From any unobscured point in the city, especially on a clear sunny day, it’s possible to spot the golden eagle perched upon one of the countless peaks of Nanshan, ‘South Mountain.’
While tourists might imagine it could be there as a symbol of power and prosperity, it’s purpose is really to serve as a viewing platform, from where you can view the entire expanse of the city and surrounding rivers and topography.
The Chongqing Jinying ‘Golden Eagle’ was completed and opened to the public in 1998, and curiosity drove me to visit not long after I arrived in 2003. At that time, it was possible to climb into the eagle’s head and view the city from its beak, and arriving before sunset allowed me to enjoy the expansive views, then watched the transition to night-time as the city illuminated itself in a bright and extravagant blaze of colour.
On the hillside descent to Nanbin Lu, I witnessed the incredible nightview of Jiefangbei peninsula from across the Yangtze. Locals will tell you the night city view is more spectactular than Hong Kong, and however true this may be, you can only imagine how this has enhanced after a further 15 years of breakneck speed development.
That evening was my first and last visit to the Golden Eagle for a decade and half. That is, however, until yesterday.
A clear day free of commitment spurred me to drive to Nanshan again, following my visit last week to the Japanese hot spring, which is a mere kilometre or two down the road along the mountain-top plateau.
Nanshan is home to quite a sizeable community. Along with sleepy village communities, there are also plush villas, manors, universities, and masses of entertainment, like the giant waterpark and viewing platforms. For this reason, and its relative accessibility to Chongqing down below, the level of development is much higher compared to neighbouring ridges, such as the more rugged and close natural environment you experience on Tieshanping 铁山坪.
Golden Eagle Park
There is a small but worthwhile price to pay for the amazing panoramic you behold at the top.
Starting at the carpark entrance down below, or across the street from the botanic gardens, a 12 Yuan ticket offers you the pleasure of a steep climb up several flights of stone steps, with brief openings through the vegetation that give you a taste of the views to come.
Eventually, you reach the open platform upon which the golden eagle is perched. The views are already great from here, but a visit wouldn’t feel complete without climbing up right to the top.
Yesterday, I made the climb in temperatures close to forty degrees with very high humidity. Even before I entered the staircase inside the Golden Eagle, I was dripping profusely with sweat. Fortunately, it is considerably cooler inside, and there are spaces available to take a breather and enjoy a drink from the vendor downstairs.
The eagle has stood here over twenty years old now, and you do feel the site is showing its age a little. The surfaces on the way up are damp and grimy, with a scent of urine following you all the way up. For some reason, the experience instantly gave me flashbacks of the dingy underpasses you can walk through from St Margaret’s Pasture to Leicester City Centre, back in my hometown. Forgive the brief anecdote.
Finally, the last set of steps take you up the outer structure, and the low railings only add to the giddying heights you see when you look out over the edge.
Whereas it was once possible to climb into the eagle’s head and access the viewing platform in its beak, the entrance was securely bolted, with bins parked right in front for good measure.
I must have stayed about 15 minutes. In between requests to take photos from other tourists, I soon felt more comfortable with the elevated position, and took in the full panoramic view, thoughts interspersed by passenger aircraft flying overhead on their final approach into Chongqing.
In the city down below, the main point of interest at present is the Raffles Chaotianmen Complex, with the up and coming sky garden that spans over three skyscrapers.
Is the climb itself worth the effort?
Undoubtedly yes, and the Golden Eagle is so close to other attractions, such as Caribbean Bay and Japanese hot spings, the War of Resistance Park, Botanic Gardens, bookstores, just to name a few, the eagle is certainly a rewarding part of a day or two’s exploration of Nanshan.
It’s really a question of how much time you have available. A tight schedule before taking a Three Gorges cruise will probably rule this option out for you. Otherwise, you can take a full day to explore more thoroughly, and even consider spending a night in a mountaintop country resort, allowing you to perform this itinerary at a much more leisurely pace.
While the views at the Golden Eagle are arguably better than Yikeshu Viewing Platform一棵树观景台, the latter is ideal if you want a souvenir photo taken, as it’s geographically closer to the city, and there’s more space for photographers with their slow speed camera shutters to capture the ideal nightview.
Finally, bear in mind it takes a steep climb to reach the eagle, so you need to be in good shape, especially when going up against the oppressive summer heat. Naturally, you will only be rewarded with a great view when the weather is clear.
Stay tuned, as I will write up my visit to the neighbouring War of Resistance Park in due course.