Final Thoughts: Those things that interest you more than the touristy places…

As our team wraps up the project and leaves tomorrow for Columbus, I feel the need to pen down my final thoughts about this city – this country – these people.

I love walking around a city, or taking its public transport. I feel its the best way to get to know a city better. You come across so many interesting things, sights, people, events etc. around you. Its the best way to get to the soul of a city. That’s what I always told people about Mumbai (where I was born and raised) – you want to feel the soul of this city? Just walk around.

Yes we walked, and we walked, and walked. Sometimes with a fixed destination in mind, or sometimes just bumping into places (even better). The photos in the previous blog, are all the touristy places that we went TO, whereas what you see now, are the observations along the way, or let’s just say, those things that interest you more than the touristy places:


The spices of Chongqing 

A Chinese astrologer reading (deciding?) someone’s future


An old man selling some meat skewers


A street food scene


Chinese DIY


 A young lady on the ipad, at a local tea store


The traditional way of serving tea. The hospitality you experience at a local tea house is simply humbling.


A fruit seller with his carrying pole. This is the local way of transferring small goods here. 


IMG_5171Walking down the lane…

IMG_5460Shoot and win


Two women selling heads/teeth of actual dog carcass. From what I got to know, it is supposed to ward off evil. 


 You see them everywhere. Good luck charms? Jewelry?


Women gambling

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 Everywhere I went, I saw so many spots where people would just sit and gamble.

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 Chinese dominoes?


Loved listening to their music


He was singing a Chinese song. We praised his music. And then he starts singing ‘Unchained Melody’!


 These little dogs are EVERYWHERE in Chongging


Pet dog of a dye maker. I’m serious


Three wheelers. A very common sight.

 Check out the video


Curious kid


Grumpy kid


Smiley kid

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Funky kid

IMG_5602Everything has a meaning!



I asked her if could take her photo. She said very sweetly, “Yes you can'” I told her that her English is very good (For a moment I went back to the ‘Stuff’ Indians are asked article on Buzzfeed – sigh). She smiled, removed this book from her bag, and said, “This, is my English book!”

Key Takeaways:

  1. Crazy infrastructure
  2. Just interacting with people here can be a very humbling experience
  3. Dictionary/Translation app can do wonders
  4. You get mangoes in China. Your life is awesome.
  5. Chongqing is very green
  6. Surprisingly good traffic scenario despite the busyness of the city
  7. Pandas are funny
  8. China and India are a LOT similar
  9. Tea houses are the best
  10. Sichuan Opera would be the only other thing I would give up visiting a tea house for
  11. It helps enormously to have a local friend who can help you deal with a lot of things. We are very grateful to many people we came across here, some of whom we hope to keep in touch with
  12. Chongqing is INDEED the ‘mountain city’ or the ‘crane city’
  13. Chinese kids are the cutest
  14. Bullet trains are impressive
  15. Sichuanese cuisine is INDEED spicy. Been there, done that.
  16. Mayo and Nega are the two most commonly used (or heard by me) words

Cya China!


Three Natural Bridges

Skiles and I set out to find what we felt was the main attraction of western China, nature. It didn’t go quite as we envisioned it though.

After a bit of a circus ordeal with bussing, 3 hour bus ride, questionable lunch, and an unexpected additional tour fee we finally came to the first attraction, Fairy Mountain. The ride up the mountain seemed like there would be some pretty cool scenery once we got out and looked around. However, what we came to was literally just a prairie in a cloud. Also, we brought an empty bottle but were disappointed to find there was no fairy fountain anywhere. It did have a bunch of random cartoon characters and this guy in it though:

Yup, that's a random T-Rex. Skiles braved the water for a better picture but I decided to pass.
Yup, that’s a random T-Rex. You can tell by the tiny arms.

We then continued our tour, which was just a ride in an uncomfortable train thing back to where we started. So for those of you keeping score at home, we’ve spent a moderate sum of money and 6 hours of time to get cold and wet and see an inexplicable T-Rex in a field of grass.

At this point we departed for the second and last attraction of the day, the Three Natural Bridges. Once we got there though, our day instantly took a turn for awesome as we quickly discovered why this area became an UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007.

Our first glimpse before taking an elevator down
Our first glimpse before taking an elevator down


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Even I'll take a selfie at a place like this.
Even I’ll take a selfie at a place like this.


Skiles' happy face
Skiles’ happy face

It was a breathtaking ~3 mile trail, and needless to say we left pretty pleased with our experience for the day, T-Rex and all.

People Find a Way

Starting with my initial taxi ride from the airport here in Chongqing one thing has been very clear: the Chinese don’t let very much stand between them and their goals. Driving is a pretty simple example. There are lines and general traffic rules, and people follow them, until it’s more effective not to. Every time I’ve been in a car I’ve been amazed at how there is no semblance of order, yet no one ever gets in an accident. This has also been apparent in the business world, where despite laws for lots of things, they are bent or broken whenever needed to accomplish something important.

Side note: many Chinese don’t have cars and don’t drive, which explains how the poor driving stereotype developed since they come to America and are forced to drive everywhere for the first time in their life. However, driving is an actual skilled profession here, and the Chinese that do drive are phenomenally better drivers than the average American (they actually pay attention to what they are doing).

Where we're going we don't need roads! Even in a 200k car.
Where we’re going we don’t need roads! Even in a 200k car.

Anyway, my point is that people here just get things done. Need power? Just rig a line on the sidewalk and throw some cement over it. A ladder? Use whatever you can find to hold two bamboo sticks together. Cable TV in the office? Drill through the stone wall of this multi-million dollar skyscraper and hook it up. This list could go on forever. One fact pretty much sums up the town: The peninsula of Chongqing is literally a mountain, and they built a downtown on top of it anyway.

Standard permanent wiring job
Standard permanent wiring job
Brand new 900ft skyscraper
Brand new 900ft skyscraper

While some of this comes across as a little comical, the reality is that instead of wasting time worrying about how to do something, the Chinese are just getting it done. And what they are getting done in Chongqing is incredibly impressive.

Wifi in the phenomenal Three Gorges Museum
Wifi in the phenomenal Three Gorges Museum


The Tourists of Chongqing

We, the tourists of Chongqing, and all the touristy places in this sprawling city.


Leaving a mark – at Great Hall of the People, Chongqing.


Hongya Cave


The People’s Liberation Monument (and Gucci), at Jiefangbei


Jiefangbei! Our home!


The Three Gorges Museum


Chongqing Guotai Arts Center


A string of 60 Chinese kites – at Chaotianmen Square


Arhat (Luohan) Temple. That’s Chongqing for you, Constructions, skyrises, and a temple – all in one frame.


The beautiful Eling Park


Chongqing Skyline – View from the Yangtze River cable car ride


Skyline – by the night

Chengdu Trip – Sichuan Opera and Le Shan Grand Buddha

All right folks – so after seeing the adorable pandas, we headed off to Jinli Ancient Street in Chengdu, which basically is a bustling street where you can savor some delicious street food and also shop in small stores for several traditional items Later in the evening, I decided to go watch the Sichuan Opera, and I’m VERY GLAD that I made this decision. The Opera was FANTASTIC featuring some incredible acts and traditional performances. Take a look at the pictures:





Following are photos of The Costume and Face Changing Acts. These performers changed their masks/costumes in split seconds!

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The next day, I was all excited to go to The Grand Buddha site, at Le Shan, near Chengdu. I was particularly interested in this visit since I was very intrigued by the fact the mighty Buddha(233 ft) was built several years ago in 713, and was carved out of a cliff (in those days! How challenging would that be?). The following pictures speak volumes about the mightiness of the holy Buddha.

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Tourists praying by the feet of the Grand Buddha.

Kneeling at the feet to pray, and then looking up, gazing at the Grand Buddha – this moment has been etched in my memory forever.

Another memorable experience for me was visiting the ancient temple near the Grand Buddha, and the conversations about various religions with my guide/friend. She gave me some great insights into Chinese Buddhism, and while conversing with her, and through observations, I noticed commonalities between Chinese Buddhism and Hinduism. She also explained to me the various symbols around the temple (I loveeeeeeee symbolism!)  This got us talking about Buddhism in China, Tibet, and India, Hinduism, and Taoism. We spoke at length throughout the trip, and I ended my day, feeling a deep sense of joy from exploring Chengdu, and meeting its people. To me, more than the touristy places, it is the little observations made by walking around a city, and the people you come across, that make the journey worthwhile.

Photos of the ancient temple:
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That’s it on Chengdu. I will blog further about our ‘Walks’ around Chongqing and key takeaways on China – the experience 🙂

Chengdu Trip – Pandas!

So, JT, JP, and I headed out to Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan Province (and a city that has impressed me in terms of its size, infrastructure, tourism, and people), to go see some PANDAS!

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Yes, we were at the Giant Panda Breeding Research Center, Chengdu. We did learn several interesting facts about the endangered Pandas while we were there, but for me, it was super funny to just watch these pandas either 1. Eat 2. Sleep 3. Eat 4. Sleep! Oh and if that life was not awesome enough, they also don’t have to bother much about taking a bath since frequent bathing can adversely affect their body temperature. *Like a boss*

These pictures can tell you about  the Panda Lifestyle: (BTW, we got to see some baby pandas, teenage pandas, giant pandas, and red pandas!)


1. Eating Panda


2. Sleeping Panda


3. Eating AND Sleeping Panda


4. More Sleeping Panda…

5. And More Eating Panda…



6. And finally – this one was class – ‘Rubbing Butt Against the Tree Panda’


7. No wonder toilets at this breeding center are hi-tech with options such as ‘Massage’

Oh, and the highlight of the trip for us – getting our photographs clicked with this  adorable! celebrity! baby panda!


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The Adventures of Question Boy and Spicy Girl: Part One

You may be asking yourself, who are Question Boy and Spicy Girl?  All will be revealed by the third volume of this saga (but for those of you who know JP, you should have no problem figuring it out before then).

After our first week of work here in Chongqing, China, JP and I decided that we had to go somewhere for the weekend to explore the natural beauty of Western China.  So we began searching for weekend tours of Sichuan province.  After considering many options, we decided on a guided tour of Le Shan and Emei Shan (famous mountains in Sichuan Province) with an overnight stay in a Buddhist Monastery at the foot of Emei Shan. The tour began on Saturday morning and left from Chengdu, China, about 350 km away from Chongqing.  So, unable to recruit anyone else for our epic adventure, Friday evening after work we hopped on the metro and made our way to the Chongqing train station.

The metro system here in Chongqing is great! It is clean, easy to use, and very modern.  During rush hour, though, it becomes crowded with thousands of people shoving and yelling, trying to leave the city for the suburbs.  After pushing through many crowded lines (which JP attempted to facilitate by shouting “watch out! Americans coming through!”)  and boarding several crowded cars, we finally got to the train station about one hour after we left downtown.  We learned an important lesson that evening: apparently, if you want a train out of a major city in China on a Friday night, you have to buy your tickets days in advance.  Finally, we were able to get tickets on the last train out of Chongqing, which meant we had three hours to burn at the train station.  We took off to grab something to eat and take some pictures.

JP drawing attention to himself


After three hours of walking around, eating, and drinking a few beers, we finally got ready to board the bullet train to Chengdu.  The train system in China is one of the largest networks in the world.  It connects all cities in China and is heavily used by citizens.  Our trip from Chongqing to Chengdu, which is 350 km away, only took 2 hours, and that included one stop midway!  At its fastest our train was traveling 196 km/h, or 122 mph.


We finally arrived into beautiful Chengdu at 11:30 that night, exhausted but excited for the weekend ahead.  Stay tuned for parts two and three of our adventures in Sichuan Province!

Getting Sick and Getting Better

Getting sick is never fun – even when at home, surrounded by a familiar and comfortable environment. Getting sick while in a foreign country – let me tell you, it’s even less fun. I don’t recommend it. But at least you get to try a bunch of different medicines!

No prescriptions needed in China.

When I first started feeling ill, I didn’t know what I had. I did know, though, that I could whip whatever little bug had me down. Well, I was wrong. It was the flu, and it whipped me for about 5 days straight.

Our client contact was amazing. He checked in on me as often as he could and every time he’d bring me more medicine, to add to the collection of pills I’d brought from the US. Since I had a pretty good fever (101+), we were concentrating our efforts on breaking that. The goal was to sweat it out, but for some reason I wasn’t sweating enough. I tried it all – including boiling coke with ginger and drinking it hot (quite delicious I must say, and classy when sipped from a wine glass).

Coke in a wine glass
Just because you feel ill doesn’t mean you have to lack style.

Once we figured out that I wasn’t going to whip whatever I had, I went to the doctor and got more drugs, including Tamiflu. Within a day I was right as rain again.

A word about the doctor visit: we went to the clinic recommended by our student health insurance. It was ridiculously easy and fast. Tell me about that operational efficiency. The most difficult part, apparently, was the office lady figuring out how to dial internationally to reach the insurance company.

Highlights of the experience: vomiting so hard it burst a blood vessel in my throat.

Key takeaways: GET A FLU SHOT.

Quiz (not Economist) Night

We went for a quiz night.

Amidst the international restaurants at the Cave (refer previous post), is an American bar called Cliff’s, which by the way, also happens to host quiz nights every week(and that we had no idea about). We headed to this place, and once there, decided to join some students from the Chongqing University who were there after class. Upon chatting with them we found out that the entire place was mostly filled with students from all over the world (Sweden, England, Canada, Belarus, Italy, California etc.) who had come all the way to China to learn Mandarin at the Chongqing University. I was curious to know what made them take such a decision, and the most common response was that learning a foreign language, in this case Mandarin, helped get lucrative jobs. Oh and once again, yet again, once more! We came across folks from Ohio! They were employees of the Ford Motor Company in Ohio and had come to Chongqing on a work assignment.

Anyway, moving on to the quiz.

There were multiple rounds in this quiz and one of the rounds was on ‘automotives’. Annnnnd one of the questions in this round was this – Which Indian company purchased the Land Rover brand from Ford Motor Company? The answer? It’s obvious – The Tata Motors.

While chatting, one of the girls we met there asked us, “So how did you guys know about the Tata Motors question?” We told her that (not entirely applicable to me since I’m from India anyway) you cannot NOT know about the Tata Group if you are in b-school. Unfortunately, nothing was asked on the Lincoln Electrics, the Zaras, and the Southwests, else we could be first – who knows.

We eventually came second in the quiz and got two rounds of free drinks for the night!

Ending the post with some ‘exhibits’ to make you nostalgic.

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The Cave :)

Yesterday, we headed out to the famous ‘Hongya Cave’ in Chongqing, which is basically a tourist attraction by the riverside and one of my favorite spots here to hang out. This place houses various restaurants – both local and international, live music by some really interesting talents, and markets to buy local Chinese food items, souvenirs etc. Overall, the Hongya Cave brings together some great cultural, entertainment, and dining experiences for tourists. However, this is not what appeals the most to me about the Cave. I love such bustling places but what I really like about this one is its silent beauty and aesthetic appeal among all the hustle and bustle. The sheer ambience here is beautiful, with hundreds of brightly lit red Chinese lamps and so is the architecture,  as the entire place is built on wooden stilts. You also get some serene views of the intersection of the Yangtze and Jialing rivers, and the Chongqing skyline.


The Cave – built on wooden stilts by the riverside


Beautiful red Chinese lamps, riverside view, and a glimpse of the skyline


International restaurants lined up at the cave


Brightly lit!





A local market


The wooden stilts are representative of the traditional Bayu architecture which is known for the stilt houses or diajiaolou built along the hillsides. The Bayu culture originated in the mountainous regions of Chongqing in the Sichuan province of southwest China and the Ba people are known to be very brave and valiant in nature, having faced rough conditions on the mountains.

Overall, the Chongqing municipality is unique in that the entire city is built on mountains, and has a topography comprising of rivers, mountains, and a lottttttt of greenery(It rains a lot and the climate is mostly humid)! I was indeed surprised to see the amount of natural greenery around me despite the large amount of constructions going on in this city. As I mentioned before, Chongqing is the world’s fastest developing city (and also one of the five major cities in China) and so it is very common to see construction cranes EVERYWHERE you go in the main urban area!! So much so that we joked that this should be named the ‘crane city’ and not the mountain city. Being surrounded by mountains on all sides, with the Yangtze river flowing throughout from west to east, Chongqing is also a city where several tourists come to cruise the breathtaking Three Gorges, formed as the Yangtze cuts through the Wu mountains. More later as I dig deep into the city in the upcoming posts.

All said and done, my favourite cave would still be – The Bat Cave