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Published: October 8th 2013
We sleep well despite the hard bed, and wake up to find the boat moored next to another at Fengdu. We can see straight into the neighbouring rooms, and you could leap across the 1m gap to their balcony. Better keep the blinds closed until we get dressed! Overnight, despite being near the stern, we’d been mostly unaware of the boat’s engines. Now and then the boat would turn a little and the room would shake a little, but no constant vibration like the ferry to Palermo. Admittedly we are on the fifth floor so well isolated. Drycleaning is cheap. Using my rather peculiar comparison method, clean undies are ¥10. Time to use the in-house services!. We put out a load with shirts (¥15ea) and shorts (¥20ea) (we’ll still clean our undies and socks ourselves).
Breakfast is at an allocated table, where we meet the Page couple from Adelaide. We share itineraries and impressions of China. Most of their trip has been in the southern part, while ours has been Central West and North, so we can swap comparisons. The brekkie is adequate – ham instead of bacon, baked beans taste wrong, no cold milk for cereal. Compared to the
hotels we’ve been in, if they are called 5 star then this may be a 4 star. Cathy catches up with us with a slightly changed itinerary and Ky and I agree not to do the Fengdu tour (although the price is included in the ticket). We’ve seen enough of temples for now.
Instead, we get a shore pass lanyard from reception and have a walk along the river wall. It is plain and unromantic. A bus load of tourists pulls up to an entrance gate and people walk through, then are guided through a gauntlet of tourist shops before coming out to a wide open area in front of a large building where the real entrance is. The bus could have just as easily stopped there. We can’t help but get a little jaded at the blatant attempts to get tourists to buy souvenirs (and jade).
After walking upstream for a while, the whole time on top of the river wall, we return and walk the other way for a few minutes. Nothing else here except the Fengdu Ghost City entrance. Back to the boat. On return, there is a chance at the mooring barge to buy
beer and softdrinks to take back on the boat. Note for next shore stop if we are desperate for a beer cheaper than ¥40.
The rest of todays’ activities are on-boat: we have choices of several movies in the bow theatre, some presentations of chinese medicine, arts and crafts, and just plain chilling out. Ky and I attend a talk by a TCM doctor (Traditional Chinese Medicine). There are only four of us westerners and one chinese person at the talk. The doctor knows a little English, having lived in Adelaide for 6 months, but makes Cathy do the interpreting. The majority of the talk is about acupuncture and moxibustion, which when combined is called Zhen Jiu. He gets the other Aussie guy to be a guinea pig, and inserts an acupuncture needle in his elbow, which they guy says he can’t feel. The doctor then wants to apply a lit herbal stick to the top of the needle to warm it up (the moxibustion part of the process), but he can’t because we aren’t allowed to light things on the boat. The moxibustion, when lit, is supposed to smell like cannabis, which explains why Ky and I had
thought we’d smelled it on the boat the night before. Kylie quizzes him in detail on the application and qualifications needed, and he very generously and politely responds.
Next is a break for lunch. We round up the boys and sample the nice cakes as part of the lunch selection. After lunch three other Aussies and Ky and I hang around the lobby area, trying to find out if the talk on Pearl, Snuff Bottles and Silk Embroidery is on. Eventually Cathy shows up and the proprietor of the little shop selling those things tells us about these products. The most interesting part of the talk is the learning of how to detect fakes from real: hand-made emoroidery vs machine made (look at the ‘resolution’, machine made is coarser as it uses a thicker thread), hand-painted insides of snuff bottles instead of printed (hand-painted has better colour blending), and real vs fake pearls (fake pearls will show a scratch mark from a blade). He would have liked us to buy something but although a few of the things are reasonably priced, they don’t grab our fancy.
While we are in the shop, a table tennis competition is scheduled for in the lobby. I expect to see a hoard of Chinese show up, but only two girls come along. Despite there being supposedly 400 passengers on board, you can wander the boat during the day and hardly see anyone- seems they spend most of their day playing cards etc in their rooms.
Next on the agenda is a movie for me: Silent Hill 2, which I watch with the boys, while Ky goes to the staff talent show. She said it was good, and one of the crew did the ‘Face Changing’ that Tony had talked to us about when we were in Chengdu.
I then go for a run on the treadmill. It’s on the first floor, below the lobby, and I encounter a slight problem: the ceiling is so low that if I hop up and down too much while running I’m going to bump my head on the ceiling. A little adjustment of the machine fixes that. Various crew members pass me as I sweat along. They probably all think I’m a little crazy (acknowledged).
Dinner is a range of preset Chinese dishes, but we’ve been a bit spoiled with the lunches we’ve had elsewhere in China. These dishes barely pass muster in comparison, but its edible. Afterwards, Ky and I get dressed up to hit the dance floor. Its only around 8pm, but no one else is there. The cocktail list catches my eye and there’s a special on: only ¥38 each (A$6.90). I suggest we order one of each of around twenty on the list. Ky is more conservative and suggests we start with 2. Ok. So we get through a Kamikaze, B-52, Singapore Sling, Tequila Sunrise, Caipirinha, and a Maitai. Actually, I get through most of those as Ky doesn’t like gin or rum, but she downs the B-52 like a samurai drinking sake. The Sunrise is made with the boat’s special Raro, which is ok but my favourites are the Kamikaze and the Caipirinha.
While we are there they are only playing slow music, so we ask for dance music from the waitress (who speaks hardly any English). She puts on waltz music. That suits the elderly Chinese couple, who had just shown up, just fine, but not what we really wanted. How were we going to ask for nightclub music? I try by naming a few pop-stars Rihannon? No. Pink? No. Lady Gaga? Yes! She knows that name, and goes off to put on Lady Gaga. As we’re dancing I notice she must be a fan because she couldn’t help having a little wiggle behind the bar to the music. From then until 10pm when the bar closes that’s all they play. Oh well, at least some dance music for us!
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