25 September 2009

A day in Chong Qing

A belated return to the story of my Summer holiday picks up at the end of the cruise along the Yangtze with a day in Chong Qing. The main reason for going there was to see some pandas. In the original schedule we were due to go to a panda sanctuary but this got changed at some point and we ended up going to Chong Qing zoo instead. At least it had several pandas, like this one!

We were given the best part of an hour to explore the rest of the zoo and this proved to be a mixed blessing. The animals were good but the layout of the zoo was very complicated and we were sent out to explore without maps. Not surprisingly, a few groups were late back. With more time and a map this could have been a good morning but, instead, it was bit of a time filler between the pandas and lunch.

As with most cities we visited, we were marched up a hill. This time the reward at the top was a lesson on Chinese tea and the ceremony that surrounds it.

We were given a few teas to try which we drank out of small cups, while the importance of the cup, the pot and the temperature of the water were explained to us.

We were also shown the correct way to drink the tea; look, smell, taste and then drink with your left hand behind your back (men). They did a pretty convincing job and brought some of their tea home.

The view from the top of the hill was less of a reward as the haze that dogged us all the way along the Yangtze still hugged the river. We were at least able to get a good idea of the size and modernity of the city.

The climb up was more interesting.

Here we had more of the familiar gardens, pagodas, water and bridges. This rope bridge, like almost all the bridges we walked over in China, stubbornly refuses to take the shortest route across the water and is all the more pretty for doing so.

One of the pagodas we passed belonged to Chiang Kai-Shek when the capital city of China was moved to Chong Quin in the 1930's during the war against Japan.

Incidentally, most of the cities that we visited seem to have been the capital city of China at some point. It has moved many times either at the whim of an Emperor or because a capital had fallen to an invading force.

After the hill came the fight to the next town, Guillin, and our short stay in Chong Qing was over. The pandas made it all worthwhile.

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