The Yangtze river to the yellow mountains
Day 7 through 13
Day 7 through 9 "Three Gorges
Dam and the Yangtze River Adventure"
in Wuhan to find a huge bustling city, actually the train station was at a
crossroads commonly called The Three Towns of Wuhan. The towns being, Wuhan, Wuchang and
Hankou. After winding our way up, down and around to
exit the station, we were hopping a chartered bus to Yichang to tour the
'infamous' Three Gorges
Dam and then off to cruise the Yangtze River on a Chinese cruise ship.
Our local tour guide for the time in Yichang would be Helen. She was full
of information and led us through the dam tour and then on to the cruise
ship. She was very positive about the building of the dam, of course,
though did explain a few hardships the local villagers were struggling
with. Many Chinese have their family plots on their land. Burials
for many generations are in the same area. When these villagers are
relocated to areas that won't be flooded by the Yangtze as a result of the dam
they are usually unable to move these ancestral tombs and this is very difficult
for them. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the building of
the dam and the local Chinese we met were very positive. In some cases only time will
tell if the dam was worth the sacrifices. Unfortunately the day turned out
cloudy and rainy so the visibility wasn't great at the dam. Still you had
to notice that China had set this area up for tourists. Lots of art, lots
of gardens, very manicured. We had hoped that we would be able to enter
some of the works of the Dam but that is not the case. There is a room
with some history and a big model of the dam and an elevated viewing platform
where you can watch ships go through the locks.
After our tour and a late
lunch we headed down to the dock to board our Cruise Ship for our overnight
cruise down the Yangtze River to Fengji.
Now, Chinese Cruise Ships
are a bit different than a cruise on Royal Caribbean or even Celebrity for that
matter. There is no pool or fancy room and the 'dining room' isn't much
and has a very limited menu. But it was certainly adequate once they moved
us from the room that had obviously been used as a vomit receptacle for the
previous guests. A small room without a lingering odor was forthcoming and
all was well.
The next morning after a Chinese breakfast of steamed bread, rice porridge,
cabbage and peanuts, we were off to our day excursion; first a stop at a performance
hall to watch a show and then a tributary ride in a shallow
canoe that would be pulled by Chinese men on shore. Originally (before the
Dam was built) the tributaries along the River would have varying amounts of
flow depending on the rain that year. Some would get quite low and supply
ships for the villages would have to be pulled along over the low areas by the
locals. This became a well known tourist excursion that is not so dramatic
with the inflow the dam provides. It was certainly all for show
while we were there, the river in the middle was plenty deep enough to handle
the boats. But it was fun to hear the history and float along in the
peaceful river enjoying the beautiful scenery along the way. Just us and
the 50 other canoes full of tourists..... At
least our local guide, Kitty, sang for us on the trip.
Now the funny part is she asked us to sing back and we all sang "Row,
Row, Row Your Boat" and a canoe beside us full of Chinese tourists were
busy videoing and taking pictures OF US. They even applauded at the end of
our song. How Bizarre!!
The remainder of the day was
relaxing, cruising along looking at bat caves, hanging coffins, farms and
villages that were about to be overtaken by the water and the new cities that
had retaining walls and bridges hoping to protect them from the floods.
You can find some pictures of all that and more by clicking on the photo tab at
the top of the page. We
had lunch on the ship as a group, which was quite good and then drank beer up on
the deck enjoying the scenery and watching for what ever Puma or another tour
guide would point out. Very relaxing and fun afternoon. Later,
around 7PM we arrived at Fengji and the 253 steps up from the harbor (Bill
We would stay at the hotel here, near the dock. Apparently
the actual town is an hour or so away. The Hotel is very nice and we walked across the street to a small market for
beer and snacks before turning in with a nice hot shower.
Tomorrow is one of those travel days; first we take a Hydrofoil back to Yichang,
we would kill a couple hours here and then we board a plane and fly to Shanghai,
then its a quick two hour bus ride to Hangshou, home of the beautiful 'West Lake'
for a day. Afterwards we'll be on our way to
Huangshan or Yellow Mountains for some hiking. Thankfully my cracked rib
is doing well and as long as I have the Ibuprofen I'm looking
forward to hiking.
During our lunch in Yichang we had a nice experience in the restaurant with the
cute young waitress who wanted to speak English and was so sweet. At one
point she brought in a young man to help out and when we professed thanks to him
for helping, he replied "No, thanks". Apparently it is a common
expression meaning "no thanks needed". We didn't really
understand and spent the lunch time teaching the waitress to say "You're
Welcome". She studied my phrasebook throughout the meal and stayed
with us, pouring tea and responding "you're welcome" and giggling to
every "thank you" she received.
It was a small moment that was
fun and will always be remembered.
Day 10 through 13
"From West Lake Meandering to Yellow Mountain Hiking"
In the morning we
boarded a bus to the Lingyin Temple Complex in Hangshou. It is one of the
largest Temple complexes in China and is set in a huge park full of Buddha
statues and Gardens. It was founded in 326 AD by the
Indian monk, HuiLi. It became a center of worship for the Chan (Zen) Buddhist sect, and once served as home to more than three thousand monks.
During its turbulent history the temple has been destroyed and then restored no
less than sixteen times. The current structures dates back to the Qing
Dynasty (1644-1911). Though the main temple that can be seen today is a
result of the restoration that was carried out in 1974 following the ten-year
Chinese Cultural Revolution.
We visited the park, but concentrated on the inner temple with Puma
providing a history of the Buddhist religion in China. It was a drizzly day
but the Temple was quite impressive. It is still an active temple but is
no longer home to many monks so "part time monks" are included in the
massive prayers done in the halls. A modern addition to the temple complex
is The Hall of Five Hundred Arhats (spiritual practitioner). This hall is
laid out with a floor plan shaped like a Buddhist swastika and contains 500
larger than life bronze statues seated in varying positions with an assortment
of accompaniments. There is a statue of Guanyin (the Bodhisattva of
Compassion) in the center. The story Puma gave us is if you start at any
door, go any direction and count the statues for each year of your life you will
find your next life. Man, mine was one ugly old guy.....at least he was
old, I'm thinking long life sounds good.
We spent the rest of the afternoon with free time wandering along West Lake with
Bill's parents. The rain cleared and it was a nice sunny afternoon.
We walked along the willow tree lined causeway called 'Melting Snow On Broken
Bridge', checked out the boats for hire, the lotus flowers growing in the lake,
meandered around the Chinese Garden, visited the Museum, saw distant pagodas and
stopped in small parks all along the way.
After dinner at a local
restaurant we went back along the Lake to watch the Fountain Light Show that was
set to music. Click on the picture above and watch a bit of video of
Fountains set to Chinese pop music.
The next morning it was a four or five hour bus ride to Mt. Huangshan. We
stopped in Huangshan City to get money changed and pick up some snacks for our
hike through the Yellow Mountains tomorrow. We would be staying at an old
hotel that was at the base of the mountains and there would be no place to
change money. Our hike would take the majority of the day and whatever
snacks we bought would become our lunch. After our shopping expedition
we ate lunch in the city before our bus headed off for over an hour up-hill to the
hotel in the mountains. The hotel is not really being maintained, as a
brand new resort style complex is being built right next door. This is a
very popular tourist area and once the new complex is complete this one will
probably be torn down. So...the AC only kind of worked and the shower was
basically cold water. But it didn't really matter the air was cooler here
in the mountains and the scenery was full of beautiful trees and granite
mountains as far as you could see.
This is where we realized, though, we
haven't seen many birds (only a few), no real wildlife and no bugs what so
ever. We have been down the Yangtze, through some outlying backpacker type
towns and now we are in the woods in the mountains and still nothing. In
the whole time we were in the Yellow Mountains area we saw one sad squirrel and
a few birds. Only a few ants on the trail. Something to think about.
Bill and I headed out for a walk as soon as we arrived. We walked down to
the nearby waterfall and then back uphill behind the hotel until it started
getting dark and drizzly rain started to fall. We were hoping for nice
weather for the hike the next day but we had rain ponchos just in case.
The next morning we all met in front of the hotel and found out we would be
taking a cable car to the top of the mountains and spend about six hours hiking
through the National Park. It was cloudy and we were warned it might be
chilly and windy up at the top. I wasn't exactly expecting this 'hike' to
be on nice stone paths and lots and lots of stairs. I had envisioned more
of a packed dirt trail. But it was all done in marked stone paths with
markers and benches and resting places. Every now and then you would get
to the top of a set of steep steps and around a big stone outcropping and find a
complete gift shop and restaurant....on top of a mountain. We also
encountered a lot of Chinese tourists, the men smartly dressed in slacks and
loafers and the women in cute chiffon dresses and heels...for a hike.
My rib wasn't hurting and I was excited about doing the hike. The scenery
was a bit obstructed by the clouds in the morning but within a few hours the sky
cleared and we found ourselves surrounded by, trees, mountains and incredible
views. And it didn't rain a drop.
At the end of the days
hiking Bill and I and Vivien and Colin decided we would hike down the mountain
rather than take the cable car back down. It took us two and a half hours
of straight downhill steps and then back along the road to the hotel. For
several days afterwards we all whimpered about the pain in our calves and
shuddered at the sight of any downhill steps. But we were the only ones
with the bragging rights to the downhill section. We were quite proud of
The rest of the group went
into the nearby village for dinner but the four of us were quite content to
shower and have a bite to eat in the Hotel. In the morning, after a walk
up the hill and back, we headed down the mountain to Huangshan City for a free
day before the overnight train to Shanghai. On the way the bus stopped
along side a picturesque hillside
where a farmer was tending to his tea. Pictures were taken and the bus
then stopped at a village
everyone had a short visit and snapped more photos. Once in Huangshan
City, Bill and I, his parents, Jolyn and Puma decided to have lunch at a 'Hot
Pot' restaurant. The specialty was Fish-Head, oh boy. A large pot
with two compartments (one for spicy broth, one not so spicy) is in the center
of the table with the flame below to keep it boiling.
on the photo above
to see the Fish
The food is then brought out raw and you drop it in the broth to cook. It
was good, though no one was going to fight Bill and Puma over the fish eyes so
they enjoyed that delicacy all to themselves. Bill and I then set out to
locate the internet cafe. Having no luck we finally asked for help using
my trusty phrase book. It appeared we kept missing it because it looked
remarkable more like a motorcycle
repair shop. hmmmm This time we vowed to learn a few important Chinese
characters to help up
find our way around. For the rest of the trip we had no problems finding
the internet cafe.
The character is the same character for 'net'.
If this is in the name we
probably have the right place. Another thing we noticed while walking
around Huangshan City was the propensity to hang ones laundry and ones meat on
the same patio.
We pondered these sights as we sat and had a beer in a sidewalk cafe along the
'Cultural Street'. There is a cultural street in almost every city and
generally translates to 'place to sell Chinese stuff to tourists'. And
tomorrow we would arrive in the biggest of all cultural streets....Shanghai.