Posts Tagged With: Yangtze River

Cruising the Yangtze

My assessment of Chongqing was about spot on in terms of the time required. We did a free walking tour of the city with the hostel staff which was interesting enough apart from the 15kms that it involved (remembering that Chongqing is build on a mountain so there were many hills and stairs). The museum was free and was all about the relocation of the towns, relics, artefacts etc when the dams etc were made. We had the Hotpot that evening which was definitely an experience however not as traumatic on the chilli front as advertised.

The cruise was put together by Jill’s favourite travel agent Wonder Wang. In all honesty this was the blokes name. She took the first call and had it followed up by e-mail confirmations. Need less to say I had numerous comments and each time he rang or e-mailed these comments and commentary grew. The cruise started off well enough with a 9pm departure and an overnight trundle down the river to Fengdu the site of the ghost city. This was the most obscene, tourism, money making venture ever put on the planet. The original Buddhist and Taoist temples were smashed during the cultural revolution during the 1960’s with just 3 bridges and a partial temple left. So…they fully rebuilt…what they thought…should have been there (whether it belonged or not).

As such there was a series of 20-30 year old buildings, with full gift shops incorporated into their design (something that is always present in temples). Another had a kitchen with a bakery built into it, this room immediately followed a story by the tour guide of offerings of crackers to the gods for prosperity, longevity and some other thing. These crackers were then (surprisingly) for sale in the bakery. As it was the ghost city…in 1999 they added a bunch of statues to depict the theme. Grotesque looking things that did not mean anything other than it was an artist’s impression of blah. In addition the names of the landmarks include: ghost torturing pass, last glance home tower, no way out bridge and the river of blood.

The actual story and mythology of the journey to the underworld incorporated with the ruins was very interesting and would have been enough. The purely commercial rebuild was obscene. We were there in off season so there was about 25% of the people that would be there in peak times. Despite this we were like cattle being shunted from one tourist pen (temple) to the next. It was only a 3 hour trip but it could not end soon enough for either of us. A further example was the construction of 2 new exhibits that will be opened in the future. One was a recreation of a pagoda and the other was a 5 storey, Besser block head of a Taoist statue that had been painted yellow. These were partially constructed and were perched up a hill and will no doubt be vital photo opportunities for future generations.

The cruise continued and we sailed through the three gorges which were pure and unadulterated and magnificent. The first was the Qutang gorge which is a spectacular 8km stretch…about 2 hours later the Wu gorge appeared along with the Goddess Peak. Atop this peak was a temple thing that Jill delighted in prattling on about how she would never get me to walk the stairs to reach this. Needless to say that the zoom on our phone cameras could not even capture this thing it was so high up ( you could barely make out the staircase). After lunch we did a Sampan sail around one of the Yangtze River tributaries (Shennong Stream). While on a warm, dry day this might have been great but on a cold, wet and windy day we were seeking the hot shower upon our return.

That night we passed through the series of 5 locks to lower us the required 175 meters. An impressive piece of engineering no matter how many times you watch it. When this is combined with the electricity generating turbines the dam really is an impressive piece of kit supplying about 4% of China’s energy needs. Such projects are vital as solar is not an option, as we have seen the sun 3 times in the last 4 weeks. From here we entered the last of the gorges the Xiling gorge a 76km stretch which once again was lovely.

Our three gorges experience was done on a 5 star boat and was terrible. It was a tour group mentality, made for the aged, at the pace of the weakest link, it was entirely formulaic, there were 15 minute photo opportunities before being shuffled off to the next, and the whole experience was generally miserable. The food was a western interpretation of Asian and an Asian interpretation of Western in a buffet format, that did not work on any front.

This was a bit of a warts and all post. The natural elements were spectacular and were fully worth it, the technological aspects of the dam and locks were also great. The bolt on tourist stops were atrocious both in their composition and execution. Jill has long waxed lyrical of my intolerance for such things, however every time I searched for her during an organised excursion she was hiding in the corner playing candy crush on her phone in an attempt to boycott the herd mentality. Overall we cruised the Yangtze River for over 600kms and saw some incredible natural beauty.

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Categories: China | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chongqing

Well we took another overnight sleeper carriage from Xian to Chongqing which again was very good. The reason for coming to Chongqing was that this is the departure point for a 4 day cruise down the Yangtze River through the 3 gorges and other generally good looking things. We had planned to do a side trip to Chengdu to check out the Pandas but our extension in Beijing kinda threw a spanner in the works on the timings.

As it turns out we have about 5 days here in Chongqing which on the face of it seems about 3 and a half days too long. The main tourist attraction is the Szechwan Hotpot. Which you can find almost everywhere so is not a real challenge. The main challenge is to be able to order and eat one without irrevocably destroying your colon. Now many of you would be aware that I am not shy of chilli and with Mike, Brad, and the occasional Scotty (sometimes fuelled by and other times quenched by beer) however this trip is pushing even my limits at times. I think mum’s mate from Sydney is the only bloke I have met who would do this comfortably.

On our first night in Chongqing we took an evening stroll along the Yangtze River to find a meal and then further again to let the meal settle and see what else was to be seen. We walked along the River bank, for about 8 Kms, and admired the obscene amounts of lights that get lit as they have a full time light show on ALL of the city buildings. Chongqing is a river city at the junction of the Yangtze and the Jialing rivers built amidst the mountains, as such it is steep, very steep. Now we have recovered from our stair traumas and are getting fitter each day with the walking etc…but steep is a whole other challenge. On the up side we have learned to walk to (or close to) exhaustion and pay the $2-3 cab fare back.

On our hike up the mountains (or city streets – depends on your perspective) this morning we had the best dumplings that I have ever had. Now, both fried and steamed dumplings have been a breakfast staple and we have had many including some great variations but today’s were sublime. On our walk yesterday evening, our side of the River was really dull and the other side looked really good. So we took the cable car from one side to the other. As it turned out our side is the cool side.

There is a zoo here so I will go and get a panda and tiger fix in (probably tomorrow). They sell a type of hoodie meets vest thing here that looks like a panda and we are wracking our brains to think of somebody who would appreciate such a thing. Dylan and Sky (Sao) come to mind but they are both too little and the others are all too big. The other challenge would then be to traverse the china postal service to send anything back home.

The next day came and went and we did in fact hit the zoo. It was incredible. Initially we were a touch disappointed when we got to the panda exhibit as the first exhibit was of an empty pen with a sign saying that this was Ling Ling’s pen and he moved in 2003. The second was a similar story but Yum Cha or Dim Sum or something had moved in 2007. The third pen had a panda up a tree. You could get a photo of the white blur of a panda’s ass (which we got) up a tree. We decided to see the rest of the zoo and come back later. The rest of the zoo was sensational with a minor issue of pen sizes for some bears (the only blight on an excellent zoo).

There was a tiger that took exception to a bird in his enclosure and was stalking it like prey and pouncing (unsuccessfully). His other 3 mates were in their own enclosures but were much less animated. The lion had a roaring session (not while we were watching but it could be heard throughout the park) that sent Chinese people racing for the enclosure. The orang-utans were old but were still way cool. And there was a horny pig getting his rocks off in the petting zoo. All of this was in addition to the regular zoo fare of elephants, zebras, camels, ostriches, monkeys, birds etc.

4 hours later and we gave the pandas another crack. The blur had left the tree and was munching on some bamboo but was mostly obstructed. An old couple came past with a guide they had hired who said that they would get better pictures from the other six upstairs…other six…upstairs…what the…I became a stalker waiting for them to leave so I could follow them to this mythical place that was…upstairs.

I didn’t have to wait too long and around a corner we went…then there were stairs to a gift shop…then another corner…and then the mystical stairs of which he spoke. Upon arriving atop the stairs six (count em six) open pens with platforms covered in fresh cut bamboo each housing seemingly famished great pandas munching away. All in clear plain sight, no camera impediments, no throngs of tourists just happy pandas having a feed. Claudia Naug would have been in utter bliss as we stood for about 30 mins watching, photographing and videoing them.

A final point on the zoo. It costs 30 yuan in peak season and 20 for us as it was off season.┬áSo based upon today’s exchange rate we got hours of entertainment for $3.46 each. These costs blow out considerably when you add the 4 yuan each, each way on the train. Jill had a 15 yuan ice cream and I had an 8 yuan mystery meat on a stick. All this adds up to the fact that 2 people had a 25km train journey to a zoo, paid entrance, got fed and got home for $13.66.

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Categories: China | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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