Panda bears

Panda bear, Chongqing, China

Visiting the Pandas (and other sights) in Chongqing

Chongqing, formerly known as Chungking, was the end destination for our Yangtze River cruise. We disembarked the cruise ship in the morning and visited three sights in Chongqing that day: the Chonqing Zoo (known for its panda bears), downtown Chongqing (for a walk through its modern center and lunch), and finally the nearby old town of Ciqikou, known for its porcelain.

Chongqing Zoo

Of course China is famous for its panda bears, and this was our one chance during the two week tour to see the pandas in their homeland (as opposed to a U.S. zoo).

Chongqing Zoo, China

The crowds entering the Chongqing Zoo, most stop at the panda exhibit and don’t go much further.

The zoo is large (over 100 acres), and if you happen to be a panda bear, you’re treated like a king, if you’re not, then your living conditions didn’t look as comfortable. The panda enclosure was large with lots of vegetation and things for the pandas to play on, but for other animals, the enclosures were smaller and more barren.

Panda, Chongqing Zoo, China

Panda enjoying the large play area.

Chongqing Zoo9

A panda scratching an itch with its left hind leg.

Panda bear, Chongqing, China

Another panda view. They are cute with those black eyes and ears!

Red panda, Chongqing Zoo, China

Here’s a red panda, also found at the zoo. I had not seen a red panda before, and although it’s called a panda, it’s quite different than the black and white pandas–it looks more like a cross between a fox and raccoon!

In addition to the pandas, we saw many typical zoo animals. In such a huge city, this zoo provides a nice respite from the concrete, noise and traffic of this municipality of 18 million.

White tiger, Chongqing Zoo, China

This rare white tiger was not happy, it kept pacing back and forth along the fence.

Chongqing Zoo, China

Monkeys with mom keeping watch.

Chongqing Zoo, China

Asian elephant (the ears are smaller than African elephants).

Downtown Chongqing

Like almost everywhere we went in China, I was amazed at the overwhelming size of the city and the endless apartment towers and ongoing construction everywhere. It seems like Chongqing (as with most Chinese cities) has grown up overnight.

Chonqing54

Some of the never-ending stretches of apartment buildings in Chongqing.

Chongqing, China

Example of the interesting architecture found in parts of Chongqing.

Chongqing, China

Modern square in Chongqing–almost like Times Square in New York!

Chongqing, China

A panorama shot of the same square in Chongqing. With all the high end shops nearby, it’s clear the economy must be doing well.

Old Town of Ciqikou

This was one of the most interesting stops on the tour for me, and unfortunately our visit showcased why I don’t like traveling with tour groups. We arrived at the old town, which is in the Chongqing metro area, on a Saturday afternoon towards the end of the Chinese National Holiday period.

Old Ciqikou, Chongqing, China

One of several views of the crowded streets in Old Ciqikou.

Given the historic nature of the town it was jammed with “locals” on holiday (vs. tour groups). However members of our tour group were so nervous walking through the crowded area (“they might pickpocket me!”) that after several complaints from the group our guide shortened our visit considerably, leaving those of us who wanted to see more of the town less time to explore this interesting village. For the record, neither my wife nor I ever felt unsafe or threatened.

Old Ciqikou, Chongqing, China

Another view of Old Ciqikou.

Ciqikou reminded me a bit of old medieval villages in Europe where every little street has something to reveal. The town is about 1,000 years old and provides a view into what Chongqing might have looked like a hundred years ago.

Ciqikou Old Town, Chongqing, China

Flags flying in Ciqikou Old Town for the Chinese National Holiday.

The town sits on a small hill at the confluence of the Yangtze and Jia Ling rivers and was known for its production of porcelain. However, time didn’t allow for us to explore the porcelain shops (not that we need more trinkets!). As a side note, we saw lots of tempting┬ástreet food too – we tried some savory chicken on stick!

As we hurriedly visited what we could, we turned a corner and saw stairs leading up a short hill to an interesting Buddhist temple, called Baolun. The lower streets were packed with the holiday throngs, and yet when we climbed up to this temple, there was hardly a person in sight. The temple is over 1,000 years old, with interesting halls, courtyards and architecture everywhere.

Baolun Temple, Old Ciqikou, Chongqing, China

Climbing the stairs up to the Baolun Temple. I guess it looks a little steep to other visitors crawling the streets below.

Baolun Temple, Ciqikou Old Town, Chongqing, China

The architecture of the temple and halls is beautiful. The main temple was built without use of nails!

Baolun Temple, Old Ciqikou, Chongqing, China

The main Baolun Temple structure, Old Town Ciqikou.

 

Baolun Temple, Ciqikou Old Town, Chongqing, China

Buddha on a lotus flower.

Baolun Temple, Ciqikou Old Town, Chongqing, China

A representation of Bodhisattva, demonstrating compassion with all the arms.

Baolun Temple, Ciqikou Old Town, Chongqing, China

View from the Baolun Temple, overlooking the endless apartment towers on the outskirts of Chongqing in the distance.

As the saying goes, “you haven’t been to Chongqing if you haven’t been to Ciqikou Old Town”. While our visit to Ciqikou Old Town was short, it was definitely worthwhile.

Chongqing can keep the visitor entertained for a long time. We had just a day here, but I would highly recommend spending at least a few days in this sprawling city if you have the chance.