Archive for May, 2016

Tuesday 31 May Shanghai morning walk

This morning we had a leisurely breakfast and then went for a walk (a long walk) in the sunshine from our hotel to the pedestrian shopping street. We wandered along the street and then walked off the main thoroughfare into some of the back streets where we saw lots of people milling around the small local shops, including groceries, clothes and lots of small hardware shops/stalls for nuts, bolts. generators, electric tools etc We eventually found our way back to the river, having walked a big rectangle and stopped at the Bund and we saw that the blue sky was not unable to be seen anymore because it was now smoggy/foggy. We took some photos to compare with our beautiful evening’s photos on Sunday.

We came back to the hotel to finish sorting our suitcases ready for our flight home, had showers and decided to have lunch in a little café in the hotel, which was lovely. Our Waitress, ELLA, sat us at a table for two at a window overlooking the street, where there was a steady stream of Chinese families coming and going to the river. Several of them stopped and took photos of us through the window. Vivian had told us that the Chinese refer to us as “Big Noses” and at several places during our holiday they would either just take our photos or ask in sign language if they could have their photo taken with us. We are amazed at how friendly the Chinese people are and whenever we have said “Nihao” (hello) to them, their faces lit up and they greeted us too.

We will be collected at 1.30pm for our transfer to the Pudong International Airport for our Singapore Airlines flight at 4.50pm on an A380 Airbus to Singapore connecting with our Singapore Airlines A330 flight to Brisbane.

Monday 30 May Shanghai

This morning, we woke to blue skies and a warm day. Unfortunately the blue skies did not last long and by mid-morning it was overcast, but at least it didn’t rain!

The activity we chose this morning was a visit to the Yu Garden and a cruise on the Huangpu River through the heart of the city. Our bus took us to China Town and we walked a short distance through Gucheng Park where some men had brought their birds to the park and had them hanging in trees while they sat around chatting. We could also see some of the homes and because it was a fine day, there was washing hanging on the verandahs as well as beside the road/park. We asked our local guide, Tracey if anyone ever gets their washing stolen and she said that this doesn’t happen. We walked through a large local market area and into Yu Garden, which is a model of classical Chinese gardening architecture under state preservation. It was built during the reign of Ming Emperor Jiajing in 1559 as the private garden of Pan Yunduan, Administrative Commissioner of Sichuan Province. With an area of two hectares, the Garden is famous for a number of architectural marvels, including the Big Rockery, the Naturally Hallowed Jade Boulder, the Hall of an Emerald Touch of Spring and the Inner Garden.

From Yu Garden, we walked back into the Market Area and spent about ¾hour wandering through the narrows market streets looking at the various shops/stalls. The markets are a fascinating place where you can buy anything from embroidered pictures, to clothes to dumplings. We saw the Nanxiang Steamed Bun and Noodle place that is an original family owned dumpling shop and we were told that it is so popular that there is always a huge line-up of people wanting to purchase the dumplings etc. (sometimes it takes over an hour to reach to front of the line).

From there we walked to the Huangpu River for our one-hour cruise through the heart of the city. We boarded the China Mobile Boat named “Go Tone” and went up to the top deck, which was an open, covered area. It cost us 30 Yuan (approximately $6.00) each to sit in this area, but we got a cold drink and some peanuts for free!! Our cruise was very picturesque and peaceful as we sat taking in the views with soft breeze. Unfortunately, the sun and the blue sky had disappeared and it was starting to get misty/foggy again. We finished our morning with a Chinese Lunch at a restaurant not far from our hotel. We arrived back at our hotel at 1.30pm with nothing planned for the afternoon other than catching up with our blog and photos.

This evening, we had our Farewell Dinner in the Shangahi Reception Room in The Fairmont Peace Hotel, overlooking the Bund and the Huangpu River. We sat with our usual group of friends, Anna & Chris, Sue & Kyle and Mike & Leanne and Helen & Allan joined us too. We had a lovely meal and enjoyed reminiscing about our holiday while Vivian summarised the highlights of our holiday. Fred said o few words to thank Vivian on our behalf for all that she did to make our holiday so special and gave her an envelope with some money in it as an extra thank you from all of us. We all enjoyed our last night together and marveled at how well we all got along, watching out for each other, sharing this special experience, enjoying each others’ company and we were like a big family. After our delicious dinner and much chatting and laughing, it was time to say our final goodbyes to everyone as people are heading off at different times through the day tomorrow.

Sunday 29 May Shanghai Maglev Train & Pearl Tower

Sunday morning in Shanghai – light showers, mist and low cloud!

Our bus picked us up from the hotel at 830am and took us to the City Maglev Train Station. Built with technological help from Germany, Shanghai Maglev Train (SMT) has operated since the end of 2002. It is the world’s first and only commercialized Maglev (Magnetic Levitation) train line in operation. It runs from Pudong International Airport to Longyang Road Station in Shanghai and return.

Our local guide bought our tickets; we went through security and boarded the Maglev Train at 9:15:16 for our 7 minutes and 20 seconds trip to the Airport, which is 30 kilometres. This is the first high-speed train we have been on and it was amazing to watch as the train reached a speed of 431 kilometres per hour. The ride was very smooth, with no sensation of speed at all, except when we passed the Maglev Train travelling in the other direction. Despite being warned about the noise that was generated as the two trains passed each other, we all still got a surprise at how low the bang was!! There was lots of laughter.

At Pudong International Airport, we had to get off the train, go out, then back through security before boarding our return Maglev Train into the city. This time it reached the same speed – 431 kilometres per hour, but it only took 7 minutes and 17 seconds. We all still jumped when the Maglev train going the other way passed us.

We were lucky that our guide arranged for us to do early trips because after 9.00am until 3.00pm the train speed is reduced to only 300 kilometres per hour. What a great experience!

After being collected from the train, we were taken to the Jiangnansilk Silk Factory. On the way, we marveled at the way the Chinese have developed their highway networks, especially in Shanghai, where the highways are high above the city streets and in some cases there are up to three levels of roads. Our silk factory guide, whose name was also Tracey, talked to us about the history of Chinese silk manufacturing, the life changes in the growth of a silk worm and also about how the silk is made. We were then taken into a showroom where they showed us various doonas, covers etc. and then into another section where they had scarves, ties, blouses, shirts, pyjamas etc etc!!

We had a delicious lunch at the Xi’an Qing Fang Restaurant before heading over to the Pudong side of the river via a tunnel under the river. The city has 8 tunnels and 4 bridges spanning the river.

Our next stop was at the Oriental Pearl Tower, even though it was foggy and the top was disappearing in cloud, we decide, as a group that we still wanted to go to the top. We took the elevator, which took 40 seconds to get us from the bottom of the tower to the highest sphere, the viewing deck, 468 metres and instead of stunning panoramic views, all we could see looking out was white. As we wandered around the viewing deck and looked down on the city, the fog was swirling and we could get occasional glimpses of the ground and some buildings that were close to the Tower. After completing a lap of the top level, we walked down a flight of stairs to the Glass Corridor, which, as its name suggests, had a glass floor the whole way around the outside edge – about 2 metres wide and a glass exterior wall from the glass floor to the ceiling.

Towering high above Pudong New Area, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower has been the outstanding landmark of Shanghai since its completion in 1995. The tower is 468 meters high, the highest in Asia and the third highest in the world, next to the 553–meter-high CN Tower in Toronto, Canada, and the 540-meter-high Ostankino TV Tower in Moscow, Russia.

This evening, we enjoyed premium seating at an acrobatic show. Chinese acrobatics are widely known around the world and we had been looking forward to seeing them. We were impressed with the acrobats’ flexible limb-contorting theatrics and balancing acts and thoroughly enjoyed the whole performance of these exceptional acrobats. The show was called ERA – Intersection of Time and went for one and a half hours with about 15 wonderful acts including girls doing amazing leap-frog from one bike to the next over the top of the head of the rider; amazing trampolining; an incredible man who juggled with large china pots and the main event was when motor bikes rode inside a small sphere, which sounds pretty good, but the amazing part was when they kept adding bikes until they had 8 of them, all circling around and doing crossovers etc.

When we got back to our hotel, Anna & Chris came with us for a walk down to the river (across the road from our hotel) and we were able to take photos of the Pearl Tower as the evening was quite clear. We wandered along the river enjoying the lights, along with hundreds of other people, just out having a good time by the river. We finally tore ourselves away and went back to the hotel for showers and bed after a great day in Shanghai.

Saturday 28 May Xi’an to Shanghai

This morning our bus picked us up at 9.30am for the one-hour journey to the airport – it was an easier drive as it is now the weekend. Our suitcases had been taken separately and checked in for us, so all we needed to do was to go through Security and head to our gate for our 12.00pm departure. When we arrived at the gate, Vivian was told that the flight had been delayed until 12.50pm as it was pouring rain and low visibility in Shanghai. 12.50 came and went and we then had a gate change, with more waiting until Vivian was told that the flight would not be leaving until after 3.00pm. She suggested that they needed to give us some lunch, so after a while, a lady arrived with a trolley filled with boxes, drinks and fruit. We sat in the departure lounge with the boxes on our laps and opened them to find that we had a chicken leg, rice (of course), egg & tomato and cooked celery and chopsticks. We think that we provided the entertainment for the Chinese who were waiting for the flight as they watched us eating our lunch with chopsticks! From the look on a couple of their faces they appeared to be surprised that we could actually use them – maybe not as well as they did, but we certainly didn’t go hungry! It was all a bit of fun really.
We finally boarded our China Eastern AirBus A321 flight and pushed back at 4.00pm – we had a good flight and arrived in rainy Shanghai. We were met by our local guide, Tracey, who took us out to our bus and chatted to us on the way to our hotel. She told us that Shanghai, which has 24 million people, is a modern city and is seen to be the Financial Capital of China. We were supposed to be getting the Maglev Fast Train from the airport into the city, but we arrived at a different airport, so Tracey has organised for us to do the Maglev Fast Train tomorrow morning.

We finally arrived at the Fairmont Peace Hotel overlooking the Huangpu River, at 7.15pm!!! The hotel is beautiful and we have a lovely big room. We dropped our hand luggage into our room and joined the others for a lovely Chinese dinner in one of the hotel’s function rooms. After dinner the duty manager took us up to the roof-top on the 11th floor for stunning views over the city and the river.

Friday 27 May Terracotta Warriors – Xi’an

This morning we woke to a cool and raining morning. We left the hotel at 8.00am and were taken on a tour to see the attractions of Xi’an, one of the oldest cities in China, home to one of the world’s most famous archaeological discoveries. On our way to a section of the City Wall, we saw people going to work and lots of scooters with special umbrellas that were round at the front and then elongated at the back to protect the passenger too.

The City Wall, which is 5,000 years old, is the most complete city wall that has survived in China, as well as being one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world. The rectangular Wall is approximately 14 kilometres in length, 12 metres high, 12 metres wide at the top and 14 metres wide at the base, has 4 Main Gates and 14 small gates. The Wall also has a moat around it and drawbridges, which are always open now and the City Gates, which have all been reconstructed, are always open too. Some sections of the wall are protected and visitors are not allowed to go on them.

We visited the West Gate where Silk Road began and climbed up 74 steps to the top and looked along the Wall, which disappeared in the mist. After Jimmy gave us some information about the wall, we were given free time to wander around taking photos. As well as the main West Gate Tower, we found other Watch Towers that were built on Ramparts that protruded out of the wall. Capable of defense from three directions, the Ramparts, located every 120 metres, were key facilities in the whole-line defense system. As we wandered around, there was beautiful soft Chinese music playing along the wall. Inside the wall there are only businesses now and no houses – there is a limit on the number of storeys that are allowed to be constructed inside the wall.

Then we travelled about an hour to the Terracotta Warriors Workshop, a clay factory where terracotta soldiers are still made today using the local clay the same as the originals and fired in ovens. The factory covers 2,000 square meters and employs more than 40 technicians. Our guide showed us how they are made and we were given the opportunity to buy some souvenirs. Then we were taken upstairs to the Chinese Lacquer Workshop where we saw some amazing pieces and then to the Furniture Museum where they had amazing Chinese style furniture, including a Wedding Sedan chair and dowry chests etc. We had an early buffet lunch on the 3rd floor of the same building before heading off to the Terracotta Warriors, 10 minutes away.

We spent the afternoon at the world famous Terracotta Warriors, an incredible collection of terracotta sculptures built in 209 BC. It is believed that they were made to be buried with the Fist Emperor Qin Shi Huang as a show of his glory and to remember the army that triumphed over the other warring states that united China, and also because it was believed that objects like statues can be animated in the afterlife. The tomb is a treasury for the Chinese people and for the whole world and in December 1987, UNESCO selected the Tomb of the First Emperor (including the Terracotta Army Vaults) as a World Cultural Heritage Site.

We visited the Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses. Here lie the three excavation pits where the collection of Terracotta Sculptures depicting the warriors of Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of China, were first unearthed by a farmer in 1974 when he was digging a water well. Thousands of life-size terracotta warriors in battle formation were revealed in the course of excavation of the earth and timber vaults. The horsemen, the longbow bearers, the archers, and the senior officers and generals were positioned in a grand ancient army formation. Amazingly, every figure differs in facial features and expression, clothing, hairstyle, and gestures.

Many of the figures originally held real weapons of the time, such as bronze swords, longbows, arrows, spears, dagger, axes, and other long-shafted weapons. The weapons were treated to make them resistant to rust and corrosion, so that even after being buried for over 2,000 years they were still sharp. Our local guide took us through the Museum, and the pits where we were able to view some of the best-preserved sculptures.

After an awesome afternoon, we were taken back to the City, passing fields of Winter wheat, which will be harvested in July, as well as lots of apartment buildings – one of the things that never ceases to amaze us in China is the huge number of groups of 10 – 14 apartment buildings that are all the same, grouped together and scattered throughout the cities. As we got closer to Xi’an City, the traffic got increasingly heavier and slower and what appeared to be more chaotic, with cars changing lanes, scooters and pedestrians moving between buses and cars, missing our bus by inches and the traffic appearing to have little or no regard for traffic lights unless there was a traffic policeman on duty at the intersection.

We arrived back at our hotel at 5.15pm, had showers and got dressed, ready for our evening out. We met in the foyer at 6.00pm and were taken back through the crazy traffic (should have taken 30 minutes, but it took 60 minutes) to the Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Palace, where we enjoyed a Tang Dynasty cultural performance with dancers and musicians. The costumes were beautiful with traditional style and vibrant colours. The musicians were amazingly talented, playing instruments that we had never seen before. We thoroughly enjoyed the one hour performance before going upstairs to the restaurant section for a traditional dumpling dinner, which was delicious.

Our local guide, Jimmy, organised for the driver to take us back to our hotel a different way so that we could see the City Wall and Watchtowers lit up at night – quite spectacular. We arrived back at the hotel at about 10.15pm after a big, but most enjoyable day.

Thursday 26 May Disembark Ship, Chongqing Zoo, Xi’an

This morning, we woke to a cloudy, misty, showery day in Chongqing, which is situated on the confluence of the Jangzi River and the Jaining River. Chongqing has a population of 6 million people and is referred to as a small city. We said goodbye to the staff of the Yangzi Explorer and boarded a bus, which took us to Chongqing Zoo. We drove along beside the river and through part of the city, which has 27 bridges spanning the rivers. Several of these bridges have a monorail system underneath the carriageway for cars and trucks. Chongqing, like all the other places we have been, has beautiful gardens, greenery and parkland throughout the city and along the major highways.

We arrived at Chongqing Zoo, where more than 200 varieties of wild and rare animals are on display, including 8 of the famous Giant Panda, a critically endangered species in China.

Chongqing Zoo was built in 1953 and officially opened to the public in 1955. It was then on the outskirts of the city but now that the city has spread out, it is well and truly within the centre of the city area. The Zoo covers an area of 45 hectares and is an important base for the protection and research of the immigrant wild animals. When we arrived at the Zoo, we were surprised to find a group of people doing Tai Chi in one of the areas inside the Zoo. As well seeing some more Giant Panda, we saw the rare South China Tiger, which is thought to be about the rarest kind of tiger. They are smaller than most tigers, and look lankier. We also saw two white tigers and various birds, including toucan and macaws. The zoo is set in picturesque gardens that are well-maintained, with the city sky scrapers as a backdrop.

Because of the limitation of time, we only got to see a small part of the zoo before heading to a local restaurant, the Cygnet Hot Pot, for an authentic hotpot lunch, a dish they share amongst the families from this region. Our lunch was an interesting and innovative experience. Each table sat 8 people and each place setting included a small induction hot plate. Each of us was served a pot divided into two – on one side was a very spicy sauce/broth and on the other side was a non-spicy mix. The idea being that you would heat up the pot and once boiling, you would add various vegetables, meats and noodles to the pot. The trick was in knowing how long to cook them because some only took a matter of seconds, while others, like potato and bamboo, took a few minutes. We also created our own sauce by adding various spices to sesame oil and then we scooped out the cooked vegetables/meat, dipped it in our sauce and ate it. Of course, it was tricky to fish out the vegetables/meat from the pot. Talk about working for your lunch!! Some people tried the spicy side and their mouth and lips tingled for some time afterwards! There were varying reactions to the meal amongst our group with some thoroughly enjoying it (like Richard) while others found it to be hard work and not to their liking, even although it was fun.

After lunch, we were taken to the airport for our flight to Xi’an (Guilin), which is regarded by the Chinese as one of the country’s most beautiful places. Our flight with Sichuan Airlines was on an Airbus A319 and the flight took just over an hour. After collecting our luggage, meeting up with our local guide, Jimmy, and making our way through peak hour traffic, we arrived at the Shangri-La Hotel, in Xian at about 6.30pm.

This evening, we had a buffet dinner at the hotel and enjoyed Anna & Chris’ company, before heading back to our room to post several days of blogs and photos now that we have internet that works.

Wednesday 25 May Jangzi Explorer

Sandy had a bad migraine today, so we just spent the day onboard.

In the evening, we enjoyed “A Taste of China’s Farewell Dinner”, a Chinese banquet feast. We all gathered in the foyer, in a big circle and two lion dragons paraded around the circle with a drummer drumming a slow steady beat. Then five members of the staff came out dressed in formal traditional Chinese costumes and stood in the middle with two chairs in front of them for those of us who wished to have a photo taken with them. All the waitresses were wearing Chinese dresses and looked beautiful.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our four nights on the Jangzi Explorer – the staff have all been very attentive and we have been really spoilt.

Tuesday 24 May Shennong Stream, Wu Gorge, Qutang Gorge

(After a glitch with the internet on the ship, we have now posted the rest of the photos into the Three Gorges gallery.)

We woke this morning to another misty morning, which developed into a beautiful sunny and very warm day. We went out on our balcony when we saw a beautiful ferry-boat passing close by that had a little Chinese pergola on the top deck. We are now in Badong, which is in the Hubei Provence with a population of 500,000 people – the Tu Jia and Miao minority nationalities live here. The Yangzi Valley was flooded early in the 21st century after the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, but, although some of Badong’s docks, roads and houses were flooded, Badong was mostly above the flood line and so more of the original town survived, and the economy of Badong recovered quickly.
After breakfast, we disembarked the ship and boarded a ferry exactly like the one we had seen earlier, for our 3-hour shore excursion. The ferry took us up the Shennong Stream, which is a tributary of the Yangzi River. The scenery was spectacular as we sailed up through Parrot Gorge, which is 75 kilometres long – the strata in the cliffs was beautiful, with the mountains above them and the beautiful colour of the Shennong Stream below.

We saw some more hanging coffins up a steep cliff; a section of the cliff that looked like an elephant; a fisherman in his sampan; a Buddhist temple where the Tu Jia people go to pray about having a baby (if they want a boy they take rice paper sandals with them and if they want a girl they take a wooden comb); golden swallows nesting in a cave in the towering limestone cliffs as well as some monkeys and goats. We also saw the Shennong Highway Bridge high above the Shennong Stream. We stopped at a floating dock in the Shennong Stream, where our ferry tied up and we disembarked in smaller groups and boarded some Sampans (longboats that the locals call Pea Pod boats). Each Sampan had about 12 people in it plus five boatmen, who rowed us along the stream – at one stage two of them jumped out of the sampan and pulled us along a mini gorge with rope made from bamboo, just like the trackers used to, in a section that used to be quite shallow and had lots of rapids. The trackers of old used to be naked while they did this (we couldn’t quite understand why this was so) but our trackers kept their clothes on. We continued along the stream with the boatmen pulling the oars from a standing position – they all worked up quite a sweat!

We saw a Suspension Bridge for the local people that our local guide, Lisa, told us was only 5 years old as we continued along the narrow Bamboo Gorge, and we saw a formation in the cliff that looked like a snake drinking from the stream and not long after that, we turned around and came back to the floating dock. It was a fun sampan ride not only for the beautiful scenery as we were gliding along the stream, but also because there was some friendly rivalry between the boatmen and at one stage our boat speeded up so that we could beat the boat in front of us, with lots of friendly shouting between the two teams.

Our local guide also told us that all the boatmen live with their families in houses high above the stream not far from the suspension bridge and that after getting back from taking us in the sampans, it will take them between 90 minutes to 2 hours to walk back up the steep mountains to their homes.

We re-boarded the ferry to take us back to our ship and thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed return journey along this beautiful stream. One of the local Tu Jia men did a demonstration on the ship of how they make sandals from rice straw or cotton & plastic. They take 5 hours to make using a special wooden bench with pegs in it. We arrived back at our ship at about 20 to 12 and had enough time to freshen up before heading down to the dining room for a delicious buffet lunch.

We entered the Wu Gorge, the second of the three Gorges system. The Gorge has sheer cliffs and towering peaks and is surrounded by the Wu Mountains. Wu Gorge is the longest continuous gorge and is 45 kilometres long. We stood up on the top deck for ages listening to the commentary of Willie, our Cruise Director. We saw coal bins and trucks carrying the coal out of the mountain as well as a towpath beside the gorge. Wu Gorge is known for its deep valley, its 12 limestone peaks and its beauty.

We passed underneath the Wushan Bridge and between the majestic Chijia Mountain and Baiyan Mountain to enter the Qutang Gorge, the shortest, narrowest and most dramatic of the Three Gorges. The highest peak of the Red Armour Mountains looks like a frog and the White Salt Mountains were amazing. The Qutang Gorge, which is considered to be the most beautiful, is bordered by a white cliff face, which is known as the chalk wall. As we cruised past the south bank, we saw ancient inscriptions engraved into the white chalk cliff faces. As we sailed to the end of the gorge we saw the Red Armoured Temple and White King temple on top of Small Hill and looking back up the gorge we could see spectacular scenery.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the Explorer Bar Lounge, looking at the scenery and chatting to some of our group.

This evening as we were finishing our delicous dinner, we passed through Yun Yang a beautiful city with the most amazing bridge that lit up in sequences and coloured patterns, so a few of us went upstairs to the rear of the boat and watched the lights for some time. This evening we were entertained by the crew members’ variety show, which was a lot of fun. The show started with some very talented girls, dressed in beautiful gold outfits, performing a dance for us called 1,000 Arms. We were then entertained by 4 young male members of the crew who did a Trackers’ performance for us, and then a lovely young girl who did a modern dance. Vivian and some of our group did “Waltzing Matilda”, which was a bit of hoot and then we had a hilarious magician followed by a talented young man who did a Tai Chi performance, a comedy Wedding Ceremony, a modern Apple Dance and then all the performers did YMCA together. It was a fun night with lots of laughs.

Monday 23 May Xiling Gorge, Three Gorges Dam

We woke to a misty/foggy morning and it has been raining overnight. While we were eating our delicious buffet breakfast, the ship slipped her moorings and we headed up the Yangzi River towards the Xiling Gorge, which is 76 kilometres long. We were surprised at the number of vessels using the river – there were other river boats, barges and ferries. After having travelled for about an hour and a half, we tied up alongside other riverboats and 15 of us disembarked for an extra shore excursion.

Our local guide, Rosemary, from the Tu Jia Minority Group led us along a boardwalk, which followed the river bank for quite a distance, walking through scenic points and pergolas built out over the river. Rosemary told us that our ship is the most luxurious on the river but certainly not the biggest – our ship has a capacity of 132 people – she showed us a river ship that holds 500 people and told us that there were approximately 42 tourist ships on the river.

Eventually we followed the Lon Jin stream inland, still on a well-maintained rustic walkway to visit the Tu Jia families. Along the way we saw people from the Minority Group dressed in traditional costume and portraying scenes from their past. We saw a woman sitting by the stream washing clothes, men repairing sails using an old sewing machine, a young woman sitting on a boat while her boyfriend played the flute to her, a young woman playing a zither, a man working with his fishing cormorants and other fisherman with their nets. The further inland we went, the narrower the stream became with small waterfalls and waterwheels made from bamboo.

We watched a short performance of a courtship and marriage ceremony to the background music of a band playing traditional musical instruments – drums and trumpet-like instruments that sounded like bagpipes. From there we continued our walk to two hanging coffins high up in the cliff face – they are believed to be 2,000 years old, but no-one knows for sure how the Ba people managed to get them up there. After another short walk along the path, we came to a beautiful waterfall, Lon Jin Waterfall and also Yellow Dragon Waterfall. There were also several monkeys there that live in caves in the cliffs. One of the monkeys had a baby that was clinging underneath her as the mum moved from rock to rock in the stream. Apparently, a lady from the Tu Jia group feeds them corn and sweet potato, using donations from the local people. The monkeys also eat leaves, flowers and roots and are protected by the government.

Our return walk was along the other side of the stream, through an area with a few local houses built into the hillside. We returned to the mouth of the stream and then were taken back to the ship by local ferry. Along the way we had a wonderful view of the pavilions and pergolas that we had walked through at the beginning of our walking tour.

We thoroughly enjoyed our three and a half hour shore excursion this morning – the scenery was spectacular and the weather was very kind to us. Once again we are unable to put into words how awesome it was to wander along the pathways beside the stream, under trees and bamboo to the sounds of the running stream and flutes playing and amazing vistas on the water.

After lunch, we arrived at the Three Gorges Project Dam Site Exhibition Centre and we went on a tour of the complex. Our bus, with local guide David, took us through the local township of Sandoupng before taking us to the Museum, where we gained some understanding of the construction of the world’s largest engineering project. Commenced in 1992 and completed and fully operational by 2009, the dam is the largest dam on earth, generating 22,500 megawatts of hydroelectricity. The dam is 2,335 metres long, height is 185 metres above sea level and has a maximum water height of 175 metres.

The Three Gorges Dam also has a ship lift for small ships and a double-way Five stage Lock system for larger ships. As well as producing electricity, the dam project was able to increase the shipping capacity and reduce the potential floods downstream by providing flood storage space.

The afternoon was fine but visibility was poor so we were not able to get very good photos of the dam wall. We arrived back at the ship at 4.00pm and the ship started its progression through the gravity fed locks at 6.00pm – we watched from the top deck until the Captain’s Welcome Reception at 6.30pm where we met the Captain and had drinks and savouries. We had a most enjoyable Welcome Dinner with our usual table of eight, chatting and laughing and enjoying life on the river!

Sunday 22 May Beijing to Yichan to Embark Ship

We had the morning at leisure today and at 9.30am, some of our group took the opportunity to do a Raffles Hotel tour with the Hotel Ambassador, John. He gave us lots of interesting information about the hotel, which started as a 3-room inn. The Hotel is government owned and Raffles/Fairmont/Swisshotel group manage it. We saw the original dance floor that Chairman Mau used to come here for the afternoon tea dance. We saw the beautiful and very ornate Golden Hall, which was set up for a wedding reception today. John told us that the Golden Hall was used the venue for the declaration of China as the Republic of China on 1 October 1949. John also told us that Raffles Hotel as been used for many different special occasions eg the meeting of the IOC, Beijing Fashion Week etc. The Beijing Hotel, Raffles Hotel and the Grand Hotel are all connected and you can walk from one to the other. John showed us the Grand Hotel, which was build in 1980. To finish our tour, he took us to the gallery to show us lots of photos of famous people who have stayed at Raffles, Beijing, including George & Barbara Bush, Jimmy Carter, Princess Ann, Prince Albert of Monaco, the IOC and Michael Bolton the singer to name a few.

The two of us then went for a walk, exploring the shopping area close to the hotel. We found a little Chinatown in Beijing where there were lots of food stalls and small market shops with lots of people milling around.

We met up with the rest of our group in the hotel lobby at about 11.45, ready to leave at 12.00. We stopped on the way to the airport for lunch and arrived at the airport at 2.30pm. By this time, the sky was blue and the smog had cleared quite a bit. We were once again impressed with the number of gardens, parks and green space throughout the city and on the way to the airport. We were told that 49% of the city area is actually green space. Terminal 3 is a new building and is very big. Vivian checked us in and we relaxed until our flight was called. We were transported to our Ai China 737-700 aeroplane by airport bus and while the seats were very small and had no leg room (and we were in the last row), the service was good. We arrived in Yichang at 7.15pm and after collecting our suitcases we were met by our local guide, Ginger who was our transfer guide. Ginger told us that Yichang is just a “small town” as it only has 4.1 million people living there. Hydro-electricity is their major industry and they also produce fruit and vegetables, especially citrus fruit, which loves their humid and warm climate with no snow or frost. We passed through part of the city and their colourfully lit downtown area.

After a 40 minute bus drive, we arrived at the pier at 8.30pm where our river boat, the Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer was docked. We collected our room keys, dropped our hand luggage into our beautiful suite and headed to the dining room for a late, but delicious buffet dinner. After dinner we took ourselves on a quick tour of the boat before heading off to bed after a very long day. Our spacious cabin is on the 4th deck and we have a large balcony. Our cruise in the Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer will take us 660 km along the Yangzi River.

The Yangzi River is Asia’s longest river and the third longest in the world – it is 6,300km long and flows across China, starting in the mountains of the Tibetan plateau to its mouth at the East China Sea, near Shanghai. The Yangzi River plays a huge part in China’s history and creates fertile land, as well as stunning scenery.

Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer:
Gross Tonnage – 6,733 tons
Length – 91.5m
Width – 16.4m
Height – 17.6m
Draught – 2.8m
Passenger Decks – 5 decks