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there was no rush for me to get back to chongqing, so i took my time getting ready. after sunmeng left in the morning around 8am, the only things i had to do was pack my things, get some breakfast, and get my RMB100 deposit back from the rental office. i videochatted with my parents first, showing them the things i bought (10x 酸菜鱼 flavor packets) and the things sunmeng's parents gave them. we decided the only way i could get everything back was to jettison the package for the tea, which looked very pretty, but would take up too much space and was heavy as well. to make amends for this sacrifice, i made sure i took plenty of photos of the packaging (both regular and 3D) before finally getting rid of it all.

i left a bit before 10am to get some breakfast. outside it was cold (16°C), windy, and wet, a bad combination. not too bad for someone from new england, but still, even i had to admit it was a bit raw. fortunately it was a very fine drizzle so i didn't have to use my umbrella (it was probably useless anyway against the mist). i returned to the meat bun place for the 3rd morning in a row, 5 buns and a soy milk for just RMB4.5. i came back to the apartment to eat then take a shower and finally pack.

even without sunmeng's parents' gift of tea and silk, i was going to have a hard time packing everything. the problem was the 10 packets of chinese sauerkraut fish sauce (酸菜鱼). in hindsight, maybe i should've just purchased them in chongqing, instead of buying them here in changshou and bringing them back. i could've taken the tea box if i carried it by hand, but that would've stretched my carrying capacity to 100% and back in chongqing i would've had to throw away the box anyway just to make room in my suitcase.

everything packed, i looked out the window one last time. it made me sad, because i don't know if i'll ever return to this place again. i was fortunate enough to have a chance to come back and see everything once more, but with the speed of change in china, and with my own life course back in boston, this may be the last time i'm here at 宝润国际, a place i used to call home. i went down to the 11th floor to find the cleaning lady. she was just about to make lunch, but returned my RMB100 and went up with me to inspect the room before i left.

catching the bus to the bus station (骑鞍车站) was just a simple matter of taking the elevator to the ground floor and crossing the street to the bus stop. nearly all buses go by the station, and i hopped on the first one that came along (105), swiping the bus card i charged up (RMB20) yesterday afternoon. i found a seat but sat awkwardly with all my bags, until i finally decided to stand since we were almost at the bus station which was only a few stops away.

like a seasoned pro, i passed my bags through the screening machine then bought a bus ticket to chongqing (RMB31). i caught myself mesmerized by the destination chart, checking off all the little towns nearby i'd visited in the past, imagining myself going there again, but just not having enough time.

i was the last person to climb onboard the bus, and at first i didn't think there were anymore empty seats left. i had an aisle seat next to a man who didn't seem happy i and my bulk of luggage was sitting next to him. "you can put your bag on the floor," he told me, but i told him i couldn't because i had a laptop computer, not my real reason, which is chinese bus floors are filthy. i had my backpack on my lap, and my oversized messenger bag on top of that, essentially blocking my face, then my camera bag wedged between my body and everything else. it wasn't the most comfortable of positions, but i only had to endure it for an hour before we arrive in chongqing. we left the station at 11:30am.

i'd forgotten all the little details about riding a long distance bus in china. a security person comes onboard and makes sure everyone has their seatbelts on, but this is purely for show as i never put on my seatbelt. all the while a video is playing gruesome footage of real people getting thrown inside of a bus during accidents, supposedly warning you the dangers of going seatbeltless, but i read it more as government safety insensitivity in using graphic scare tactics to make people comply to their regulations. there was something new this time around, which i took to be a movie at first, but was actually a short film made by the safety department warning people against riding "black cars" which are unregulated vehicles. it started with a woman who accepts a ride from a man who then proceeds to drive her to the middle of nowhere then demand money. when she doesn't pay, he throws her out of the car and leaves. when she goes to the police station to report the incident, the police show her (and the viewer) the dangers of riding black cars, which can ultimately end in murder.

due to the slight drizzle we arrived in chongqing a bit late, 12:45pm. almost from muscle memory, i made my way to the subway station and took the train one stop south to guanyinqiao. back at the hotel, i asked them for my packages. then the older of the workers there started asking me on which days i left for chengdu and sanya. at first i was little angry because i thought she meant i'd be charged extra for those days when i wasn't here, but she just needed the exact days to file a report. she said next time i should tell them before i go live somewhere else, but i told her i did that when i went to chengdu, and the clerk i wouldn't have a problem. seems like nobody really knows what's going on.

i thought i only had 4 packages but i had a lot more than i realized. i brought them all upstairs and began to open them. all were from my jd.com order, which makes sense, because they're a pretty reputable online store. unfortunately none of my fortune kitties had arrived yet, but i ordered them from taobao, which normally takes longer because they're from individual sellers. later in the day i got another call from a courier with a delivery of my carbon dioxide pipe for the aquarium.

i went out briefly to get some snacks: dongbei bread, custards, and 20RMB worth of large yangmei (17RMB/斤). as it was intermittently raining outside and cold as well, i stayed in the hotel the rest of the day. at some point housecleaning came into the room despite me telling them i'd be gone to change the sheets on the bed. i knew they were here because i saw one of the plush toys on the desk (it must've fallen off the window). also when i left i had all my clothes embarrassingly hang-drying in the room. everything was dried of course, and no mildewy smell, which was one of my fears when it came to drying in the room.

i made plans to meet wangyan one last time at guanyinqiao for dinner later in the evening. she assumed sunmeng would be coming as well until i told her she wouldn't return to chongqing until tomorrow night (friday). it's for the best, because i always sense tension from sunmeng the 2 times we hung out with wangyan at her apartment. first time she was busy playing a noisy shooting game on her phone while wangyan and i chatted; the second time she watched videos on my phone in the living room while wangyan and i cooked in the kitchen.

MAY

25

2016

the threat of rain never did materialize and i had a successful day of supermarket shopping then spending the rest of the day in old changshou. for dinner i had the smoked ribs hot pot that i've been dreaming about ever since i last left china.

MAY

22

2016

MAY

19

2016

i saw the sun rise from my small hotel window. okay, that's not entirely true. my window actually faces west, so i would only be able to see the sun set if my view of the horizon wasn't blocked by so many tall buildings. but what i meant to say is i didn't fall asleep last night until 7am in the morning. there's definitely something going on this week, it's not just the cold medication. it can't be the drugs because 1) it was supposed to make me drowsy and 2) i've already stopped taking it since wednesday. it can't be because of sunmeng leaving in an angry fit monday morning, since we're back to normal again after i invited her back to chongqing. so the only conclusion i can draw is it's something psychological. i'm probably worried about my trip back to boston. i want to buy some things online but 1) i don't know what yet and 2) i don't know how. plus the fact that my 2 month staycation in chongqing is about 2 weeks away from coming to a close. back to the familiar of home, but also back to the reality, which is i really need to find a job, especially now that mary my psycho roommate will no longer be living at my place (which is of course good and bad). it doesn't help that i seemed to have found a renewed interest in chongqing, especially with night photography, and located more places to explore.

something strange but good happened last night. my redmi note 3 incrementally updates the system. the latest version of MIUI 7.3.2.0 (LHOCNDD) (android version 5.1.1 LMY47V) finally fixed the VPN bug issue. you'll recall that my VPN would drop after about 2 minutes. i thought it was a china-censoreware issue since it was using a china OS after all, but xiaomi finally fixed the problem, although discreetly, as there's no mention of the fix on their fix sheet. i managed to run vpn.ac indefinitely, although it did take a while to find a server that will connect and the right protocol-port. i tried servers in hong kong and tokyo, but neither were very fast. i finally settled on a korean server using UDP-443. i was able to surf all my favorite sites without any problems. the one issue i had though was google photos wouldn't update automatically. i'm not quite sure what it is, either the great firewall throttling VPN traffic in general, or the hotel wifi throttling my upload speed. i can however back up google photos manually, although it's very slow, so i think the problem is speed issue. hopefully it will all resolve itself once i leave china. as of now i have about 4700+ photos on my redmi phone that needs to be backed up.

as we're on the subject of phones, ever since i upgraded to cyanogen OS 13 (13.0.ZNH0EAS2JK android 6.0.1) on my oneplus one, i've had icon issues. on my 4x5 grid home screen they're slightly smaller than before, and not properly rendered so they have a jagged appearance. icons in the drawer appear fine, just the ones on the home screen are all messed up. i tried looking for solutions online, but only a small number of people have this problem, and there doesn't seem to be an easy fix yet.

as i wasn't sleeping last night, i had all sorts of time to do other things, like take photos from my window. there was a loud explosion last night around 12:45am, sounded like the crackle of a lightning right overhead, but there wasn't that echo of natural lightning. maybe later today i will go outside and look for signs of damage. then around 1:30am street sweepers worked my street. there are various types of street cleaning. i've seen trucks that spray and sweep the roads, but i've also seen crew armed with pressure washers work the sidewalks. tonight, they were pressure washing the roads, a handful of utility workers walking the hose to make sure it doesn't kink, while a pressurized tank truck slowly followed them.

today's weather looks to be rainy but forecast says clearing up by this afternoon. i went out around noontime to pick up some dongbeibing (RMB6) and some egg tarts (RMB4).

in order to avoid the crowds, i eat at unusual times. like tonight for dinner, i ate at 5pm. that gives me a little bit of time to come back to the hotel, rest, then go back out for my night photography.

i didn't have much in terms of breakfast, a leftover piece of dongbei bread, washed down with some gatorade. i could've stayed in all day as housekeeping knocked on my door especially early (10:30am). there wasn't much to clean, i emptied the trash, get fresh towels, a bottle of water, and new disposable slippers.

i went to the yarn district around 2pm to buy from the list my mother gave me this morning: 红豆 brand wool in mustard (RMB98), thick wool white & blue (RMB68), thick wool black & white (RMB80). outside i found a box of deep purple wool yarn for RMB50; it wasn't on my mother's list, but i knew it was a bargain so i got it for her. the vendor wanted to keep the box but i insisted on having it. inside the yarn building, all the merchants were busy playing mahjong. it was my 3rd visit so they were used to me by now. the mustard was more yellow green, so i decided to hold off on it, considering it was also the most expensive of the batch. a few stalls down, i found the white & blue yarn. and then back outside, by the bundles of colorful shoe yarn, i found the black & white. i also found bags of 三七线 for RMB20. the package said 70% wool, i asked the same lady why they were so cheap. "sanqixian," she told, "it's not real wool." confused, i asked again, given that the label said 70% wool. "misprint," she told me. i'm kind of surprised she'd let me in on this trade secret, that some wool yarn are not in fact wool. i took some photos, knowing that my mother would be interested in such inexpensive stock.

with bundles of yarn strapped to my already heavy camera bag, i made my way to my next destination, which was the luohan temple around the corner. it's actually a famous chongqing tourist attraction, but for some reason i never got around to visiting despite being centrally located in chonqging and near all the places i frequent. maybe i was turned off by the gauntlet of deformed beggars and swindling fortune tellers lining the street leading up to the temple. maybe it was the fact that it didn't look all that impressive from the outside, seemingly swallowed up by more and more tall buildings being built all around it. but i knew it was worth a visit, if nothing else, just to cross it off my list of chongqing attractions.

admission is only RMB10. it's actually a very nice temple, the smell of buddhist incense and the look chinese antiquity a nice antidote to the overwhelming modernity that is chongqing city. however, there's a distasteful commercial quality to all this endeavor, as a large gift shop greets visitors as they first walk in. of course they're branded as "buddhist relics," and i'm sure the price stickers are called donations. i did speak to a nice salesclerk girl, who at first was very curt with me and she saw i was taking photos ("no photos of the buddhas please"), but once we got talking and she learned of my complicated history, she became very friendly.

entering the temple complex one walks through a corridor lined with stone statues. apparently they're 400 buddha statues from the northern song dynasty. unfortunately all of them have been smashed during the cultural revolution, some faces crudely repaired with cement, which only makes it look worse and obvious. passed the corridor is a large temple complex that houses 500 luohans AKA arhats ARA mortals who have achieved buddhist nirvana. these clay sculptures are painted and each one numbered, and supposedly are from the qing dynasty, though they look surprisingly modern so i wonder if they're recreations. photography is forbidden inside, but that made me want to take photos even more. there were many spots when there weren't anybody around so i managed to sneak some snapshots.

up some stairs was another temple, with places to burn candles and light incense, and inside housed some buddha statue. even here there was a lot of commercialization, selling things like candles and incense to burn, ribbons to tie around things (RMB10), roof shingles to write your name on (RMB10), little wood blocks that's supposedly bring good luck (RMB30), tibetan buddhist strands (smallest one RMB10), and golden ingot replicas made from cardboard (RMB10 and RMB20 depending on size).

i managed to spend an hour and a half at the luohan temple, finally leaving around 4pm. the number 6 xiaoshizi (小什字) subway station was right next to the temple, but i decided to walk to linjiangmen (临江门) in jiefangbei to buy some sugar-coated hawthorn fruit. it was all for naught, because once i got there, the vendor told me they're all out of hawthorn for the season until next year. at least i had a chance to sample some before they were gone. i told the subway back to guanyinqiao.

before returning to the hotel i went to buy some dongbei bread. the 东北并 vendor said to me, "every day you come!" i told her i'm leaving in 2 weeks, so i want to eat all the bread i can before i go.

i left the hotel a bit after 7pm. it was overcast but no sign of rain, so another good evening for night photography. i wanted to revisit 大剧院 and the 千厮门大桥 to get a better set of chongqing city evening skyline photos. when i arrived at the station i saw two women who seemed confused. i told them if they were looking for a good vista, to try walking across the bridge towards yuzhong peninsula.

i had half an hour before 8pm (showtime, when all the city lights would be turned on), so i decided to see if i could get a better vantage point from the actual 大剧院 itself. what i discovered was a large plaza with a few people but a lot less than a typical plaza so essentially empty. from there one could get an amazing view of chongqing city, perhaps even better than from the bridge itself or directly across the water on yubei. i decided to stay here tonight and take photos from this location.

with the view of the city on one side, behind me was the grand theater itself, undulating in colors, like a giant alien spacecraft. why didn't i discover this place sooner? it immediately became one of my favorite spots in chongqing to take photos. not only could i see the city, but it also gave me a great view of the bridge, and then on the other side i could see chaotianmen, which i couldn't see from the spot where i was before.

i ran into the women whom earlier i gave directions to. they recognized me and we started chatting, and i ended up walking around the theater a few times with time, even though what i really wanted to do was to be left on my own so i could take photos. soon i lost the twilight glow so it was pointless to try and salvage anything. i just have to come back tomorrow night! and ever night after that until i get the perfect photo.

i finally left around 9pm. i didn't have dinner yet but was too lazy to walk down to the guanyinqiao food street (where many shops would be closing shop anyway), so i decided to just grab a cold sandwich from the lawson convenience store (RMB7) and call it a night. i didn't eat until 11:30pm, after first talking with my mother then sunmeng.

godaddy notified me that my domain name was going to expire in 5 days. i thought i had more time than that but nothing like the present to transfer out the last of my domain name from godaddy to namecheap. i think it typically takes about a week to make the transition but hopefully it goes faster than that. godaddy tried to get me to stay by offering a 20% off coupon (where was this offer when i was making my other transfers?) but there was no going back.