichuanese spicy noodles and other delicacies. It was both cheap and delicious!! I also visited the People's Great Hall in Chongqing with its unique Chinese architectural style having been built in a traditional manner in the 1950s as well as the Three Gorges Museum of Chongqing which had a dedicated whole section on Chongqing during WW2, which was pretty informative and very interesting for a history buff like me!:)
I also passed by many interesting things and experiences such as local parents waiting outside a primary school to pick their children up and also could sense Chongqing, like much of the rest of China, was booming, with the economy simply skyrocketing. The development and tall highrise buildings were everywhere and all the branded luxury shops could be found in Chongqing. There was also a newly opened luxury upscale mall which i visited in the Jiefangbei area when i was there. There were also luxury high-end bakery stores in Chongqing which i took photos of indicating the wealth that can be found in this interior city of China.
I also went to the suburbs of Chongqing by MRT metro as i wanted to see what the suburban areas, and not just the city centre, was like, and it was very modern-looking too. I also visited the Chongqing Zoo and got to see real life panda for the very first time of my life!! So exciting! Haha!! And it was a nice time visiting the zoo since i hadn't visited a zoo in over 15 years i think!..
I also went to Shibati, a pre-war district in the downtown area which is earmarked for demolition and it felt like i had wandered into a different era..it was like somewhere in the 1930s/40s..people eating just outside their homes on simple tables and stools, and i loved the stairs and slopes and geography of it all..indeed, this was one of the rare times when i saw an older poorer China on this trip as everywhere i went in China, from the north to south, east to west, development and wealth was pretty much everywhere on display.
I took a Yangze River tour on my last night in Chongqing and the nightlights were beautiful. They apparently want to compete with New York and Hong Kong for the night scenery and they've done well i must say! It was glittering everywhere. I bought heaps of delicious take-away food and drinks and went back to my spacious hotel room in central Chongqing and had a wonderful last Chinese supper in Chongqing whilst watching TV. (by the way, did i mention that my hotel room had a fantastic view of the Jiefangbei Monument and shopping area?!! Waking up at dawn, it was a surreal image of emptiness and tall buildings!)..