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Janice Hatt's China Blog - September 2005

(Nelson visit enroute;  travelling with the Intrepids)

  [Click Thumbnail Photos to expand]

1 Sep 05    NELSON BC (Stopover on the way to China)

Left home by taxi, saying goodbye to several neighbours while we waited in the sun and warmth. An uneventful flight to Vancouver and the picked up a rented car [ Chrysler Sebring ]. After fighting our way way through rush hour traffic we finally reached Hwy 1 and made our way along the Fraser Valley to Hope. Lovely views of mountains and lots of very dry-looking trees.

2 Sep 05

Today was the day we met Somerset! But first, we left Hope after a terrific pancake breakfast. Larry described Hope as a little town stuck in 1958. So true. We stopped at the site of the Hope slide, a disaster that happened in 1965. After a lovely "range" of mountain scenery we took a bit of a detour into the Okanagan Valley and visited an interesting winery near Okanagan Falls. We found that there have been no falls there since the early 1900s when thy were dammed. [ we found a very interesting Winery ( Hawthorn ) with a tour guide who loved to talk of the history of the Okanagan. Bought 4 bottles from the winery for Somerset. ] We stopped at Castlegar [ to get a Canadian Tire fix ] and then reached Nicole and Chris's around 5pm. We both got in some great snuggle time with Somer and enjoyed watching the opening of the many gifts we brought with us.

Photos 2 Sep Nelson 

3 Sep 05

A relaxed day with Somer, Nic and Chris, with a run into Nelson for groceries and other necessities. Lots of snuggle time. Saw a young bald eagle in flight - Nic and Chris believe these birds were hatched the same day Somer was born. Grilled some salmon and scallops to have with pasta for dinner, and retired early.

4 Sep 05  

After a relaxed morning we all headed out for a late "breakfast" [ like 12 noon ] at the Cornerhouse Café. Then we went on across the red bridge [over the Kootenay River].(Somer's first crossing)to Kokanee salmon spawning. It was a very interesting sight and we heard how it happens from an interesting guide. After picking up some yummy cinnamon buns from Chester's, we set up on the grass of Lakeside Park to enjoy the Sunday live concert [ and the cinnamon buns ]. It was rather chilly and breezy so we left after about an hour [ when the buns were gone - met friends Tara and Niva for a brief visit ]

Somer was happy to get home so she could stop crying

After feeding she gave us a good demo of neck strength, holding her head up and looking around to get good look at grandpapa Larry.

Photos 4 Sep Nelson

China
Friday, 16 September - Beijing

The flight was less-bothersome than I had anticipated. Air Canada certainly took care of us. Clearing the Beijing Airport was fairly easy though long, and we had our first Chinese bathroom lesson - toilet paper is outside the stalls so you have to take it in with you. Otherwise - OH, OH! Our national escort, Michelle, met us after we cleared all the customs and immigration hurdles and led us to a bus for the long, long ride to the Beijing International Hotel.

It's a lovely hotel with comfortable rooms, near the train station, After about 45 minutes to freshen up, we were back on the bus for the trip to a restaurant for dinner. Everyone was almost too tired to eat and the food was strange, but we enjoyed it - Larry and I managed the whole thing with chopsticks, and those flat [ china ] soup spoons. That'll keep our consumption down.

View from our window in hotel ]    
Photos 16 Sep Beijing

Saturday, 17 September - Beijing

This was the day of "Cathy Wilkes Long March" [ Mao ] established communist China with a long many-year march across China on with his followers on foot ] - we walked and walked! We also have one member of the group - Betsy - already on the disabled list. Breakfast at the hotel was great. Semi-western. Then into the bus and off to Tian'anmen Square. The first real lesson of the day was how great are the distances in Beijing. We took some time getting close to the Square, then had a long walk including an underpass to get to the Square itself.

Betsy tripped and fell badly in the underpass, hitting her head and injuring her hip. After some time, she bravely decided to continue, with a person supporting her on each side. By an hour or so later though, it was clear she couldn't continue, so our escort brought her back to the hotel [ we have 2 escorts, a national one, Michelle, and a local Beijing one, Vyvian,...the later took care of us then ].

Betsy has now been to hospital and back, and will have xrays on Monday. They suspect a broken hip. Meanwhile, we had been swarmed by street vendors and most of us bought hats, postcards, souvenir books, silk purses, kites, etc. -- at wildly divergent prices! It's clear that bargaining is very much in order. Never pay more than half the original asking price. One hat vendor actually lifted Dave Wilkes' baseball cap! Tian'anmen Square really is as huge as it seemed when we watched events unfold years ago. Mao's mausoleum attracts many domestic tourists, but we skipped that long lineup and just enjoyed the sun and warmth outside.

Preparations for Beijing 2008 Olympics are underway, with the countdown clock visible from the Square.

Preparation for China's National Day on Oct 1st are also going on - bleachers block a lot of the Square. From there we continued to the Forbidden City, which is just across the street. By then a couple more people had decided it was too much walking and had headed back to the taxi area, with plans to meet us afterward. The trek under the street and through a maze of turns lost us one more person. When we couldn't find her in the designated 20 minutes, we continued on. Cathy said "she's very resourceful, don't worry", but we all did. When we reached the exit, there she was, calmly waiting for us! Phew! We all have little cards in our name tag holders that give taxi instructions in Mandarin to our hotel, so we're not really able to become totally lost.

Photos 17 Sep Beijing

The Forbidden City, like most things of importance around Beijing, is being renovated and restored for 2008. It's really huge, with a series of courtyards leading finally to the Emperor's residence. The glazed tiles, carvings, etc. are beautiful, but there are very few artifacts, and many people pushing and jostling for a glimpse of the rooms through doorways and windows.

The garden was the best part, though there were few flowers, just ancient trees and pebbled mosaic walkways. Leaving the Forbidden City, we walked several blocks to the bus pick-up area, swarmed by more vendors, and several beggars displaying deformities and injuries hoping for handouts. At the bus stop, Heather got a wonderful shoulder and neck massage from a street masseuse. By the time the bus picked us up we were very much behind schedule, so very hungry for lunch, which was another 45-minute drive away. Never go out without snacks in your bags!

After lunch we visited a pearl gallery. Freshwater pearls are a local commodity and this huge place had all kinds of jewellery made from these and other stones. We had an amusing intro to the fresh-water oyster and its products.

Next was to be the Summer Palace, but it was unexpectedly closed ( along with the Great Wall ) for some visiting dignitaries, so we switched around our schedule and drove for over an hour to get to the Temple of Heaven. It's a long walk too, so several people opted out of that visit. It was interesting, but by then we were pretty much dazed by the whole trek. Also beautiful woods to walk through.

Back to the bus and off for a delicious meal, then on to the Peking Opera performance. Many people slept through much of it, but the last 20 minutes or so was a stunning juggling/acrobatic performance that we all enjoyed. [ fortunately I was awakened by the excitement and didn't miss the good part ].

We were all happy to return to the hotel, though most of us are still not sleeping well. Heather told us she was talking to some other Canadians who asked if we were the group with the guy who lost his passport, and did he find it? [ ...ahh, internationally famous already! ]. At dinner Dave W said something to Larry about his passport and Cathy said "hey, he got it back: where's your hat!!??

Sunday, 18 September - Beijing

What a great day! We attended a church service at a church with an untranslatable name, where we were made so very welcome! When we arrived we were given headphones for simultaneous translation of the service, English hymn books and Bibles. Then we were introduced and sang "Go now in peace" and I presented a Tansley Peace candle to the minister.  After the service we chatted with several bilingual parishioners. Last week Condelesa Rice attended a service there. It was very moving to be singing hymns in two languages, but in harmony. Just lovely. We all felt great afterwards.


ClickPic: Our rickshaw driver getting instructions from our Hutong guide


[ClickPic: Jan & Larry in rickshaw, pic by driver

[ClickPic: our rickshaw parade

Photos 18 Sep Beijing 

We ate lunch in our room - Cup-A-Soup and peanut butter on crackers [ with D & M-E ]. Then in the afternoon we took a rickshaw tour through the Hutong area - what fun that was! [the Hutong is the 600 year old house area where people live in courtyard-connected bungalows]. Although at one point neither Larry nor I could stand the driver's struggle to get up a hill, so we jumped out and pushed. I hope he didn't loose face over that! We rode around a little lake and through tiny streets, then visited in a couple of the tiny houses.

The residents love their communal way of life, though the younger people prefer new condos. Now we're relaxing before heading out to try and find a "hot-pot" restaurant.

(...later) We found the place and what fun we had! I'd never choose "Hot-Pot" as what I'd want for food, but the process was a riot. There were 10 of us, so we got a private room.

[ClickPic: at the hotpot dinner

We didn't know how much to order, so just went blindly. The uncooked food comes beatifully displayed on plates, and large cauldrons of boiling water are on the table [the core of the cauldron is a chimney stack of burning charcoal]

The waitress finally took over the cooking process and then soon the fishing out and serving. At the end, Lizzie said "We're from CANADA - CA-NA-DA - Oh Canada, our home ... We all joined in to the tremendous amusement of the giggling waitress. Would you recognize the Chinese national anthem if you heard it? On the way back to the hotel we passed a street musician and wildly encouraged his rendition of Blowin' in the Wind - bizarre lyrics and all.

Monday, 19 September - Great Wall & Mings Tomb

We headed out early for another big day. First stop a cloisonné factory where we watched the process for creating these works of art with copper, wire and enamel paints, and of course did some shopping.

By combining our purchases with the McNaughts we earned a free gift.

Then on to the Great Wall, which of course swarms with tourists and persistent vendors. [ the Mongolian's have finally breached the Great Wall and set up shop selling every variety of Wall memorabilia ]. We chose to go the steeper but less-crowed route. I stopped at the first watchtower with several others while the rest of our group went on to the second watchtower.

Amazing how the wall meanders all over the hills in that area. As we drove back we kept spotting parts of it.

  l

[ClickPic: Jan on Great Wal[ClickPic: Dave and M-E on the G.W.

After lunch we visited the Ming Tombs.

                                           
[ClickPic: J, M-E on the Ming Tomb trek
     [ClickPic: J at the Ming Tomb trek

Photos 19 Sep Beijing Great Wall

In the evening we enjoyed a Peking Duck dinner. They carved the ducks in front of us and put tiny slices on a plate. We then took a thin crepe-like item and wrapped duck, onion, cucumber and sauce in it ( like a soft taco ) - very good and fingers are easier that chopsticks!

I'm still laughing over the demo of "how to eat a Peking Duck" - our guide was instructing Sal, starting with "pick up the pancake"; not understanding her accent, Sal looked around saying " Panky - where do I find a pankey?" Michelle repeated the instruction, and Sal exclaimed " But what's a pankey?" There was a great deal of hilarity over dinner once again. What must their servers think of weird Canadian tourists?

Tonight is packing night, since we head to Xian tomorrow. Let's hope our luggage is not overweight!

[ClickPic: goodbye Beijing International Hotel 

 Tuesday, 20 September - to Xi'an

We're a tired bunch tonight! We left the hotel [in Beijing] quite early after gathering together all our stuff and worrying about weight allowances and so on as we were to tour Beijing in the morning and fly to Xi'an in the afternoon - 2 hr flight.

First stop was the Summer Palace,  which is really a huge park with a fascinating history of intrigue and treachery. 

[ClickPic: Vyvian giving briefing about the Summer Palace   

One feature is the Marble Boat which the Empress, Cixi, built with the money that should have paid for the Chinese navy.   [

 Hence their poor war record for many years.

We took a boat across the lake and walked back along a 3/4 km. covered boardwalk with amazing paintings all over the pillars and ceilings.

 From there we headed toward the airport, stopping for another great meal [ and saying goodbye to Vyvian, our Beijing guide ]. We're all becoming so adept with chopsticks that the weight loss thing isn't likely to happen. The flight to Xi'an involved the usual airport hassles and luggage dragging but was uneventful.

                                            

[ClickPic: Janice and our boat for crossing       [ClickPic: covered walk and paintings

                                                            

[ClickPic:covered walk and paintings                               ClickPic: wall of flowers on entrance 

Arrived at Xi'an    Photos 20 Sep (Terra Cotta Warriors)

Once in Xi'an, we met our local guide, Lily, and went to a Western buffet for dinner, a 1-hour drive - french fries! Spaghetti! Dessert! [ normally our only dessert is slices of watermelon ]. Then on to the hotel to rest up for the next round tomorrow. Traffic is heavy and noisy, so we hope it calms down soon or sleep will be impossible. We left Betsy [ injured the first day ] behind in Beijing. Her test results will be in tomorrow and her son arrives Thursday to take her home. What shame that she had no pleasure out of this trip.

[Larry: I spent more than an hour sorting out the strange Chinese instruction on setting up the internet connection. The instructions were not only in Chinese but they were wrong (basically I had to set up a static ip address and use the dns servers for Cogeco in Burlington). Anyway it is on, it's fast and it seems to be free. So we may get farther in China on highspeed internet than I thought....later. I spoke too soon; the connection does everything but upload. I will have to upload by email ]

Wednesday, 21 September - Xi'an

Lots of walking again today. We visited the Terra Cotta Warriors site, stopping on the way at a factory that makes reproduction warriors. They also sell locally-made lacquer- ware and that was very tempting, along with the beautiful silk rugs. At the site we were all amazed to see these thousands of figures in three excavated areas, all under protective roofs.  We learned a lot about the Qin dynasty and so on. As well as the warriors, there are two bronze chariots, about 1/2 life size, which were unearthed near the tomb of the emperor.  

We drove back to the hotel for a break, and we and the McNaughts headed out to explore the neighbourhood. Very interesting tiny stores, more like stalls, along all the streets.  Then we went off to a dinner theatre, with a truly spectacular show, based on Han dynasty music and dance. One guy did a duck imitation that had everyone roaring. Then some of us [ not me ] went for massage or reflexology sessions. I had foot reflexology and it was great. Now everyone is resting up for tomorrow. The massage experience was very different from anything any of us had had before. Sometimes quite painful and for Jane and Gray, very ticklish. There were lots of squeals and giggles. We were 2 to a booth in big recliners for the reflexology. First we soaked our feet in an herbal brew, then they were vigourously massaged, pulled, slapped and shaken, working up to our knees. Then we rolled on our stomachs and they did back shoulders and neck. There we sat in front of the masseuse and she did more work on our backs, ending by suspending us on her knees for 30 seconds or so. That was a bit painful, but felt like it was releasing tension. The people who had the full-body massage said the masseuses really did walk on their backs. It was very refreshing 70 minutes.

Photos 21 Sep Xi'an Terra Cotta Warriors

Thursday, 22 September - Xi'an - Chongqing

Phew! They really keep us moving \ of course it's the only way to see everything we want to.  First on today's program was visit to a jade factory where we had a short lesson in the qualities of jade and saw people working on carvings, then had lots of time to shop.  Some people got terrific stuff but our money stayed in our wallets.  From there we went on to the Shaanxi History Museum which has relics and treasure from several dynasties that had an important presence in this province.  Really interesting, and gives a very good sense of how far ahead Chinese culture was a millennium ago. 

Next was the Big Wild Goose Pagoda and Temple, where Larry and several others made it to the top of the pagoda [ not as high as the CN Tower but maybe half ] while many of us lounged in a garden pavilion.  It's a Buddhist shrine, so there were candles, incense and statues, but the peace and stillness of the gardens were most welcome after our hectic touring.  

Click for Large

 

We moved along to another part of the same complex, making our way through construction debris and had a tour and lesson about the fashions and art of the Han dynasty and  a demonstration of calligraphy, followed of course by a shopping op.  Again, we bought none of the beautiful paintings available however but McNaughts did.  We ended our day with a visit to the ancient wall.   

It is high and wide and continuous around the central part of the city.  We walked little way, and enjoyed the view of all the construction underway.  They're restoring many old buildings along the wall. It was explained to us that in China when your buy an apartment it's just a shell - no doors, windows, maybe no interior walls, no plumbing fixtures.  So people had obviously moved into one of these apartments before any of that was done.  My goodness!!   

The McNaughts and several others went cycling and did the whole circuit ( about 9 miles).  They said it was a rough ride.  Of course that wasn't the end of one day. 

We said goodbye to our local guide, Lily, at the airport and flew to Chongqing (pronouced Chong Ching) , getting into our hotel around 11:15 and receiving our luggage about midnight.  A tired bunch!!  Today's good news is that Betsy has no broken bones, but some serious soft tissue injuries.  By now her son should be with her to return her home.

Photos 22 Sep
Xi'an - Chongqing

Friday, September 23 - Chongqing and Dazu

It was a long trek in the rain, but well worthwhile.  We drove two hours or a bit more to Dazu to see the stone wall carvings. 

Chongqing is in a very hilly area and apparently it rains about 110 days a year.  It's damp, misty and foggy ( or smoggy ) most of the time.  With a population in the large "regional municipality" greater than Canada's, it's pretty dense and busy.  The outskirts are agricultural and we saw rice paddies, fields of lotus and corn, and artificial ponds where fish are raised.  People working in the fields have large flat staw hats and simple tools.  We saw a man ploughing a field on foot (barefoot) with his pant legs rolled up walking behind a water buffalo.  Every yard has chickens, ducks, geese, and dogs.  The wealthy farmers have 2-storey houses and the poorer ones single-storey.  Their fields are terraced.  There are orange groves, pear , pomegranate and apple orchards and vineyards. We were stared at by residents, kids waved and so on -- especially when we stopped to photograph one farm area.        

At Dazu  

We took trams to the entrance to a grotto, then gradually descended to the bottom, admiring 1000-year old Buddhist carvings on the walls of the valley and in little caves.  Originally they were coloured and covered with gold, but much of that has worn away.  The last few are unfinished because either a war or an argument broke out and the sculptors fled for their lives.              

Also the foundation there was a bit shaky.  It was wet and slippery and there were few handholds but everyone in our group made it through ok.  Several people have "touristitis" today, and a few others are just recovering. Thank goodness for Imodium!  The trip to and from Dazu includes a couple of long tunnels.  Since traffic is very chaotic in China, those were a bit of a relief because for 2 to 4 minutes at a time most vehicles stayed more or less in their own lanes.  As usual we saw a great deal of constructions and lots of buildings being torn down.  Thousands of unoccupied apartments in new-looking high-rises.  We hear much about the 'one family 1 child' rules and we see evidence of both dismaying poverty and tremendous economic growth.  People seem to be happy with their life style even though we can't imagine living as they do.  We also learned today that we're in the general area of a Panda bear reserve.  We'd have loved to go there, but it's a 12-hour drive, so out the question.  Tonight many of us have skipped the group dinner in favour of the hotel bar fare.  It's western and we're ready for that.  Every lunch and dinner seems similar, (though much better than North American Chinese food) so it was an easy choice to make.

Bar food and drink made us quite the lively group in the bar with much chatter and laughter.  The live music started, so we were up dancing before our food even arrived, and carried on 'til we wore out the band [ and me ].  We were joined in our frolic by some Aussies, and even some locals.  What a riot, and what a good way to spend an evening!!

Photos 23 Sep Chongqing  Dazu

Saturday, 24 September - Chongqing to the Yangtzie

This was the day we actually toured Chongqing.  We began by wandering and old (restored) market area near the harbour, called Ciqikou Old Street.  It had stalls for everything and throngs of people.  I tried to buy a cheap fake jade bangle, but none was large enough for my hand.  Lots of people found bargains though.  Next was the very interesting General Stillwell Museum, which honours American airman who supported China in the 1940s against the Japanese.  There was an art gallery attached to that, so more shopping ensued. 

After lunch we drove to the Erling Park.  I should mention that our lunch was in a large restaurant where a wedding banquet was taking place.  [We took lots of pics of the wedding bride etc. 

 Their customs are strange.  They have a wedding lunch then play cards and games all afternoon waiting for the wedding dinner.  Not sure if dancing occurs after dinner or not.  It was inside a huge shopping complex with modern, expensive shops, so we got to do some high-end window shopping.  At Erling Park [ on the other side of the river/city ], we enjoyed the views from high above the city,

 

Then we toured Three Gorges Museum.  At the gift shop there I finally found a jade pendant that I liked and could afford.  Then onto a Tea House where we sampled several teas and were taught how to make and enjoy them.  Luckily there was a gift shop because some of us were feeling a bit of withdrawal [ Ha!!!!!].

The bus then took us to the square in front of the People's Grand Hall, which we admired briefly before bolting to a nearby grocery/department store to stock up for the cruise.  We got bottles of water, crackers, beer and chocolate.  Then to dinner at the New York Hotel - [ they love US stuff here and also putting English on all their signs.  It is considered fashionable according to our guide. ] very posh, but the fancy chopsticks didn't seem as well balanced so we were all a bit klutzy.  Afterward, the walk back to the bus was amazing - the city was all neon - lit and full of people.  There were girls doing fan dancing in a public open area and lots of others doing their thing.

Photos 24 Sep  Chongqing to the Yangtzie

Sunday, 25 September - On the Yangtze River

[Larry:  So here we are on the Yangtze River, sitting in our room.  There is a definite roll going on but so far I'm OK.  We will see.  It is dark and about 9 min past midnight our time on Sunday and about the same after noon on Sat your time ( but you will catch up ).  I have been delving into the setup here.  It's Wifi, but you have to use their computer.  So this will mean no pictures  for now, and no direct update of the website. I will have to examine that. ]

A quick trip to the harbour, and then we gathered up all our stuff and hauled it down some steep wet concrete stairs ( without hand rails ) to the long gangway across a couple of barges to the MV Emperor, our cruise ship.   

    

We were greeted by a loud and enthusiastic percussion band [ and decorated dragon, Chinese style ], then met our cruise guide, Gracie, and found our state rooms.  We quickly discovered our balconies and explored the ship, watching from the sundeck as we pulled out of the harbour and started downstream.  Nice boat  so we'll be comfortable. [ our room is like a hotel room with bath, closet, desk (where I am now) and a nice private balcony outside hanging over the river.  We seem to be making at least 20 knots as the wind is considerable.] [ let me tell you that running a laptop in MS Windows Chinese version is no piece of cake.]

[Larry:  It is about 5am here Monday morning on the cruise ship Emperor tied up on the Yangtze River somewhere.  Easier sleeping tied up but we had enough alcohol last night to ensure good sleep anyway. ]  

           

Cruising down-river we can see the shoreline markings where the water will rise to in about 4 years.   

 Whole cities are being moved to higher ground and we can see that in process.  In one place a new bridge is being built to replace one that will not tolerate the higher water.  The river is full of garbage  -  it is interesting to note that shoes must be reliably buoyant because they are the most common identifiable objects  in the water.  It's damp and chilly, so we're all breaking out our warmer clothes.  We just hope it doesn't actuallly rain on any of our excursions.

The visit to the White Emperor City was very interesting, but there was so much racket from several Chinese guides simultaneous use of electronic megaphones that we could hardly hear our guide.  

   

We'll have to read up on those details later.  For now it's up a long slope from the river, so some of us went up by ski lift and some walked.  Larry and I chose the ski lift since even the steps at the bottom were frightening.  Lots of vendors, as usual.  Once the water rises it will be an island and a new bridge will attach it to the mainland.  We took a very rickety ferry to the landing and then back to the cruise ship  -- an experience in itself.  As soon as we got back we headed for the observation deck on the front of the ship to enjoy the passage through the first gorge - the Qutang Gorge.  It was raining and very windy, but just amazing.      

[Larry:  it was certainly necessary to tie on your hat and put glasses in pocket to safely see it all but the weather didn't really take much away from the experience ]

We warmed up afterwards with a hall party - everyone got out their stocks of booze and goodies and we ate and drank, planning to skip dinner;  

  

however, we were informed it was the Captain's formal welcome dinner and we MUST attend.  So attend we did!  The serving ladies were dolled up in traditional princess's outfits and after dinner we took turns trying on the elaborate head-dress.   

The the hall party resumed until it was time to go to the variety show in the night club, put on by the crew.  What a great show!  We had stage-side seats, so really enjoyed the singing and dancing - and the games!  Dennis competed with 2 men from Hong Kong and Korea to see who could lay the most eggs - he was a close second - and Larry captured it on video.   

Then Naomi and M-E played musical chairs against a couple of Asian guys, with the twist of having to get a named object from the audience, and getting back to the stage. They were the last two in it and M-E won with one of my socks. ( don't tell her I'd been wearing them 2 days ).

Photos 25 Sep On the Yangtze River

Monday, 26 September - To Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze

        

A very early breakfast to get out by 7:30 for the Lesser Three Gorges excursion. Once again, some challenging walks along piers, across gang-planks and through hordes of vendors.  The first hour or so was on a good-sized excursion boat with a transparent roof. We spent much of the trip on the forward deck from where we could see the caves, interesting vegetation and a few white goats. The scenery is just amazing and we also saw a "hanging coffin" -- actually in a cave high on the mountain.  Since the water is already up at least 16 meters from original level, many villages have disappeared and some sites are closer to the water. The last part of the trip was in a smaller sampan because it is narrower and shallower.  Now they can use motors, but before the water started to rise the boats were pulled upstream by naked men. Farmers walk from their farms every day to drive the sampans and also to stage little tableaux along the riverside, singing and so on for the benefit of tourists. Our drivers and guides sang to us, so we sang back -- Land of the Silver  Birch, My Paddle and so on.

As soon as we got back to the cruise ship we headed for the front observation deck for the trip through the Wu Gorge. We now know not to take hats -- those gorges are windy!  

    

The mountains are steep here and the gorge makes a couple of sharp turns in a "z' shape.

We chose to eat in our room and use up some of the food we've been carrying -- actually welcomed a break from Chinese cuisine, lovely though it has been. Our guide, Michelle, phoned to see if we'd like something sent to our room. She takes such great care of us!  In the late afternoon we gathered once again on the forward observation deck for the Xiling Gorge passage -- again a windy experience.  

   

In the past, this was the most treacherous of the gorges but now, with deeper wider channels it's OK. That brought us to the Three Gorges Dam, so we went ashore and visited it. It's really a marvel of engineering! Sadly, the gift shop failed to produce the hats we were commissioned to acquire for Robin & Candy. We'll keep watching. Dinner was very late and followed by picture-taking, a brief entertainment by the crew, and packing for the last leg of our journey.

 Photos 26 Sep Yangtze R  Three Gorges Dam 

Tuesday 27 September - Finishing the Yangtze at Yichang and on to Shanghai

[Larry:  Well we made it down the Yangtze, some 700 km, and now we are being called on the ship speaker as we are descending the dam.  The descent will either be by a ship elevator, or a 5 stage lock.  We saw both this evening and I'm not sure which will be used. (...5 min later): I see now we are approaching the 5-stage locks - largest in the world - it drops some 75 meters. I sat on the front deck and watched the whole lock passage, through 4 locks...fascinating - but lost some sleep as it took 3 hours, ending at 3:30am.]    

We eased into the first lock just after midnight. The water level was 135 M above sea level. It's not a quiet performance since several boats use the same lock ( 9 came out of the upbound) and there are announcements, radios and so forth. Larry stayed on the front observation deck all alone until we were well clear of the last lock [ there were 5 locks all together, but the first 2 are combined as the river hasn't risen to its final level], but I slept through most of the 3-hour process. I did go out and get the feel of being at the bottom of the first lock and then a bit later to see the open water again but just from our own balcony.  

 When we docked at Yichang we had a great view of the departure ceremony - fiirst "stick soldiers" ( men and wormen ) carried all the bags ashore, then the people went across the gang plank to the accompaniment of the percussion group and a dancing dragon.  

       

Ship's crew were placed all the way to the steps up to the parking lot [ each one bid us farewell ] . Our local guide for Yichang was Gary, who took us first to a vast riverside park where local residents go for their morning exercise on equipment that is like an adult play ground, and also for gentler enjoyment of lawns, trees and water. We listened to musical groups, watched young cadets drilling and children playing.    

Then we visited the museum of artifacts, recovered from the areas that have been, or will be flooded by the Three Gorges Dam Project. Our lunch was voted the best Chinese meal so far. On the way to the airport we stopped at a traditional poor farm.  The story was that the lady lived there with her disabled son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren, and that she supplemented her meagre income by opening her home to visitors. When we got off the bus a man in traditional garb came by leading a cow, then stood around for photos. It was all quite staged, ["queue the cow"] but the house likely is like the old mud-built dwellings that have mostly been replaced. It was definitely in the hovel category, and would not be comfortable to live in [ or camp in ]. We did get to see crops, like rice and sqash up close.

We flew to Shanghai, arriving in time to check in and shower before going to a beautiful restaurant with mediocre food. We did sample a local dumpling specialty which was pretty good.

Photos 27 Sep Yichang and on to Shanghai

Wednesday, 28 September:   Shanghai

   

Our local guide, Daisy, got us rolling by shortly after 8:30, on our way to the Jade Buddha Temple.

First stop, though, was a silk rug factory, where we saw rugs being hand knotted. Many of us bought a variety of things in the store. The prize goes to Jane who bought a room-sized rug shipped home. It's gorgeous! We arrived at the Temple in time to see a family's car being blessed in the courtyard.  Although it was not one of the two worship days this month, there were many worshipers there and very many tourists. The statues of Buddha are wonderful, including two made of jade and many covered in gold leaf. Daisy is Buddhist so she was able to tell us a great deal about what was going on. There were wish ribbons all over the temple and we asked about them.

Larry realized that he had left the camera's memory card at the hotel, so set off on a fruitless search for one which caused a little alarm when he didn't appear on schedule at the bus. [Larry: not entirely fruitless as I covered a km or so immersed in Shanghai shopping streets and saw lots of interesting sights. I was alarmed when I discovered the group had left the rendezvous site, and was confused about where the bus was actually parked. Visions of being "Shanghaied".] He ran up just as we were starting to think he'd really gone missing.

We spent a bit of time walking around the Bund promenade and Larry actually was able to buy a new memory card there.   

 There are many impressive modern buildings across the river, and old attractive ones [ built by other countries who controlled sections during the early part of 20th century ] . When we got to the vicinity of the Yu Yuan Garden, Daisy warned us of the danger of pickpockets and also of the maze of streets we were entering, telling us to move like "a bunch of bananas."      

We went through streets of small shops and street vendors to the Garden, which is tranquil and beautiful, with many buildings. Kathy and David dressed in costumes for photos,  

followed by Maria Angelica and Gray and Esme. The dragon walls in the complex are astonishing. When we emerged we spent some time in the market area. Several of us couldn't face more bargaining, so we retired to Starbucks for Frappucinos. We hope the ice was safe! From there we went to a performance of the famous China Acrobatic Troupe.      It was quite spectacular with everything from contortionists to motorbike acts. The jugglers and straight acrobatic acts were great fun. The 5 motorcyclists inside the steel mesh ball were just plain scary! After dinner we returned to the hotel and had drinks with M-E, Dave, Sal, Pepper, Susan and George.

Photos 28 Sep Shanghai

Thursday, 29 September

The early-morning trip to Suzhou was very interesting. The area around Shanghai reminds me of the Golden triangle, where there are bits of rural and agricultural land but mostly town after town.    

It was about a one hour 40 minute drive, and when we arrived we went first to a beautiful garden: Fish Net Garden.  Like most other formal Chinese gardens we've seen, there are few flowers, but rocks, trees and water are designed to be tranquil and beautiful. Walls are whitewashed so that the shadows play across them like paintings. Windows set into walls frame different views.

After lunch we visited the Silk Factory. Silk making is a fascinating process. Silk thread is wound directly off the cocoon of the silkworms.  

        

Some proportion of the cocoons are twins, or even triplets in the same cocoon. Because they tangle their threads together, they can't be used for spinning and weaving. The resourceful Chinese instead spread them out, layer by layer, and make duvets from them.  It was fun to watch this process and our group of 31 tourists bought 28 of the duvets! They're supposed to cure arthritis and high blood pressure, plus be very comfortable. Although I searched for about an hour, I didn't find any clothing to buy. Next on the agenda was a boat tour of the canals. Suzhou is called the Venice of the Orient because it is criss-crossed with more than 30 canals. The houses that back onto them are old, cold, leaky and uncomfortable, but protected as historical sites.  

Their garbage and waste is dumped into the canal, but they also wash and bathe in it. Several people bought sunhats on the boats so we got photos afterward.

We had to rush to the Silk embroidery Institute, since the embroiderers go home when the natural light fades. Their work is astonishingly fine and detailed, including things like 2-sided embroidery with different pictures on each side of a piece of silk so thin it's transparent. The guys were "toured out" so while we went through the Institute (and shopped, of course) while they sat in a lovely little garden drinking beer.  

 When we emerged to join them they were gathered around a wall shouting encouragement to an army of ants who were hauling a half peanut up a wall. They had bets on what time the peanut would disappear into the hole that was about two feet up the wall.

After that we were all glad to arrive at dinner. It was our last formal meal together on the trip, and we were also celebrating Sally Jo's birthday.   

So we had speeches and presentations to Michelle and Kathy,  

   

wine as a gift from our local guide John, and birthday cake! Michelle talked about going to church with us and understanding us better from our "Go now in peace" song. We ended the evening singing it again, holding hands in a big circle. Of course there were tears.   

   Photos 29 Sep  Shanghai

Friday, 30 September

...and we thought we'd seen shopping before!! This was certainly the big day for it. The bus delivered us first to the knock-off market area for an hour of frenzied bargaining. Michelle had warned us carefully of the dangers and the necessity of really bargaining. Even so, we likely paid too much for some things. [ not me, I was ruthless. - 12 recent movie dvds for Cdn $30 plus some other good deals ] We were a bit wary of the surroundings and the vendors, but it was a real adventure. 

From there we went back to the Yu Yuan Garden old market area, where we felt a bit more relaxed, [ we had previously thought THIS market very frenzied ] but still bought with a passion.  We also risked the ice in Starbucks Frappucinos again.

Next stop was the Shanghai Museum, which is just wonderful, and has - guess what? - a gift shop.  

Back at the hotel, we did a run to the import grocery store for goodies then had another hall party to say goodbye and use up some food and drink. Everyone else had dinner in the hotel-restaurant, but we stayed in our room for cup-a-soup, and to work on getting the news on the new baby Woods. Sure enough there were messages that she had been born, so we phoned Lorrie for the details [ little girl, 7lb 4oz ]. Then we joined the others and spread the news to the many others who knew the Cansfields.

Finally we ended the evening with a visit to the 34th floor lounge where we had a wonderful outdoor view of the city. Great way to wind down a truly marvellous vacation.

Photos 30 Sep Shanghai

Saturday, 01 October

Departure day - it's hard to believe our 2 weeks in China are at an end.  The last morning is leisurely as we don't need to have luggage outside our doors until 11:30.  Larry spent much of the morning finishing uploading this blog, while I lolled about, reading.  Then check-out and the trip to the airport, with Daisy filling more details about Chinese sex taboos and fetishes.  We spent a long time in line waiting to check in for our flight, then to get through the various exit processes.  Even so, we had about 2 hours to wait once we reached the departure lounge.  Everyone had snacks and we bought some beer, so it was like another party. Oh - and did I mention those last few yuan burning holes in our pockets?  There was certainly some shopping going on. 

We take off about 4:30 pm for a flight to Vancouver, and then a plane switch to Toronto. It will be a grueling 16 or 17 hours in the air. Looking forward to home in Burlingto,n and a look at the new little Woodsie. 

...later in Toronto:  We had a pretty good flight home but got detached from our group in Vancouver.  At the Vancouver-Toronto check-in we saw many of our group moving by us, and at the same time were being told that we had missed our flight  which was book for 2 pm.  We were put standby on the next flight, at 2:25, and had to rush like gazelles to get to the gate in time.  We made it but no one from our group was on the aircraft.

In Toronto no one from our group was around Vancouver flights' baggage carousels either.  One of our bags arrived but 2 others were missing.  Delivery was promised so we headed out. 

Arriving home, we found that Sarah had gone to Pearson to meet us.  Fortunately she linked up with Dave and M-E and was able to drop them with Sal and Pepper.  Much story telling, beer, and off to bed.  What a trip!

A Few Photos 1 Oct