Amazing Race - Chongqing Style

Chongqing Travel Blog

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Mmm more noodles
The next stop is Guilin, however since we were in Leshan and Guilin was very far away, we needed to get to a big city to take a plane, train or bus to Guilin.  So we hopped on the local minibus, 6 hours to Chongqing to figure out what to do.

When I say big city, I really mean it.  The City of Chongqing itself is about 6 million, the greater Chongqing area is about 32 million! That’s basically the population of Canada in an area much smaller than southern Ontario!

As with every other city in China, Chongqing has smog issues, but for some reason the smog here was at another level.
Trying to buy a train ticket in Chongqing
For those that have been to San Francisco and seen the fog roll in over the Golden Gate Bridge, well picture basically the same thing, but everywhere and its all smog! It was disgusting.  I couldn’t see more than 100m in front of me.  

Anyways, as I said, Chongqing is just a transit city, but for today its also setting for a scene similar to my favourite TV show, the Amazing Race! We had about 2 hours of heart-racing excitement here! Here’s what happened:

The afternoon started off by the bus dropped us off in the middle of nowhere! We actually didn’t now if we were even in Chongqing! I kept asking and everyone kept saying yes.  Problem is they say yes to everything!  Do you like to eat dirt, yes! You get the picture. So what to do? Well we looked around a bit and found a Sofitel and went inside and asked for some helped.
Racing to the airport!
  Beautiful hotel, definitely didn’t fit the drab surrounding it was in.  The staff in the hotel were very helpful, I even told them we’d stay there, if we didn’t get out of town.  White Lie of course.  Anyways, we find out we were actually in Chongqing and the train station was about 20 minutes away, so they hailed a cab for us.  And we were off!

Now I’ve been traveling with Emile for a few days now, the major difference between the both of us is that he is a student on a student budget and I’m not.  I have a budget sort of, but sometimes budgets get thrown out the door, especially when you start talking about 19 hour train rides!  So once we got to the train station, I was still undecided if I would fly or not. I figure I’ll decide once I see if we could catch a train.
Flight attendances feverishly trying find seats and book tickets

At the train station, after the usual wait in the sweltering heat in the queue to buy tickets, we get to the front of the line only to find out that the next train to Guilin is tomorrow at 8pm, getting there the following day in the afternoon.  Damn, that’s a looong time to wait in Smog City.

At this point I‘m like f-ck it, sorry dude I‘m going to fly!  Problem is I don’t know the flight times and Emile is still set on taking the train.  We look in the guidebook and find out there is another train station on the north end of town, which Emile still wants to try for. Well I grab my netbook and try and find a wi-fi connection just to check the other train station departures and flight times. No luck with the connection!  So we walk around (realize its about 40 degrees outside, in the smog, and we both have our big packs on, not fun) and find an internet café.
  I drop my bags and find that there is a train leaving at 1250, getting into Guilin earlier the following morning.  Grrreat. Ok, what about the flights, I check and find there actually is one last flight leaving at 720 pm from Chongqing! AND its relatively cheap, about 80 bucks!  Problem is, its now 4:50 pm and the airport is at least 1 hour north of the city with traffic and its almost rush hour!  Both me and Emile look at each other and say lets do it! Let’s haul ass to the airport!  We grab our bags and run for a taxi.  2 hours to drive across the city through rush hour, buy a ticket and make the flight!? The race is on!  

Off to find a taxi.  Of course, this is China, so grabbing a taxi and explaining where to go is never that easy.  Eventually after wasting at least 5-10 minutes, we find someone that will take us. Now, if you’ve ever seen the Amazing Race, the cabby always has a big role in people getting to or not to their destinations!  Sometimes you get a slow ass driver, sometimes you get the Chinese version of  Michael Schumacher
…lucky for us, today we got the Chinese race car driver!

This dude drove like a champ! I think at one point he was close to 120-125 km/h.  Now that might not seem that fast to people back home, but if you have ever driven in Asia, where a 4 lane highway, can sometimes be 6-7 cars across, 120 km/h is insane AND through the smog.  After holding on for dear life in the back seat, we got to the airport in about 30 minutes! That cabby did his part to get us there. It was now about 540pm.

At airport, now we have to find the airline (which I forgot!) and hope they have tickets.  Once we found the correct counter and the correct airline we were lucky enough that they still had a few seats left!  It was now about 6pm, we had our tickets, plane boards at 7! We made it!

I have to say I have a new appreciation for the racers on the Amazing Race, as much as its fun to look up tickets, jump into cabs and really hope they have a ticket for you when you get to the airport, I can see how if one things doesn’t go right, it can totally screw up the plan.  Today everything fell into place and it saved possibility 1 or 2 days of travel time.

Guilin here we come!

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Mmm more noodles
Mmm more noodles
Trying to buy a train ticket in Ch…
Trying to buy a train ticket in C…
Racing to the airport!
Racing to the airport!
Flight attendances feverishly tryi…
Flight attendances feverishly try…
photo by: FK27