Annie Bananie en Europe

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Tag Archives: sichuan

Chongqing, the Mountain City

Xiao mian of Chongqing was in the previous post about noodles so let’s talk about Chongqing. The final trip of 2019 happened in Chongqing, after a friend’s wedding took place in Chengdu in Sichuan province. Chongqing is one of four municipalities under direct government rule in China (the other three being Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin), which means that it is not part of any province (though it used to be a part of Sichuan). J and I had wanted to visit Chongqing for a while (well, it was mostly me), and because it was less than an hour and a half away from Chengdu by train, we had the perfect opportunity to visit. Chongqing is known as the “Mountain City” because it is built around hills and its elevation is constantly changing. As a result, there were a lot of stairs and layered views involved in this trip, as you will see.

It was quite cloudy during our two-day visit but thankfully it didn’t rain. The sky was gray and visibility was low, but you could see what I mean by varied elevation. Some buildings were established at ground level (by the Yangtze River, which traverses Chongqing) while others were constructed on hills. Walking around the city became a real workout at some point!

Another wide river that traverses Chongqing is the Jialing River, and this bridge was still under construction when we were there. Still gray all around…

City trips in recent years have become more relaxing as I’ve stop chasing landmarks and prefer slow, spontaneous explorations. J and I wandered around random streets without really knowing where we were going, turning corners here and there. This is a sign that says “Beautiful Zhongshan 4th Road” ๐Ÿ™‚

There is a walking trail that runs through the hills along the Yangtze River known as the “Mountain City Alley”. Along the trail you could see some old houses and remains of the past. I especially like how it is hidden within a forested area, and people below in the streets can’t really see the trail above, making it almost like a secret tunnel.

There were some fantastic murals to be seen along the trail and here are some of my favourites. I think in the one with the dog and the chessboard, the front part of the chessboard was actually real and sticking out from the wall…which means that only half the chess set was present. Ooo and the cat’s eyes…they stare deep into my soul as if it knows everything about me…meow.

By the way, you know what Chongqing is most famous for? Spicy hot pot, of course!! The Chongqing locals love their hot pot and have a million ways of eating it, but it must be as spicy as you could imagine. We met up with a friend of J who works in Chongqing and went for hot pot one evening. Yes those are chili peppers in the red hot boiling water. The round part in the middle is the clear non-spicy soup, which was severely needed. It’s not that I can’t handle the spiciness, but I feel that immersing the food in chili peppers kind of ruins the original taste of the food (what a Cantonese thing to say). Thankfully there was the choice to alternate between the two. And yes there were veggies, they were on a cart beside the table ๐Ÿ˜›

You see how much Chongqing loves its spicy food? They even have a chili pepper statue as a mascot in one of the public squares! The information below the statue reads: “CAPSICA RedLight – A giant bronze red chili pepper sculpture, crafted by the famous Italian artist Giuseppe Carta, with height of 6.5 m and weight of 2.3 tons. The miniature sculptures of the ‘CAPSICA RedLight’ and of the ‘World’s Biggest Hotspot’ were firstly exhibited at the 2015 World Expo in Milan, Italy.”

Now we continued our city exploration and I wanted to find a cafe to sit down and write. Upon searching on the Internet, I found a place that was supposedly hidden in local residential complexes but offered a magnificent view of Chongqing. The instructions said that we had to climb steps to go up approximately nine storeys…what!!! I was ready for a workout but the serendipitous thing was that we by chance took the bus that dropped us off at the TOP of the steps, which meant that we missed out on the anticipated intense uphill walk…to my delight! Here’s the view looking down and you can bet that I was super thankful for my streak of luck!


And what we found was a chic little cafe where we spent some time chilling and relaxing. I ordered a matcha latte and J ordered an original one. Then I took out my journal to write while J napped a little ๐Ÿ˜‰

Looking out to the left, I could see what my colleague told me about: if you were at the bottom of the hill, you’d think that you could see the top of a building, but from another angle, the “top” might be the ground floor of another building. And this is the norm in Chongqing. No wonder you’re called the Mountain City!

Ah, yes, this is the view from the cafe that I was talking about. Again it was SUPER cloudy so it was less impressive than it should have been. I surprised myself by not taking the cable car across the river. It was something that I had planned to do, but in the end we didn’t want to be too rushed. We certainly will come back to Chongqing some day – after all I have to come back to this very cafe to catch a night view of Chongqing, which is bound to be amazing.

Here we were at Chaotianmen (Chaotian Gate), which is the point at which the Yangtze and Jiangling rivers converge. Bad-angle selfie time!

This is a scene that is unimagineable in COVID-19 times but was anticipated for many as it was new year’s eve. There was some event that was happening here, but we were just passing by and we weren’t joining the crazy crowd. Definitely a good idea that we got out of there as fast as we could…

The next destination was Hongyadong (Hongya Cave), which sort of went viral as the tourist hotspot in Chongqing. I guess it’s clear why – it looked splendid at night! The area was supposedly a reconstruction of historical architecture that is now overly commercialized, like any other tourist destination. We didn’t go into the actual lit up area and preferred this view from the Qiansimen (Qiansi Gate) Bridge.

The Qiansimen Bridge crosses the Jialing River and this is the view of the other side, facing Hongyadong. Love the night views – it’s got some Shanghai vibe to it, doesn’t it?

The official we-are-spending-new-year’s-even-in-Chongqing-and-Hongyadong-is-behind-us selfie. I don’t get to travel as much anymore but trips like this remind me that I love travel, I love traveling with this man, and I love this man!!! โค

Final look at Chongqing after we’ve crossed the Qiansimen Bridge. Hongyadong is now on the other side with the gleaming metropolis as its backdrop. Regrettably J and I were only able to spend two days in Chongqing and we barely scratched the surface of what this sophisticated city has to offer. There aren’t many places that I say I’d go back to after traveling there, but Chongqing is one of the few that I’d like to return to and explore more in-depth. Shouldn’t be too out-of-reach as it is right next to Hubei Province, but the limiting factor here is vacation days. Oh well, hope to see you again sometime, neighbour!

Two weeks in China, part 2: Chengdu, why did I even come?

After the food edition in part 1, here is the more comprehensive Chengdu entry. Be warned of the photo spam, but more could be found on Facebook, for the photo addict ๐Ÿ˜‰

China, though my home for the first 8 years of my life, is a mystery to be unravelled. The last time I visited China was during the summer in 2010. Every time I go back to China, a mix of joy, excitement, and nervousness brews inside of me. There is something that always connects you with the place where you were born, no matter how long ago you’ve left and how far away you’ve gone. It’s like tracing your steps back to your roots. You find your way through the most unfamiliar territories, but end up right back at where you started, in the very beginning. Do you still call it home? CAN you still call it home?

9 hours from Amsterdam to Chengdu. With every second, the little airplane icon on the screen moved closer to the destination, and the heart anticipated a little bit more. I dared not imagine what awaited me in the motherland. This would be an adventure, just like any other, except nothing like any other.

The 9th WBC

The 9th World Biomaterials Congress was the reason why I had the opportunity to go to Chengdu in the first place. The 5-day event, held every 4 years, is the biggest and most important conference in my field of work, and this year it happened to be in China. (A side note: the next one, to be held in 2016, will be in Montreal, Canada!) I went with my entire lab in France, a group of 6. In the name of academia, we were off!

From Bordeaux to Chengdu, we’d only have to make a transfer in Amsterdam with KLM – I was so glad we didn’t have to go through Paris! Upon landing in China, the group promptly took a taxi to the hotel in downtown Chengdu. I was surprised to see banners on the side of the highway advertising the congress (or conference, I’ll use these terms interchangeably)…I didn’t know it was such a big deal!

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Two weeks in China, part 1: Chengdu, food edition

I wrote this post for the YYSS CAST Blog and I thought it’d make a nice “Part 1” to my China series. After all, what better way to start off a new page, after two weeks of absence, with a mouth-watering entry? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Of course, the post on the 9th World Biomaterials Congress will be coming, so stay tuned!


I had a chance to go to Chengdu, China for a conference in June, and in my free time, my colleagues and I explored the city of Chengdu to hunt for its delicacies. Chengdu is located in Sichuan province in south-west China, and is known for its taste of “numbing spiciness”. As if spiciness itself wasn’t enough, the numbing sensation that the food leaves on your tongue adds an extra dimension to the enjoyment. I’ve heard so much about the authentic Sichuanese street food and was dying to try some out and challenge my tolerance to spiciness. Let’s get started, shall we? (Click to view full-sized version of pictures.)

Ironically the first thing I show you is not street food, but another must-do of Chengdu – ้บป่พฃ็ซ้‹, or spicy hot pot. This is just the beginning, before any real food was dipped into the pot, and it was already fuming with hotness. For those who would rather not be too adventurous, there’s the middle pot with standard, non-spicy soup. Surprisingly the hot pot wasn’t as spicy as I had expected. Maybe my tolerance is indeed started to increase thanks to the spicy-loving people at fellowship feeding me spicy food every weekend…

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