Yangtze mementoes: Part 7

Chongqing. June 2nd.

Milling onto the network of wooden planks and metal platforms joining our cruiser and the riverbank, we are greeted by a lion dance. A welcoming back to the town we left almost a week ago, almost too pompous. A tour bus awaits us, together with a scattered group of street vendors selling local arts and crafts – aggressive women in gawdy blouses selling painted fans, a shifty-eyed old man with a pad of Chinese ink horse paintings – parading their goods in our face through the bus windows, and even aboard the bus. Their persistence lasted the entire length of the equally earnest, huffing and puffing yet strong local weight-carriers transporting our weighty luggage with wooden sticks and strands of rope on their shoulders from the cruiser all the way up to the riverbank to our bus.

Our next stop is the former private residence of Song Meiling (the youngest of the illustrious Song sisters, wife of Chiang Kai-shek, who maintained the Chinese capital at Chongqing in the early years of the Republic), now serving as a public park. Thus, we have the uncanny privilege to stand on the footprints of Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong, two sworn enemies one of whose rare meetings took place at the entrance to the pavillion now made into an art gallery and history museum. A commercialized art gallery no less, with price-haggling over dubious historical art exhibits and works by renowned Chinese artists.

Lunch was finally partaken over the sumptuous 火锅 (hot pot) with 2 soup sections – one with the 麻辣 (numbing hot) flavor, and the other plain, after which we were shepherded to yet another tourist-shopping spree – an arts and crafts shop selling local specialties and a shopping mall district. The clothing in the shopping malls are not much cheaper than in my home country, attesting to the rising standard of living among the locals. Dinner was unforgettable, but in a sort of bitter after-taste. We were given the impression by the local chef of a special treat to a storied boat-restaurant by the Jia Ling River (smaller cousin to the Yangtze). It turned out to be on the tour group. Nonetheless, the biggest fish feast I have ever had in my life – I lost count of the number of Yangtze fish dishes cooked in the rich myriad ways of Chinese cuisine.

By the Jia Ling River

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~ by musafiremes on July 27, 2007.

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