This is the view from my window in Chongqing.
I came into Chongqing to do some research for my book on the New Silk Road. I was in work mode, chasing particular intrigues for the sole purpose of writing about them, spending every available moment making contacts, doing interviews, visiting sites, and running the research crew. But then I got a room in the Yangtze River Hostel and I knew that my obsessive focus was going to have to be intermittently be suspended, as blips of enjoyment were seeping through.
As the name indicates, the Yangtze River Hostel is located on the Yangtze River, right at a point before it connects with the Jia River a kilometer downstream. The hostel itself is in an old, traditional style house that for some reason was spared the wrecking ball of progress. A short walk to the west reveals the ruins of other historic buildings that were not so fortunate. To the east and north its all architecture of the modern era.
One possible reason why this old wooden house with a terracotta tiled roof still stands is that it’s virtually located beneath the orange Changshou Bridge. It opened to traffic in 2009, and is among the longest cable-stayed bridges in the world, spanning 460 meters.
Each night that I stayed at this guesthouse I would sit by this window and look out at the bridge and watch the water of the Yangtze flow by. This river is the traditional dividing point between north and south in China, and simply going from one side to the other is to be in noticeably different cultural terrain. I’d look out and dream a little about the places this water had already passed through and where it is going to. I think of the mountains of Qinghai where it begins and the delta at Pudong where it ends, and all the cities, mountains, and expanses of farmland in between. Throughout the decade that I’ve been coming in and out of China I’ve been to many of these places, and each time I am I make it a point to come down to the river just to look at it and daydream. I think about how I walked 25 kilometers just to see it one day, I think of the day that I couldn’t cross it on the ferry because the smog was too bad, I think of bicycle trips that I took through the pollution spewing factory-landia that lines its banks.
Now I’m going to think of those days I spent in that traditional house in Chongqing under the Changshou Bridge, drinking Harbin beer, watching coolies load and unload boats, and dreaming about the River.