Both Chengdu and Chongqing were in the province of Sichuan, home of wonderful food--hot, spicy and delicious;
however, Chongqing now has its own status as a special  municipality but its heart remains Sichuan. By far the best
meals of our trip were in these two cities. Following the recommendation of the concierge at the Crown Plaza in
Chengdu, we took a taxi to the Gingko Restaurant where we had a wonderful meal in a beautiful place with
outstanding service--actually, quite refined and elegant. This is one of the few places that dressing appropriately was
important. The charming waitress helped us select our dishes and her suggestions were superb. Again, referring to my
notes; "It may have been the best Chinese food I have ever had." Later we were told that it is "the best" restaurant in
the city. As was the norm on this trip, whenever we deviated from the "tourist trail", we found ourselves to be the
only non-Chinese in sight. Our best experiences were at these times.
Chengdu is the home of the pandas and the renowned Panda Research Base. It is
from here that the San Diego Zoo pandas come as well as the others within the
United States. There is an extensive nursery with several doctors in attendance taking
gentle care of the new pandas--particularly those who are motherless for any number
of reasons. The toddler, teen-age and adult pandas freely roam in large, open areas
separated from visitors by only dry moats and small fences. We were able to be very
close to them as they entertained with their playfulness and exercises. The base itself
is quite large as not only is the bamboo cultivated there, a separate area is home to
the rare red pandas--which look like red raccoons. They hide in the trees and so can
be difficult to spot. We did get to see them, fortunately.
Red Panda
Chengdu is also the location of
the Wuhou Temple and the Du
Fu Thatched Cottage. Both of
these are set in beautiful, lush
gardens with lovely trees and
Chengdu--Roof Decoration
Chengdu Wuhou Temple Grounds
Chengdu is a very modern city and quite pleasant. We would have liked more time here. Next to our hotel, which was
very luxurious, elegant and sophisticated, was an upscale department store which we wandered through. Just like at
home, prices were high and we saw no real bargains but it was interesting. With most Chinese citizens earning small
salaries, we wonder who the clientele is for such merchandise. We did not see people wearing such upscale clothes.
Before leaving to see the sights of Chongqing, prior to boarding the ship for the
Yangtze cruise, we walked through the streets. Well-dressed men and women were
arriving for work in the office buildings and businesses. And, by now Yang Yang
knew our taste in food so she took us to another good place for lunch--not a tourist

Chongqing has a very interesting Artists Village that somehow survived the Cultural
Revolution and is home of many artists whose works are displayed in world
museums. We had the opportunity to talk with one of the artists who had been there
for many years. He was interesting as he shared not only technique but experiences.
Erling Park sits on a hilltop with nice views of the two rivers that
converge in Chongqing--the muddy Yangtze and the clear Jialing.
Unfortunately the fog and polluted haze was so thick the day we
were there that we could not see either river. This park was where
Chiang Kaishek had his summer home. There was a good museum
here which clearly showed the details of the Three Gorge Dam
project. Using large wall murals, it showed what the new water
levels are going to do to the towns and villages along the Yangtze
with the figures of the number of people who will be displaced and
relocated due to the flooding--probably over two million.  In a couple
of places the river will rise so much that entire populations will be
relocated to distant places. In most towns, new towns are being built
higher up the mountain side or across the river.
Can you find the Two Rivers Down Below?
We spent time in the People's
Square and Hall--a small
Tiananmen Square with residents
walking the exhibits and park. The
hall is a large theater--seats 4000
people. Live performances and
major political meetings and events
are held here.

While people watching, we enjoyed
this grandfather lovingly taking care
of and playing with his little grand-
Grandfather and granddaughter--Peoples Square
daughter as we do with our precious
grandson--gave us a few minutes of
homesickness. It brought home once again
that, in truth, people are the same where ever
they life. Regardless of life styles and politics,
love and softness for a child is universal.

Elsewhere in the square we enjoyed the
scene of an older couple in their sixties
proudly posing for their wedding pcitures.
Sidewalk Seamstress in Poor Section of Chongqing
A little later we had early dinner, so that we could arrive at the
cruise ship before the big buses got there. On the drive down the
hill to the water, we went through a very poor section of town
where hundreds of people who have been impacted by the closing
of government industries live. These people have only small
retirement incomes--not enough to live on. As private enterprise
booms, the inefficiency of the government plants can not be
maintained so they just shut down. Many of these people set up
sidewalk businesses such as this woman with her sewing machine.
I couldn't help but contrast what I was seeing with the luxury I was
headed for onboard ship. Life doesn't seem to be too fair.
China Home
Off to Three Gorges

C  H   I   N  A
In Chongqing we wanted to sample the famous Hot Pot. Guide Yang-Yang, once we
convinced her that we really do like spicy food, did not approve of the concierge's
recommendation (said it was too commerical and expensive), so she took us to a
place where the local people go. A Hot Pot is a large cauldron set on the table with
hot broth and a center bowl with very hot, spicy broth. They brought many different
foods to the table--fish, chicken, beef, crab, sausage, myriads of vegetables, etc.-- and
then we cooked them in which ever broth we wanted. They occasionally brought
delightful dim sum snacks to cleanse the palatte as spicy is really spicy. Because we
had no idea what we were doing, could not understand the language, did not know
how to dip and cook, or when to retrieve food from the cooking liquids, a waiter was
assigned to take care of us. He made all the selections and did the cooking--as things
needed to cook for different lengths of time. We became the entertainment for the
evening as other patrons eyed us and the restaurant staff took turns coming to our
little nook to stand and watch. Later Yang-Yang told us that we had impressed them
all as we handled both the chop sticks and the heat with no problems--real pros in
both areas. Strangely, we could have all the beer we wanted--no charge, but needed
to pay for water. Beer seemed to work well in subduing the heat.
old traditional Chinese buildings, pavillions and
temple structures. The Du Fu Thatched Cottage is a
recreation of the home of a very famous 8th
century poet whom school children still study today.
He wrote of common sufferings and life
predicaments and so was liked by the common
people. His poetry is quite functional and direct.
Buddha in Wuhou Temple
Our travel within China was all by air except the trip from Chengdu to Chongqing which saw us on a bus. We enjoyed
this experience. Although 4 1/2 hours is long, it didn't seem that way as we watched the enthralling countryside. The
route went through farming land, rice paddies,duck raising and beautiful scenery. The farmers, wearing the
sterotypical straw hats, work their fields by hand--very intensive labor. Small plots with each growing something
different. Houses were quite shabby and run down looking.
Bus from Chengdu to Chongqing
We were the only Caucasians on the bus--all the rest were local
people making the trip between the two cities. Strange videos ran on
the TV screen the entire time. They were hilarious. English captions
were used. The plots were pointless and inane--dialogue was bizarre
with references to bodily functions and four letter words throughout.
We got a kick out of them when we would periodically take time
from watching the passing scenery. It was funny when we passed
other buses--all full of Chinese. Someone would see my white face
and literally do a double take.When we were driving through the
streets, the same thing would happen. Guess people are not used to
seeing tourist travel on regular buses. Funny!
Yang Yang met us in Chongqing. She is only 22 and her English is not as polished as
the other guides so communication was a little more difficult but she was a little doll.
After dinner we walked around a Times Square type plaza. All the stores were open
and many people were just strolling, shopping and socializing. Little children ran
around by themselves. This is a city of contrasts, like China itself. During the day it is
squalid, dirty, depressing as you can see by the apartments and results of heavy
industrialization on the buildings. At night there are a thousand lights. Buildings,
bridges, streets are lit up in every color. It is quite mesmorizing and beautiful. People
seem happy here as opposed to Xian.
Panda Sanctuary in Chengdu