This afternoon I went for a short walk walk in the area immediately around the Marriott. I looped through the 'pedestrian mall' which is a shipping area where the streets have been closed to cars, and the local flower market.
This Zhonghua Road, a busy shop lined road on the way to the pedestrian mall. There are a mass of shops along these roads, some no more than 5 feet wide, selling everything from fine suits, to noodles, to shoes. Some of the clothing and shoe shops have their production setup right on the sidewalk, ancient looking sewing machines running all day long. It might look like a trick of the light but the leaves really are that dull grayish-green color. The coal fired smoke and fog combine to produce a heavy smog that rains down a fine soot over everything in the city.
There aren't many private vehicles on the roads, mostly buses and taxi cabs. This is actually a pretty rare shot with the street completely empty. The careful art of crossing the street as a pedestrian, well, I'll leave the description of that for anther day.
The alley way above is a nice study in contrasts. The smaller buildings nestled back in the alley are much shorter and older than the ones near the front of the building. In the back you can see two high-rises in the mist. Both buildings are incomplete, the one on the left you can see the ever present crane on top.
The man on the right hand side of the above picture with the long bamboo pole in his hands is a member of what the locals call the "Pole Army". Chongqing is a very mountainous region and bikes are not much use here, instead there are droves of men with poles that work as porters that carry items around the city. I've seen them carrying some pretty heavy loads. In the center of the picture is one of the clothing shops with the sewing machines set out on the sidewalk.
This brings out a recurrent theme I've seen across the whole trip into China. Whatever problem we would solve with technology in the US, the Chinese solve with people, and where we would use people to do a job in China they would use more people. Where we would use trucks, they have porters. Where we would use backhoes, they use laborers. Another example, in every grocery store and department store we have been in from Beijing to Chongqing, they are staffed with one person per aisle. Yes, you read that correctly, one person per aisle. We have yet to eat in a sit-down restaurant where the patrons outnumbered the staff.
What good is a city without a McDonalds? How about 60 of them in Chongqing alone. There are two within walking distance of our hotel. This picture is taken on the pedestrian mall, with the McDonalds and a noodle shop on the left. The large mass of people in the middle of the picture are sitting on the benches eating noodles. Huge steaming mounds of delicious smelling noodles served in thin plastic bowls and eaten with the same disposable wooden chopsticks you get at Chinese restaurants in the US.
Here is the flower market across the street from the hotel. I bought Lynne a half-dozen roses here on my way back. It was my first time haggling and I didn't do a very good job, but I got her the half-dozen (actually 7 roses) for 10 Yuan or $1.25US. One of the nicest things about being in China is that I am getting used to the prices and going back to the US is going to be difficult, and we haven't even gotten to do a lot of shopping outside of department stores where there isn't any haggling.
The market is more like an alley, with vendors selling everything from
individual flowers, to huge arrangements, to bonsai trees, to gardening supplies.
The alleys winds through the block and turns right and as turns it trasitions from
flowers to food staples and cooked food. The above picture is a shot looking back
down the alley towards the entrance. Each of the rooves on the left is a different
shop selling different tools, produce or plants. For those of you with
good connections I shot a short video (440KB) of the
pedestrian traffic flowing into
the entrance of the flower market
. This is a pretty good representation of the pedestrian traffic and noise levels
that are continuous throughout the city.
It is a WMV file that I've tested
in both Windows Media Player and Real Player.
I can provide the original
AVI file to anyone that wants to convert it into different formats, for which I would
be eternally grateful.
This final shot is about half-way up the alley, a vendor is wrapping up a sale to the people standing in front of him. Behind him wends another alley, orthogonal to the current one that contains more plants and trees for sale. There aren't many flowers on the branches he's sold but they have a very strong scent. Speaking of scent, that's one of the things about China that I can't blog. There are wonderful scents like the flower market above, and the great smells of food wafting out of some of the stalls. On the other hand there are some pretty awful stenches, some that are nauseatingly familiar, others that of unknown origin and are completely beyond any previous experience.