On to Chongqing
I asked Claire what her favorite part of China was so far and she said it was her new buddy, another daughter in our group. We have separated from her and the others and today just our family traveled to Chongqing, a large city in central China, in the province of Claire’s orphanage.
We checked out of the Beijing hotel and paid for the laundry service we used a few days earlier. $90 to wash a handful of items. Perhaps we should have purchased an armload of $1 T-shirts back at the Great Wall.
In the hotel lobby, a woman from Tucson, Arizona approached us and mentioned that she and her husband did the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure too. She had recognized my 8-year-old GOBA T-shirt from half a world away.
As we waited to for the van to take us to the airport she asked “Do they have squat toilets on the plane?” Traditional Chinese toilets are just a basin flush (no pun intended) to the floor; you spread you legs and squat to relieve yourself. I imagine that would be difficult in a plane’s confined lavatory.
As we boarded the plane, they offered a newspaper for us to read. Claire grabbed the Shanghai Securities News to look at, although I’m pretty sure she realized China’s leading financial newspaper was written entirely in Mandarin.
Each new city brings a new local tour guide. In Chongqing, we were met by Windy, a comely young lady with big blue eyes courtesy of Bausch and Lomb. Her English is excellent. I joked that it was better than mine after she came up with an English word that had escaped me for a moment. She helped us check into the hotel and she helped the hotel receptionist exchange our money. They don’t get many foreigners here and receptionist was not familiar with the process. We’re getting a few more stares when we walk the street than we did in Beijing.
Chongqing is a huge city, five times bigger in area than Beijing and greater in population. Very different than it was eight years ago. It is built in a very mountainous area and it is very hot, humid and smoggy. Today it was 89 degrees; the day before we arrived it was 104. And this is the month before the peak summer season. There are no bikes in this city because it so hilly, but they do have shirtless “Stick Men” who loiter the streets with bamboo sticks and can be hired to carry items, like groceries, up and down the street for you. Something to think about if my software assignments dry up back home.
We’ve been eating local food for awhile now, but we broke down and McDonald’s comfort food for dinner. Chris ordered off the laminated picture menu they have for those who don’t speak Mandarin or the local Sichuanese dialect, which is apparently very different. We had Italian gelato down the street afterward.
Yes, you read that right. Americans in China eating an Italian dessert.