Sunday was the beginning of China's national holiday and what better way to celebrate than get 9 days off teaching! I wanted to do some traveling during the holiday, but wasn't sure where or how. When I was pondering this question over some jaozi (dumpling), out of nowhere an agent called me with a gig in Chongqing. I had always been interested in visiting this city, as it was near Chengdu, and even LARGER! Prior to 1997, Chongqing was the capital of the Sichuan province. Thanks to the three gorges powerplant project, Chongqing merged with nearby communties Fuling and Wanxian to create a separate municipality. Now Chongqing contains more than 30 million people. It's an interesting place, situated bewteen the Yangzi and Jialing rivers, Chongqing is a mountainous city. You won't find bikes and mopeds like you would in Chengdu as most of Chongqing is located on the Yungui Plateau. The train ride to the city was about 5 1/2 hours from Chengdu. When we arrived we dined on Chonqing's specialty: Hot Pot.
The gig itself was located in the outskirts of the city. Just across the road from the huge residential development were rolling hills of lush farmlands. I thought if it wasn't for all of this pollution (or "fog" as locals called it) it might be a nice place to live. The gig was located on a outdoor stage of the showroom of a huge real estate company. I should mention that I wasn't alone in this venture. Fellow saxophonist and Connectictuan Josh Katz shared the stage with me and Dr. Aerbersold (our cd accompaniment). Over the next two days we had a total of three appearances for about 15 minutes each. The travel and accomidations were all provided, plus a salary. Consequently, we felt very fortunate for this little vacation. Between our shows, another local 'English Rock' - style band played. They were made up of a keyboardist, bassist and singer; all Chinese. Josh and I immediatly saw the opportunity to combine forces, but our manager would allow this. Managers here often see their performers as property; especially foreigners. Neverthless, we were quick to befriend this band and made plans to meet them later Monday night.
We had some fun with a group of bored kids who were brave enough to approach us. The oldest was obviously learning a little English, but fell back into Chinese as Josh demonstrated his knowledge. It was nice to have a little distractions as we had some free time bewteen our shows.
Monday evening, we got a chance to explore downtown Chongqing. Compared to Chengdu, i felt it was much more modern and aesthetically pleasing. We began at a food temple. This was similar to other one I had been in Shanghai and Nanjing, but was still a lot of fun. The temple was built on the side of the plateau near adjacent to the Chang Jiang (Yangzi River). Inside, the place was bustling with all kinds of street food, trinkets and people everywhere. We met up with our agent's friend, then headed to dinner.
Tuesday's performances went like clockwork. After the morning gig, we had a few hours break, so we decided to go to the local amusement park. Although it had similarities to American fun parks: rides, midway, junk food etc, there were some aspects which made me feel a little unsafe. First, cars were allowed to drive through the main streets. This was a bad idea for one: Chinese drivers feel that pedestrians don't exist, two: they're never happy waiting in line. The next danger was a go-kart track located next to a camel riding ring, next to an ATV track, and the fences did not look very sturdy. The park was truly amusing thanks to the "Golden Reception Hall" complete with Western chapel in the center of the park. This seemed like the place to go when getting hitched in Chongqing. Thanks to the cars, tons of people, pollution, 90 degree heat and general uncleanliness of the place after an hour or so, I felt like this:
We played one more performance before grabbing the 5:50 train back to Chengdu. Unfortunately, I had lost my return ticket we had to get to the train station early to buy a new one. It only took a few minutes to find a scalper and bought the same a ticket for the same train at the same cost! A meal of low quality beef noodles and we were off back to Chengdu. During the 5 hours back, I couldn't help to think about how in 10 years or so, Chongqing could be up there with Beijing and Shanghai. After all, 30 million people is nothing to sneeze at.