Sunday, December 2, 2007

China Odyssey, Day 18 - Chongqing to Chengdu

Day 18 - Chongqing to Chengdu
Sunday December 2
The Bus Ride from Hell

We got off the boat in Chongqing and got on a bus for our 5 hour ride to Chengdu. Before leaving the city we had a brief city tour including two stops, the General Stillwell Museum and the Flying Tiger Museum.

George Leads Us off the Boat in Chongqing

We learned on our tour that Chongqing is known as the London of China and the "City of Fog". It is located on a shallow estuary of the Yangtze. There are no pedal bikes allowed in Chongqing because the terrain is steep and hilly. Everything in Chongqing is transported by bangbang men using bamboo poles carried on their shoulders. One hundred thousand of these porters perform heavy labor 12 hours for a daily earning of 20 yuan (about $2.50).

Foggy Chongqing Hillside

Our first stop in Chongqing was the General Stillwell Museum. Chongqing was used by the US as their base of operations during WWII. The museum was nicely landscaped and set on a cliff above the river.

General Stillwell Museum

General Stillwell’s War Room

Our second stop was the Flying Tiger Museum. It is located across the street from the Stillwell Museum. Our guide gave a very informative talk on the Flying Tigers, the Burma Road and overall relations between China and the US during WW II. It was said a Flying Tiger pilot could fly supplies over the route described as the "hump" without a compass. This was because the sun would reflect on the aluminum of over 500 planes along the route, that were shot down by the Japanese .

Chongqing is a city of steep streets with sharp switchbacks. As we navigated our way along these narrow, winding streets, our bus driver would honk as we came to each curve. This was done as a warning to all people in the streets. There is no snow in the winter it, but it is possible to go without seeing the sun for 30 days.

Chongqing Street View
From the Bus Windshield

Our bus was in less than pristine condition. There were diesel fumes in the back, and the shock absorbers were badly deteriorated. This made for an especially uncomfortable ride on the less than pristine pavement to Chengdu. Fortunately we sat in the front, so the fumes were not too bad. We made a pit stop half way to our destination, and it was disgusting. Our tour guide has been rating toilets for us on a scale of 1 to 5; he rated this one as a minus 5. As a point of interest, the bathroom in China is called the "happy room".

“Minus 5” Rest Area

The rest of our ride was uneventful, but long over the roughroad. We passed many rice paddies, orange trees and date trees. George took this opportunity to briefly review the history of Tibet, in preparation tomorrow's adventure. When asked why we didn’t fly directly from Chongqing to Tibet, George told us that all non-Chinese citizens must stop in Chengdu before they visit Tibet, to procure a travel visa, and must enter Tibet from Chengdu. No visa = No Tibet. Fortunately, George took care of these formalities for all of us.

After a long rough ride we finally arrived in Chengdu. The city, which is over 3,000 years old, has a modern, Western flavor, and is more reminiscent of Shanghai than any other city we have visited. The Jing Jang Hotel where we are staying is rated 4 star by the Chinese. Unfortunately we are staying in an outer building and it is a bit of a hike to the main hotel, where all the services are located.

Supper was at a local restaurant, and then we had a short time to explore the shops in the area. Keith decided to sit on the bus instead of shop. While waiting he spotted an RV parked in the middle of the road. It is the first and only RV we have seen in China. We did not think it could be used for Western style RVing, as there are no campgrounds, and consequently no camping in China. Keith photographed the writing on the side of the vehicle, but has not been able to find anyone to translate it.

Will Someone Translate This For Me, Please?

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