Once thought of purely in terms of its burgeoning automobile industry and as the embarkation point for the breathtaking boat journey along China's Three Gorges, these days, the hilly city of Chongqing is earning a reputation as a destination in its own right.
Located at the confluence of the Yangzi and Jialing Rivers, and often cited as the world's biggest metropolis, this 30 million strong municipality was separated from Sichuan in 1997, and now offers a captivating glimpse of modern China -- the good, the gritty and the glamorous.
Within the city itself, highlights include a stroll along the Yangzi, a visit to the state-of-the-art Three Gorges Museum, stopping in at the revered Luohan Temple, and learning a little about Chongqing's status as a wartime capital at the Stilwell Museum. Conventional sights aside, Chongqing is a city best enjoyed with a wander through the bustling backstreets hidden behind the shiny new skyscrapers.
Known as one of China's "Three Furnaces," locals find respite from Chongqing's summer heat at watermelon stalls set up all over the city. Teahouses are also great spots to escape the heat, and you may well witness an impromptu performance of Sichuan opera. In the winter, Chongqing's notoriously spicy hotpots come into their own, offering hearty lip-burning sustenance.
Chongqing also offers easy access to a host of nearby attractions, foremost of which are the world's biggest seated stone Buddha at Leshan, and the wonderful Song and Tang dynasty Buddhist statues and frescoes at Dazu.
Simon Foster is the author of the Frommers.com Taipei guide, and a contributing author for Frommer's China. He leads cycling and adventure tours around Taiwan for Bamboo Trails (www.bambootrails.com) and Grasshopper Adventures (www.grasshopperadventures.com).