Like any other cruise ship, they were anxious to feed us breakfast and get us off the ship for the next passengers. Our luggage was loaded and taken up the tram so we had only our carry on to worry about.Our luggage would be placed on a bus and driven to Chendu while we spend the morning touring Chongqing. Chongqing is a huge city of 30 million people. I can’t quite get my head around the size and number of people calling this home. The air is very thick and visibility limited. The bus heads off early to go to Chongquin Museum. We don’t go into the museum but spend time walking around the large plaza. Despite it being 9 a.m. the plaza is bustling with people. Chinese retire at 55 and look younger than North Americans of the same age. One one side of the plaza are people doing Tai Chi. They have brought their own portable music and are each doing their own thing. Over by the tree are a dance group doing their routine and again they have their own music. I am struck by how youthful everyone appears. There are several grandparents with little ones in tow. They are always pleases to show the children off and don’t mind us taking their photos. Other people are playing cards and drinking tea. These retired people are keeping active and appear to have a great social life. I read where Chinese are very loyal to friends and keep them for a life time. Watching them socialize and exercise, I think they are onto something. All the activities are unplanned and people just show up daily. What a lovely idea…but may be more of a challenge when the temp is minus 20 and the wind blowing 30 km/hr. In previous posts I have mentioned that on our trip we have experienced above average daytime temperatures, and at this early hour of the day, we are warm.
We leave this area and our bus takes us to Eling Park. The park sits on top of a mountain ( 350 meters) and provides a great view of the city…..if only you could see through the air.It provides a panoramic view of the city and you can see where the Jialing & Yangtze rivers merge. Once again the area is busy with seniors, dancing, playing cards and just enjoying the day. We ended up spending a great deal of time as many of our group were having a local artist draw their names in Chinese on a scroll. I joined the other seniors and just sat there watching the people and the views.
Back to the bus and off for lunch. After lunch we drove to the bus/train station. We are going to catch the high speed “bullet” train from Chongquin to Chendu ( home of the Pandas.) The high speed train will get us there in 2 hours instead of the previous 4 hours. We get off the bus and enter a line on the outside of the building, to be screened & ensure we have our tickets before entering the building.The thermometer on the outside of the station says the temperature is a hot 31 degree Celsius. At the door we are screened again as we enter the building. The building is a huge cavernous Quonset type building devoid of fans and air conditioning. The place was teeming with people and we had arrived early!!! The terminal kept filling up while we waited and all seats were taken before we arrived, so there we stood for what seemed an eternity in rising temperatures. I swear it must have been 45 degrees inside the building and all 26 of us were wilting rapidly. As the place was so packed with people, no one felt safe enough to wander off to find a cool beverage…or any beverage for that matter. When we finally boarded the train….of course we were in the car at the farthest end of the station…. we all breathed a sign of relief in finding air conditioning! Our first class car had a beautifully dressed (uniform) young lady who resembled an air line hostess of the 50s. Our first class seats had trays on the back and I think we were hoping for some type of beverage service during our 2 hour ride, but alas that hope was in vain. I think the young lady’s only duty was to stand there and look pretty which she did quite well.
I think we enjoyed travelling through the countryside and saw many more farms than could be seen previously from the bus. We continue to see small plots of canola but the crop is more advanced and they are hand harvesting it and piling it into stooks. I don’t think I’ve seen stooks since I was 6. We also see flooded rice paddies.We see well kept farms and homes but also “shanty” types of dwellings. Occasionally we see people in the fields, stooped over, doing the work. No big farm machinery here.
Upon arrival in Chendu, we have hit rush hour traffic and it takes a long time to wend our way the streets to get to our restaurant for dinner.Prior to going for dinner we are taken to an upscale local market place with narrow lanes and interesting architecture. The buildings have items placed into the walls so it appears they are coming out of the wall. Some of our group had a field day shopping, but we were eager not to fall behind and come lost. With the lanes twisting and turning, one could easily get lost. They had a variety of food vendors and some of the items looked pretty tasty.
Our restaurant was very busy but the food good. They had a very dramatic show during dinner with people in costumes, dancing with fire and putting on quite a show. Our table was behind a post so I wasn’t able to get good photos of the performance.We still fight traffic as we head back to our hotel. We are a hot tired bunch and most of us plan to hit the shower after such a hot day. Tomorrow we go to the Panda reserve. Many tours to China follow the same schedule as we are, however most do not include this tour to the Panda reserve. For me this is one of the biggest attractions of the trip.