March 24, 2008
I had an amazing second day on my tour. I woke up early, and went down to the hotel's restaurant for the breakfast buffet. It was very nice. It had a huge assortment of Western and Chinese dishes. At 9:00 Violet met me and took me to the CiQi Kou ancient city streets. It is an area in Chongqing City which still has its Ming and Qing Dynasty architecture. The name means "Porcelain Village". We first stopped in an ancient courtyard home.
It was really beautiful and quite peaceful. Violet explained to me how people in the Qing Dynasty lead their daily lives as we went from room to room. The house consisted of many rooms located around a main courtyard. The courtyard had a couple old trees, some large stone water vats with water plants, and goldfish. It was a really quiet and peaceful oasis in the bustling city. Each room in the house was filled with beautiful antique furniture, and examples of ancient clothing. The bedroom was especially interesting. The giant bed, which was covered in carvings, actually had its own little foyer. Hanging from the ceiling was a flat wooden framework covered with fans. By pulling on the rope the framework swung back and forth, and worked as a sort of primitive air conditioning system.
I wouldn't want the job of tugging on the rope for hours though. We then walked down the ancient cobblestone streets. There were many different shops selling everything from local snacks, and candies to silk clothing, and scarves. The coolest candies I saw, were at two different little stands. One was a man making candies from heated syrup. A customer spins a needle. The needle can stop at a number of different traditional auspicious animals. The man would pour the liquid syrup onto a piece of marble, and make it into the shape of the chosen animal. They were really cool, and artistic. I had to buy one, and felt guilty eating it, but I did eat it. At the other stand a woman would make a ball of candy syrup, and stick a bamboo straw into it.
She then blew into the straw which inflated the candy syrup. She could form it into a large number of different animals. I had to try one of them as well. Both candies were very different, and quite delicious. Violet told me that these forms of candies have been popular for hundreds of years. The ancient shops were very pretty. After we visited the ancient city streets, we went to the Eling Park. It was a really pretty park. The highest point in the park is actually the highest point in Chongqing City, with a pagoda on the top. The park is filled with trees, flowers, beautiful rocks. It is like a very large garden. I went to a small Three Gorges museum. It is very simple, but it gave me a bit of history of the Three Gorges and nicely prepared me for my cruise down the Yangtze River.
The shop connected to the museum had a lot of very nice things. Not cheap touristy things, but actual art. There is a large selection of paintings. In another room, a woman demonstrated the local Shu Embroidery. She showed me how the embroidery is created. They were very intricate and beautiful. Another section demonstrated painting inside snuff bottles. An artist takes a clear crystal snuff bottle, and paints a beautiful scene from the inside by using very small brushes with the bristles bent at a 90 degree angle. It took an incredibly steady hand. The paintings are painted in reverse from a normal painting. For example, a person's facial features and hair are painted before the skin is. The designs on the clothing is painted before the clothing itself is. I was really impressed by the artistry that the demonstrated possessed.
I had to buy a couple to give to my friends and family. At the top of the parks peak sits a pagoda built in the 1980's. Although it is built in a modern style, and covered with tiles, it is interesting to see a modern version of an ancient structure. After the park, we went to lunch. We stopped at a local restaurant and had a variety of wonderfully spicy dishes. I really love the food here! After lunch, we headed to the Chongqing Great Hall of the People. It is a really cool building! It is built in a traditional style, which kind of looks like the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. Across from the Great Hall of the People was the Chongqing Museum. The Chongqing Museum's architecture is very modern. It was interesting to see two such different architectural styles facing off against each other. We then headed to the Chongqing Zoo, home to at least six different giant pandas.
It was a very large zoo which had an amazing collection of exotic birds. After visiting the zoo we went to another restaurant for dinner. As expected this dinner consisted of a large selection of amazing foods. I never had the same dish twice. Each one was really wonderful. We then went to the city center to look around before heading to the docks to board my ship. My China Regal Cruise ship is the Princess Sheena. It is quite large and can hold over 300 people. I was welcomed onboard by a live band, and then I was escorted to my cabin. It is small, but very clean, and well designed. It has a TV, and a refrigerator, as well as a bathroom, and plenty of storage space. The ship is like a floating hotel. It has a music bar, workout room, saunas, massage parlors, gift shops, sun decks, restaurants, and a business center.
It is very clean, and every crew member speaks fantastic English. After settling into my room, and a quick shower, I went to the music bar. The bar had a number of Westerners in it. I ordered a couple of drinks, which they did not skimp on. I met a couple of Americans, and a couple from Wales. It was very nice. I am now back in my cabin and going to get ready for bed.