Yichang (29 Jun-1 Jul 15)


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June 30th 2015
Published: June 30th 2015
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Three Gorges DamThree Gorges DamThree Gorges Dam

The upstream face. This isn't quite the world's largest dam (there are many possible characterizations -- height, reservoir volume etc) by physical size, but it generates the most electricity. I can't remember the exact number, but it was in the neighbourhood of billions of megawatts per year or something like that.
After I decided against a multi-day tourist cruise along the Yangtze, I took the 4h high speed rail ride to the mid-sized (by Chinese standards) city of Yichang, which is the gateway to a visit to the controversial Three Gorges Dam. This was something that I'd read and heard about before, and piqued by the massive engineering feat, I told myself it was something I wanted to see as I made my way from central China towards the coast.

Located in the province of Hubei, and perhaps in the shadow of its nearby provincial capital Wuhan, Yichang seemed to me as average as a typical heartland Chinese city could be. With a population of several million (yes, that's average in ginormous China), and signs of both modernity (gleaming new malls, ongoing construction) as well as age (very old and grimy residential blocks), Yichang looked like the archetypal Chinese city caught in an abrupt transition between its communist era roots and 21st century capitalism.

But I wasn't really here for the city of course. The game in town was the Three Gorges Dam, named so because of its construction at the end of three gorges along the Yangtze. A highly
Niu Rou Mian (aka Beef noodles)Niu Rou Mian (aka Beef noodles)Niu Rou Mian (aka Beef noodles)

I'm pretty much a creature of habit, and so because a good bacon, eggs & toast breakfast still seems rather hard to find around here sometimes, I'm often reduced to the local noodle breakfast. And then I tend to stick to just either zha jiang mian (mixed sauce noodles) or this. I've noticed the preparation varies slightly with each province though. Here in Hubei we see the chickpeas. I, Chongqing they used peanuts, in Xi-an neither. But the common thread is the spicy chilli, which I (only sometimes) remember to ask for without.
controversial project, it took decades from conception to completion, and was initially conceived of to alleviate the problem of catastrophic flooding that plagues the Yangtze every now and then. Positive spin-offs of course include enhanced shipping along China's most important inland waterway between Shanghai and Chongqing, as well as hydroelectric power, in the region of billions of megawatts annually. The project was of course not without its critics, as environmentalist point to the ecological damage caused by the upstream flooding of an area the size of Singapore during construction, as well as the forced resettlement of locals. Either way, it's difficult to deny the engineering accomplishment of such a massive dam, and the awesome visual spectacle.

Stayed at Jingling Hotel.


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Town SquareTown Square
Town Square

Yichang is mad about dance. Almost every corner of the town square you find people practising various dances -- traditional Chinese, waltz, line, even latin cha-cha.
Roundabout in City CentreRoundabout in City Centre
Roundabout in City Centre

About as non-descript as it gets in this very average Chinese city...
Old Yichang Railway Station in the city centreOld Yichang Railway Station in the city centre
Old Yichang Railway Station in the city centre

And the massive climb up, only to find out the station was no longer operating, and tickets no longer being sold! The trains now ran solely from the high speed railway station out east.
Three Gorges DamThree Gorges Dam
Three Gorges Dam

And the miserable weather rather spoiled the view, and the day. Me and my overpriced disposable poncho, still managing a smile. At least I managed to see what I'd come for!
Three Gorges DamThree Gorges Dam
Three Gorges Dam

And the locks that allow ships up to 10000 tonnes to sail upstream, previously impossible. Not in view is a special lock that is in fact some sort of elevator that handles smaller vessels.
Three Gorges DamThree Gorges Dam
Three Gorges Dam

And the wonderful escalators that made my life so much better in the sprawling dam scenic area, notwithstanding the bad weather.
MuzzledMuzzled
Muzzled

After I snapped a photo, the owner (whom I hadn't noticed standing around the corner) came by to ask to take a look at the photo. I showed it to her and she laughed at how its forelegs were crossed.


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