Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Our visit to China!

I was looking through the blog archive and discovered an amazing omission:  in April we spent two weeks touring China and I didn't blog about it at all!  Grrr!  Anyway, most of the following was written just after we returned in May.  I've added more information taken from the notes I took at the time.  Sorry, I guess you need to chalk it up to being just another old guy's brain fart.

Don

Ok, I haven't posted in a long while but I've got an excuse, no really, I've been in China!  Yep, my wife and I just got back from two weeks in the amazing space that is called China.  Because it is such a large place and so very foreign to us Westerners, we took a tour.  Had a nice guy holding our hands every inch of the way.  Did we see everything?  Hell, no!  It was only two weeks!  But we did see a lot and had a really great time.

We drove down to Los Angeles on Monday the 14th and spent the night in the LA Airport Hilton.  They had a really great online deal where you got to park your car for only $8 a day.  That's even cheaper than the Las Vegas airport and it turned out to be covered parking!  Jeez.  Then on Tuesday, the 15th we headed out.  We were on a Viking tour so they bought the airline tickets - they sent us up to Vancouver, BC!  Then after a short layover, we flew from Vancouver to Shanghai, China.  Wow!  That alone was a 12 hour flight that crosses the International Date Line so we were a bit befuddled to say the least.  But, wow!

We had just two days in Shanghai, enought time to get our feet on the ground anyway.  We got to see some sights like the Bund where all the Western powers had encampments that were forced on the Chinese back around the early 1900's.  We spent a couple hours running through the Shanghai Museum learning some things about Chinese arts and culture.  And we got to see an amazing traditional Chinese nobleman's garden:  Yuyuan Garden.  Fantastic.  The weather was a combination of cool, foggy, hazy and polution that stayed with us for most of the journey.  The photo is from our hotel room.  It is of the rear of a building built by the Russian government to honor the Russian-Chinese friendship; these days it is simply a glorified convention center.

The Yuyuan Garden was to be a place of quiet and relaxed living and the grounds covered about five acres.  It is still an amazing place!  The entry is iconic; seen almost any time Shanghai is mentioned.  The bridge leading to it has 90 degree angles because it was thought evil spirits couldn't make the turns.  The buildings are basically pillars supporting a roof.  The walls are then added to keep the rain out. 

We also took in a show one night that was all about acrobatics.  The things you do when you are a tourist!


After two days however we flew to Wuhan to start the second part of our journey; the river cruise.   Wuhan has 10 million poeple, 6 mill in the metro area.  It is a very ancient city.  The whole tour was under the auspices of Viking; a company known for it's European river cruises.  In China they have boats that are borrowed somehow from a Chinese company then turned into a North American 'bubble' that floats up or down the Yangtze.  Here's a photo of our cabin on the ship.

This is a sistership that looked just like our vessel.  We were tied up side by side a couple times and people would dis-embark by walking through the ship that tied up first.

No, we weren't roughing it!  Actually it works quite well.  It is a very gentle introduction to Chinese food and culture.  Off the river they use local guides and high grade hotels.  It is a class act if quite an expensive one.  The Yangtze is a working river and the number of other boats we saw was just overwhelming.
On the Mississippi we would have a single large tug and 8 or 10 barges.  Here they have individual small boats each with it's own load of coal or rock or whatever. Let me tell you there was a tremendous amount of coal being hauled up that river!  Everywhere you would see strange sights.  The land around this area was quite flat but that was about to change.
I have absolutely no idea what those people were doing or what the water buffalo was up to!


We got to visit the Three Gorges Dam; whether for good or bad, it is a tremendous achievement.  Millions of people were relocated; antiquities were lost but flooding should be reduced, clean power generated and new homes, presumably better than the old, built.  We took photos but they just don't do justice to the place.  It is placed in an area where the river is constrained by mountains on either side.  It is quite amazing.  There are a series of five locks used to move traffic up river and five more to move traffic down river!  Plus there is a lift for smaller boats.  The cost was supposed to be $26 billion US; lots of concrete!  There were also buses of Chinese Army guards keeping it safe.  No, you don't take photos of the Chinese Army guards here or anywhere else.


The actual dam is so huge you'd have to photograph it from a plane.  This is what it looks like from the observation deck.  Pretty lousy huh!  The second photo is from the visitor center where they have a model that gives you some idea of the whole place.



As you go up the river sometimes you are in what appears to be total wilderness then a huge city will appear.  You have no idea of the name of the place but it's clearly packed full of people.

We continued up the river as far as Chongquig.  Chongquig is another city of 6 million or so in a district that totals some 34 million people.  It isn't as old as Wuhan but one of it's claims to fame is that it was the headquarters of General Joseph Stillwell during World War II.  Unfortunately we didn't get to see any of the city as we just headed for the airport.  This was the one place where we dis-embarked and had a long walk carrying our luggage.  Guys were standing around offering to help and at least one couple we knew got taken advantage of by them.  Viking kind of dropped the ball here.

I'm going to continue this in a day or two.  We've got lots more to see!  Thanks again for stopping by.




1 comment:

croft.randle said...

Thanks for this Don. I wondered at the time if you were going to post on your trip and then, like you, forgot about it!