I really loved my time in Chongqing and tried to pack in a lot in the few days we had there. For the most part, it was all about the hot pot. The day after our delicious meal the first night in town, we discovered another hot pot restaurant that set up under a tent across the street from our hotel.
It’s run by a family that lives in the apartment building behind it. Luckily, Lindsay was there and could translate. They sat and talked with us for a while and told me a little about how the soup is made. They said it took them 100 days to learn to make it. I’m guessing that is a euphemism for ‘a long time’ instead of exactly 100 days. They said the actual process of making the soup takes three days. It contains 30 different peppers that they cut, wash, fry and then mash into a paste. It’s then cooked in water oil and garlic. The soup there was much hotter than the soup we had in the alley, which makes me think the first place gave us the Whitey Special. Even the soup that we asked to be mild was noticeably hotter.
At one point, the father grabbed something that looked like a dirty dishrag and threw it in the pot, saying it was the most delicious thing in the place and that we had to try it. No one would. In fairness, it looked pretty gnarly. But I didn’t want them to be offended and I’m pretty hard to gross out so I strapped on my food balls and volunteered. I started to regret my decision upon closer inspection of the dishrag. It was coarse, bumpy, and gray. Lindsay said she couldn’t completely understand what he said it was except that she heard him say “guts” (Yum!). Later, we collectively decided that is was stomach lining. I slathered on the garlic and sesame seed oil and tossed her in. It didn’t have much of a taste but the texture was awful. It was really, really tough and honestly took a couple minutes to chew. The wife was standing over me repeating, “Hao chi, ma? Hao chi ma?” which means “Does it taste good? Does it taste good?”
Truthfully, lady? It was disgusting. But I couldn’t say that. Instead, I said “Mmmm! Hao chi!” which means, “It tastes good!” But, unlike Lady Gaga, I don’t have a poker face no matter how hard I try. Everyone could tell how terrible it was.
Besides the stomach-lining incident the night was wonderful. The family was so accommodating and kind. They even gave us their phone number so that if we went out and got in later than one, when they close, we could call them and they would open back up for us. We obviously would never do that, but it was touching to see that kind of generosity to strangers.
The next day a group of us went to visit the Ciqikou Ancient Town. Most of the buildings date back to the Ming Dynasty but there is a monastery, the Baolun Si monastery, which dates back to the Western Wei Dynasty from the 6th century.
We walked through the narrow lanes, shopped and ate. The buildings were built into the side of a hill that rose up from the Jialing River. Once again I found myself at a major tourist attraction on a Sunday. There was a sea of people but there were smaller lanes shooting off where we could escape the majority of the crowds. We were able to sit down at a teahouse and have a traditional tea service with the most darling woman who owned the shop. We strayed even further from the main drag, across a bridge and over to another hill where houses were on stilts built into the hill. These older neighborhoods give you a glimpse into what China was like hundreds of years ago with smalls homes, tightly packed in together on winding roads. People still live there today but these little enclaves are now standing in the shadow of the skyscrapers, neon signs and sweeping spotlights of the city.