Surviving Summer in a Chongqing Furnace

Surviving Summer in a Chongqing Furnace
By Elaine Pang ,

Chongqing is known as one of the "three furnaces" (火炉) of China, together with Wuhan and Nanjing, and not without good reason! Typical Chongqing summer temperatures soar above 40 degrees. High temperatures coupled with high humidity make Chongqing a place to get all hot and bothered. With spring temperatures as high as 33 degrees in March, brace yourself for a scorching summer this year.

For years, the Chongqing masses lived without the benefit of air-conditioning or heating. Chongqing locals have since devised their own coping mechanisms and tips. Today however, the benefit of development in Chongqing brings the option of temperature control, so you can choose to take cover under the air-conditioner or brave the heat and step out, armed with heat-beating tips from the Chongqing locals.

1) Think local

Stories of the extent of luxury the uber-rich live in abound, yet the average city-dweller survives under hand-to-mouth, or rather paycheck-to-paycheck conditions, thus explaining the local fatalism towards Chongqing’s extreme weather. Even among those who can afford it, air-conditioning is eschewed for its purported effect on the respiratory tract. So, think like a local and prepare yourself "mentally", as they would tell you, and you will find that life goes on under the sun. Venture out and be greeted by the sight of local girls decked in elaborately impractical synthetics.

Be forewarned that air-conditioning is no longer a luxury confined to the upper class, so power outages in summer are common, when everybody’s machines are cranked to full blast. Besides, temperatures in air-conditioned places are usually never low enough. And that is an unavoidable aspect of life in Chongqing that one should "mentally" prepare for.

2) External props – parasols, sunhats and fans

Still feeling hot after all that psyching? You may need some external help. The pre-air-conditioner days saw a variety of charming, old-world props designed to cope with the heat. Chongqing is still a good place to shop for beautifully embroidered parasols and sunhats. For a more theatrical touch, a floral or calligraphy Chinese fan is a highly portable and stylish way of warding off the heat. Of course, modern versions of these props are available, but why bother when you can get good old-fashioned oriental floral.

Clothing-wise, feminine cotton qipaos are the ultimate summer style solution. Fortunately for most of us, dressing down in Bermudas and flip-flops is fast becoming acceptable, too. Invest in the latest technology from international brands, like Uniqlo which has product lines claiming to cut out UV rays. Important note: hundred percent cotton is the only wearable material.

3) You feel what you eat

A cost-effective way of beating the heat is from the inside-out. As the mercury rises, pay increasing attention to what you eat. Or simply eat what the locals eat – easily digested cold dishes and bowls of watery gruel. Step deeper into Chinese culture and discover the world’s oldest medical system, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), with its own heat-busting philosophies. TCM divides all foods into warm and cool (yin and yang). In summer, consume cooling foods, like cucumbers, snow-fungus desserts while avoiding "heaty" mutton, beef and chocolates. Cooling beverages include Wanglaoji herbal tea and beer. Unfortunately, TCM frowns on ice-cream and iced beverages, what most of us would instinctively reach for in the heat of the moment. Before dismissing TCM as unscientific, remember that it has served China for thousands of years – much longer than western medicine has been in existence.

4) Hideouts in the city

Think city hideout and the nearest air-conditioned place that immediately springs to mind, especially in Chonqging, is one of the new malls. But once in a while, you need to fight off those urbanite tendencies. In a "mountain city", you are spoilt for choice with Gele Shan, Tieshan Ping or Zhaomu Shan, among others. High altitudes and lush greenery translate into temperatures cooler by a few degrees.

Mystery fans may want to check out Nanshan – where the Neil Heywood murder hotel is located. After all that hiking, opt to spend the night in a villa or nongjia (farm). At ground level, hidden old streets like Shibati and Danzhishi are cooler than modern concrete jungles. Temperatures are more comfortable in crowded communities because proximity between houses ensures sunlight never reaches the ground. In emergency situations, make for the nearest air-raid shelter (no kidding!). This summer, cool off with the working class in a total of 59 air-raid shelters, some refurbished to provide tap water and seating.

5) Nearby summer escapades

If all else fails, consider a short getaway. Some are located only a couple of hours from Chongqing city, so daytrips are possible. Otherwise, spend an agreeable few days in the countryside should you have the luxury of time. Xiannvshan, or Fairy Mountain, is highly recommended among the locals. Summer temperatures there don’t go above the twenties in the peaceful undulating hills. Bamboo fans can check out the bamboo seas in Yongchuan or Yibin. Closer to the city, take a daytrip to lush valleys like Heishangu (Wansheng county) and Jindaoxia (Golden Knife Gorge) in Beibei, or spend the night surrounded by mountains in hotels within the attraction. Other options are Simianshan (Four-faced Mountain) in Jiangjin county or by the cool waters of Ahyihe in Pengshui.

While summers in Chongqing are legendary for their heat, there are upsides to it as well. Probably the biggest advantage is that friendly locals are usually effusive with suggestions of TCM remedies and summer escapades. In fact, they may even invite you to join in their privately-organised trips. A good reason for not taking the first plane out as soon as the mercury rises!

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Keywords: Summer in Chongqing what to do in Chongqing travelling around Chongqing surviving the heat in Chongqing summer activities Chongqing


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In the summers, because of the huge temperature, it becomes difficult for the people to travel to any places. But now in many of the travelling places, air conditioning services is been provided. Even in the buses and trains Air Conditioning services is been provided.

Apr 20, 2015 13:28 Report Abuse