If you want to see China’s modernization for yourself, all you have to do is travel to Chongqing. Dramatic new bridges arc across the Yangtze River, and the downtown has become a forest of skyscrapers. The city’s shiny new subway system has more miles of track than Boston and Washington, D.C. combined.
But what is it like to live there?
I visited Chongqing as part of the new teacher orientation for CIEE’s Teach in China program. I also got a lot of advice and impressions from our Chongqing alumni, which helped me build this profile and description of the city!
Modern, big-city amenities
I was surprised at how many shopping malls I encountered. You’ll find local chains with goofy English phrases next to Japanese restaurants and European clothing outlets. It wasn’t hard to find movie theaters or western-style coffee shops either. I wandered into a well-stocked supermarket and found breakfast cereal, blueberry jam, and peanut butter. I will say that when it comes to pharmacies, stores focusing on traditional Chinese medicine seemed to outnumber western-style ones by about forty to one.
Nobody travels all the way to China to spend time at the mall, of course, so I was glad to see that small restaurants and family businesses are still plentiful. Without knowing a word of Mandarin, I was able to use Google’s Translate app to order a bowl of noodle soup with beef, which was delicious and wonderfully cheap. Whether you stick to a couple of tried-and-true staple dishes you know how to order, or develop a refined appreciation for local and regional cuisines (spicy Sichuan, anyone?), it’s hard to go wrong with small local restaurants like these. Yum!
Shanghai and Hong Kong may dominate the expensive-cocktail-bar scene, but Chongqing has some great, down-to-earth places to relax and party with your friends, foreign and expat alike. The most prominent one, Harp Irish Pub, is located in Hongyadong, a complex of beautiful, traditional-style buildings overlooking the river. You can also find concerts and local rock bands all the time at Nuts Live House. Harp is in Jiefangbei, and Nuts is in Yuzhong, two of the most central areas of the city.
More than just a city
Chongqing is a city of almost 10 million, but at the same time it is also a small province about the size of South Carolina. Some CIEE teachers, particularly those working at universities, are placed in other nearby cities in the province and connected to Chongqing’s central metropolis by rail and bus lines. There’s lots to explore as well; here are a few easily-accessible getaways for teachers placed in Chongqing!
Whether you're teaching abroad, or just visiting, this city on the Yangtze has a lot to offer. I hope you have a chance to visit!