One of the four municipalities in China since 1997, alongside Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin, Chongqing boasts the largest population in southwestern China.

Strategically located at the confluence of the Yangtze and Jialing rivers, it is the gateway to the Three Gorges, the starting point for a promising scenic boat cruise downstream Yangtze through the Three Gorges Dam.

Did you know that Chongqing recorded a huge 14% growth in tourism last year, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council survey, out of 65 global cities polled?

With China’s focus on “Go West” policy for development strategy, this industrial centre is poised to rapidly transform into a modernised city.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Travellers who are pursuing UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the world can tick two items off their bucket list when they visit Chongqing. Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1999 are five clusters of rock carvings in Dazu County.

Collectively known as Dazu Rock Carvings, they date from the 9th to the 13th century. With more than 10,000 carvings in total, these cave temple art depict elements of Tantric Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.

Dazu Rock Carvings (Photo credit: Chinaholidays.co.uk)

Dazu Rock Carvings (Photo credit: Chinaholidays.co.uk)

About three hours’ drive southeast of Dazu Rock Carvings is the Wulong Karst National Park, that is home to the Wulong Mountain Forest Park. The National Park is part of the South China Karst UNESCO World Heritage Site, inscribed in 2007.

The greater South China Karst actually covers 176,228 hectares of land that spreads beyond Chongqing, to Guizhou, Guangxi, and Yunnan. Still very much unexplored by international tourists, marvelleous are the towering karst landform, gorges and huge cave system.

Say hello to giant pandas
Of the many animal houses at Chongqing Zoo, believed to be the biggest urban zoo in the country, Panda House is easily its main attraction, receiving more than a billion visitors every year.

 Yin Yanqiang, technical director of Giant Panda House of Chongqing Zoo and his charges (Photo credit: Xinhua)

Yin Yanqiang, technical director of Giant Panda House of Chongqing Zoo and his charges (Photo credit: Xinhua)

As Chongqing is located near Chengdu city, a major habitat of giant pandas, the zoo makes an ideal home to the pandas for the purpose of research and conservation through breeding programmes.

Panda House, which is set up according to the natural environment of the giant panda, occupies approximately 2 hectares of land, out of 45 for the entire zoo.

Take a step back in time
Setting foot in Ci Qi Kou (Porcelain Village) is like being transported back to the time of ancient China, the kind of scene that is commonly illustrated in Chinese imperial movies.

Timber and bamboo structures with huge sign boards in Mandarin, and liberally decorated with red Chinese lanterns, this is a village that is still very much untouched by development or modernisation.

 Ci Qi Kou (Photo credit: Easytourchina.com)

Ci Qi Kou (Photo credit: Easytourchina.com)

Ci Qi Kou, situated by the bank of Jialing River, was formerly known as Long Yin. The name change is a tribute to the village’s famed porcelain production, dating as far back as more than 1700 years ago, during the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911).

Although it is often said that a trip to China is a cultural exploration, a visit to Ci Qi Kou elevates that experience manifold.

The Hotpot City
While in Chongqing, don’t forget to indulge in a hotpot meal or two. With easily 50,000 and more eateries offering the hotpot, you can tell that this spicy cuisine is more than food; it is part of a lifestyle.

 Chongqing hotpot

Chongqing hotpot

It’s not for nothing that the China Cuisine Association declared Chongqing as the “Hotpot City” in 2007. An assortment of ingredients are used to cook in the hotpot filled to the brim with boiling spicy soup; three compulsory items would be ox stomach, duck intestine, and pig or ox artery.

The hotpot, which features prominently in a celebratory meal, is also comfort food on a normal day. To eat like a local when in Chongqing, go for the hotpot.

A visit to Hell
An attraction that should be included in a trip to Chongqing is Fengdu Ghost City, popular for its portrayal of the netherworld. Despite its name, there are no resident ghosts at Fengdu, don’t worry.

Fengdu Ghost City

Fengdu Ghost City

In fact, the main objective of this ghost city is possibly to spread the teachings of the combined beliefs of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, to instil traditional values through Chinese folklore as displayed via Chinese mythology. Some of the highlights within Fengdu Ghost City include the Bridge of Troubled Water, Emperor’s Palace, and Gate of Hell.

Fly to Chongqing
Although Chongqing is the common starting port for a Yangtze River cruise, as you notice, there are more to do and behold within this “Mountain City”. Chongqing awaits you to take delight in its natural wonders and also indulge in rich cultural heritage.

Note: An edited version of this article is published in the January 2019 issue of Malindo Air in-flight magazine. Photos used here are for illustration purposes only.

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