Chongqing Garden Expo Park

Staying on the theme of exhibitions, another grand scale project in the LiangJiang New North Zone is the Garden Expo.

While the International Conference and Exhibition Centre is a gigantic indoor arena that can host events of all magnitudes, the Garden Expo is a vast park where you can look for the many individual garden exhibits, all landscaped according to themes and traditions from within China and around the world.

Longjing Lake龙景湖 (Dragon View Lake in Chinese) extends its reach throughout the 225 acre park, so pretty bridges and a fleet of motorboats connect the plots of land, while neat pathways run up and down the verdant hills that sit around the lake in perfect contrast. This attraction truly offers the visitor a tranquil getaway from the inner city bustle.

The main square on the northern side is a truly majestic sight, with the giant archway and towering wooden structures climbing up a hillside. A tall whitewashed concrete perimetre encloses the entire park from the roadside, with a small side west entrance easy to whizz past when driving, and a discreetly tucked away entrance on the eastern side, mostly easily accessible by taking subway line 5.

In fact, on the very rare occasion the main square is packed with visitors, the side entrances can be a sneaky alternative to bypassing the queues at the ticket office.

Chongqing Garden Expo opened in mid November 2011, but with the exception of my first visit a few years back, I have always found the park to be very quiet, even on the most pleasantly warm sunny days in spring or autumn.

During my last visit by subway before the summer this year, I strolled in through the east gate, and down towards the lake along a windy narrow pathway. A great feature I noticed were the stone slabs engraved in red with common Sichuanese colloquialisms, annoted with Mandarin explanations for out of town visitors. As I’m trying to brush up on my Chongqing dialect comprehension, I even snapped a few photographs that I’ll share in my post once I’ve located them among the thousands of my phone.

The themed gardens are scattered over an area much too large to navigate on foot, so I just explored those I happened to come across during my walk. After crossing a few bridges and a tunnel, I arrived at the main point of interest for myself that day, the eye catching Chongyun Pagoda重云塔 at the centre.

I followed the road that winds up the hill, ascended a flight of steps, chatted with two young Russian ladies, then a group of friendly pensioners, before reaching the foot of Chongyun Pagoda. There is actually a lift that takes guests to the top by invitation, but my luck was out that day. Just as I arrived, a group had already filed out while the park attendant was bolting up the doors.

Before I knew it, midday was fast approaching. I made my way back to the east gate via a picturesque but deserted hilltop rest area, where I decided to sit twenty minutes and catch more of the spring sunshine rays.

Thinking back, the two other fun occasions I remember here was a Chinese tea exhibition on the lawns just inside the main entrance. Like at Huayan Temple, participants in traditional Chinese robes laid out there pro accessories and elegant rugs, then infused the leaves to a guzheng zither accompaniment and the soothing voice of the event presenter.

Another occasion was the half marathon. In fact, the Garden Expo has more than enough roads winding in and around the lake and hills, perfect for running events, unless anyone takes a wrong turn! On most days, the park is very popular with joggers, and many a Wechat contact likes to post maps of their run with all the main stats, distance, time, heart rate, calories, and even the exact routes they took.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the park itself, I love it. However, there are some factors that result in the very low number of visitors, at least when I have ever visited there on a whim.

The first issue is navigating the great distances on foot, with only a crude map on the back of the entrance ticket to follow. The themed gardens are spread out over the entire park, so it’s very difficult to visit all the ones of particular interest. There are nice fleets of buggies that you can wave down, but you will have to wait for the opportunity to pay for a ride, and they won’t necessarily happen to take you where you want to go.

To be brutally honest, while the themed gardens here are pleasant, I have never left any of them feeling overwhelmed by the experience. As an Englishman of the 80s, I am still a great admirer of landscaped parks, from the great many I visited in my youth in England, plus the many others I have seen elsewhere in China and Korea.

Lastly, while there are old town areas like the Bayu Village inside, I have never any of them open for business, whether it be catering, enternainment, relaxation, whatever. As lovely as exploring the Garden Expo is, it certainly lacks these facilities which would make spending a whole day here a more practical option. The reason is clear to see, though. Visitor numbers aren’t sufficient enough to sustain them, and so there aren’t enough running facilities to attract more day visitors. It’s kind of a vicious circle.

Nevertheless, I still love the Expo Gardens, and like to go whenever the sun shines and I have a daytime to spare, especially as I live so closeby.

You would definitely enjoy a visit here if you are on a prolonged stay in Chongqing.


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