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China From The Inside: Chongqing and Shanghai

Today, we’re talking China. No, not the Kung Fu pandas, silky kimonos, or chopstick connoisseurs that are often stereotyped in Hollywood films. We’re talking real life in two of the country’s most thriving cities: Chongqing and Shanghai.

CHONGQINGChongqingFrom left to right: Chongqing skyline; Traditional hot pot dinner; Cable car across the Tangtze River

Chongqing is one of five municipal cities in China and definitely earns its name as the “city of the mountain.” Nestled between the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and plains stretching from the Yangtze River, the city is a striking mix of commanding hills, rolling rivers and city jungles.   

Beyond its ever-developing landscape, Chongqing is known for being “hot” in two big ways: hot weather and hot pot, a spicy Chongqing cuisine that is more of a lifestyle than a meal. If you really want to blend in with the locals, you’ll partake in a meal of piping hot pot on a 100 degree day—don’t forget the ice cold beer.

Anyone versed in the micro-culture of this city will recommend a stroll down to Jiefangbei, the city center of Chongqing. Come here to enjoy a modern, urban atmosphere, take a cable car across the Yangtze, or enjoy a steaming bowl of hot pot—not only a cuisine, but a way of life in the city of Chongqing.


ShanghaiFrom left to right: Shanghai skyscrapers; The Bund; English teachers enjoy the Chinese Lantern Festival  

Shanghai is China’s largest city and is also characterized by a unique urban layout. The Bund, a famous waterfront promenade, snakes along the west bank of the Huangpu River, which divides the city in two. While the Bund is scattered with hundreds of traditional, European-style buildings, the opposite bank boasts a sizable spread of skyscrapers--a striking visual juxtaposition.

In Zhujiajiao, one of Shanghai’s suburbs, you might forget that these skyscrapers exist at all. Locals in this traditional water town live as their ancestors did three hundred years ago. Take a cruise down the river bank to get a glimpse into this preserved way of life.

Of course, Shanghai cannot be discussed without mention of the famous Lantern Festival. On the 15th day of the Chinese New Year, thousands of vibrant, illuminated, and often enormous lanterns float around the city for both locals and tourists to enjoy. During the festival, you might sink your teeth into a xiaolongbao, or steamed bun. This famous Shanghainese dish comes with a warning: the soup inside the dumpling is very hot (yes, inside the dumpling…good luck figuring out how they get it in there!).  

Whether you are navigating the streets of Jiefangbei or strolling along the Bund, you can rest assured that there will be a remarkable view or a dish to tempt your taste buds at every turn. Take your time, savor the soup, and appreciate the people and culture of a classic Chinese city.

Any China tips to add? Let us know in the comments!

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