If you had asked me in 2015 if I would return to China, I probably would have hesitated.My memories are dominated by a sense of bewilderment and a feeling of being overwhelmed. The country was massive, filled with gorgeous national parks and sprawling cities. We had trouble with food, with adjusting to cultural norms and in getting around, and yet it somehow remained fascinating. Yangshuo did call for a return trip, but by the time we left, we had clearly reached our limit on experiencing new things.
But even with a possible return, the last place I would have predicted I would go to was Chongqing.
Even now, I cannot remember a single thing that would call me back to the sprawling metropolis at the junction of two rivers. I remember rain, I remember chaos, I remember massive piles of boxes spilling out of shops and into the street in the harbor town. I remember the McDonalds in the central near the victory monument, where Luke ate fries as I grouchily fought intense stomach pain. I remember the duck dish that was served cartilage and all, where none of us dared to talk about what we were eating until we finished. I remember a crowded park across the river, and walking several kilometers on the side of a very busy road because an overfilled bus decided not to stop for us.
I remember museums which were only half renovated and standing, and mannequins dressed as the trainers of old times with empty staring eyes. I remember finding a Carrefour, deliberating over which foreign food to buy, and freaking out over the live fish. It was a transition place- somewhere we had come because Ruth was leaving and it was a good location to return to Beijing as well as to get further south as we continued our way to Vietnam. The other two had arrived before I did, as I was still getting my visa extension. By the time I arrived, after a solo train ride and many confused conversations with locals who made me jog up and down the steep steps to and from the river with their different directions, I found that the other two had already seen much of what there was to see. A few monuments, a temple, and the supposed old town were the only draws in the area. We found that the old town was being torn down, that the rain made everything less inviting, that the travel fatigue wore our emotions and patience down to bare minimum.
As I am not a tourist, I suspect my experience in 2017 will be different- but nevertheless I look forward to the weeks in China with just a bit of trepidation. Will the travel fatigue set in again? Will I have time to revisit and fondly reflect? Will it rain again?