Monday, January 26, 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Chilling a Chongqing Beer

One night at a slightly upscale restaurant in Chongqing, I ordered the Chongqing Brewery Company's Shancheng Beer 1958 (9.5°), partly because I didn't recall trying it before. Many people in China are content to drink beer at room temperature (whatever that may be), so I made sure to ask for a cold bottle. They didn't have one, and I said a regular bottle was just fine.

Several servers were intent on serving me a cold beer though. After they discovered I was not interested in adding ice to the beer and saw me explore another possibility with the ice now at my table, one server took back the bottle of beer. Despite my insistence that they really didn't need to worry about it, a few minutes later this was at my table:

Shancheng Beer 1958 (9.5°) in a metal bucket of ice

The restaurant's effort was most appreciated. I don't think a beer that one reviewer described as having the taste of "grainy malts, plastic, cardboard, grassy hops and some light citrusy notes" could ever look better.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Scenes from Chaotianmen in Chongqing

Chaotianmen is at the northeastern tip of Chongqing's Yuzhong district where the Jialing River merges with the Yangtze River. With views of the city which have changed significantly in recent years, it is an especially popular destination for tourists, including those who board boats for cruises. Below are photos which capture some of the people there and what they were doing, in addition to the outdoor karaoke I mentioned before, one afternoon. I share these in part because Chaotianmen itself will undergo significant change — a topic for a later post.

Main gate leading from the docks up to Chaotianmen Square
Gate leading from the docks up to Chaotianmen Square

A large portion Chaotiamen Square mostly devoid of people
Chaotiamen Square was not exactly full of people.

man photographing a woman with a mobile phone
But people photographing others could be seen.

young woman using a selfie stick at Chaotianmen Square
As could people photographing themselves

older man with fur cap looking across the river
Taking in the view was a popular choice.

young man sitting on a railing while talking a mobile phone
Some were more occupied with their phones.

visitors and vendors at the tip of Chaotianmen
Looking down at the tip of Chaotianmen one could see more activity around the steps down to the docks.

Vendor at Chaotianmen
Vendors sold a variety of items.

vendor selling pieces made out of wire
Bikes made out of wire was one option.

man selling miniature bikes which could ride in circles
Electric bikes were another option.

vendor at Chaotianmen
Bargaining skills could be useful.

ring toss game
Games were also available.

man drawing a younger woman's portait
Or you could have your portrait drawn.

woman carrying supplies to make food
Mobile vendors were one source of food.

family eating noodles at an outdoor table
Other options for outdoor dining could be found as well.

men looking out at the rivers
Like the square, some people took in the view.

young woman using a mobile phone
And others were more focused on their mobile phone.

inclined lifts at Chaotianmen
Few seemed interested in these no-longer-in-use inclined lifts at the docks.

red three wheeled tax cars
Three-wheeled taxi cars were one way to depart.

Most left by foot on a road along the Yangtze River.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Hazy Chongqing Evening

Yesterday, I shared a photo taken at sunrise of two buildings in Chongqing. For some imperfect balance, here is a photo taken 16 minutes after sunset on the same day.

Chongqing's Yuzhong district, including the WFC skyscraper, at night across the Jialing River

The Chongqing World Financial Center (WFC) is easily identifiable in the previous photo. Chongqing's tallest skyscraper also appears, near the center, in the above photo. More buildings in Chongqing's Yuzhong district, the Huanhuayuan Bridge with two trains on it, a giant video screen, and the Jialing River can also be seen. Based on the view, I thought air pollution conditions had significantly improved from the morning, but online figures indicated otherwise.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Another Smoggy View in Chongqing

Perhaps I shouldn't have left the previous post, which was about a coat's timely message and Chongqing's temperatures, somewhat hanging with a comment about bad air pollution.

I have mentioned Chongqing's air quality before, and probably will do so again, but, to bring a little more closure to the earlier post, here was a view this afternoon from the SML Central Square shopping mall:

view from top of SML Central Square in Chongqing looking towards the Yangtze River

The buildings barely visible in the distance are located across the Yangtze River. I can't say to what degree fog may have played a role in the haze, but, even though Chongqing's air quality improved over previous days, it was definitely bad today.

Maybe someday soon I will see a "Make it Fresh" coat.

Make It Hot

Indeed, Chongqing was a bit chilly today . . .

young woman wearing a coat with the phrase "MAKE IT HOT" printed on the back.

On another note related to the phrase on the jacket I saw today, this evening I ate at a comfortably toasty restaurant. The temperature was quite a change of pace from the many other colder places I've eaten at recently. I could now write a long post about the common lack of (or use of) heat in more southern regions in China, but I will save that for another day.

On the whole, I am not complaining about the weather here, especially since Chongqing is known as one of China's "three furnaces" for its sweltering summer heat, as I enjoy walking around in cool temperatures. Unfortunately, air pollution has negated some of their pleasant effects.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Activities At Scenic Chaotianmen: Outdoor Karaoke

At the scenic Chaotianmen docks in Chongqing yesterday, I saw two men setting up a portable karaoke system in front of a scene which has changed significantly during the past 6 years.

man setting up a portable karaoke station at Chaotianmen.

Elsewhere at the docks, I saw another man showcasing his karaoke offerings as well.

man singing at a temporary karaoke station on the steps at Chaotianmen Dock.

Nearby on the steps, I spoke to two college students visiting from Xi'an, China, wearing newly purchased flower headbands.

two Chinese female college students wearing flower headbands

When I later walked by the same area again, the students were the first paying customers I saw at the temporary karaoke stations.

female college student singing karaoke outdoors at Chaotianmen Docks

For singing two songs, they paid 10 RMB (about US $1.60).

Activity at the outdoor karaoke stations may have picked in the evening when people come for river cruises to take in more of the city's rapidly evolving skyline lit up at night.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dramatic Change in Chongqing

A scene I saw today captures some key aspects of what has and has not changed in Chongqing, China, between my first visit here in 2009 and my return six years later.

In January, 2009, when I visited the docks at Chaotianmen I took a photo of the nearly-completed Chongqing Grand Theatre across the Jialing River.

view of Chongqing Grand Theatre across the Jialing River in 2009

Today I took a photo of the now open Chongqing Grand Theatre from a similar location.

view of Chongqing Grand Theatre across the Jialing River in 2015

The photos show how Chongqing's reputation for its fog and smog, both likely playing a role today based on weather and pollution reports, has been long standing and well deserved. They also both show some of the many boats popular with tourists.

But the differences between the two photos are even more striking to me. Not only are numerous new tall buildings readily apparent in the 2015 photo, but a portion of a new double-decker bridge crossing the Jialing River with levels for cars and trains can be seen as well. And if you look closely at an enlarged version of the 2009 photo (click it), you may be able to spot the cable car, now no longer in existence, crossing the river.

Most incredible, what is captured in these photos represents only a small portion of the change I have noticed in Chongqing. More to come on this theme.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Day's Journey by Air, Bus, and Rail in China

Similar to the recent dinner I had on an overnight train, the meal I consumed on a plane today will not enter my top ten list of meals I have enjoyed in China.

Chinese airline meal

The flight attendant told me the meat was chicken, but it didn't seem like a poultry substance. I am not sure what it was, but it reminded me of yak meat. The wet wipes had a nice smell and were made in Xinjiang.

I feel fortunate that my nearly three hour flight did not feature anything similar to one of the "flying China-style" problems which seem to often make the news these days. In other words, the flight was not delayed, no flight attendants were violently attacked, and no passengers attempted to open the emergency exit door for fresh air. Way to go, team.

The end of the flight did feature something I commonly experience when flying in China and which does not thrill me. Despite numerous open gates at the airport, the plane did not park at any of them, and instead we had to take a bus from the plane to the airport terminal.

airport bus

Once off the jam-packed bus, I considered the architectural style of the airport concourse.

After that, I was excited to be back in a city I hadn't set foot in for almost exactly 6 years. Rail was not an option for traveling from the airport before, but it was now.

Since the monorail train, which soon filled, traveled above ground most of the time during my hour-plus trip, there was ample opportunity to look around at the city and marvel at its size.

I paused to soak in one scene when I was switching train lines.

sunset in Chongqing

Not long after that, I was able to put the plane's mystery meat behind me by diving into some appropriately numbing and spicy local food.

Mala fish in Chongqing

That was definitely fish.

Some savvy readers may have figured out my current location in China, which is far from Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Beijing. For others, I will provide one last clue: the beer which accompanied my outdoor dinner.

A bottle of Chongqing Beer

More soon about a fascinating hilly city where I have already noticed a tremendous amount of change since my last visit.