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Published: October 29th 2019
THE VICTORIA JENNA - YANGTZE 3 NIGHT RIVER CRUISE
It didn’t stop raining and we had a long walk to get to our ship, the Victoria Jenna docked in Chongquing on the Yangtze River. Launched in 2009 the Victoria Jenna is one of the largest, most technologically advanced ships on the Yangtze River. The 10,000-ton, 418 passenger vessel is almost 440 feet long, spans six decks and is roughly 50 percent larger than other Victoria cruise ships.
Due to scheduled maintenance at the Three Gorges Dam our ship was not permitted through the ship locks there and we would be going to finish our journey, just west of the dam at Maoping.
On arrival absolutely soaking wet we decided to upgrade our Standard Cabin to an Executive Suite and we were glad we did it was was superb with its own large balcony and sofa and coffee table as well as large twin beds and a large bathroom with shower and full size bath. The boat was easy to get around and the food on board was quite good although the noise levels in the low ceiling Dining Room was quite intense.
Meal times were quite short so everyone arrived together making it a extremely busy time not ideal to sit an enjoy ones meal times. YANGTZE RIVER
The Yangtze River, called Chang Jiang in Chinese is the longest river in Asia and the third longest river in the world after the Nile and the Amazon. It rises in the northern part of the Tibetan Plateau and flows 6,300 km in a generally easterly direction through 11 province and cities such as Chongqing and Yichang making it the longest river to flow entirely through one country. It ends finally at Shanghai and flows out into the China East Sea. It is estimated that the banks of the river are home to almost one third of China’s population. The river is respected and reputed as one of the two Mother Rivers in China, the other being the Yellow River.
We were to make a few stops along the river and the first was to the Jade Emperor scenic area the next day. JADE EMPOROR SCENIC AREA
The Jade Emperor scenic area featured a 100 foot tall statue depicting
the Jade Emperor, an important deity in Chinese Taoism as well as more than 200 additional Taoist and Buddhist sculptures.
It was still raining as we made our way up the mountain but cleared a little when we were at the top visiting the temples so we decided to walk down which was great as there were some good views of the river far below.
In the afternoon I watched a powerpoint presentation introduction to the Yangtze River and the Three Gorges by the boat’s river guide and this was quite informative.
Later we attended the Captain’s welcome drinks and nibbles followed by a Chinese Dynasties Show featuring a variety of traditional costumes from all regions and periods of Chinese history up to modern day. It was a great show particularly as it featured many of the boat’s crew including the bar staff who were great fun.
We sailed slowly down the river passing many tall tower blocks before we saw much of the countryside. There was hardly any wildlife along the river, although we did see a large herd of white goats grazing on the steep banks.
There were a few fishermen and lots of bridges crossing from one side to the other. Apparently there are over a hundred of these that cross the Yangtze at various points and many have been built within the last 20 years. To put into perspective the size of these bridges they are about the size of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and some looked very similar too … …… QUTANG AND WU GORGE
The next day we entered the first Gorge named Qutang
, a five mile stretch of water with steep cliffs on both sides and it took around 25 minutes to pass through the gorge.
A short while later we entered Wu Gorge
and approached the Goddess Peak which is named for a single pillar-like outcropping visible atop the mountain. The pillar appears as a solitary figure standing on the mountain - local legends made this pillar a goddess but you had to use your imagination to see her … …
We docked and disembarked into smaller motorised sampans to sail along the Goddess Stream
a picturesque tributary of the Yangtze River, our ship being
far to large to navigate this narrow waterway. The Goddess Stream also known as Shennu Xi is located on the south bank of the river in Wushan County. The upstream is Guandu River, the middle is Ziyang River and the downstream is Goddess Stream - a little confusing. The whole river length was nearly 32 km long and is surrounded by precipitous mountains with the Goddess Stream hidden in a deep valley, at some points you could nearly touch both sides.
Our guide was a young local girl who gave us a brief introduction and told us about growing up in this area far from anyone. She said her home was high up in the mountains and it took her a long time to get home. She pointed out some hanging coffins
of the Ba Minority People
discovered here. They believed that the dead should be buried as high as possible in order to be closer to heaven - how they managed to carry a coffin into the small caves on the steep sides of the gorge was beyond me. At the end of the gorge we disembarked and the crew of these little boats gave a
little show before we headed back to the Victoria Jenna.
This area was the most beautiful part of our cruise, the captain having carefully manoeuvre the ship within the gorge. Everywhere you looked there were quickly changing views of the mountain scenery. We sat out on deck to fully absorb these views, as it doesn't take very long to get through it all.
Wu Gorge translates to ‘witches’ gorge as its towering peaks are cloaked in green and are sometimes invisible under layers of mist, we were lucky that we could clearly see the gorge and we had a little bonus as the sun did come out for a very short while but it was the only time we saw the Yangtze in the sunshine. The river was coloured deep green and quite clear and not muddy as we had thought it would be. Although the colour of the river depends on the time of year that you visit the area.
That evening we attended the Captain’s Farewell Banquet and were given free Champagne with our dinner. Most of the crew came along to say goodbye as we were leaving very
early the next morning after breakfast. BACKGROUND TO THE YANGTZE DAMS
Throughout Chinese history, floods along the Yangtze regularly threatened and brought devastation to 15 million people who lived in the rich agricultural region below the dam.
In 1919, Nationalist leader Sun Yat-sen envisioned the construction of a large dam across the Yangtze River capable of generating 30 million horsepower. When the Communists took over in 1949, Mao Zedong – the leader of the revolution – supported the project and even went as far as writing a poem about dam on the Yangtze River.
However, the project was never realised in his lifetime partly due to economic troubles that included the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. The 80s saw renewed interest in the dam and construction began in 1994 and was finished in 2012. THE THREE GORGES DAM PROJECT
After disembarkation we took a bus to the Three Gorges Dam Project, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam based on generating capacity. The project is the largest water conservancy project ever built it is located in the middle of the
longest of the three Yangtze River gorges, The Xiling Gorge at a site called Sandouping. The dam is designed to serve three main purposes; flood control, hydroelectric power production and navigation improvement.
The Three Gorges is huge, 1.3 miles wide and over 600 feet high and it has a reservoir that stretches 405 square miles. The massive project set records for number of people displaced, more than 1.2 million; number of cities and towns flooded; 13 cities, 140 towns and 1,350 villages.
During the winter months the reservoir water level reaches 175 meters above sea level which is approximately 110 meters above the original river level prior to 2003. During the summer months the reservoir level is lowered to 146 meters above sea level in order to regulate and capture flood water.
Our guide gave us a very detailed overview of the project and pointed out the ships locks and ships lift
. It used to take three hours to go through a series of five locks to get from the bottom to the top the dam so they installed an elevator that apparently can do the trip in forty minutes.
The Three Gorges dam project continues to be enormously controversial as many questions about the relocation of people, preservation of historical and archaeological site, water pollution, accumulation of silt and the structural stability remain. A VERY LONG AND TIRING JOURNEY
We were not sure why but after visiting the dam we had to travel by coach for one hour, stop and have lunch and then continue in the coach for a further hour to a local airport. Here we boarded a plane heading south which took a further couple of hours as well as the usual wait at airports nowadays with so much security to go through before you board.
We then stopped at another hotel for a quick dinner before boarding a bus to Shanghai another 4 hour journey.
At the end of this horrendous journey most of our group were tired and very grumpy - including us. Why had we not flown direct to Shanghai or to a closer airport (there are plenty) like other groups had we were unsure - money pinching of course but something we will be taking up with our tour operator
WW on our return home as this really was an awful journey and in the scheme of things the holiday had not been cheap. SHANGHAI
So here we are at the end of our journey around China starting in Beijing and finishing in Shanghai. Once known as the ‘Paris of the East’, it is now one of Asia’s most influential cities.
China is a huge land mass with a massive population to go with it and is the world's most populous country. The city of Shanghai with around 24 million people is one of the largest cities in the world today similar in size to Mumbai, Seoul and Manila and only Tokyo,
Delhi and Jakarta have larger populations, Tokyo has the highest population with around 38 million people. Trying to put the size into perspective Shanghai and Beijing Putting Shanghai
contain about a third of the total population of the UK.
Ask any Chinese about the difference between these two large cities and you’ll likely get the answer that Beijing is the cultural centre of China, while Shanghai is the business hub
. Beijing is more laid back and
Shanghai is fast paced
. Beijing means ‘government’ and ‘controlled’, Shanghai means ‘international’ and ‘open’. Our Shanghai local guide, told us that it was a very different modern city, she was born here and loved it. Her parents were originally farmers but now also lived in the city.
Prior to communist arrival in 1949, Shanghai was a city with European mansions and was a most important trading port in Asia in an ideal location. Today it presents a huge blend of cultures, modern and traditional alongside European and Oriental. Modern skyscrapers intermingle with 1920s buildings a real mix of architecture and changing rapidly - buildings works were taking place everywhere you looked.
Shanghai is one of the fastest growing cities in the world in terms of skyscraper construction with any older buildings being demolished and new skyscrapers being put in their place. Asked how people felt about this our guide said that people were asked to move and most were happy to do so as they were moving into better accommodation and this was progress and was needed to make more space. For those that did not want to move they were asked three times
and if they did not move then the utilities to there homes were turned off - leaving them without any option really! FOOD, SILK AND SKYSCRAPER TOUR OF SHANGHAI STREET FOOD - JIANBING
We headed out for an early morning tour of Shanghai after our hotel breakfast with Helen our guide on what was to be the last tour with her on this trip. We walked through some of the back streets stopping at several food stalls and watched as locals waited for their breakfast to be prepared by street vendors. These vendors set up their 'kitchens' in unused spaces, doorways, shuttered shop fronts and street corners throughout the city. At around five in the morning they appear with everything they need, packed on to the back of a bicycle, scooter or motorbike. The main utensil being a very heavy circular grill with a few tubs of other ingredients including dozens of eggs, precariously stacked in cardboard trays.
We stopped at what was the entrance to a dark alleyway which led into a narrow street market and watched some crispy pancakes being prepared. As transient as these little
stalls might be, this was no 'grab and go' street breakfast or the usual 'cup of coffee' in a cardboard mug. Known as a Jianbing it is one of China's most popular street breakfasts, these savoury crisp-fried crêpes are all about bold contrasts of flavour and lots of different texture - and they are big... ... ... Basically raw eggs were spread over the surface of a wheat and mung bean flour pancake as it cooked on the griddle. Then with a slight fold to one corner of the pancake this was then spread with a mixture of; grassy cilantro, peppery scallions, tangy pickles, a sweet and spicy dash of hoisin, or chilli sauce. Following this some crunchy puffed strips of fried wonton were added and all was folder over into a wrap and sliced in half. These were all cooked fresh to order just the way the customer wanted whilst they stood and watched or directed the 'vendor' in some cases!! To preserve the crispness of the pancake and fried wonton filling a jianbing is never cooked ahead of time, so there
was no ready prepared stock waiting for those in a hurry to get to work, you just had to patiently wait whilst each one is cooked separately. Apparently every metropolitan neighbourhood across China has its own 'jianbing vendor' serving breakfast from dawn through to mid-morning, satisfying hungry locals on their way to work. We did try a small sample but it was a shame we were still too full from our not nearly as tasty breakfast we had just eaten in the hotel! SILK MUSEUM
Leaving the street vendors behind we had a short visit to a nearby small silk museum and sale outlet and were given a talk on the production of this luxury fabric - one of China's most famous and luxurious materials. We learnt about the use of silkworms and silk moths, the manufacturing process as well as silk’s journey along the famous Silk Road.
A silk moth can be pale cream, grey or brown in colours like the ones we were shown here. The caterpillars (young) of the silk moth are also known as silkworms and have been used to make silk for thousands of years. When the caterpillars
change into adult moths, they cover themselves in a cocoon (protective covering) of raw silk which is produced from the caterpillars’s salivary glands.
The caterpillars of the silk moth feed on mulberry tree leaves, but adult silk moths do not have working mouthparts so they ever eat, The silk moths that are kept by humans today are the descendants of a separate wild species of living silk moth. Although native to China the silkworm has been introduced throughout the world and has undergone complete domestication, with the species no longer being found in the wild.
It was amazed to see how the silkworm makes the pupa which is then collected, boiled in hot and then cold water and the fine fine yarn removed and collected on spindles and eventually made into the finest and expensive of cloths. Also interesting there is absolutely no wastage - every part of the pupa is used.
Of course we were then shown around a huge warehouse full of silk items to purchase at reasonable prices - some of them were extraordinary and of course we had to see if we could find a bargain or
two - a Silk Duvet to replace our Goose Down one that was now rather old - fitting it into our suitcase will be fun ... ... ... and hope it keeps us warm as we are heading home to the start of winter in the UK. THE BUND
We then headed to the famous waterfront area known as The Bund,
also called Waitan, it is a famous waterfront on the west bank of the Huangpu River and regarded as the symbol of Shanghai itself. The area was dwarfed by so many tall building including; the Shanghai Tower with 127 floors, the Shanghai World Financial Centre with 101 floors, and known as the Bottle Opener due to its large aperture on the top, the Oriental Pearl Tower with 153 floors and the Jin Mao Tower with 88 floors - none as large as the Burj Khalifa in Dubai though with its 163 floors. There was an option to go to the top of the latter but we declined but most of the group decided to go up. Paul having been up the Burj did not need to go up either so we walked around the base
of some of these skyscrapers and enjoyed a few quiet moments in a small nearby park which had several Osmanthus trees so there was a heavenly smell as well as some great views. MAGLEV TRAIN - DIFFERENT TO A BULLET TRAIN
Later we headed to the station where Paul and the rest of the group took a quick trip on a Maglev Train.
I declined and waited for the group to return - I am not happy with fast speed or heights and like my feet firmly on the ground ... ... .... At the station was an on-site museum which was quite interesting, although a huge area just dedicated to a ‘fast train’ was a bit bizarre - but I did find out a little about what they were, although a little technical for me. Maglev
is short for magnetic levitation where electricity is used to power electromagnets, train that runs on magnets, rather than wheels. It's based on the principle that when magnets are pushed together north-north or south-south, they repel each other. Apparently Japan and German technologies use different techniques to levitate the trains. Bullet-trains
are high-speed trains
that run on electricity or diesel, first invented in Japan and later known as bullet trains owing to the shape of their nose-cone resembling a bullet.
A maglev is faster than a bullet train due to its lack of wheels, they are also quieter than normal trains and use 30 percent less energy but the tracks are much more expensive than railroad tracks. Hence despite over a century of research and development, currently high-speed maglev is only available in China and maglev transport systems are now operational in just three countries (Japan, South Korea and China). Japan is currently testing faster technology so all is changing in the world of speed.
With technological cooperation from Germany, the world's first commercial magnetic levitation line was opened in China. The Shanghai Maglev
covers a journey of 30 km between Pudong Airport and the Lujiazui financial district in 7 minutes reaching top speeds of 431 km per hour.
Our group paid for a ‘short’ return trip to the airport and back. Paul did manage to get a photograph and a short video of the trip but had to be fast on the
shutter … … … a loud 'boom' was created as the two trains going in opposite directions passed each other. EVENING CRUISE ON THE RIVER
That evening we joined a huge throng of people to see the neon lights of Shanghai along the Bund. Cruising down the river we saw the contrast of the historical bund architecture on one side of the river with the modern Pudong skyline on the other side - all lit up with colourful lights which looked quite grand - the amount of energy used in all those lights though a bit of a contradiction! Particularly as we had been told in many hotels when we tried to get some cold air in our rooms that the air con was controlled by the government to save energy! QIBAO ANCIENT TOWN
The next day we did have one last optional tour with our tour manager which was to see one of largest of the 12 ancient water towns in Shanghai. However most of our group decided to go on a trip on the Metro to see a smaller ancient water town which we thought would be more exciting than
yet another trip in the bus. Once you worked out how the Metro worked and coped with the huge number of people (it was a Sunday) it was really easy and it took only about 30 minutes and a couple of changes to reach Qibao. A smaller ancient water town but a lot nearer than the one we were due to visit which would have taken us two and half hours on the Metro (gives one an ideal on the size of Shanghai).
Located in the Minhang District of Shanghai, and only 11 miles from the downtown area, Qibao Ancient Town
was small and quaint with very narrow streets crossing a couple of water canals - sadly there were no boat tours as it was too small we did however spot someone with a model boat floating on the water though.
As the only ancient town forming part of greater Shanghai, with a history spanning over one thousand years. The town was built in the Northern Song Dynasty and grew into a prosperous business centre during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. FRIENDLY LOCALS
When we arrived at Qibao station we
were unsure which way to head but on asking a local who had a couple of words of English he seemed to point south which was where we thought we should be heading. We started to walk off and the guy we had asked reappeared and indicated to ‘follow him’ - so we did. He headed off at a steady pace and we followed him until we reached a gateway and he pointed ahead where we could see water so thought we had arrived at our destination. We thanked him and he turned around and heading back the way we had come - how kind was that we though to go so far out of ones way to help strangers. At one point we thought we would end up in a shop with him trying to sell something to us but no he was just being helpful. We had experienced this though in another town when we were looking for a ‘loo’ and a local said follow me and led us to a loo but passing through several shops she owned to get us there …. … …
Once we arrived at the entrance to the ancient
town we all split up and arranged to meet back at the gate later. Paul and I walked around the town for a while and then noticed a Temple towering above the buildings. We crossed a couple of water bridges walking along beside some ancient houses which nearly reached down to the water front with many washing lines full of clothes and blowing in the breeze above the water. We finally located the temple, by luck more than anything as we could not get across the water when we needed to. We walked through a gated entrance and were not approached by anyone so wandered into the Temple grounds. It was extremely quite and the huge Temple stood out each window hung with little bells that made a pleasant noise in the quiet garden. We found a little spot and sat for a while in the gardens for a break before heading back to meet the rest of our group. Qibao Temple,
is held in high regard by the local populace not only because it was said to contain the seven treasures but also for its splendid appearance and the great significance it has had in fostering
the development of Qibao
Town - it did majestical stand tall above all the other buildings because that was how we found it. LAST DINNER WITH OUR GROUP AND ERA SHOW
After dinner that evening we enjoyed watching a show in a newly built theatre in Shanghai. Entitled, an Intersection on Time, it was a sensory journey of China’s past, present and future combining the use of multimedia technology with traditional Chinese acrobatics and performing arts
. It was a kind of acrobatic extravaganza with young acrobats going from one amazing feat to another some without safety equipment though but with skill and daring, grace and energy. We thoroughly enjoyed the show particularly the finale where motorcycles were driven into a metal spherical frame and the riders proceeded to race around its perimeter gradually building up to seven of them inside this small frame and racing around at a great speed too - totally amazing a sort of Circe de Soleil and old fashioned circus springs to mind.
Later it was time to say goodbye to our mixed group - we had spent a total of 28 days together and there were obviously highs
and lows but on the whole the group got on well.
We had another couple of days on our own before we were heading home so we were going to chill before our long journey home too. We had a visit that evening from our guide Helen who was also heading home herself having completed her last National Guide tour of the year. She brought us a gift of Osmanthus Wine, as she knew that I had enjoyed it when we were in her home town of Guilin where it is produced. She had got her husband to send it to her in Shanghai which was most kind and hopefully it will survive in our suitcase home! OVERVIEW OF OUR CHINESE JOURNEY
Well this is the end of this journey and overall we have enjoyed ourselves in China and had lots of laughs with our fellow travellers. Trying to learn a few words in Chinese was not easy but we did all manage to learn a few like; thank you (xiè xiè), hello (nǐ hǎo) and I love you (wǒ ài nǐ) which our Helen loved to say.
Helen was a great instructor as we travelled around the country speaking to us in Mandarin and her local dialect. She also entertained us, she had a beautiful singing voice and would often sing local folk songs associated with an area as we travelled around the countryside.
Even with only a few words of Chinese we nearly always managed to communicate in some small way. Children were always a good way to start a conversation, the Chinese just love their children who are mainly looked after by proud grandparents whilst the parents work. Our main highlights along this journey were: Meeting the Giant Pandas at Chengdu Hiking on the Great Wall in Beijing and the Rice Terraces at Longji Viewing the Terracotta Warriors in Xian Drifting down the Li River from Guilin to Yangshou between the Karst mountains The Ancient Towns, particularly Dali in Yunnan and Shaxi in Jiangsu on the Old Tea Horse Trade route. We enjoyed interacting with the minority ethnic groups many of whom still live and dress in their traditional
way. Meeting so many locals in the many parks, markets, villages and their homes was a privilege and not to be forgotten.
Being served a delicious meal in a Hutong in Beijing by the grandson whose grandfather had cooked for an Emperor passing his skills down the family line. Other Highlights:
1. We liked the different Chinese architecture
, particularly the older buildings which were quite astonishing - just loved the way the upturned eaves on roof corners made the buildings look so attractive. They are of course the most identifiable mark of Chinese roof architecture - a design which appeared during the Han Dynasty 206 BC – 220 AD, and has stood the test of time since then.
2. China was an extremely safe country to walk around
and most of its people were kind and helpful particularly in the countryside. Although in the cities this was not always the case - much like our Western cities I suppose, we were often bumped into with no apology and their ‘queuing skills’ left quite a lot to be desired but that is much the same
around the world in busy places.
3. The streets were immaculate clean,
with hundreds of road sweepers keeping the roads clear of rubbish including the main highways using just a brush and pan - China has a huge workforce of manual labourers. We liked that so many trees were being planted, every few yards on main and side roads for miles and miles. Window planters full of colourful flowers were numerous alongside many roads as well, even large flyovers had colourful flowers in little window planters - must have taken forever to plant them. Walking under road underpasses flowers would be hanging down around all the sides. Some were of course displayed for the 70th anniversary of The Peoples Republic of China but many were obviously a permanent fixture.
4. China is known as a haven for foodies
with every province serving its own style of cooking and yes, we did find different regions serving up different menus but most were based on the same recipes with slightly more chilli or spice in them.
5. For lunch and dinner we were served rice, a chicken dish, a pork dish (usually sweet
and sour), a beef dish (usually hot) and several different vegetable dishes, mainly cauliflower and pok choi, a type of Chinese cabbage as well as a large omelette. Watermelon was also often served with the main meals.
6. The fruit, vegetables
and a variety of spices at local markets and roadside stalls were excellent and you could always try things before you bought them. I have never seen so many different types of mushrooms. We particularly like the fresh dates which we had not sampled before.
7. Our favourite meal
by far was the one served in the Hutong, mentioned above where we sampled many different flavours, the most popular dish which all of our group loved was just carrots, blanched, thinly grated, mixed into a ball and deep fried with honey - with think the recipe was a ‘Chinese trade secret’ - probably served to the Emperors in those bygone days. The owner of the Hutong said it took a long time to make so we could not get second helpings … … …
8. Local food outlets and street food was so much better than any of the hotels
we stayed in which were mainly 3/4 star. We were lucky that we were taken to many of these small out of the way restaurants and sat amongst the locals to eat.
9. On the whole the food was really fresh and tasty but one did get fed up with roughly the same menu for lunch and dinner… … At home we are used to having a much wider variety of different nationalities foods to choose from, either in our shops or restaurants. Whereas in China it is mainly Chinese or Western fare and the latter is very limited and indeed not as tasty as one is used to so you were far better to stick to the Chinese menu.
10. Of course you do not see a large mix of nationalities in China either - we only ever saw Chinese citizens or Western tourists - so food outlets of course were catering mainly for those two groups. China is definitely good for ‘weight loss’ as Paul and I both lost over half a stone in a month.
This was probably due to less diary, bread and potatoes as well as having to eat
from small side plates and trying to pickup food without large serving spoons from the lazy susan - just as you managed to get something on your small spoon or chopstick the table would be 'whizzing' away from you ....... 😂.............
11. The Osmanthus wine was tasty but this was more like a sweet sherry than a wine. It is prepared by infusing whole flowers in rice wine and is traditionally consumed during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Wine was not readily available, quite expensive and not too palatable either We did try some ‘Great Wall’ wine which was not that great! However the local beer was good and refreshing so I became a beer drinker and would share a bottle of local brew with Marlene from NZ over lunch. Usually coke, lemonade or beer were the only available drinks or sometimes you could get coconut juice as well. We thought it strange that there was no fruit juice at breakfast having seen so many fruit trees and fruit on the markets -astonishingly coke and lemonade (quite flat) was offered instead.
12. I loved the smell of the Osmanthus flower, walking along roads and in parks
you would always smell this before you saw a tree or shrub with its little, white, yellow or orange flowers and dark green leaves. The fragrance of the flower is said to have a calming effect, and is popular as an ingredient in perfumes. Also as mentioned in a previous blog Osmanthus tea is very popular in China which combines sweet Osmanthus flowers with black or green tea leaves. Traditional Chinese medicine claims that this tea improves complexion and helps rid the body of excess nitric oxide, a compound linked to the formation of cancer, diabetes, and renal disease. Sweet Osmanthus and Osmanthus tea are particularly associated with the city of Guilin where our guide, Helen came from.
13. What we didn’t enjoy in China was the restrictions on social media and general communication sites like Facebook, Gmail & Watsap and the total banning of some News channels. We could not get BBC News at all and what news one did get was often suddenly switched off and you were just left with blank screens for a while. Also Wikipedia was not available and many other websites to for general research which was quite annoying.
14. China is an extremely technologically advanced nation, everyone uses WeChat, we were amazed when our guide always paid for everything by mobile phone, in backstreets, at small market stalls and in out of the way ancient towns as well … … At domestic airports face recognition was frequently used, doing away without the need of a passport or other form of ID. Security at airports was really good and others countries could learn a few lessons from the Chinese.
15. We did not see any poor communities or come across many beggars during our visit, in fact only about three in total, one of which was a young girl unable to walk with a severe disability and she had a barcode generator on her wheelchair for people to donate by tapping with their mobile phone! Everything is carried out by mobile phone here, cards and cash were rare and appeared to be disappearing at a fast rate. Not sure how this will work for visiting tourist in the future but I am sure we will all be doing the same quite soon … … Of course in the UK we have Apple Pay and contactless limit
on debit and credit cards of £30 but in China the amount does not have any limit, apparently if you have the funds you can buy anything with the touch of a button! Well it is now time for us to leave China and we are unsure where are next adventure will be - of course we still have quite a few places on our ‘wish list’, so hopefully we will see you somewhere very very soon … … …
Happy Travels to you all - 👣Paul & Sheila PS - Now home but had a journey from hell to get here. Our flight ‘Shanghai to Beijing’ to catch our onward flight to Heathrow was delayed. We finally took off only to arrive in Beijing with nowhere for the pilot to ‘park’ his plane so we sat on the runway for quite a while and in the end they could not find us anywhere so we parked up and had to wait for buses to transport us to the airport. All the while we knew we were cutting it tight for our connecting flight and all the aircraft staff were
saying was you can change your flight! On arrival at the airport we approached a couple of ground staff who were brilliant and stuck a sticker on our clothes and told us to run for the train into the terminal and then make for Terminal 30. We still had to go through security and customs etc though and fill out the necessary departure forms. However another nice airport person sent us to a Diplomatic Check in desk and they were extremely helpful, speeding us through and only partially filling out the necessary forms. Hopefully we might gain diplomatic status now when we travel ... ... ... Then at the security screening machines others let us through ahead of them which was most kind. We finally arrived at the Terminal 30 only to see it had been changed to Terminal 29 (luckily right next to it) with 5 minutes to spare and completely out of breath we were boarding our flight. Luckily we were travelling business class so once on the plane we could ‘chill’ and the 10 hour flight back home went really smooth. But of course our suitcases had not made the journey
and as of now are still in China or perhaps on a flight home too. PPS - Suitcases just delivered to our home what a brilliant service from Heathrow Airport - sadly a broken lock but all contents fine.
BIRD ID - The bird that we had seen on Jade Snow Mountain but could not identify as limited access to research sites and did not have a Chinese bird guidebook. Well, found it straight away on Wikipedia - it was a Red-billed Blue Magpie, a species of bird in the crow family. About the same size as the Eurasian magpie but it has a much longer tail, one of the longest tails of any corvid in fact.
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