There was a time when Chongqing’s roadways were not vehicle-clogged and rail transit had yet to become the necessary evil it is today. Back then (in 2005), the first line of Chongqing’s Rail Transit (CRT) was built. In fact, it had yet to be called Line 2 because there was no other line at the time. Rail transit was less economical and more impractical compared to the extensive bus network that existed, so Line 2 functioned mainly as a tourist attraction. Trundling alongside the Jialing River, the monorail offered unobstructed views of its emerald-green waters. Much of Line 2 runs above ground, affording close-ups of older and densely populated areas of urban Chongqing. Future extensions go right into Ba’nan, one of the poorer districts of Chongqing, as well as crossing the Yangtze to join up with Line 3.
In the second of a series of articles regarding sightseeing by train in Chongqing, we get on board Line 2, the scenic line of Chongqing.
Line 2 (the green line) – Jiaochangkou to Xinshancun
Line 2 serves the Yuzhong peninsula, where much of the action took place back then. Chongqing’s hilly terrain demanded a heavy monorail system to serve the undulating parts of town. Jiefangbei, the place to be, was a natural debut point serviced by Jiaochangkou and Linjianmen stations, the former being the interchange for Line 1 (the red line).
Line 2 begins at Jiaochangkou, the seedier side of the CBD that is renowned for its flamboyant nightlife. Instead of drinking yourself silly, take time to discover some of the underrated attractions. The gastronomically-inclined should sniff out the food street. By day, you should beware of slipping on grease here while queuing at stalls churning out highly-spiced mutton skewers or hot-and-sour noodles. By night, movenpick-style street side dining pop-up like mushrooms just minutes after nightfall only to disappear come daybreak.
Much of Jiaochangkou is being transformed into brand-spanking-new, under-populated malls. Free spirits eschewing the generic have to make the effort to uncover the hidden charms of Shibati (called “18 stair landings” in Chinese), a quaint location comprising of wooden dwellings that are haphazardly constructed on a hillside. View this time-capsule of pre-municipal Chongqing before it succumbs to demolition. Or better still, live among the huddled masses in Tina’s hostel.
“Heady Mix of Numbing Spice and MSG”
Equally gritty is the Luzumiao flower market, a place also unlikely to escape the bulldozer treatment, located just across from the stately Marriott. Along the way, the sight of authentic everyday Chongqing can be seen as a row of heads bury themselves in noodle bowls eating a heady mix of numbing spice and MSG. If Chongqing could be summed up by one place, Jiaochangkou would be it.
Nearby Linjiangmen is the more conventional CBD area, and yet, high-rises are interspersed with glimpses of old Chongqing: claustrophobic noodle shops, ladies on stools mending knitwear, and wannabe home tutors holding up paper signs advertising their services stand outside the Xinhua bookstore complex -- these are some of the reasons not to take the lazy way out by getting back on the train.
Linjiangmen is also home to the Liberation Monument (or Jiefangbei), the symbol of liberation from the Japanese and later the Kuomintang; and destination of every tourist group.
“True Communist Ideals”
Upon leaving the CBD, the monorail climbs above ground, affording a nice view of the Jialing – a great alternative to a river cruise. The jade waters of the river can be mesmerizing to passengers, so history buffs should ensure not to miss Zengjiayan stop. Mao may be the face on the currency but Zhou Enlai still has his share of fans, who can check out his former residence rented in his own name before his Prime Minister days. The three-storied building designed in French-styled architecture was also instrumental as the Communist Party’s Sichuanese base during days of domestic strife. The relatively spartan interior is an excellent testament to true communist ideals sadly forgotten today.
200 meters away, and instrumental to that period, is Guiyang, home of former Kuomintang general, Zhang Zizhong. Named after the beautiful Osmanthus flower found in the compound, the serene atmosphere belies the conflict between the two parties. Both Mao and Zhou were once hosted in this building and their agreement to end the Chinese civil war was signed on the first floor.
Hardcore history buffs may like to make a detour to the Three Gorges Museum. After a while, museums in China do tend to look alike but this one does have unique sections pertaining to Chongqing’s ancient Ba-Yu culture and the vicinity around the Three Gorges. The museum looks out onto the vast People’s Square, which like many other open areas in the country, is often utilized for mass dancing. The Dalitang, or Great Hall of the People, is hard to miss across the square with its unmistakable Temple of Heaven roof. The cylindrical theatre features columns and marble reminiscent of Tiananmen and the interior is designed to remain cool in summer.
Between Liziba and Fotuguan stations is another record of Chongqing’s stint as a wartime capital. The Stilwell Museum is an unusual reminder of the almost-forgotten Sino-American cooperation during the anti-Japanese resistance. The former residence of General Joseph W. Stilwell houses the personal effects of the soldier who fought alongside the Chinese. The first floor of the building is dedicated to the Flying Tigers Museum and displays black-and-white photographic evidence of this cooperation. Also known as “Vinegar Joe”, Stilwell was conversant in Chinese and could write Chinese calligraphy.
In the same area along the river, the relatively new Liziba Park is a collection of original and relocated historical buildings of Chongqing’s wartime capital past. Here you can find military pillboxes among old government, bank buildings and warlord residences.
Not into history? Animal lovers can visit the Chongqing Zoo at the aptly-named Dongwuyuan stop. This attraction is popular with children and panda fans who don’t want to journey all the way to the panda reserve in Sichuan. Plant lovers may instead want to stop by at the Dadukou park near the station.
“Built-Up Way of Life”
Attractions aside, Line 2 does pass through some older residential areas like Daping and Yangjiaping for a taste of the built-up way of life in the municipality. Yangjiaping has a large collection of malls, as do many other older districts, while Daping is the other interchange for Line 1.
Yuanjiagang Station is the stop for Chongqing Medical University which serves students from the region by providing medical courses in English. The affiliated hospital complex is an affordable alternative to the Global Doctor Clinic.
The sizable foreigner community in the area also ensures that the Carrefour there has the largest imported food section. Regular swimmers may like to buy a package deal at the indoor pool of the Olympic Stadium for year-round exercise.
As you can see Chongqing’s subway line 2 is the line to be on if you want history and natural beauty. All aboard!
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Keywords: Chongqing’s Line 2 Sights sightseeing by train in Chongqing; Line 2 attractions
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