Phatry Derek Pan writes about his experience in China

November 14, 2008
By Phatry Derek Pan

Building respect one high riser at a time


Chongqing, China – Most geographers might not even know this trivial fact, but Chongqing is the world's most populated city. Proudly boasting as the "city of bridges", CQ, as locals refers it, stands tall as a testament of a city on the verge of becoming the next great metropolis.

Thirty million inhabit an area the size of approximately two Seattles, a city I grew up half of my life. CQ features majestic hills, criss crossing rivers, and dizzying roads. A city that appears to be playing "catch up" to its more respectable big brotherly rivals of Beijing and Shanghai.

But what CQ has which BJ lacks visibility is 360 degrees of intense energy. Jubilant faced construction workers bustling their bodies building 30-stories condominiums, office spaces putting the Silicon Valley to shambles, and business communities that outmatch Wall Street. For example, right off of CQ's new neighborhood of Nan Bin, we encountered two replicas of what was once the world's tallest building, Kuala Lampur's Petrona Towers: one dipped in gold exterior, another in silver – right next to each other.

Our impression solidified after the hazy gray cable car ride overlooking the Yangtze River. Every corner and pockets of the city, new developments emerge from dilapidated slums and old abandoned factory districts. Every inch appeared to be under construction – not one hill left behind for mass construction.

"I have never seen so much construction in my whole life," said Kamal Sigdel, a journalist from Kathmandu, Nepal. "I have visited New Delphi and seen its transformation, but never to CQ's massive level."

The city's vibrancy was even more evident when we strolled through the Central Business District. A population that forbid bicycles, the streets were cracking with slim model-like locals rushing, smiling and eating their way through the organized chaos. Car honks outnumbered people's conversation, and vendors overwhelmed by all the prospective buyers that they seem to be mellow about forcing to close a sale. After all, with over 30 million folks, the attitude appears carefree; at least one will buy my tiger skin coat.

Our goal of exploration and understanding of the city's development intensified after we decided to randomly jump in a city bus without clear path of direction. There we met Nicole, a 25-year-old local in the advertising business, who openly ared her views and perspectives.

"CQ has more than 30 million inhabitants, because its boundary is quite ambiguous," said Nicole, who was frantically rushing to her office.  "And within the last 24 months living here after graduation, I noticed even more construction, thus I predict the city will experience a bigger population boom."

After our one-hour bus ride, we arrived in the fringes of the city, which was about 35 km from the hub, and to our amazement, countless condominiums towers the newly paved roads.

Chongqing's rapid development will one day parallel its political and financial super powering cities, but the process is undergoing – one higher at a time.

November 15, 2008
By Phatry Derek Pan

The Four Corners of APLP GIST Experience

Futures | The City
In my view, Chongqing is a city playing the "catch-up" role with its more powerful and respectable big brother cities, namely Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. But I am optimistic of where the city of 30 million fits in the space between these political and economic giants. It appears that CQ's development of both residential and commercial will surpass the cities mentioned, and will follow-up with mega infrastructure projects such as rail station, cable cars, water system, etc  to make the city more accessible and attractive to national and international investments. But in order for Chongqing to stand out, a new niche most be developed, perhaps being China's Silicon Valley.

Futures | The People
Chongqingers are amazingly chill people. The vibe is much more laid back, which I find perplexing for a city of its magnitude. And for the three individuals we met – Sago, Charlie, and Nicole – all illustrated genuine Chinese hospitality. They have shared us their life aspirations, which according to Kamal, are "towering"
Kamal shared Charlie's dream to be a billionaire. The 21-year-old mathematics major, might illustrate the city's young population desire to strike rich, which is quite visible when you visit the country.

Diversity | The many Chinas
Topographically diverse, Chongqing reminds me of a bit of Seattle and San Francisco, where hills and water dominate the area.  This characteristic alone, is a contrast to the other cities that we have journeyed so far in our 2,500 km expedition.

Furthermore, the city's cuisine boasts to be the spiciest in all of China. Indeed, the many adventurous dishes I have experimented have put my tongue to the test. Shish kabob-like snacks and noodle dishes are laced with the finest herbs and spices, making every bite memorable with flavor.

Our three days in Chongqing was probably the least stressful for the team. We had a good friend, Charlie, who bent over backwards to satisfy us in every move. Comparatively speaking, he spent the least amount of time with us, which proved to be less frustrating for our team.

Team diversity

Both of my colleagues are number 6 on the Enneagram, which is characterized as "peacemakers." Though I can see these qualities in both when we traveled, I felt the most challenging part of our team was the little things – food habits, playing the waiting game, etc - that pestered me.

I believe I am very tolerable and patient individual, but there is so much one can take before emotions are spilled over the table. Both have different eating preferences, which became a hassle, when I dined, where I desired to eat everything and anything by local favorites. The last couple of days showed a collapse – where I began to eat by myself – and not in family style manner as we had in our earlier meals. Perhaps it was me that showed to be the weakest.

Cultural diversity
Three of us are so different – in cultures, religions, and lifestyles – which one can imagine, would pose many challenges. I am a Westernized Cambodian, who enjoys a night of boozing, partying, and adventure dining, Huma has shared that her night with me in Hechuan, was in fact her first out to a club setting, and she has never consumed alcohol in her life. Whereas Kamal, is a light drinker and not so much of a partyer as I had falsely assumed. So in short, I found my evenings pretty dull, and had wished to see more of the nightlife.

Social Networks (People)
The city of Chongqing has a complex infrastructural network, though under

developed compared to other metropolis. It's rail network is expanding by at least 7 new routes, subway stations are added to its existing lines, and there are signs of new irrigation channels to improve sewage system. The city is also famous for having over 1,000 bridges.

In terms of the social interaction of local Chongqingers, we were fortunate to establish a good base with three individuals – two are young professionals and one a current student, aged 20-22.

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