Chongching is a large port city in southwest China on the upper portion of the Yangtze River. It is the fourth largest municipality in China. This City has the Three Gorges Dam on Yangtze as one of the main tourist attractions. I saw the area leading
to the dam as we drove by but sadly did not have time to visit. The City was damaged by a large earthquake in 2008 and it looked like many of the buildings were still being torn down from all the damage.
The teams had gathered together from many
parts of the US and many parts of China. We spent the morning on introductions and presentations from the various groups. It was a full day of meeting and touring areas of the city that were under development by the Chinese government. Of course
the government is proud of the development and wants to show it to visitors from technology companies. In one area they were building an entire technology park complete with rail stations, shopping and housing. It was a very well planned community
with all the amenities to live and work in a central area and is planned to be completed in 10 years. It is a massive undertaking and very impressive. We went into a building to see a topographical model of the entire development. As we entered
the building we were saluted by guards. It was an eye opener and a reminder that the Chinese government is running the development.
As we toured one building it was obvious that some of the workers were actually living in the buildings they
were constructing. They had hung their clothes to dry and they were cooking on a single burner hot plate. My observations were that living where you work like this was not such an uncommon practice. The building was very cold with no heat
as it was largely complete on the outside but the inside was really just a shell with the interior walls barely under construction. There were a large number of people working in this area; one group was lined up digging with shovels by hand in
front of the building preparing for landscape. I imagine they all hunkered down in the building at night to eat and sleep out of the weather. Chongching is very cold and damp in the winter and is also famous for its foggy weather, which hangs around about
1/3 of the year. The streets looked as if it was raining but they were just wet from the constant fog.
This city is really a working city and a true picture of the working class. Thirty one million people live in
the Chongqing area and 200 million people travel to and from the city to work. It is not uncommon to see street vendors standing or sitting outside all day and late into the night selling vegetables and other products along the edges of the street right
next to the streaming traffic.
I had the opportunity early in the morning to walk around the streets and have a closer view of everyday life. We purchased envelopes for Chinese New Year from a street vendor and we walked into the grocery
right in the middle of a shopping mall to buy a few supplies. I could not read one sign nor could I recognize any packaging. It was all completely new to me. We purchased some Kleenex and some candy to take home. I saw laundry soap and other
items in what seemed like very small packages. It started me thinking about how different my life was. Americans often wash their clothes after a full day of wear. I think it is common in China to wear the same clothes every day for a week.
In addition we have large houses to store large boxes of supplies. That is also different in China. I also noted the similarities; Cashier stations are similar to those in US stores and they had prepared hot foods for purchase to take home
for a quick hot meal. I did take pictures of the prepared food as there was not one thing in the steaming containers that I could recognize.
The first meal we shared with our large group was a traditional Lazy Susan style lunch. Picture
a large round table that seats at least 12 or more people with a large turn table in the middle. All the Dishes are placed on the turntable and they just continue to be rotated around. There were so many different things to try. There were all types of vegetables,
various proteins, noodles, and rice. The traditional cuisine in Chongqing is very spicy. It was hot even for me and I like spicy food. My eyes were watering, my nose running and “Oh my! Please pass the rice so I can calm
my mouth down. Honestly my lips were burning for what seemed like hours after lunch and I avoided all the peppers. Many of the dishes were swimming in red sauce. I should have known better but I guess I was hoping the sauce was ketchup
Driving to and from the facility where we held our meetings was something I will never forget…..People just walk right out into the street into traffic; the cars weave around and the drivers honk their horns. I have never seen
anything like it. The driving rivaled any crazy taxi ride in Rome. On the freeway the driver was weaving in and out of traffic honking his horn and flashing his lights the whole way. I hung on for dear life. We started to rate the ride by how many
drinks you needed to calm your nerves. …. That was a 4 drink drive.
We had a large team dinner consisting of a traditional Chongching specialty, Chinese Hot Pot. This type of meal is apparently world famous and is a lot of fun. Instead
of hot oil, your pot has a beef broth on a heated burner and you cook meat, fish and vegetables right in front of you at the table. Each person has their own pot. It is like soup with exotic protein and vegetables. I loved it. It is similar to fondue
experience. The restaurant was right in the heart of the shopping area and it was so much fun after dinner to walk around and see the local sites.
The people who are hosting us were beginning to relax around me and to tell me some of their stories.
Typically they are young, very mature and diligent about their purpose. This is the generation that is working long hard hours and supporting their extended families that live with them. Culturally China is a world away from anything I could imagine
or expect. It is very important for them to impress you and they consider it their job to ensure you have a good experience. They are very focused on you and pay very close attention to all your needs.
Next: Back to Shanghai.