Week before last, my Chinese co-manager and I made the four hour journey from the fog-shrouded riverbanks of Chongqing, to the fog-engulfed basin wherein lies Chengdu.
We had been summoned by our masters, She-Ra and He-Man (actually Nancy Shen, Executive VP of my division, and Craig Nisbet, a Canadian of some repute) to the Aston English Southern Regional Conference 2007. Whoo-eee!
Actually, I was excited, but not for the conference. Chengdu is a notoriously foreigner-friendly city. A tourist hub for mountainous Sichuan province, as well as a waypoint for those moving t0-from China and SE Asia, Chengdu also has a few large, famous universities with many foreign teachers and exchange students. Thus, the area immediately around the school where our conference was held had a foreign food store containing manifold varieties of cheese, mexican/italian/american/australian/et al. ingredients, marshmallows, graham crackers, A&W root beer and cream soda, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch amongst other cereals. Also: Subway (I bought three footlongs in four days), Indian restaurants, pizza parlours, and a famous Tex-mex joint--serving up vast burritos and pies that melt in your mouth--can all be found within a three or four block radius.
Not to complain about Chongqing (a Belgian restaurant recently opened up down the street from our school), but the locals are just too proud of their spicy traditional foods--including hotpot--that sear the tongue and inflame the nether regions. Talking to a few local owners/managers of foreign food restaurants, it seems this makes the Chongqing market much more difficult to break into. I say damn you hotpot, to the oil-doused, over-spiced netherworld from whence you came!
On a related note, a few of my co-workers and I are considering the merits of opening up our own DQ and/or Subway in Chongqing. Jon and I found a three-year-old article about the joys and despairs of opening Subway franchises in Beijing. One foreign customer kissed the floor as he entered a Subway, there. I know that it's an oasis amid the oil-slathered, roach-infested chao mian places, but I wouldn't exactly recommend going that far.