A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: DavidandHazel

Off To China We Go

semi-overcast 18 °C

Background

For some years we have both had an interest in seeing China. What better way to see the country than combining a land tour with a River Cruise on one of the great rivers of the world, the Yangtze? After a bit of research we settled on a package offered by Viking River Cruises which offered a 5 day cruise along the Yangtze River bookended with multi day guided land tours for a total of 18 days. We had travelled in Europe with Viking and found them to be a high quality tour operator with above average service and the best guides in the business. Joining us again for another adventure were Sue and Roy Vanderkwaak. Sue and Roy are Emily’s (Hazel’s daughter) in laws. We tell people we share a grandson, Avery the perfect – at least in the eyes of his two grandmothers.

We selected the latter part of May for the trip as that seemed to be the best compromise for weather.

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Map of our travel route

As an overview we would first fly to Beijing for several days of land based touring, then fly to Xian for more land touring. Then we would fly to Chongqing where we would board the Viking Emerald River Cruise. We would then spend the next 5 days cruising eastwards along the Yangtze. We would eventually pass through the famous Three Gorges area and finally through the locks at the Three Gorges dam, and continue on to the city of Wuhan. There we would leave the ship and take a flight to Shanghai where we would tour for several days. After Shanghai we once again board a plane and fly to Guilin for some local touring and then another flight to Hong Kong before returning home.

After reviewing the itinerary for the trip we decided that it would be next to impossible to live blog this trip so we are sending it out after the fact as many of you have expressed an interest in reading it.

Day 1 Travel - May 6, 2015

The day was warm and sunny as we left for Pearson airport. The flight left right on time at 3:00 pm. We were well fed as we watched several movies and snoozed during the 13+ hour flight. We had 4 aisle seats and found that to be a good choice on a long flight. Flight staff were especially pleasant. We arrived in Beijing where it was 4 pm the next day, 4 am Toronto time - the time change between Toronto and Beijing is 12 hours. Our research indicated that the weather should be fairly good at this time of year with “clear” sunny days with an average high of 24 and cool nights with lows around 14C.

Day 2 Beijing, China - May 7, 2015

Although a bit bleary-eyed from the long semi-sleepless flight we were excited to finally be in China. The Beijing airport is pretty typical of most international airports, huge with endless corridors leading off to a multitude of other gates and various destinations. The airport is very well signed with the usual symbols as well as instructions in Chinese and English. We made our way through the jostling long line ups for immigration and once clear of immigration walked to the baggage area where we were met by several Viking Tours representatives. We discovered that there were a number of folks arriving around the same time from other flights who would be on our tour. After collecting all of us and verifying that all of our baggage had arrived we were led out the parking lot and boarded the big touring coach with the Viking sign in the front window. As is typical on these types of tours other staff ferried our luggage off to another area where it was loaded into a separate truck which would bring our luggage to the hotel and deliver it to our rooms.

The ride through the Beijing rush hour traffic was our first view of China and the first impression would be repeated many times. The weather was pleasantly warm with a bit of a hazy overcast. The traffic was very heavy with everyone including our hugh highway coach vying for position. Lane changes to gain a 50 meter advantage in the traffic were common even for our huge bus. There was not a hint of road rage as drivers edged in front and around each other constantly. Everyone just seemed to take it in stride. If you were a little slow in closing the gap between you and the car in front of you someone would slip into that space in the blink of an eye. It is all part of the game and much healthier than our ego driven road rage antics in the west. It was much the same as we have seen in other travels in the Far East as well as the Middle East.

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Beijing traffic

The cars were much the same as you might see on any western European city with lots of Honda, Toyota and Hyundai models everywhere. The German manufacturers were also well represented with many VWs, Audis and Mercedes and the odd BMW. There were even a smattering of North American models such as compacts from Chevrolet and Buick. Interestingly there were only a few local Chinese models. Like North America many of the Japanese and German models are in fact assembled here in China.

Beijing is a very modern huge city (20 million+ depending on what area you count) with great roads and very high building density. Green space is at a premium but wherever possible they have built little parkettes or strips of green. Public infrastructure is well built and well maintained. After a 50 minute ride we finally arrived at our destination the lovely Westin Chaoyang Hotel in the heart of downtown Beijing. We were both up on the 24th floor. The rooms were lovely, spacious and comfortable.

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Westin Chaoyang Hotel room

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View of Beijing from our hotel

After getting oriented to our new home for the next 3 days, we changed and headed out to see what we could find for a quick light dinner – this is one of the few meals not provided by our tour company, Viking. After all the food on the plane ride we were not very hungry and the hotel restaurants were more geared towards full course fancy dinners so we headed out across a courtyard to an underground shopping complex that was connected to the same building complex as our hotel. We picked up a bottle of Australian wine in a 7-11 type store and a Subway sandwich which we took back to our hotel. While dining on our sandwhich and wine we reviewed our itiniary for the next few days. We headed off to bed early hopefully to overcome some of the jet lag. The 12 hour time difference had certainly taken a toll.

Day 3 Beijing, China – May 8, 2015

This morning we boarded our tour bus and set out once again to make our way through the chaos of very heavy rush hour traffic. Our goal this morning was to visit the enormous Tiananmen Square, which can accommodate over 1 million people. The square is 100 acres in size – the world’s largest public square. It was difficult to get a picture which would show its great size.

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Tiananmen Square

We left the bus and joined the tens of thousands of Chinese tourists as we walked through the square towards the gate of the Forbidden City. The square has a very large monument is the center in front of the huge Congress building.

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Monument in Tiananmen Square

To the right and behind the monument is a large building which is the mausoleum where Chairman Mao’s body is housed in a crystal coffin. The whole set up reminded us of our experience in Vietnam when we visited the similar tomb of Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi.

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Mausoleum for Chairman Mao

Right across the street from the Square is the Gate of Heavenly Peace which is the entrance to the Forbidden City. This Gate is where you see the famous picture of Chairman Mao which you can see behind this picture our group.

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Our Viking tour group in Tienanmen Square in front of the Gate of Heavenly Peace

This painting of Mao is an oil painting and is re done each year. It is said that no matter where you are in the square the Chairman seems to be looking at you. Interestingly the “bloom is clearly off the rose” in terms of Mao's credibility with the younger people.

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Portrait of Chairman Mao

Through the Gate of Heavenly Peace you find The Forbidden City which is a huge palace complex where the emperors lived. It is supposed to have 9,999 rooms and is organized in concentric rings. Each ringed area is entered through a gate. It is called Forbidden City due to the fact that regular people were prohibited from living within the walls. Only people related to the Emperor or working on the Emperor’s staff were permitted to work within the walls. The higher you were in society the closer you could go to the center where the emperor was. There were some 3000 people serving the emperor. Beijing’s Forbidden City is now an UNESCO World Heritage site. Made up of nearly 1,000 buildings, it is the world’s largest surviving palace complex. We walked through its grounds among the formerly opulent palaces, pavilions, courtyards and imperial gardens within the 26-foot-high walls. Once again there were thousands of Chinese tourists with us so we weren’t able to actually see much of the interiors as the local tourists jostled and crowded in to see every detail. The Chinese folks are lovely and polite but in a crowd it is every person for him or herself. With elbows at the ready even the elderly grandmothers can push their way past most westerners in the blink of an eye.

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Inside the Forbidden City

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Inside the Forbidden City

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Inside the Forbidden City

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Inside the Forbidden City

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The Imperials Gardens Inside the Forbidden City

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The Imperial Gardens Inside the Forbidden City

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Lunch at a local restaurant

After lunch we returned to our hotel where we had a few free hours before gathering at our hotel for dinner. Most of the group had a nap as we were still trying to get over jet lag.

Some of us had elected to go on an optional excursion to see a Peking Opera. This meant that we had to keep the nap short in order to have an early dinner so we could catch our tour bus which would take us to the opera. The restaurant at this hotel, The Westin, is huge and has one of the best buffets we have experienced. So off we went to the Opera bellies full and still a bit jet lagged.

The Opera was “an experience” with a lot of the singing done by the female lead in that familiar very high pitched Chinese singing voice that sounds a bit like our old siamese cats in a fight. Guess we need some additional cultural training. However, Dave seemed to enjoy it as he caught up on his snooze time through much of it.
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Chinese Opera

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The musicians sit on the stage off to one side

Day 4 Beijing, China – May 9, 2015

After a very early breakfast at the wonderful hotel buffet we were loaded onto our coaches at 7:15 am to travel outside the city to the Badaling Hills were we were able to see one of the most impressive and best-preserved sections of the Great Wall of China.

From the bus, we took a cable car up the mountains.

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Cable Car up to the Great Wall

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Cable car up to the Great Wall

This 6,500-kilometer long series of sandstone and earthwork fortifications was built and maintained between the 5th century BC and the 16th century AD, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The whole site was incredibly crowded with 98% of the crowd being Chinese tourists. This section of the wall was very steep in spots. The views were amazing despite the low clouds and mist.

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The Great Wall

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The Great Wall

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Dave at a steep part of The Great Wall

Once again we found ourselves in the midst of throngs of Chinese toursts. Literally thousands of us worked our way up a very steep section of the wall. Although there was a heavy mist you can see the wall stretching across the valley below and up over the next set of hills.

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The Great Wall

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Roy and Sue on the Great Wall

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The Great Wall continues in the distance

After our walking tour of the Great Wall we boarded our bus and headed back towards Beijing stopping just short of the city proper for a lunch and tour of a local jade carving and jewellery-making business. Some of the carvings were truly amazing.

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Craftsman carving jade

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Jade Carving of 2 horses

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Jade sailing ship

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Sue modelling a lovely jade necklace

After lunch we headed out and visited the “Sacred Way” a tree-lined avenue guarded by 18 pairs of massive stone sculptures of figures of people and animals (elephants, camels, lions and mythical beasts) leading to the Ming Dynasty tombs. By now there was a steady light rain and we went through the motions as our tour guide explained the significance of the site which was only discovered a few years ago.

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The Sacred Way of the Tombs

There are 2 of each animal which are facing each other lined along this long boulevard – one standing and one resting

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Dave with a Guard

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The person who carved this elephant had never seen an elephant and did not realize that he got the front legs wrong

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We then travelled back to the hotel where we had a little time to relax before heading out again. This time we had selected another optional activity which is the opportunity to dine at a local restaurant and enjoy a Peking duck dinner, the region’s most famous local dish. We returned to the Westin and headed for bed quickly. Tomorrow we would have our last tours in Beijing and then board a flight for Xian in central China.

Posted by DavidandHazel 19:38 Archived in China Comments (1)

Beijing to Xian

semi-overcast 19 °C

Day 5 Beijing and Xian – May 10, 2015

This morning we were up and packed and left our luggage outside our room by 8:30 am before having a last wonderful breakfast at the Westin. The hotel and tour staff always pick up our luggage for us from outside our hotel room. They then load it into a truck and take it to the airport separate from us. It is then checked in by the tour company staff. When we finally arrive at the airport our baggage has already been checked and our boarding passes printed and given to tour staff who hand them over to us when we get to the airport.

After breakfast we boarded our big tour bus to go to visit “the hutongs”. The hutongs are the old traditional Beijing neighborhoods. Hutongs are alleys formed by lines of traditional courtyard residences. Neighbourhoods were formed by joining one alleyway to another to form a hutong. Since the mid-20th century, the number of Beijing hutongs had dropped dramatically as they were demolished to make way for new roads and buildings. More recently, some hutongs have been designated as protected areas in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural heritage. Our mode of transportation was via rickshaw and fortunately our rickshaw had a rain cover as it was raining fairly steadily.

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Rickshaws in the hutongs of Beijing (note all the new cars as well)

We first went to a tea ceremony where we were given several types of tea to sample. A very entertaining and personable young woman also showed us how to make and drink tea. Like many things in China the various varieties of teas are believed to cure a wide variety of ailments.

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Our group learning about Chinese Tea

We then boarded the rickshaws – Pedi cabs really - and continued through the narrow alleys in the rain.

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Dave and Hazel in Pedi cab

It would have been interesting and much more enjoyable if we weren't enclosed in a red plastic bubble somewhat akin to having a pup tent mounted over a flimsy frame with a plastic window to look out the front. What was interesting to note was that the narrow alleys were lined with fairly new and well-kept cars. The bicycles were junkers for the most part but the cars were fairly new. Our guide pointed out that this was partially due to the fact that the residents often chose to remain in the old familiar neighbourhood because of the proximity to the prime areas of Beijing. Because of the prime location the properties were very valuable and residents had often sold off little parcels making them fairly well off despite the run down look of the area.

We next visited a Chinese household to talk of traditional Chinese life.

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Sue and Roy at household visit in the hutong section of Beijing

This household may have been traditional but it was not typical. It consisted of a woman and her niece who had an art business of doing very intricate painting on the inside of very small bottles with special curved paint brushes.

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Painting inside bottles

The product was beautiful but the they were far from inexpensive with a square bottle about three inches high going for about $100 US and the lady would not bargain a penny which was very unusual here where bargaining is the norm for everything. Like our experience in Vietnam we discovered that the bargaining was all done in good humour and the sellers seemed to enjoy the process as much or more than we buyers.

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Sleeping area tucked into a far corner of the 2 room flat of a house inside the hutong area

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Kitchen for the household in a traditional house in the old hutong section of Beijing

We returned to our Pedi cab and continued on a few more minutes in the rain back to our bus. We boarded our bus and were given a box lunch to eat on our way to the airport.

At about 3:30 pm we boarded the plane and flew to Xian, a key city of the Tang Dynasty. From 618 to 907 AD, this dynasty presided over one of China’s most glorious cultural periods spreading its influence throughout Asia into Europe and Africa by starting the Silk Road. Our guide told us an interesting fact; while most people think the Silk Road was started for trade of silk, ceramics and spices, it actually was originally started to trade for horses which the emperor needed to defend his lands from the Mongols.

Xian is a “smaller” city of 9 million people and is seen still as a key center of culture and art in China. This evening we had no formal activities planned so we were able to have dinner and relax at our hotel which was a beautiful Crown Plaza.

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Crowne Plaza, Xian

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Our room in the Crowne Plaza

Day 6 Xian – May 11, 2015

After an early breakfast we headed off on our tour bus to visit the mausoleum complex where Emperor Qin Shi Huang was laid to rest over 2,000 years ago. This is the home of the world famous Terra Cotta Warriors. There are literally thousands of life-sized Terra Cotta Warriors, archers and infantrymen that were buried in a huge necropolis complex located about 2 kilometers from Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s actual tomb at the foot of nearby Mount Li. The tomb itself is “only” about the size of a football field while the actual site of the Terra Cotta warriors is many acres. The soldiers within the complex were laid out as if to protect the main tomb from the east, where all the Qin Emperor's conquered states lay.

The entire dig site has been enclosed in a series of massive buildings the largest of which covers Pit #1 and is the size of several immense aircraft hangars joined together. Inside each of the buildings are elevated walkways which provide a bird’s-eye view of the entire area. Although Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s tomb was known for centuries, this mammoth necropolis complex only 2 km away was only discovered in 1974 by a farmer attempting to dig a well.

Archeologists studying the site in 2007 estimated that the three pits containing the Terracotta Army held more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits.

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The building which houses Pit 1, the first discovered of the Terra Cotta Warriors

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Pit 1 view from inside the building

Pit 1 is which is 750 ft. long and 203 ft. wide contains the main army of more than 6,000 figures and is a combined battle formation of charioteers and infantrymen. At the front of the pit, the bottom of the photograph above, there are 3 rows of vanguards. Immediately behind the vanguards is the main body of the battle formation. Around the outer edge there is one row of soldiers facing outwards to guard the sides and rear of the army. Pit 1 is a subterranean earth and wood structure. There are eleven corridors divided by ten earth partition walls. The corridors are paved with pottery bricks on which the figures were placed. The earth walls supported a wood roof that was then covered with layers of fiber mats on which soil was added. By the time the area was discovered in 1974 all of the wood framing and the fiber mats on the roof structure were long gone from decay and the earthen cover had collapsed in over the entire project. There is some evidence that the site was looted and possibly further buried by a jealous contender to the throne named Xiang Yu.

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The sign in the middle of the picture points out the site of the farmer’s well

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Figures being reassembled

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Excavation continues

We were even able to see the farmer who discovered the site in 1974. He is now in his early 90’s and works at the gift shop signing a beautiful photo book about the site – we of course bought a copy of the book which he signed for us.

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Farmer who discovered the Terra Cotta Warriors site signing books

Like everything here in China the book signing was mayhem with a big crowd jostling to get their books purchased and signed. It is a scene we witness time after time as every location is very crowded with Chinese tourists who all shout and jostle each other constantly but no one ever seems to take offense, it is just part of life in the very crowded country. Something we did not realize is that only about 33% of China is habitable as the rest is desert and mountains. This means that even though China is just about the size of the USA the 1.3 billion inhabitants are crowded into a much tighter space. No wonder they call a city of over a million a town!

After spending most of the morning at the amazing site we boarded the bus headed off to a nearby large manufacturing facility which specialized in manufacturing models of the Terra Cotta Warriors as well as lacquered furniture. We had tours which explained the manufacture of each. Clearly this facility was set up for tourists as we were ushered to the top floor where we enjoyed a nice buffet lunch.

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Replica manufacturing facility - full sized replicas of the warriors are available for sale

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Modern Day Warrior

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Craftsman working on a lacquer ware piece

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Lacquer ware Table and benches

The gift shop had a wide variety of locally produced crafts and we purchased a painted glass bottle similar to the ones we saw being made at the home visit yesterday. This time the folks were open to bargaining and Dave was able to get a very nice one for about half yesterday's price or about $50 U.S. Still a fair amount to pay for a small painted bottle but they are amazing pieces of art. Nothing that involves manual labour here is inexpensive which was not what we expected. Wages are rapidly advancing in the booming industrial economy and they have to as the cost of living is quite comparable to Canada particularly in the tier 1 and tier 2 cities with condo prices matching our condo prices in our larger cities. Gasoline here is a bit cheaper though at around the equivalent of 90 cents a liter.

After lunch, we boarded the busses and made the hour long trip back to the beautiful Crowne Plaza.

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Street scene in beautiful Xian

Once back at the hotel we headed out on a walk with Sue and Roy. Our goal was to find the ancient wall that surrounded the old city.

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Old Xian city wall with outside canal

This wall which was built around the old city has been beautifully restored. Part of it has been turned into a lovely serene park where you can walk between the wall and a canal which was originally a moat. They have piped music and lovely gardens.

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Walkway along the old city wall

We were not able to find out how to get up on top of the wall but did see people up there. As is typical in China they built things to last, the wall is about thirty feet high and thirty to forty feet thick.

We returned from the long walk and had a rest and dressed for our dinner and show of the song and dance of Xian. This was an added extra option which cost 490 yuan each – almost $200 CA$ a couple. The mode was a standard dinner show where we had dinner and then stayed at our table for the show. The food was the usual multi course dinner which wasn't bad but we are pretty spoiled by now. The servers were very rushed and not very attentive but they had a pile of serving to do in a short time. The show was very interesting and put on by a huge troupe of very talented musicians, singers and dancers. It showed song and dance from about 2000 years ago.

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Tang Dynasty Show

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Tang Dynasty Show

Day 7 Chongqing - May 12

We were up and had our luggage at the door by 8 am this morning as we fly to Chongqing later this afternoon. After breakfast we headed out to tour the museum here in Xian. This museum tour is an addition to the itinerary as they have added an extra day in Xian because it was too rushed in previous years. As we have mentioned previously the Chinese have really taken to travel and tourism and the museum was packed with Chinese tourists pushing and shoving to get to see every exhibit. Despite the crowded conditions it did give us some real glimpses of art and artifacts of ancient China.

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Typical Chinese lunch being served at a restaurant in the airport complex – note the large lazy susan on the table

Once through the museum we promptly boarded the bus and worked our way through traffic to the airport where we also grabbed lunch at one of the airport restaurants.

Our flight to Chongqing was about 90 minutes and uneventful. Airports here are all large and very well organized making navigating them relatively easy. Like most things in major areas signage is well done and is usually in Chinese and English. This includes the major road signs which are also in both Chinese and English.

We were ready and anxious for the cruise portion of the trip and, if truth be told, looking forward to settling in to relax a bit at a less hectic and crowded pace. We were getting pretty tired of early morning bus departures to an historic site or an airport. The next phase of the trip will be aboard the river boat so we’ll be able to settle into our cabin and unpack and stay put for almost a week. We love river cruising and this will give us an opportunity to rest up for the next land portion of the trip although the river portion is very busy with lots of trips ashore but the pace is much more relaxed.

Posted by DavidandHazel 19:46 Archived in China Comments (0)

Chongqing and Boarding the Viking Emerald

semi-overcast 26 °C

Day 7 Chongqing – May 12, 2015

Our two hour flight was uneventful and we arrived in Chongquin in mid afternoon. Chongqing (formerly Chungking) is China’s largest inland city with over 30 million people and plans for more growth. It is a modern city built in a very hilly area with modern high rise buildings perched at odd angles everywhere.

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Massive condo complexes being built in Chongqing

Upon arrival and as usual prior to boarding our bus our luggage was assembled near the baggage carousel. We each had to verify that each of our individual pieces had safely arrived and were in good condition. The luggage would then be whisked off to be delivered to our staterooms on the ship. We would next see our luggage sitting “dock” near our ship ready to be hand carried on board.

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Our luggage about to be transported to the ship

For much of our travel in China we have been impressed with the transportation facilities. Airports are modern and efficient as is local transit. Therefore we were more than a little surprised when we arrived at the ship loading location. It was a major construction site with lots of heavy equipment operating immediately adjacent to our walkway. We were also dismayed to find our ship located down a long set of steep stairs, across a long mud flat plus a stretch of shallow water – not a very fancy way to board! Our river boat was tied up a significant distance from the river bank meaning we had to walk along a long temporary structure running across a dozen or so floating pontoons. Although relatively stable there was plenty of movement as over 200 of us made our way across this floating Baily Bridge like structure to our boat.

We were also amazed to discover that all of our heavy luggage would be carried along this obstacle path by local porters in the ancient way using long bamboo poles to support our luggage on each side. Note such a pole in the picture of the luggage above. It must have been quite a challenge carrying large loads of luggage to the ship but none appeared to have been lost overboard. To be fair it appears that the major construction will one day be a more modern and convenient docking facility.

This was our first exposure to the challenges of docking along the Yangtze. Because of the Three Gorges Dam nearly 600 km downstream the river level rises and falls as much as 50 vertical feet from season to season as flood waters are held back and then gradually released over the following months. We are just entering the rainy season so the Yangtze was now at its lowest level of the year so it appears much like low tide on the Bay of Fundy in Atlantic Canada. We would see the effects of this immense rise and fall of the water level constantly as we make our way down the Yangtze over the next 5 days.

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Stairway leading to the floating walkway out to our boat

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Floating walkway leading out to our boat. Water is at the seasonal low level

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Sue, Roy and Dave walking along the long pontoon bridge leading to our ship the Viking Emerald

Chongqing is the gateway to the navigable part of the Yangtze. The Yangtze is the 3rd longest river in the world – over 6000 km. For hundreds of years the Yangtze has been a major commercial corridor in the country and it still fulfills that important function.

The Viking Emerald is a modern purpose-built tour ship and was built in 2011 so has the look and features that you would expect on a large river cruise ship. She carries 256 guests and every stateroom has a verandah. We are in cabins 337 and 339. This is as far up the Yangtze as most small cargo ships can go so it is a major port with lots of shipping activity along the river.

We were glad to board ship and locate our new homes for the next 5 days and to explore various venues on the ship.

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Our cabin aboard the Viking Emerald

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Another view of our cabin

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Our shipboard neighbours, Sue and Roy


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The main dining room


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The main lobby

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The upper deck


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The Emerald Bar

We had a cocktail in the bar and then headed to our first wonderful dinner aboard the Emerald before returning to our cabins to find our luggage, unpack and get ready for the start of our trip. As we sailed away from Chongqing with several other cruise boats, we said good bye to the skyline and bright lights.

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Local smaller ship leaving with us

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Local dinner cruise ship passing by us

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Chongqing Skyline

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Chongqing Skyline – note how they love to decorate their buildings with LED lights

Posted by DavidandHazel 20:07 Archived in China Comments (0)

Down the Yangtze Through the Three Gorges to the Dam

semi-overcast 28 °C

Day 8 Shibaozhai – May 13, 2015

With no bus to catch and no luggage to place outside our room we got off to a lazy start of our first day on the river. After an excellent breakfast in the main dining room we had the mandatory Safety Briefing and then an overview of the day’s activities. All morning we sailed along the Yangtze as one huge industrial port city after another passed by in the haze. The climate here again is very humid and often misty and with the huge particulate load created by all the heavy industry. We seldom saw a perfectly clear blue sky.


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Another city on the banks of the Yangtze as we make our way down stream

The highlight of the day was our afternoon visit to the Shibaozhai Temple, a 12-story pavilion and pagoda built in 1650 along the Yangtze.

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Shibaozhai Pagoda

We docked at a small series of floats and made our way up a long concrete combination boat ramp and road.

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Ship docked at road to the Shibaozhai Pagoda – as the river rises in the winter much of this area will be under water

The road was lined with local vendors selling their wares.

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Vendors waiting for the ship’s passengers to walk by

All of the vendors we have encountered are pushy but very friendly and have great senses of humour. They will accept “no” for an answer but not without a good pursuit. Dave had tried to sell his watch and his Canadian ball cap several times but they were confused at first but then recognised the humour once they realise that he is trying to beat them at their own game. We have truly enjoyed the Chinese people. Although their culture has trained them to be very pushy in crowds, there is never a hint of anger even in their crazy traffic. They are curious about us but very open and friendly and always ready to laugh.

Due to the major differences in water level between winter and summer everything along the Yangtze has to be built to accommodate the 15-20 meter (45-65 feet) change in the level of the massive headwater that stretches for several hundred kilometres upstream from the Three Gorges dam. It is a bit like a tidal river on the Bay of Fundy in Atlantic Canada except you get high tide in the rainy season and low tide in the dry season. Nothing permanent can be built below the high water mark.

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Low water level of the Yangtze

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Low water level of the Yangtze

The primary purpose of building the Three Gorges Dam was flood control. Since the 1920s over a million people have perished in seasonal flooding along the Yangtze. The Dam has virtually eliminated this annual flooding. Our tour guides have been very open with us that the damning of the Yangtze has had some very serious environmental as well as social impacts on the country and our main tour guide said that only long term history will decide if the dam was a wise decision.

This afternoon our guide led us on a walking tour through the local village and on to the pagoda. The village is a pleasant street scape of small shops at street level with apartments on the second and third levels.

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Typical new village for relocation

The village is one of hundreds that the government built to relocate the citizens who were displaced when the Three Gorges Dam was built. Like most of the rural villages that we have seen the village is populated by the very young and the elderly. The young and middle aged adults have all moved to the cities for office or factory jobs. They frequently leave their children with their parents who look after the very young. We have seen this town after town.

After our village walk we cross a rather elaborate suspension bridge to the base of the pavilion area.


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New Suspension bridge connecting newly built village to ancient pagoda

The suspension bridge was built as part of the village relocation to higher ground. As well a massive concrete dyke was built around the pavilion to protect it during the high water season.

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Concrete wall constructed to protect the ancient pagoda – note the water levels

They have done a lovely job of making the entrance to the pagoda beautiful. There were plenty of signs in both Chinese and English

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Wall at the base of the Pagoda

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The gorgeous Shibaozhai Pagoda

After climbing the twelve flights of stairs up the pagoda we get to tour the little area at the top.

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Top of the Pagoda

With the customary vendors


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Vendors at the top of the Pagoda


At the top of the pagoda there is a little courtyard with a foot bridge. Like everything in China there is a saying or superstition that goes with it. If you can cross the little bridge in an odd number of steps (the lower the number the better) you will have a long and happy life.

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Sue earning that long and happy life

We have been greatly amused at the Chinese signage. While most signs are translated into English and all are completely comprehensible, the translation is sometimes quite funny.


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Then we began the walking trip back to the ship, across the suspension bridge and up through the gauntlet of local vendors. As we went through the vendor area we make two of the very few purchases that we made on the trip – a couple of T-shirts. Sue also negotiated a great deal on a “genuine” Ming Dynasty plate that she had been looking for. All transactions were conducted with a great deal of exaggerated body language, walking away, and much laughter. All parties were happy with the result. We were told that the vendors enjoy a good bargain and that certainly seemed to be true. We also saw a group of workers moving a tree that they were about to plant. They chanted as they worked together to move that tree.

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Chanting and working together to move a tree

The rest of the day we explored our small ship and watched the scenery on the Yangtze River as we cruised along the river through the afternoon and evening. It was completely different from our European river cruise three years ago. Here there are very few towns along the river. There are a few rural settlements from time to time but mostly there are scattered cities with major clusters of high rise residential units and a few factories. Once again this is the result of the relocation of towns and villages when the dam was built. Cities of over a million people just spring up in the middle of vast expanses of country. We have also come to the conclusion that the Chinese are the world’s most prolific bridge builders. There are several styles of massive suspension bridges that loom up every so many kilometres. Unlike the bridges over European rivers these bridges have all been built since the flooding and are a hundred or even more feet above the river in order to allow passage of the ship traffic even during high water season which is at least 40 feet higher than it is now.

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One of many bridges across the Yangtze

Day 9 - The Three Gorges – May 14, 2015

This morning we get up extra early in order to witness the ship’s entry into the actual “three gorges.” For the next 180 kilometres we will be traveling through the most scenic stretch of the Yangtze as it forces its way through a spectacular series of limestone ridges known as the Three Gorges.


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Part of the Yangtze we sail through from Chongqing to Wuhan

We are up at 6:00 am grab some breakfast and head out on the top deck to get some pictures of the truly amazing scenery as we make our way through the Qutang Gorge, the shortest (5 miles long), and narrowest (500 ft. from shore to shore) and most spectacular of the three large gorges. Our pictures best tell this story as it is an amazing experience. For this the most spectacular of the three gorges we get a full commentary over the speaker system pointing out the main features and explaining some of the history of the area.

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Qutang Gorge


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Qutang Gorge – note that the vegetation stops at the high water level

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Leaving the Qutang Gorge

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New city between the Qutang and Wu Gorges built to house some of the people displaced by the dam downstream.


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Another new city in the Gorges area combining the traditional pagoda with the new condos. Note the height of the waterline. There are likely the remains of an abandoned city at least 100 feet below the water level

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Another beautiful bridge over the Yangtze

After breakfast as we enter the Wu Gorge which is 25 miles long. We get off our ship and board a series of smaller (20 passenger) boats for an excursion through a small narrow waterway known as the Lesser Three Gorges (the Goddess Stream) which is a small tributary of the Yangtze that runs several kilometres up through another narrow series of gorges.

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Entering the “Goddess Stream”

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Two of our little boats in the Goddess Stream

In spots the stream is only wide enough to allow one sampan style boat to pass through at a time with the walls extending straight up for hundreds of feet. This was once just a brook but the Three Gorges Dam raised the water level 70 to 100 ft. depending on the season. The water is quite low at this time as indicated by the water line where the trees grow.


We make our way up through these remarkable canyons flanked by towering cliffs. Along the way we witness many fascinating sites including the hanging coffins of the Ba people and the ancient plank road carved into the cliff side.

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Ancient plank walkway carved in the cliff side

Eventually we turned around and headed back to our river boat for lunch. We spent the afternoon sailing through Wu (‟Witches”) Gorge which is the longest of the three gorges and is renowned for its magnificent scenery.

By mid-evening we arrive at the actual dam itself and our evening entertainment is an interesting adventure as we make our way through the 5-stage locks of the Three Gorges Dam which allows our ship plus any others to get past the massive dam.

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Inside the locks

Despite a steady drizzle many of us stay on deck in order to assist the captain in guiding our ship through the amazingly tight fit in the locks. We are nestled tight up against the walls of the lock so one can reach out and touch the massive concrete walls. On the other side we have two smallish commercial ore carriers, one with a cargo of coal and the other with a load of aggregate.

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Our neighbours in the locks

Once we clear the locks we tie up for the night. Tomorrow we tour the dam itself.

Posted by DavidandHazel 20:23 Archived in China Comments (0)

The Dam & the end of the Cruise portion of our trip

sunny 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.

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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.

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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.


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View of the Boat Locks of the Dam from the top.

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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.

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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.

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School entrance

We were first treated to a modern dance routine

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Dance Group

After the dance group we saw a Kata by the Karate group

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Karate Group

We then saw a number of the smaller children give us a drum demonstration

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Drum Group

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!

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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.

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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

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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!


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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.


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Some were quite poetic!

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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.

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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.

http://youtu.be/xMsndK2eOks

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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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Shanghai skyline from the Bund

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Shanghai skyline from the Bund

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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.

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Our room in Shanghai

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There was even a television built into the mirror of our bathroom!

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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

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Long line of tourists waiting to enter the museum in Shanghai

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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.

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Woman hand knotting a silk rug

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A hand-knotted rug will have the same pattern on the underside as the top

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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.

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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.

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Cooks stir frying our food

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Silk embroidery

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.

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Yuyuan Garden

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe

When we thought things couldn't get more difficult…

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Posted by DavidandHazel 20:31 Archived in China Comments (0)

Good bye Shanghai – Hello Guilin and Hong Kong

rain 24 °C

Day 14 - Shanghai – May 19, 2015
This morning we woke up and looked out the window from our 47th floor and couldn’t see a thing! The fog was so thick we couldn’t even see the roof of the building that is only 20 floors below us. By the time we headed down to the excellent breakfast buffet it had started to clear. After breakfast we checked out of our hotel and once again headed to the massive Shanghai airport.

Next we headed off to the city of Guillin. This city is a major tourist destination in China and by Chinese standards a relatively small city of around one million although the greater area around it is closer to thirty million. After landing in Guillin and we made the hour long drive through the pretty very green city to another Shangri-La Hotel.

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Dancers in the Lobby of the Shangri-La, in the city of Guillin

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Our room in the Shangri-La in the city of Guilin

After getting settled we head down for another great meal – we are afraid to even guess at how much weight we have put on. We have a busy day tomorrow so head off to bed fairly early.

Day 15- Li River, Yang Shuo & Hong Kong – May 20, 2015

After an early breakfast we headed out on our bus. It had been raining hard all night and continued to pour but we were not deterred. We were well prepared as we had been warned in advance by the Viking written material that it could be rainy as we get further south since this is the start of the rainy season, however, the temperatures are warm.

This morning our destination was a boat trip on the beautiful Li River. As we drove along in the bus it was clear that there was some significant local flooding. Our local guide was not deterred and we continued to drive to the place where we boarded the river boat. After an hour drive we arrived at the boat loading station which consisted of a very large rather elaborate building which is fairly typical in China. The central government erects a massive welcome center for a local attraction. Like most attractions in China there is an airport-style security screening at the entrance to the facility. All of the museums and other attractions had a similar security screening facility, however, the process is a joke as no one is ever stopped and the metal detector alarm is constantly going off. It looks more like a make work project for some local folks. We disembarked our bus in the pouring rain and join the 5000 Chinese tourists who are also heading for the river tour. The river bank loading area was total pandemonium as 40-50 smallish rather run down tour boats lined up at the jetty to pick up their passengers who were all scrambling to get on their respective boats and out of the pouring rain.


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Chinese tourists waiting in the rain to board one of the many boats for local tourists

The river was now well into flood stage with water rushing by the river bank loaded with discarded shoreline garbage picked up as the river had rapidly swollen over its banks. After a half hour wait our much nicer tour boat was able to get a slot at the jetty and load our group of 50 or so folks.

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Our comfortable tour boat on the Li River

We quickly departed and made our way up the river as we ploughed our way through the barrage of garbage now rushing down the river. The river level by now was at least 5-8 feet above the normal level but then again this is not a terribly unusual occurrence on the river so no one seemed to be too alarmed. Our guide told us that the river would have been much more crowded with smaller boats if the weather were nicer and the river not so flooded. The scenery was breath taking as you can see from the pictures.

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Other more crowded tour boat on the flooded river

Even the miserable weather couldn’t detract from the gorgeous scenery.

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The beautiful Li River near Guilin

During the four or five hour ride we had a buffet lunch and the sky cleared somewhat. We scrambled off the boat across a make-shift pathway (the normal walkway was flooded) and walked through another group of vendors to our waiting busses.

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A rather unconventional landing spot due to the flooding

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Vendors at the boat dock

On the way back we visited the Elephant Hill Scenic Area where we saw not only the Elephant Trunk Hill but also a couple of captive cormorants which they use for fishing.

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Fishing with cormorants

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Fishing with cormorants

After a bit of a clean-up and a check of our email we headed down for dinner which was once again a lovely buffet at the Shangra-La hotel. Since we were scheduled for a very early start the next day we were off to bed by 10:00 this evening.

Day 16 - Guilin to Hong Kong – May 21, 2015

This was our earliest start yet, we were up at 4:30 am as our luggage had to be outside our door by 5:30 am. After another great breakfast we boarded our bus by 6:00 am in order to catch the 8:00 am flight to Hong Kong. Once again it was raining steadily as we left the very picturesque area of Guillin.

By 9:45 we landed at the Shenzhen airport which is right on the border with Hong Kong. Although Hong Kong now is part of China there are still strict border controls between Hong Kong and China. Our tour guide explained to us that it would be more efficient for us to fly into this Chinese city right on the border and take a bus through customs and immigration than it would be to take a flight directly into Hong Kong. So we deplaned, picked up our luggage and got on a bus with all of our luggage. We drove about 5 km unloaded all our luggage from the bus, went through a China exit process with thousands of Chinese gently pushing and shoving in long line ups. After going through the exit process we walked down a long corridor to the Hong Kong entrance area which is similar to going through customs and immigration for any country. Once through the border process we boarded our bus again and headed into the amazing city of Hong Kong.

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Hong Kong through the mist. The objects floating in the water are pens for fish farms.

Hong Kong consists of a number of major metropolitan areas and is spread over several islands and a peninsula. Unfortunately, once again we were plagued with light rain and a fairly heavy mist and even a bit of fog. However, our itinerary called for a tour so we pressed on and did a Hong Kong city tour on our bus.

Next we headed off to tour the harbour area including a visit to the floating city of Aberdeen and we were able to also take a sampan ride.

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Sue and Roy on the Sampan

There were all manner of boats in the harbour - from

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Floating Restaurants

To

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Power boats

To

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Fishing boats

To

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House boats

To

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Sampans like ours

We next took a quick tour through a jewellery factory

We continued on to the top of Victoria Peak which is a small urban mountain top located on the highest point of the western part of Hong Kong Island, This location offers panoramic views of Hong Kong’s unique skyline. Unfortunately, in the very heavy mist we could not see much. There were high winds at the top of the peak which made it even less pleasant.

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Dave part way down Victoria Peak where we could at least see part of the city of Hong Kong

After more than enough driving around in the brutal Hong Kong traffic our bus dropped us off at the ShangraLa hotel which is in the Kowloon section of Hong Kong which is pretty well in the very center of most of the action and only a short walk to the waterfront or the subway.

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Lobby of the lovely Shangri La Kowloon

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Our room in Hong Kong

After getting settled in at our hotel we cleaned up and headed out on our own with Sue and Roy and our new friends Bev and Wayne from Adelaide in Australia to find some place for dinner.

Day 17 - Hong Kong – May 22, 2015

Our last day in Hong Kong was a free day that we could do things on our own. Since we didn’t have any formally scheduled activities we slept in for the first time in two weeks. After a leisurely breakfast in the hotel we, along with Sue and Roy, our travelling companions, headed out for a day of exploring on our own. Once again the weather was not very pleasant with heavy overcast and a light mist. We walked along the beautiful waterfront promenade all the way to the ferry docks where we grabbed the public transit ferry across the harbour to Hong Kong Island.

The Hong Kong public transit system is very extensive and excellent with very low fares. Trip to the island cost us about 50 cents each. While on the island we got to see many of the big bank buildings as well as a wonderful Marine Museum located right at the ferry dock.

Eventually we headed back to the ferry and back to the mainland. Once back on the mainland we walked up through the major commercial area back to our hotel. After an early dinner near our hotel we joined our tour group and headed out to the waterfront to watch the laser light show which occurs every evening. Unfortunately once again the weather did us in. The mist/ rain/fog mixture was so thick you could see almost none of the show. However, it was a great walk and even in the mist the harbour is a magical place with all of its lights and excitement.

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Hong Kong Harbour on a misty night

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More of Hong Kong Harbour in the mist

Day 18 - The marvellous journey draws to a close - May 23, 2015

Well we arrived at Day 18 and another great adventure was drawing to a close. We didn’t have to have our luggage outside our rooms until 11:00 am so we joined Roy and Sue for a leisurely breakfast. We also sat with our friends Wayne and Beverly from Australia and next to two great couples whom we met from Atlanta. We were able to say our goodbyes to other friends whom we met during our 17 days on this amazing Viking tour.

By noon we were headed to the airport, another amazing structure like all the other airports that we went through in China. After a bit of a delay due to the rain and thunder we finally lifted into the sky at around 4:45 pm for the 15 hour flight back to Toronto via Air Canada.

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Special thanks to our wonderful tour guide Matthew

Epilogue
Like every trip we have taken we have enjoyed ourselves immensely. We have met new friends who we will stay in touch with even if only once every year or two. Best of all we have learned a tremendous amount about a major country of our world that we had known very little about. This trip has dispelled many misconceptions that we had about China and we are much better for it.

China is a country with many contradictions, it is a country going through tremendous change. China has built more infrastructure in the past decade than North America has built in the last 40 years. The entire country is under construction. New cities are popping up everywhere. The people are facing tremendous social changes as literally hundreds of millions of people are moving from what was a rural based society a few decades ago to one that is now highly urban. What will be the social impact of this massive urbanization? We see high rise communities of 20,000 to 50,000 people springing up everywhere. Families are split up as children (one per family in most cases) are frequently left with grandparents in the country for months at a time as the parents move to the city in order to get the work they want. Despite massive building projects there is still a shortage of affordable housing. One thing we do know is that China is going to continue to be a larger and larger player on the world stage and her people certainly have the drive to make that happen and they are prepared to sacrifice a lot to make sure they get there.

There was so much to see and do on this trip that we got a bit carried away with this blog and it turned out far longer than we intended. We hope you enjoyed our adventure and we look forward to seeing your comments in the comments section of the blog. Feel free to forward the link to anyone who is interested and if you know any travel buffs who might like to be on the mailing list for future blogs just drop us an email.

David & Hazel

Posted by DavidandHazel 20:37 Archived in China Comments (3)

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