For work I got to spend a few weeks in and around Chongqing China as well as Taipei. Apparently Chongqing has more people living in it than the entire great state of Texas, and I had not even heard of it before I was told to go there. I enjoyed the hell out of this trip, was a great time. The locals in both countries were very friendly and I got tons of photos. Also my travelling companions from Google were awesome, was great to have them with me.
Stepping off the airplane was invigorating yet terrifying. I initially landed in Beijing and had to catch a domestic transfer to my final destination. The Beijing airport is not particularly difficult for foreigners but its definitely not a walk in the park! Once I got on the transfer I did not see another Westerner for quite some time.
I learned probably 20-30 Mandarin words specifically for this trip. If you ever go I highly recommend learning at least some of the language, many of the things I did while I was there were only possible because I could speak and recognize some words.
I bought a Chinese SIM card off of Amazon before travelling, I highly recommend this for anyone travelling there. You will still have to tunnel out of the Great Firewall with a VPN but you need internet these days. I also highly recommend two phones, one with the google translate app and the other for browsing. That way you can easily use Didi (Chinese Uber equivalent) and other services that would otherwise be unavailable.
Dinner the first night I went all out. All of this was only $30! I only drank beer eating out because of prior experience in China, avoid the water at all costs. In this case I think the compromise to accomplish this was fairly minimal :) .
Below are highlight photos of my explorations. l got 20k steps at least each day I was off work.
I would like to take this moment to say that in general the Chinese shop owners went way out of to help me get what I wanted even though there were plenty of paying customers there. And as you have seen and will see in later photos most important navigation and store signs have English subtitles to help us out.
In one way (at least) the Chinese are way ahead of us. All of them have an app called AliPay or similar. You go to a shop or restaurant and scan a QR code, order what you want and pay all on your smartphone. No human involved except when you pick up your food. No dispute about what you ordered if the wrong thing comes out.
Unfortunately you need to have a Chinese bank account to use this app. This became somewhat of an issue during my trip. Many restaurants do not even have physical menus anymore or have outdated ones in the back they have to go dig up. Fortunately I figured out how to scan the QR code and at least see the menu, and the online menus had pictures so this helped with the language barrier somewhat. Still had to pay in cash.
The photos below are near where we were working which was away from the city center. It happens to be near the area's major university, sort of a college town. This is off the beaten path, we definitely got some inquisitive looks from some of the locals. Some would stare for a while.
Towards the end of our time there we headed back to the city center. I stayed in a different hotel this time to see a different part of the city.
The city of Chongqing is known as the hotpot capital of the world. They did not disappoint!
Turns out I was there a week before the 70th anniversary of the communist party. Everyone was preparing for a big celebration right as we were about to leave