Friday, 27 July 2012

Along the Jialing River

Early one morning in Chongqing, I took a motorcycle taxi to the small town of Ciqikou (磁器口). Ciqikou lies on the Jialing River (嘉陵江), which comes all the way down from Gansu province.

In Ciqikou, the river's waters seemed to be surprisingly low, given that a couple of kilometers downstream in Chongqing the effects of the large dam could still be seen.

Along the river, people in houseboats were tending their fishing nets. The scenery looked all very interesting, so I decided to go for a walk.


Near to a small bridge, there was a kind of holy shrine up the hill. 

 A number of friendly figures were keeping guard over the river and its valley.

A bit further upstream, a dredger ship was excavating sand from the river bed.

Walking along, the smokestack of a factory could be seen through the bushes.

There is nothing I like more than old socialist factories, so of course I went to have a look:

It was all empty, but some machines were still standing around:

Then I saw a sort of crane, which looked as if one could climb on it to have a look at the factory from above. But unfortunately, before I could reach the crane three officials came along in their sparkling new car:

They were very surprised to find me in the middle of their factory. However, after making it clear that I had no business here, they couldn't help smiling. They told me that the factory was part of a larger complex producing some sort of chemicals (as far as I understood), and that parts of it were still working. 

Back at the river, the landscape looked a bit like in those apocalyptic sci-fi movies from the 1980:

A couple of hundred meters upstream, they were constructing a big highway bridge across the river.

I was on my way to have a look, when it started to rain, so I reluctantly turned around. Coming back to Ciqikou, one had a nice view of the town, its traffic system and the river.

The old center of Ciqikou is fairly well preserved and a bit of a tourist attraction. Streets are full with souvenir stands, and wise-looking scribes are happy to provide you with an original piece of calligraphy.

From the top of a pagoda in a temple, one could see the town, its factory and the sourrounding mountains:


After lunch, the rain had become so heavy that I was happy when I found a small coffee place to take shelter. It belonged to a former computer scientist, who had wanted to do something else and was now grinding and selling his own coffee.

As there was no electricity due to the thunderstorm, he used an intricate device to boil the water:

He was also selling books and a choice of rare wines and teas, besides practicing a couple of instruments and studying ancient Chinese music. The whole place looked a bit like the den of an alchimist:

Outside, it was raining heavier than ever, so we were just enjoying our coffee and discussing important questions. What would have happened if Alexander's armies had continued to China and met with the forces of the rising Qin state? Where does the best coffee come from? Does climate change affect the frequency of earthquakes?

After a couple of hours, the rain had almost stopped and I finally said good bye. The streets that before had been full with tourists were now completely empty.

On my way home, I passed by a small shop and bought a painting that somehow reminded me of the river I had walked along during the morning:

Monday, 23 July 2012

Chongqing (重庆)

In Chongqing, I stayed in a small hostel in the old part of the city. Although today this part of the town is surrounded by high skyscrapers, one could still get an impression of how the old Chongqing might have looked like in earlier times.

Just outside the hostel, the streets were bustling with people, and there was a lively market.

As Chongqing is a town at the confluence of two rivers, a lot of fish was on offer. Stands selling yellow eel were especially abundant.

Some of the merchants were still fairly young.

Together with the eel, all sorts of frogs were available for purchase. One merchant had just brought a net full of bullfrogs. The frogs looked as if they were pleading for help, furiously protesting such cruel treatment.

In the middle of all the commotion, some people were playing pool...

...while others were deep into a game of Chinese Chess.

On a street corner, two dudes had got hold of an enormous fish, and were now proudly selling it slice by slice.

A little bit further along, the streets were all of a sudden strangely empty. Nobody seemed to live in these houses anymore.

All around on the walls, a Chinese character could be seen, meaning "ready for demolition".


Some of the houses to be destroyed looked as if they had belonged to rich families or merchants:

A couple of streets further down the road, the old buildings had already been removed.

In a deep pit, antlike workers were scurrying around, laying foundations for a massive new skyscraper:

Later in the day, I used the city's famous cable car to cross the Yangtze.


On the other side, I went for a walk and then had dinner when it got dark. The food was very spicy, and the view from the restaurant's terrace simply amazing.