Every once in a while, I am forced to leave life in Chengdu. The good food, meeting new people, InternChina related fun and general chilled vibe of the city were, for one weekend, left behind in favour of the largest city in the world – Chongqing.
For the last week or so, my parents have been visiting me and we have been enjoying all the delights of Chengdu and catching up after 9 months apart. After feeling a change of scenery might be in need, my father suggested Chongqing *cue deep breathes from my girlfriend and I*
It’s no secret Chongqing is not my favourite place in China and having been very much initiated into the Chengdu lifestyle – I am more than a little biased against its rival. But before I start hating too much on Chongqing, let’s compare the cities head to head:
Population – Chengdu has around 14 million city inhabitants whilst Chengdu has 29.1 million (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2014).
Food – Both cities love their spicy cuisine but in terms of ‘most famous cuisine’ it boils down to (pun intended) Hot Pot in Chongqing and Chuan Chuan 串串 (spicy sticks of various meats and vegetables) in Chengdu. Delicious food from all over China and other local cuisine is available in both cities.
Beautiful People – Both cities are known for their beautiful girls and boys with their clear and white skin. The people from this part of China are considered as hot as the food!
Economy – China’s state council has designated Chengdu as the country’s western center of logistics, commerce, finance, science and technology, as well as a hub of transportation and communication. It is also an important base for manufacturing and agriculture. Meanwhile Chongqing driven more by manufacturing than Chengdu is China’s third largest centre for motor vehicle production and the largest for motorcycles. In 2007, it had an annual output capacity of 1 million cars and 8.6 million motorcycles (China Business Review, 2009) this has since risen dramatically. Both cities are battling to be the economic capital of Western China
Foreign Influence Foreign tourists, travelers and business people in both cities but Chengdu is the more Westernized of the two cities.
Danger Factor Both cities are very safe but Chongqing feels a little more ‘rough ‘n ready’ and the sort of place where you might see a bar fight or get knocked down by a taxi (a joke – but do be careful)!
Nightlife Chengdu has the most bars per people in China and a great nightlife, with Lan Kuai Feng numerous foreign and Chinese clubs and bars, Chongqing is also known for great nightlife with fantastic clubs nestled beneath Skyscrapers.
This was the second time I visited Chongqing the first involved; getting lost several times (and a sense of direction is my specialist skill) watching dental surgery in the street, lots of people, going across the river on a dangerously crowded cable car, crying from the spiciest hot pot I have ever enjoyed (not sure enjoy is the right word) and being slightly overwhelmed by it all. The second involved; watching my dad nearly get run over – don’t worry he is OK, traffic jams, hot pot (less spicy – I learnt my lesson), lots of people and being overwhelmed again….
Chonqing is known as “Luan jiu luan” (乱就乱basically it means “yea we crazy… so what.” Chongqing is mad – there is no word for it – so many people, so fast, so many skyscapers, so many smells, sights, cars, more people and more skyscapers! It is the biggest place I have ever been and for that reason alone -well worth a look!
Chongqing is grittier than Chengdu and arguably the stereotype holds true that Chengdu people relax more and enjoy the finer things in life whilst the people in Chongqing struggle through another days work. The mountainous and hilly terrain in comparison to Chengdu’s flat terrain perhaps further adding justification to the claim that life is just a little bit harder in Chongqing.
For all the messiness of Chongqing, it is a unique city in China – the food is amazing if very spicy and the skyscrapers and narrow alleys which lead down to the Yangtze river are a delight for any photographer or simply someone who enjoys watching the old and new of China collide.
Chongqing is fun for a weekend but for me that’s enough and I was happy to get back to Chengdu, put my feet up and enjoy a cup of tea safe in the knowledge that I live and work a city which whilst growing at double digit pace still is calm in comparison to it’s neighbour!
Come and explore the mega cities in China, and see the amazing differences in culture, food and people. Apply now for a summer internship at InternChina.