Chongqing- If you're like me, an ex-pat in the semitropical city-state of Chongqing (about the latitude of Houston, Texas and just a little north of beach-town Miami), you are probably both grateful for the careful and vigilant pandemic defense system that keeps us reasonably safe, and whimsical for a trip back home, to see family, to give holiday hugs, and to play in the snow.
If you are like me and long for an opportunity to don your warmest coat and gloves, hat, or as the French say, a toque, and roll up a sweet little snowball to hurl at someone you love, I have good news for you: a winter wonderland is only a short drive away in Chongqing.
Lucky to have a large and social Chinese family here, the preparations were made easy for me; I merely had to say, "I do," and we were on our way, on a relaxing Sunday morning. A hot thermos of coffee in my hands, my new snowboarding jacket over a wooly sweater, and gloves and hat at the ready, I stood outside my home at the crack of noon, as a family car drove up and picked us up to begin our adventure.
We drove through the casual weekend mini-traffic jam, full of excitement and anticipation. We were on the highway within the hour, approaching reasonable driving speeds that reminded me of winter trips back in my native Canada. Soon I got lost in the road, made quicker for all the recent and modern tunnels compared to what would have been a much slower, windier journey up and down hills and mountains a century ago. I caught up with old friends online, full of fast-approaching winter holiday cheer, and before I knew it, two or three hours had whirled by, and we were approaching Wulong mountain bluffs. Traffic began to slow, and suddenly we all cried out in wonder. There was snow on the ground! A tour bus had ground traffic to a halt. Couples were posing and playing the icy ditch, and we fought for every inch to advance past the various jams until we once again found the smooth solitude of the mountains our only companion.
We stopped at a village and enjoyed a delicious YangRo Tang, or sheep soup, with fresh winter turnips and green vegetables freshly picked from frosty grass. It was a spicy and memorable lunch that infused us with warm bellies and big smiles.
We arrived at one bargain online hotel, only to find there was, in fact, little snow and nowhere to frolic. We negotiated a refund for the dozen of us in our multiple car caravan, and soon enough, we were back on our way until we made it to the Xinhua Fantasia Fantasy Ranch Hotel, a full-on rustic mountain experience complete with horses and ample amounts of frozen horse poop. As we explored, the snow began to fall, promising an exciting adventure ahead of us. We checked in, dropped off our stuff, and relaxed for a few minutes before joining the children to play outside in the newly falling snow, taking obligatory photos before dinner.
The dinner was simple, not particularly fancy, but nice enough to leave us happy to go back outside into the cold and explore more as the snow was quickly descending. We took more photos, and I enjoyed only my second snowfall in Chongqing since I moved here in 2014.
That night, happy and warm, I slept well, although the latitude seemed to play tricks on my wife and a few of the women in our group who did not feel rested in the morning. Still, we awoke early to get a nice, large breakfast, in the Chinese style, but I opted to westernize it with two fried eggs, a heap of bacon, and some toast and jam with a side of vegetables.
Walking around after breakfast was truly a fantastic experience, and many children were sledding down the small, snow-covered hill and running and playing.
With an eye both for good photo composition and aesthetically pleasing modeling poses, my wife helped the whole family get adorable photos, which always seems to take up too much of our time when we travel but in retrospect serves as charming memories to look back upon.
There are particular photos and poses the ladies seemed to enjoy, such as posing with a snowball or lying in the snow, whimsically catching snow as it fell.
The kids got tired of sledding and made a little snowman. So cute. Winter vibes trophy unlocked.
After an extensive photoshoot, tobogganing session, and winter walk through the ranch, we packed up and checked out, only then realizing the dangers of icy mountain roads, and for a few moments, felt genuine concern for our predicament. We waited a few minutes and tested the roads, slippery but manageable, and we headed out.
On the way down the mountain, we stopped to shop for some delicious fresh produce. Baba and Mama were thrilled with the size and quality of the greens and fresh icy turnips.
We were soon back in the village and returned for that delicious YangRo soup, bbq snacks, and fresh vegetables. The drive back, as always, seemed to take so much longer, and I napped and listened to a Kevin Hart COVID-19 comedy special, remembering the world we momentarily left behind for that lovely escape into the magical peaks of WuLong, or Fairy Mountain, in English.
Eventually, we were back in Chongqing City and then had to deal with the longest part of the trip back- the obligatory traffic jam. To me, this is the worst part, but it did not dampen my fun for what was ultimately a gift: a lovely snow day, with pictures to remember it.
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