My experience in Dadukou this morning goes to shows how a flexible outlook can turn a wasted trip into a fruitful excursion. A colourful mess that was an invitation to film in a remote corner of Chongqing, led to me unearthing a few antiquities of interest, as well as inspiration for a new blogpost.
Dadukou is a large district in the southwest portion of Chongqing, and takes the name ‘Big Ferry Rivermouth大渡口’ from the days people once crossed the Yangtze by ferryboat, thanks to the wider, and slower flowing waters. The port of choice sat by the mouth of the Masang Stream马桑溪, and where you can now visit the Yidu Old Town义渡古镇.
Nowadays, the Masangxi Yangtze Bridge towers over the very spot, and has long since rendered the ferry business obselete.
Attitude is the Way Forward
Without going into sordid detail, a small film group talked me into filming a shoot promotional video. However, a two hour shoot in Yubei turned into a full morning in Dadukou, a considerable distance south past the notorious traffic at the Western Interchange. I would have to leave at 7am to pass through unhindered.
After an hour waiting at the designated location I had taken the conscious effort to confirm the previous night, they sent me their actual GPS location a good fifteen minute drive away. Once there, and already behind schedule, they learnt that nobody had brought the suit I was to wear. An hour and a half later, after trying on a tatty outfit cobbled together from some unknown source, it was thanks but no thanks after learning the film shoot would now extend well in to the afternoon.
Such experiences would have felt intolerable a decade ago, but I have learnt to expect a high degree of fluidity in regards to schedules, logistics and commitments. Once you relax your military precision expectations, go with the flow a little, and have a plan B for eventualities, it’s possible to casually shrug off a bad experience without any bitter aftertaste.
In the past, I have taken up rewarding offers, especially one for the Hyatt Hotel in Guanyinqiao, where I earnestly displayed my modest acting skills under the guidance of Vernon Chen, a well known short film director from Chongqing, and whose works include ‘A French Lady in Chongqing在重庆的法国女孩.’
Micro-sized Business Brilliant Park
Around 7:40am, the errant address on Baidu Maps instructed me to turn left into the Chinglishly named Micro-sized Business Brillant Park艺度创微企亮园, my temporary home for the next hour.
What struck me straight away was the resemblance to Testbed 2, not the layout, but rather how old factory buildings had been renovated into modern business premises, all whilst outwardly retaining the charm of their past era.
The revoltionary style wall paintings that instead brandished slogans encouraging modern business innovation, were not only visually pleasing and humorous, but merged past and present in way that perfectly befitted housing modern day companies in a bygone era location.
However, the centre of interest was a giant rusted locamotive set on about ten metres of railtrack, in the middle of an open courtyard that also serves as a carpark. Alongside the train is an old fashioned station sign bearning the name of Yiduchuang艺度创, that of the business park.
I took a leisurely stroll through the quiet streets as the park began the first sings of life. Drivers on idle rickshaws cut me friendly but curious glances, while shutters of a frozen goods warehouse opened as porters wheeled out a crate among the icy mist bellowing from inside.
There was plenty yet to explore, but when the revised GPS rendez-vous point pinged on my phone, it was time to drive out past the sleepy security guard to my new destination.
Yidukou and Taoran Old Towns
You’ve already had the lowdown on the film shoot, so I’ll continue from the moment I took leave.
The generous ratings on Baidu convinced me to pay a visit. I parked on the rough unpaved surface, and walked through the main gates into the town itself.
What met my eyes were clean open streets and buildings of elegant brick and woodwork. The town was long but relatively narrow, squeezed between a live railway track and the Yangtze river waters. Overhead, the Masangxi ringroad bridge stood majestically to the slight drone of traffic constantly streaming between Dadukou and Ba’nan District across the river.
As I walked back towards the carpark along the railway line, I was surprised to come across another locamotive. This time, the exhibit was not an engine, but a retired passenger carriage converted into a restaurant. Outside, there stood the station name board of Dadukou, with life-sized model passengers waiting, standing and embracing on the platform.
I felt Yidukou really had a lot going for it, except for one vital shortcoming, the total lack of visitors.
This remote southerly stretch of Dadukou, quite inaccessible without private transport, and far removed from well populated residential areas or other attractions, the unfavourable location means it can’t compete with the bustling old towns of Ciqikou and Hongyadong.
For this reason, the vast majoity of shops, stalls and guesthouses were firmly closed, perhaps waiting for busier days over the weekend or national holidays.
Taoran Old Town 陶然古镇
Finally, as I reached the foot of Zhaomu Mountain, not far to my home, I followed the whim to pull into Taoran, an ‘old town’ I had driven past countless times without ever checking it out.
Nestled on the hillside, I climbed the steps in front of the grand entrance, and then up the hillside into what I wouldn’t technically call an old town, but rather an attractive narrow street lined by solely hotpot and Sichuanese restaurants obviously catering to large groups.
Again, there were barely any other visitors around. I walked the hundred or so metres to the end, where a circular sculpture marked the boundary with Zhaomushan Park.
And that was that!
Zhaomushan Forest Park照母山森林公园 is an extensive mass of earth streching at least three kilometres across from the Dazhulin大竹林(Bamboo Forest) area to Renhe, around which are many coveted residential complexes that have access to its forests, grass fields, lake, and pagoda that can be seen for miles when lit up at night. I’ll cover this in a future post when the right opportunity comes.