Perched at the confluence of the Jialing and Yangtze Rivers, Chongqing — one of China’s major municipalities — has earned a reputation of being one of the country’s most important economic engines.
Yet the enthralling city has managed to retain plenty of charm. Thanks to its unique geographical location, it’s now an intriguing amalgamation of rustic nature and city bustle. Like many cities in China, Chongqing is marked by a jungle of skyscrapers and an amazing skyline, but amidst this modernity are old houses that are a reminder of its rich cultural past. A wavy terrain has meant that most roads still meander around rivers and through mountains, many of which still provide a wealth of mineral resources and water reserves for its residents.
Armed with natural wonders, a humid subtropical climate, and a rich cultural legacy, it’s little wonder that Chongqing has attracted scores upon scores of visitors every year, especially since it’s a convenient starting port for the popular Yangtze River cruise.
Here’s every locale you need to put on your bucket list the next time you visit.
WHERE TO STAY
Westin Chongqing Liberation Square
Located a short stroll away from the best eats, shopping spots, and sightseeing is the Westin Chongqing Liberation Square. This establishment conveniently occupies prime land at the central business district of Jiefangbei. Its location isn’t the only selling point; the hotel group successfully transformed the building into a design haven for weary tourists and visitors, with minimalist but warm touches at every corner.
Address: 222 Xinhua Rd, Jie Fang Bei Shang Quan, Yuzhong, Chongqing, China
Banyan Tree Chongqing Beibei
It’s easy to get caught up in the city’s high-octane energy, so those seeking temporary respite from the bustle will appreciate the Banyan Tree Chongqing Beibei. Nestled in the foothills of Jinyun Mountain Natural Reserve, the sprawling 96-key establishment sees suites and traditional villas which are quiet and remote. Each of these rooms comes with a natural hot spring which creates the perfect sanctuary to unwind and relax at your convenience.
Venture out from the comforts of your room and have a taste of the outdoors. Choose from the myriad of activities in the vicinity such as uncovering the historical sites in Hechuan Fishing Town, or taking a walk through the lush forests of Jinyun Mountain.
Address: 101 Hot Spring Road, Chengjiang, Beibei District, Chongqing, China
WHERE TO EAT
Gourmands will know Chongqing for being a culinary wonderland, but novices will soon learn that an introduction to the cuisine comes at a tongue-numbing price. The city might’ve parted ways from Sichuan province in 1997, but it still remains associated by cuisine. As a branch of Sichuan cuisine, Chongqing’s food is distinctive for its spicy and punchy flavours, and this is best epitomised in its hot pots.
Cygnet Hot Pot (Chongqing Xiao Tian E) – Chongqing Yingli Branch
A visit to a hotpot restaurant is a rite of passage for any visitor in Chongqing, and there’s one around every corner. Of these, a few stand out for being authentic and hence, favourites amongst locals. Little Swan Hot Pot is one of the many to have withstood the test of time. Food is known to be fresh here, and other notable local specialties such as boiled fish and stir-fry dishes are available as well. It’s located on the bank of the Yangtze, so a seat overlooking the flowing waters while dining is really one of the most quintessential Chongqing experiences that one could have.
Address: 6F, Yingli International Financial Mansion, 40 Jiefangbei Minquan Road, Yuzhong District, Chongqing, China
Cuiyun Boiled Fish Restaurant
Chongqing’s location along the Jialing River has meant that the city enjoys an abundance of fish all year round. Cuiyun Boiled Fish Restaurant is another local favourite for the iconic dish, offering a wide variety of fish and flavours on the menu to suit all palates — think catfish and snakehead with spicy or tomato-based broths.
Address: 5F Saige International Building, 28 Wusi Rd, Yuzhong District, Chongqing, China
Qinyun Laotaipo Tantan Noodle – Main Branch
The heated culinary adventure doesn’t stop there; Chongqing noodles is another national dish that locals enjoy. Comprising of fresh noodles and a generous slathering of a red-oil sauce and vegetables, the economical dish is representative of the mountain dwellers’ way of life, and is often eaten in the morning. Aged Mother Tantan Noodle Noshery is a recognised eatery that specialises in this dish.
Xiejiewan Street, Huarun ershisi City, Wanxiang Cheng, Wanxian Meishi Street, Jiulongpo District, Chongqing, China
WHAT TO DO
Dazu Rock Carvings
Thanks to a significant history and culture, there’s plenty to explore around Chongqing that centers around this rich background. The Dazu Rock Carvings — a series of religious sculptures and carvings in the Dazu District — are one of a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the city. Its legacy dates as far back to the Tang Dynasty in 6th century AD, and tells a tale influenced by Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian beliefs. Carved into open rock faces, these statues are still widely celebrated for its harmonious depiction of religions.
Address: Beishan Road, Dazu County, Chongqing, China
South China Karst (Wulong Karst)
The South China Karst is another natural beauty that the city is immensely proud of. It is known to be one of the world’s most spectacular examples of karst landscapes, and its dramatic (and rather haunting) scene is one that’s rarely found anywhere else in the world. To give a hint of its grand scale, the site stretches across neighbouring provinces such as Yunnan, Guizhou, and Guangxi.
Address: Wulong District, Chongqing, China
The beloved Yangtze River is another sight that’ll be hard to forget in Chongqing. More than 60 vessels operate cruises along the body of water, often covering the magnificent Three River Gorges along the way. It takes about 10 days to traverse the third-longest river in the world and these will take visitors from Chongqing to Shanghai, but shorter trips to the Great Wall in Beijing and the First Emperor of China’s tomb in Xi’an are also available.
This story first appeared in Lifestyle Asia Singapore