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Thursday, April 18, 2024

The China Trip: Chongqing

Steep, steps and a giant ball of mess. That's how I would describe Chongqing. Lawrence said it looked like Hong Kong the moment we came up from Linjiangmen Metro Station. After checking in to the Milky Way Hotel, we had lunch nearby then made our journey to the Great Hall of the People around Zhengjiayan Station. 

The Great Hall and the people.
Photo by Ezra.

The overground metro, which is three stations away from where we were, is situated along the Yangtze riverbank. It allowed us to have our first glimpse of Chongqing as a metropolis. Divided by the river, it's connected by big and long bridges that say size does mean something. 

Exploring Chongqing: on the way to Linjiangmen.

The Great Hall of the People is within a walking distance from Zhengjiayan Station. It's a big hall, looked impressive for the first five seconds, but it's the walking back to Linjiangmen that was quite memorable. Chongqing is indeed an architectural marvel. The terrain is mountainous, no arguments here thanks to a lot of stairs we had to climb, but yet the city is lined up with high-rise buildings. 

The many stairs of Chongqing!
Photo by Angela.

After two hours of walking, we reached Jiefangbei Pedestrian Street. Now, a bit of a note here, the so-called pedestrian streets seem to be a pattern in China. Most cities, if not all, have the pedestrian streets, ancient streets and towns, then some historical sites. Jiefangbei is no different than the famous Nanjing Road in Shanghai

Gunawan in Jiefangbei.

We split up there to browse the shops separately, but still we always bumped into each other. Captain Gunawan and others were also at the post office having coffee when I sent the postcard. Eventually we gathered again and headed to the next destination, Hongyadong. 

Minutes before going to the pier.
Photo by Surianto.

Cicilia and Taty talked about Kuixing Building that is famous for bridging 1st floor on one side and 22nd floor on the other side. That night in Hongyadong, we roughly got the idea. We came from the road as high as 10th floor and the pier we were heading to is across the street on 1st floor. So we ran down, floor by floor, squeezed through the crowd and crossed the street before we finally boarded the river cruise.

Capturing Hongyadong. 
Photo by Gunawan.

Then the city lighted up. Hongyadong now shone brightly. As the ferry moved slowly, I sat there and absorbed the illuminated night. Unlike Xi'An and Chengdu, I always felt that Chongqing didn't have any unique characteristics that defined it. Since I arrived, I harboured the thoughts that Chongqing was a city growing too fast, hence the giant ball of mess I mentioned earlier. I disliked the dirty and rundown buildings I saw. And I smirked as I stared at the festival of lights. What an illusion. 

The mala hotpot dinner.
Photo by Angela.

When the ferry docked, we passed through the sea of people to take a closer picture at Hongyadong. But the thought of going 10 floors up to go back to hotel was so daunting that I'd rather walk a bit further. After our mala hotpot dinner, we went to Huanghuayuan Metro Station. 

Searching for Huanghuayuan Metro Station.
Photo by Cicilia.

There was a problem when we reached the station. How to go up? There was no staircase. When we followed a signage on the roadside, it only led us to what seemed like a dimly lit and deserted backyard. We were quite anxious until Ezra and Andiyanto went in further and climbed up the staircase on the far end of the backyard. It was indeed a correct way to the station! Then Gunawan jokingly said that we'd be scared to death if the old lady that swept the floor suddenly came out of the dark, haha. 

The artist in Ciqikou and her creation.

We went to Ciqikou on the second day. We didn't follow the original itinerary as I somehow had doubts when in Chongqing. Ciqikou is a commercialized ancient town filled with shops that sell stuff. After we had our fair share of shopping and lunch, we crossed the river for the first time ever and visited a shopping mall called the Ring. Clean and modern, it has the vibe of Jewel minus the waterfall.

Andiyanto and Lawrence at the Ring.

The night before, we saw Raffles City, buildings with the design similar to MBS. After the Ring, we decided that we should visit the MBS wannabe. Half way there, we alighted at Liziba to see train that went viral because it passes through a 19-story residential building. Andiyanto preferred to stay at the station, citing the reason that Junction 10 in Singapore also has a similar stuff, haha. 

Cicilia and Taty with the train that went viral.

We eventually made it to Xiaoshizi which turned out to be the penultimate stop. Chaotianmen should have been the correct one as it is directly linked to Raffles City. We walked a bit and, unlike the ones in Singapore, the distance between one metro station to another is quite far. But it was worth the effort. The mall is really grand and the skybridge is quite an experience: the last bit of the floor is made of glass panels. 

At Raffles City. 

Say all you like about bravery, but you only know it better after you looked down through the glass panel and noticed the small cars passing by on the road. Your mind would play tricks on you and your knees would tremble involuntarily. I couldn't help noticing that Gunawan subconsciously walked on the side of the glass panels supported by the beams as if it would be safer, haha. 

Taking the public bus!

We were supposed to go to Liangjiang Movie City on the third day, but Lawrence said we should go to Northern Hot Springs Park instead. So off we went to the farthest destination during our stay in Chongqing. We headed to the last metro station called Beibei and continued with the bus to reach Bolian Spa. Surianto skipped and preferred to walk around the mountain while the rest of us busy trying out the hot water pools. It was so relaxing that we eventually took a nap. 

Before napping.
Photo by Cicilia.

The last few hours were then spent in Guanyinqiao, a pedestrian street similar to Jiefangbei. We ate our lunch/dinner, shopped and, believe it or not, Gunawan and I actually lost our way back. We had to rely on Amap to find our way and to this day, we still can't figure out why we needed to cross the bridge to return when we didn't do that in the first place. 

In Guanyinqiao with Gunawan.

That night at the hotel, we talked. Just the three of us. Gunawan, Surianto and I. Old friends. We talked about anything that came to mind. About how poor we were. About the unrequited love we had. About the crazy times and laughter we had. About the holiday that was going to end soon. About what the future would bring. It was easily one of the highlights of the trip. 

At Jiangbei Airport with Andiyanto.

Then three hours laters, we were already on our way to the airport, but who knows there would still be some dramas? There was a tiny red stamp on Gunawan's boarding pass that eventually sent us running back to the check-in counter. To think that we already stamped our passports! Due to this, we had to surrender them and it was as good as entering China without any valid travel documents! 

Surianto, moments after his power bank was confiscated.

It turned out that the problem was the power bank in Gunawan's luggage. Gunawan took and kept it in his bag and we were good to go immediately. But as we walked towards the boarding gate, we saw Surianto at the security counter. Apparently he, too, had a problem with his power bank. As he couldn't show the capacity, it got confiscated. But things ended well. The security officer managed to find the info on the power bank and returned it to him. We eventually left China with good memories intact...

Back to Changi again!

Liburan ke Cina: Chongqing 

Jalan menanjak, banyak tangga dan kota raksasa yang kumuh. Ini kesan saya tentang Chongqing. Lawrence berkomentar bahwa kota ini mirip Hong Kong begitu kita keluar dari Stasiun Metro Linjiangmen. Setelah kita menaruh barang di Milky Way Hotel, kita makan di dekat hotel dan lanjut ke Great Hall of the People di Stasiun Zhengjiayan. 

The Great Hall dan para pengunjungnya.
Foto oleh Ezra.

Metro di atas permukaan tanah yang hendak kita tuju ini berjarak tiga stasiun jauhnya dari tempat kita berada. Relnya menjulang tinggi di tepi sungai Yangtze. Di dalam kereta, kita melihat Chongqing sebagai kota besar untuk pertama kalinya. Terlihat banyak jembatan besar dan panjang yang menghubungkan bagian kota yang terpisahkan oleh aliran sungai. 

Menjelajahi Chongqing: menuju ke Linjiangmen.

Great Hall of the People tidak jauh jaraknya dari Stasiun Zhengjiayan. Gedung ini terlihat megah dari kejauhan, tapi kita tidak lama di sana. Justru perjalanan pulang ke Linjiangmen yang lebih berkesan. Pembangunan di Chongqing memang dahsyat. Meski kotanya terletak di kawasan pegunungan yang naik-turun jalannya, Chongqing dipadati dengan gedung-gedung tinggi. 

Banyaknya tangga Chongqing!
Foto oleh Angela.

Setelah berjalan dua jam lamanya, kita tiba di Jiefangbei. Menarik untuk dicatat, setelah kita amati, yang namanya kawasan pejalan kaki ini memang termasuk pola pembangunan di Cina. Hampir setiap kota memiliki kawasan pejalan kaki, kota kuno dan situs bersejarah. Jiefangbei ini mirip dengan Jalan Nanjing di Shanghai

Gunawan di Jiefangbei.

Kita berpisah di sini untuk menjelajahi Jiefangbei sesuka hati, tapi selalu bertemu satu sama lain. Kapten Gunawan dan teman-teman juga minum kopi di kantor pos ketika saya mengirim kartu pos. Akhirnya kita berkumpul lagi dan menuju destinasi berikutnya, Hongyadong. 

Beberapa saat sebelum ke dermaga.
Foto oleh Surianto.

Cicilia dan Taty sempat berbicara tentang Gedung Kuixing yang terkenalkan karena menghubungkan lantai 1 dan lantai 22 di dua sisinya. Malam itu di Hongyadong, kita berkesempatan untuk mengalami langsung. Titik awal kita ternyata jalan di ketinggian setara dengan lantai 10 dan dermaga yang hendak kita tuju berada nun jauh di sana, di seberang jalan di lantai 1. Jadi kita pun berlari ke bawah, lantai demi lantai, berdesakan di tengah keramaian, menyeberang jalan dan akhirnya masuk ke kapal. 

Berfoto dengan latar belakang Hongyadong. 
Foto oleh Gunawan.

Dan kemudian kota Chongqing menyala. Kini Hongyadong bersinar terang. Feri bergerak pelan dan saya pun duduk menikmati malam yang bermandikan cahaya. Berbeda dengan Xi'An dan Chengdu, saya selalu merasa bahwa Chongqing tidak memiliki karakter membuatnya unik. Ada pemikiran bahwa Chongqing ini kota yang berkembang terlalu cepat sehingga terlihat maju tapi kumuh. Saya jadi tersenyum saat menatap atraksi lampu-lampu terang di gedung. Memang pakar ilusi. 

Makan malam mala.
Foto oleh Angela.

Sewaktu feri berlabuh, kita melewati lautan manusia untuk berfoto di dekat Hongyadong. Namun upaya menaiki 10 lantai terngiang-ngiang di benak saya. Rasanya lebih baik kalau berjalan sedikit lebih jauh daripada naik ke atas lagi. Kita menemukan tempat sup mala dan bersantap di sana, lantas lanjut ke Stasiun Huanghuayuan. 

Mencari Stasiun Huanghuayuan.
Foto oleh Cicilia.

Ada satu masalah ketika kita tiba di stasiun. Bagaimana cara naik ke atas? Tak ada tangga sejauh mata memandang. Kita ikuti tanda di dinding, tapi sepertinya nyasar ke halaman belakang yang gelap dan tak terurus. Kita jadi ragu, namun untunglah Ezra dan Andiyanto menjajaki lebih lanjut dan menaiki tangga di kejauhan. Ternyata benar ini jalan ke stasiun! Gunawan lalu bergurau, jikalau nenek yang menyapu jalan ini tiba-tiba muncul dari kegelapan, pasti semua lari terbirit-birit, haha. 

Pelukis di Ciqikou dan hasil kreasinya.

Keesokan harinya, kita pergi ke Ciqikou. Kita tidak mengikuti rute yang telah saya bikin karena saya jadi merasa tidak pasti dengan rekomendasi atraksi kota Chongqing. Saat tiba di sana, Ciqikou ternyata sebuah kota kuno bernuansa komersil dan dipenuhi banyak toko yang menjual aneka macam barang dan makanan. Setelah berbelanja dan makan, kira menyeberangi sungai untuk pertama kalinya dan mengunjungi mal bernama Ring. Bersih dan modern, dekorasinya mengingatkan saya pada Jewel tanpa air terjun ikoniknya. 

Andiyanto dan Lawrence di Ring.

Di malam sebelumnya, kita melihat Raffles City dari kapal feri. Gedung ini sama disainnya dengan MBS. Dari Ring, kita pun bertolak ke MBS jadi-jadian. Di tengah jalan, kita turun sebentar di Liziba untuk melihat kereta yang viral karena menembus gedung. Andiyanto memilih untuk menunggu di stasiun. Kalau cuma kereta menembus gedung, dia sudah sering lihat di Junction 10 Singapura, haha. 

Cicilia dan Taty di Liziba.

Kita akhirnya tiba di Xiaoshizi yang ternyata merupakan stasiun kedua terakhir. Pemberhentian berikutnya adalah Chaotianmen yang terhubung langsung ke Raffles City. Berbeda dengan di Singapura, perlu diketahui bahwa jarak dari satu stasiun ke stasiun metro berikutnya cukup jauh di Cina. Akan tetapi jerih-payah kita tidak sia-sia. Mal ini memang bagus dan jembatan langitnya sungguh sebuah pengalaman yang menarik: lantai di ujung jembatan terbuat dari kaca yang tembus pandang ke bawah.  

Di Raffles City. 

Bicara tentang keberanian, nyali baru teruji setelah kita menatap mobil-mobil mungil yang berlalu-lalang di jalan di bawah sana. Pikiran anda langsung mengirimkan sinyal bahaya dan lutut pun mendadak lemas. Saya perhatikan bahwa Gunawan selalu berjalan menapak di sisi lantai yang ditopang oleh rusuk-rusuk baja. Pasti sugesti bawah sadar yang membuatnya merasa bahwa caranya ini lebih menjamin keselamatan, haha. 

Naik bis umum di Beibei!

Di hari ketiga, kita seharusnya mengunjungi Kota Film Liangjiang, namun Lawrence ingin ke pemandian air panas Northern Hot Springs Park. Oleh karena itu, kita mengunjungi tempat terjauh selama berada di Chongqing. Dari hotel, kita ganti kereta hingga tiba di stasiun terakhir yang bernama Beibei, kemudian lanjut lagi dengan bis hingga tiba di Bolian Spa. Surianto menolak untuk masuk dan memilih untuk berjalan di sekitar gunung sementara kita berendam di berbagai macam kolam air panas. Suasananya santai, sampai-sampai kita ketiduran. 

Sebelum ketiduran.
Foto oleh Cicilia.

Beberapa jam terakhir pun dihabiskan di Guanyinqiao, kawasan pejalan kaki yang mirip dengan Jiefangbei. Kita makan siang/malam, berbelanja dan, percaya atau tidak, Gunawan dan saya tersesat! Akhirnya saya gunakan Amap untuk menemukan jalan kembali ke stasiun. Sampai hari ini, kita masih tidak mengerti kenapa perlu menyeberang jembatan untuk pulang,  padahal awalnya sama sekali tidak lewat jembatan. 

Di Guanyinqiao bersama Gunawan.

Di malam itu kita berbincang di kamar hotel. Hanya kita bertiga. Gunawan, Surianto dan saya. Teman lama. Kita berbicara tentang betapa miskinnya kita dulu. Tentang cinta yang bertepuk sebelah tangan. Tentang masa lalu yang membuat kita terpingkal. Tentang liburan yang akan segera berakhir. Tentang apa yang kelak akan terjadi di masa depan. Ini adalah satu pengalaman yang paling mengesankan selama liburan. 

Di Bandara Jiangbei bersama Andiyanto.

Tiga jam kemudian, kita sudah meluncur ke bandara. Tapi siapa sangka masih saja akan terjadi drama? Ada cap merah di boarding pass Gunawan yang ternyata berarti kita harus memeriksa bagasinya. Akhirnya kita berlari kembali ke loket check-in, padahal kita sudah cap paspor! Petugas mengambil paspor kita dan ini sama saja dengan masuk lagi ke Cina tanpa dokumen perjalanan yang sah! 

Surianto, beberapa saat setelah power bank disita.

Ternyata ada power bank di koper Gunawan. Setelah diambil, kita pun diperbolehkan pergi dan kopernya dimasukkan ke bagasi lagi. Namun perkara power bank tidak berhenti sampai di situ. Saat kita berjalan ke ruang tunggu, ternyata Surianto juga ditahan oleh petugas keamanan. Dia tidak tahu kapasitas power bank-nya dan akhirnya kena sita. Namun semuanya berakhir dengan baik. Petugas keamanan berhasil menemukan info kapasitas yang tertera di perangkat dan akhirnya mengembalikan hak milik Surianto. Pesawat pun terbang dan kita meninggalkan Cina dengan kenangan yang baik... 

Kembali ke Changi lagi!

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