Chong Qing

A city of contrasts, Chong Qing is an ancient centre of art and culture, and an ever-expanding modern metropolis all at once.

Even by China's exaggerated standards, Chongqing is a city of contrasts. On the one hand an ancient centre of art and culture, on the other an ever-expanding and already teeming modern metropolis, it invites the cliché that there is something here for everyone.

Situated at the confluence of the Jialing and Yangtze Rivers, Chungking (as it was formerly known) was briefly the Chinese capital from 1936–1945 during the War of Liberation with Japan, but had already been famous for the unlikely combination of Buddhism and war for well over a thousand years before. Chongqing was a dockside river town before it became a mega-city, resulting in today's wonderful mix of styles and impressions.

In Chongqing you can begin the day with a plate of noodles at a pavement café, your bowl balanced on a plastic stool, and end it with a few drinks in an Irish pub. If it's raining (as it rather too often is) then take refuge in the Sleepless Underground City, a vast subterranean complex of shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. If dry, head to the rejuvenating hot springs, a popular feature of local life. If the evening is beautiful, check out the fantastic outdoor nightlife that abounds in the downtown area; if you want something a little more sedate (and romantic), find a restaurant on Nanbin Road and enjoy the world-famous authentic Chongqing hot-pot while taking in the spectacular lights of the city across the Yangtze River.

 

When to go

April and May or October and November are the best times to visit. The summers are extremely hot and uncomfortably humid, and the winters can feel chilly after Singapore. It also rains quite heavily from late spring through to early autumn. In the summer especially the city is notorious for its thick fog.

Visa requirements

Singaporean citizens can visit China for a period of 15 days without a visa, while most other nationalities require a visa in advance. Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months and that you have a return or onward ticket.

Money

China’s currency is the yuan (Y), also known as renminbi, or colloquially as kuai. International credit cards and bank cards (Cirrus, Plus, Visa, MasterCard, American Express) can be used to withdraw local currency from ATMs, which are located throughout the city

Transport

There is a regular shuttle bus from Jiang Bei Airport to downtown, as well as an official taxi rank. Once in the city centre there is a well developed subway system, with station announcements in English as well as Chinese. Yellow metered taxis are plentiful and inexpensive; meters start at Y8. Be aware that taxi drivers are unlikely to understand English, so ask at your hotel for cards or leaflets with the names of the places you wish to go printed in Chinese characters

Health and safety tips

Like most Chinese cities, Chongqing is relatively safe for tourists. You just need to be alert to the possibility of bag-snatchers and pickpockets. There are numerous hospitals throughout the city though service and cleanliness levels can be inconsistent and fees high.

Emergency details

The nearest Singapore Consulate is in Chengdu (tel: (86) 28 8652 7222).

Dial 110 in an emergency. Chongqing police take crime against foreigners seriously and will actively help you if you have a problem.

Basic greetings
English Mandarin
Hello Ni hao
How are you? Ni hao ma?
Fine, thanks Hen hao, xie xie
Goodbye Zai jian
Excuse-me! (to get attention) Qing wen!
Thank you Xie xie
Yes Shi de
No Bu shi
OK Hao de
What's your name? Ni jiao shen me ming zi?
My name is… Wo jiao…
Nice to meet you Jian dao ni hen gao xing
Are you on Facebook/Twitter? Nin zai shi yong Facebook/Twitter ma?
Where’s an internet café? Wang ba zai na li?
Where can I get a taxi? Wo ke yi zai na li zhao dao chu zu che?
Where is the bus/train station? Qi che zhan/huo che zhan zai na li?
A one-way/return ticket to… Yi zhang dao…de dan cheng/shuang cheng piao
Do you have a room for one/two? You yi/liang ren de fang jian ma?
When's check out? Ji dian tui fang?
Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar? Ni neng tui jian yi jia hao can guan/jiu ba ma?
A table for two, please Qing gei wo liang ge ren de zhuo zi
A menu, please Qing gei wo cai dan
The bill, please Qing gei wo zhang dan
Where's the toilet? Xi shou jian zai na li?
Help! Jiu ming!

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Great Hall of the People

People's Square

The Great Hall of the People is a sprawling, classically inspired building constructed in 1951, and the architectural symbol of Chongqing. The adjoining People's Square is a popular place for couples to dance in the evenings – one of the most charming aspects of local Chinese culture, and something that tourists can take part in.

Hongya Dong

Near Jiefangbei

Jutting out from the side of a cliff, Hongya Dong, a recreation of old Chongqing, is noteworthy as a city landmark and for its numerous inexpensive craft shops and genuine local eateries. This makes it one of the best spots to buy genuine souvenirs and at the same time rub shoulders with the locals as they eat traditional South China noodles at sidewalk cafés.

Hong Yan Cun

Shapingba Road

Also known as Red Crag Village, Hong Yan Cun was the site of important negotiations between Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-Shek in an attempt to achieve an alliance to oppose the Japanese. An interesting exhibition centre provides a good overview of the history – a history which had consequences for the future, not just of Asia, but the whole of the world.

Luohan Si

Xiao Shizi Jie

Luohan Si is a small Buddhist temple noted for its breathtaking collection of 500 painted terracotta Arhat sculptures in its main hall. Despite the Chinese Communist Party’s official policy of atheism, Buddhism remains the principle religion of China, and no visitor should miss the opportunity of showing respect to one of its ancient temples.

Three Gorges Museum

People's Square

The Three Gorges Museum is an excellent alternative for those who do not have the time for a ferry journey lasting several hours to the Three Gorges themselves. It also has exhibits on Chongqing history ranging from the Qing Dynasty to the 1940s.

Shop

Chongqing Department Store

Near Jiefangbei

Chongqing Department Store is a real locals' shopping mall with well-priced Chinese brand names. It includes a supermarket selling mostly local and Chinese food. Chinese baijiu, the local alcohol, comes in beautiful earthenware bottles decorated with old pictures and Chinese characters, making it an interesting and unusual souvenir.

Budget $$

Chongqing Times Square

Jiefangbei

Apart from all the famous designer brands, you will find an export food hall in the basement of Chongqing Times Square, a spa on the fourth floor, and a classy (but obviously expensive) restaurant offering snacks and Chinese food on the sixth floor.

Budget $$$

New Century Mall

Near Jiefangbei

At New Century Mall you will find reasonably priced Chinese brand-name clothes, shoes and accessories. Traditional Chinese pashmina wool scarves and shawls make particularly elegant gifts, and Daphne ladies' shoes are stylish and made well. Overall, the quality is good enough and goods are certainly cheaper than their equivalents back home.

Budget $$

Xiao Shen Zi Market

Near Jiefangbei

Xiao Shen Zi Market is a sprawling market stall complex selling a wide range of cheap Chinese souvenirs, decorations, paper lanterns, children's toys and more. The quality might be somewhat dubious and the jade will almost certainly be fake, but it's a noisy, bustling, fun experience and rewards those on a tight budget.

Budget $

Xing Guang 68

Jiangbei

All the famous labels, from Chanel and Dior to Gucci and Prada, are here in Xing Guang 68 Plaza (except, for some strange reason, Louis Vuitton handbags) in what tends to be regarded as the city's top designer shopping destination. China is, regrettably, notorious for designer brand rip-offs, but these are the real deal.

Budget $$$

Dine

De Zhuang Hot Pot

16 Huo Ju Da Dao

Allegedly Chongqing’s first ever hotpot restaurant, many locals still consider De Zhuang ('morals village') the title-holder over innumerable competitors around town. Hotpot involves thin strips of beef or lamb being cooked at your table by plunging them into boiling spice-laden soup. For an authentic culinary experience, try the spicy version. It's not for the faint-hearted but a milder tourist-style version is also available.

Budget $

Tao Ran Ju

15 Nanbin Lu, Nan’an District

Tao Ran Ju is probably the most popular restaurant in Nanbin Lu’s already very popular Cuisine Street, which is well worth exploring for local specialities. Offering upmarket, and very spicy unless requested otherwise, Sichuan cuisine in a traditional environment, its popularity can make it overly noisy at times.

Budget $$

Vito Italian Restaurant

No.1 Outlets Road

If faced with the craving for top-quality Western food, head to Vito Italian Restaurant where you'll find authentic Italian cuisine coupled with excellent service and a good atmosphere. It's sufficiently popular that it might be worthwhile asking your hotel receptionist to book you a table. They also have a reasonable, if rather pricey, selection of imported wines. 

Budget $$$

Waipo Qiao Fengwei Jiulou

7/F Metropolitan Plaza, 68 Zourong Lu

With its winning classical Chinese decor, Waipo Qiao Fengwei Jiulou is an excellent place to sample a range of Chinese dishes, though largely with a Sichuan influence. Some of the more interesting entries on the menu are Imperial court dishes from the Qing dynasty.

Budget $$

Yilian Vegetarian Restaurant

Xiao Shizi Jie (inside Arhat Temple)

The cafeteria-style Yilian Vegetarian Restaurant serves vegetable and mock meat dishes (made out of mushroom and wheat gluten) with mild flavouring, providing a welcome respite from the flames of hotpot. It has a cool, trendy ambience and is popular with young people whether they are vegetarians or not.

Budget $

Stay

Chung King Hotel

41–43 Xin Hua Lu

Located near the Chaotianmen Docks, Chung King Hotel is a modern three-star but reminiscent of old Soviet-style monoliths. Nevertheless, it offers decent rooms for a mid-range budget; all rooms are en suite and have central air-conditioning. Facilities including banking, tour and travel bookings. Popular with foreigners.

Budget $

Crowne Plaza Chongqing Riverside

587 Nanping Dong Lu, Nan'an District

The Crowne Plaza Chongqing Riverside, with its views over the Yangzi river and the skyline of China’s fastest growing city, is a good and slightly more economical choice than some of Chongqing’s other brand-name hotels. It has a neighbouring natural hot spring spa with individual pools, as well as a lounge and café serving Western and Chinese food. 

Budget $$

Hilton Chongqing

139 Zhongshan San Lu

Centrally located just minutes from Renmin Square, the Hilton Chongqing has all the comforts and amenities you would expect from this huge chain. Four restaurants offer a choice of café cuisine, a grill and Cantonese and Sichuan cuisines. The hotel is particularly suited to business travellers, with a host of services that include office rental.

Budget $$

InterContinental Chongqing

101 Minzu Rd

The 42-storey, 338-room deluxe InterContinental Hotel is probably the best choice for business travellers, with features such as private meeting rooms and free Wi-fi. Leisure amenities include a swimming pool and spa, and the bars and restaurants are usually quiet enough to double as business meeting venues.

Budget $$$

JW Marriott Hotel Chongqing

77 Qingnian Lu

The most impressive hotel in Chongqing, the JW Marriott has four restaurants, an indoor pool, an elegant lobby, several bars, high standards of service and a good location in the downtown area. It is probably the best choice if you wish to combine five-star luxury with proximity to authentic, local Chongqing. 

Budget $$$

Dragon Boat Festival

Date varies in June

Dragon boat races commemorate the poet Qu Yuan (340–278 BC) who, rather than submit to political pressure, drowned himself in the Miluo River in Hunan province. To prevent the fish from eating his body, the people threw glutinous rice cakes (zongzi) into the river.


Moon Festival

Date varies in September

The timing of this mid-autumn festival depends on when the moon is at its fullest, usually around mid-September. People give and receive 'mooncakes' – round yellow-gold pastries filled with gooey sesame paste, red-bean and walnut filling.


National Day

1 October

China's National Day is celebrated with a one-week public holiday. Government buildings and hotels are decked out in lights, and major roads are lined with the Chinese flag.


Qingming

Date varies in April

On the twelfth day of the third lunar month the Chinese honour their ancestors by observing Qingming, sometimes referred to as 'tomb-sweeping' day. It is a time for remembering ancestors and for age-old ritual ceremonies.


Spring Festival

Date varies in January, February

Before and during China's most important holiday public buildings are festooned with coloured lights, people from all over the country travel to reunite with family and friends, debts are settled and literally millions of fireworks are set off.


Three Gorges Festival

28 September

The Chongqing Three Gorges Migrant Culture Festival celebrates local ethnic culture and includes theatrical performances, art exhibitions, dragon boat races, and an Ascending the Ladder Grand Prix ('Ascending the Ladder' being a traditional local sport). 


Culture

As Chongqing is a riverside city, this itinerary follows the Jialing River from Ciqikou to the tip of the downtown peninsula.

 

Established over 1,000 years ago, Ciqikou was a neighbourhood of porcelain manufacturers who used the river to export their wares. Now it is a beautifully well-preserved town-within-a-city where, unusually for a popular tourist site, local people still live in their traditional homes. The main gate is a typical Chinese affair hung with red lanterns. The buildings are traditional Chinese (many of them original) with upward-curving tiled roofs and blue and green lacquer work, and there are numerous stalls selling traditional opera masks (a speciality of Ciqikou), but you'll also find surprises such as an Indian roti stall with Bollywood posters and Indian chefs. Spend a couple of hours here before taking a taxi to the former house of Song Qing Ling.

 

Song Qing Ling was the wife of Sun Yat Sen, and this was her residence when Chongqing was the Chinese capital during the Second World War. A three-storey, German colonial-style building, it makes an austere but rather elegant contrast to the multi-coloured buildings of Ciqikou.

 

At the end of the peninsula, although much of the area around Liberation Square has been transformed into another pedestrian shopping centre, there are still some narrow, winding old back streets to explore. From Chaotianmen Dock you may be able to take an evening boat tour on both rivers, but schedules are unpredictable due to the Three Gorges Dam and the weather conditions. It is a great way to appreciate the city lights.

Places to visit:
Ciqikou neighbourhood, Former house of Song Qing Ling, Chaotianmen Dock boat tour