15.05.2015 - 18.05.2015 25 °C
Day 10 - Three Gorges Dam – May 15, 2015
First thing in the morning we disembark for a tour of the Three Gorges Dam where we learn all about this major engineering masterpiece and what it means for the Chinese people and the Yangtze.
Model of the Dam from the top showing the locks to the left. Note the Chinese tour group with the leader speaking into his loudspeaker and the tour members wearing similar colored peaks. Tour groups often wear identifying hats.
Model of the Dam from the bottom – dam on the left locks on the right
Once again the tour site is very crowded with Chinese tourists and their ever present guides who constantly shout into their little megaphone like speaker systems that they have on their belts. It is quite an experience to be among 20 Chinese tour groups each with a local guide shouting into their little sound system. Our Chinese guide tries to avoid the crush of the Chinese tourists when he can but it is an almost impossible task as they are everywhere.
The idea of building a dam to harness the Yangtze has been around since 1930s and 40s. However, it was not until the 1980s that the idea was really followed up on and detailed engineering studies conducted. Construction didn’t actually start until December of 1994 and continued for eighteen years until it was finally completed in May 2012 with the ship locks only being fully completed in 2014.
The viewing point for the dam is atop a nearby hill which we accessed by a series of very large escalators.
View of the Boat Locks of the Dam from the top.
View of the dam from the side stretching into the distance. The dam is so huge we had difficulty finding good pictures of it.
The dam was a monster project. Made of concrete and steel, the dam is two kilometres (7,661 feet) long and the top of the dam is 607 feet above sea level. The project used 27.2 million cubic metres of concrete, 463,000 metric tonnes of steel and moved about 102.6 million cubic metres of earth. The concrete dam wall is 594 feet above the rock foundation.
When the water level is at its maximum of 175 metres (574 ft.) above sea level, which is 110 metres (361 ft.) higher than the river level downstream, the dam reservoir is on average about 660 kilometres in length. The reservoir floods a total area of 632 square kilometres of land.
As a contrast, the Hoover Dam is twice as high but only about 1/6 as wide across the top and the Hoover Dam is, of course, curved.
The Three Gorges Dam is the world's largest capacity hydroelectric power installation with 34 generators with a total capacity of 22,500 Mega Watts.
We left the dam site and returned to our ship to finish going through the locks and continue our journey downstream towards our next stop in Jingzhou.
Continuing through the locks at the Three Gorges Dam
Day 11 - Jingzhou – May 16, 2015
This morning our ship tied up in another “small” city of several million residents – Jingzhou. Once again we board busses and head to a suburban area to an elementary school that is sponsored by Viking River Cruises. We are greeted and entertained by a most charming group of children.
We were first treated to a modern dance routine
After the dance group we saw a Kata by the Karate group
We then saw a number of the smaller children give us a drum demonstration
We then went into a classroom to converse with the kids who were in grade 5. They were absolutely delightful and many could converse reasonably well in English as it is compulsory starting in Grade 2. They sang a song for us – “Doe, a Deer” – and we sang one for them – the Alphabet. The classroom has about 35 children and they were typical group of 11 year olds.
One of the boys sitting near David even has a live bird held inside his desk much to the amusement of the boys around him. It was easy to tell right off who the class live-wire was!
The hidden bird
The bird owner (in the orange jacket) and 2 of his friends then sang us a Michael Jackson song to the delight of their classmates and all of us.
Trio of singers
The classroom is very basic and pretty rough around the edges. Viking contributes to three different schools in the area and we can clearly see that their contributions are making a difference. We eventually head back to our bus and drive back to the ship.
In the afternoon we took a tour of the ship’s bridge
The Ship's Bridge
If you look closely at the hands of the officer in the middle you will realize he is steering the ship with a very tiny wheel – about 8 inches in diameter!
Steering the ship
Day 12 - Shanghai – May 17, 2015
This was our last day on the ship and we were sad to leave as it had been great. Smooth sailing every day, great food and we didn’t have to pack and unpack every couple of days. The crew were exceptional and the sights and learning amazing. But we still had lots more to see in China.
After breakfast we disembarked in Wuhan. Wuhan is one of the three “furnace cities” in China. They are very hot in the summers with very high humidity. The other furnace city we visited some days ago was Chonquin. Fortunately we are still in May so temperatures stay in the high 20s. In the summers they head into the high 30s and beyond with very high humidity.
Disembarkation from the ship was smooth. We had our bags outside our cabin by 6am and then went for our last breakfast on the ship. We left the ship at 7:45 and walked over to find our bus.
We have a bit of time this morning before our flight so our agenda calls for a visit to the Hubei Provincial Museum and a musical performance of the museum’s noted collection of chimes and bells. We were a bit early so we took a side trip to see the Tingtao Scenic Area – a large park with lakes, woods and pavilions. There were also some more of those amusing signs.
Some were quite poetic!
The Chinese are getting much more used to standing in line.
We went to the Chime Bell Concert Hall and were treated to traditional music played on ancient instruments and bells.
Besides the 6 musicians at the front of the stage, there is another in the background at the left playing that large array of bells.
Most of the contents of this museum are fairly recent finds and the main feature is a massive set of ancient bronze bells that were part of a tomb of an ancient dignitary.
Set of Bells
The tomb was of the Marquis Yi of Zeng – a feudal monarch of the Zhou Dynasty who was buried over 2,400 years ago. The tomb was excavated in 1978. They discovered a massive number of artefacts showing life at that time. Those included everything from household items and tableware, food vessels and many instruments all made of lacquer, bronze, gold and jade. They found the main coffin and 22 accompanying coffins of females aged 13 to 26 who were maidservants and musicians as well as the coffin of 1 dog.
The largest bronze wine vessel unearthed in China. It was used at sacrifices and banquets
Like all of the museums we have visited in China so far it is jammed with Chinese tourists who are all jostling for position pushing and shoving each other as everyone tries to get to see the various exhibits. Although it is driving many of us crazy it is great to see a nation so interested in its past.
After the museum we headed to the airport and and had a box lunch which had been prepared for us by the ship as we got ready to fly to Shanghai, China’s largest city with over 30 million people in the greater metropolitan area. Shanghai is one of the world’s most important ports. It is a stunning city with massive clusters of high rise buildings that consist of 15-25 buildings. These clusters are both residential and commercial and they extend forever. In Shanghai you can see the ultra modern metropolis of the mega financial district juxtaposed with the older sections of the city. This makes Toronto look like a small town.
On our way in the from the airport and prior to checking into our hotel we stopped to explore a magnificent pedestrian mall along the massive waterfront, the area known as the "Bund."
The waterfront pedestrian mall known as the Bund
The evening was lovely and clear (a bit unusual here in China) so we were able to see the magnificent skyline at dusk and admired the new skyscrapers as well as the elegant old buildings.
Shanghai skyline from the Bund
Shanghai skyline from the Bund
Shanghai skyline from the Bund showing the old buildings at the left and the new at the right.
Eventually we continued on our way to the Jing’an Shangri-La Hotel. It had been a long day and our luggage had yet to arrive so when in doubt go eat. We headed off to the buffet for dinner while our bags were delivered to our amazing room on the 47th floor.
Our room in Shanghai
There was even a television built into the mirror of our bathroom!
View of Shanghai from our room on the 47th floor
Day 13 - Shanghai – May 18, 2015
After another lovely buffet breakfast we boarded our bus and headed out to tour the Shanghai Museum, featuring displays of ceramics, bronzes, calligraphy and paintings. Once again the museum was crowded with Chinese tourists although its massive size dissipated the crowd a bit
Long line of tourists waiting to enter the museum in Shanghai
Looking down at the bottom floor of the museum
We didn’t have nearly enough time to do this museum justice so we did our best and focused on the areas that interest us most. After the museum we headed over to a factory where they made rugs and lacquerware. We learned all about hand-knotted silk rugs – they truly are works of art.
Woman hand knotting a silk rug
A hand-knotted rug will have the same pattern on the underside as the top
The high quality hand woven rugs present a different view depending on which direction you are viewing from. Compare the picture above to the picture below. They are the same rug just viewed from opposite ends.
Same rug as above only viewed from the opposite direction
After lunch at a buffet where we gathered the food we wanted and it was cooked quickly before being returned to us, we explored a shop where they did exquisite silk embroidery. These are truly works of art.
Cooks stir frying our food
We next visited the exquisite Yuyuan Garden, which dates back to the Ming Dynasty. Unfortunately, it rained much of the afternoon and despite the rain it was extremely crowded.
Yuyuan Garden pond - if you look closely you can see large orange Koi
We eventually worked our way back to the hotel through the brutal Shanghai traffic after a bit of free time in a market.
Old market area showing new construction in the distance
Although the traffic is a nightmare the roads are beautifully designed and feature green spaces everywhere under them and beside them. Even the expressways have flower boxes hanging off them everywhere. I can’t remember a city this dense with this much green space anywhere.
Planter boxes hanging off the edge of an elevated expressway
This evening we headed off and enjoyed the usual Chinese buffet dinner at a local restaurant. We have now grown used to the Chinese buffet. 8-10 of us sit at a round table. The wait staff bring in dish after dish of food and set it on a massive lazy susan in the Center of the table. We spin the lazy susan taking a bit of each dish that strikes our fancy. There are usually several meat dishes such as beef, pork, chicken and duck. Also several vegetable dishes. At the end there are usually a large dish of fried rice a dish of boc choy and a soup dish. At the end there are often dishes of fruit always including water mellon slices. We never saw so much water melon in our lives!
Typical Chinese dinner
After we got back on our bus and headed off to see the world-famous Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe from the best seats in the house. The show was truly amazing with many feats that appeared to be impossible.
Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe
When we thought things couldn't get more difficult…