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

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