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Published: April 22nd 2013
We arrived back at the boat after our fantastic tour to the Ghost City and were immediately treated to a hot pot demonstration by one of the chefs. One of the ingredients was dried mushrooms, packed into tiny boxes not much bigger than a standard matchbox. Once re-hydrated these turned into a huge pan full of jews-ear mushrooms! I couldn't taste the hot pot as it was meaty, but it was judged delicious by the others.
Sadly we learnt that we wouldn't be able to stop off at the Shabao Zhai pagoda in the afternoon after all as not enough people had signed up to make it a viable excursion. So instead we settled down to a session of cards 'Beat up the Landlord' joined by the lovely Mr Wong in his red star hat. We also found out that someone had unwisely decided to allow our group's tour guide Dennis to act as translator over the intercom tannoy system to explain the reason for the trip being cancelled and how we would be passing by the pagoda later in the afternoon. Dennis took this as an opportunity to have a bit of fun, egged on by us of course.
Three storey Buddhist temple at the top reached by a nine storey pagoda leading up to it. Before this people were hauled up with an iron chain!
We all started giving ideas for him to use, including getting in two new words we'd taught him 'knackered' and 'minging' little thinking he would actually have the nerve to go ahead with it.
While I was up on the top deck taking a few photos later in the afternoon a Chinese announcement began blaring out over the boat...would he do it? Dennis didn't disappoint and had us laughing out loud at the following 'translation'...
"Attention, attention! This is your Captain, Dennis Yang speaking. In a moment we are going to be passing the Shibao Zhai pagoda. We weren't able to take the excursion this morning as the world economy was knackered! So to make it up, we're going to slow down our speed. So when the boat goes by why not come up to the top deck to join us and take a few shots. But if you don't come up, don't worry, it's minging!"
When the pagoda did come into sight it was really rather beautiful and so I decided to read up a little about it to make up for having to miss going to see the temple and pagoda in person. Shi bao
The buildings were saved from the flood waters by the creation of a special dam around the base.
Zhai literally translates as 'precious stone fortress' and it has certainly been deemed precious, being one of the lucky buildings to be saved rather than trashed by the rising flood waters following the damming of the river. Legend has it that this rocky crag with extremely steep sides was created by the Goddess Nowa when she was decorating the broken sky. The Buddhist temple at the top of the hill, built in the Ming Dynasty in 1572, is reached by a red pagoda of nine floors. Prior to this means of getting to the top people were hoisted up by iron chains. In order to save the building from the rising water levels a coffer dam was built around the base as the flood waters would have covered the lower levels otherwise.
Dennis came up on deck to much applause and we all settled down to enjoy a relaxing afternoon - in the sunshine. Yes, the sun finally decided to put in an appearance just at the right time. I got a bit of low down about the Three Gorges Dam Project from Dennis. It was really interesting finding out how the project had affected millions of people who
used to live where the dam has now flooded. Apparently the dam project took a lot of debating within the Chinese Government and only 67% of officials agreed to its go ahead in the end - a low proportion compared to normal decision making for them. It cost billions to build and took so long to get agreements sorted out with farmers and others living in the lower reaches that everything was all very last minute when they finally gave the final word - YOU HAVE TO LEAVE! Resettlement has had to take place for millions of people. One side of the river is now very much built up with massive high rise buildings and big cities expanding and still developing as a result. Sadly there is also tension between the original residents of these expanding cities and the incoming resettled population due to competition for jobs and housing. Many beautiful and culturally important buildings and relics have been lost to the flooding while fortunately others have been saved or moved. I learnt that the place we started our cruise, Chongqing was set up as the city to organise the relocation and now has 30 million people living there!
I then found myself a quiet spot on my own towards the back of the boat on the top deck and practiced the baroque concert music that my choir would be performing the weekend I got back to the UK. What a strange thing to be doing on the Yangtze River - it made me smile for sure 😊
At 6pm precisely we were summoned to a 'cocktail party' with the Captain complete with photo sessions and very small cocktails. One of our group was singled out as the 'special guest' and Aaron smuggly sipped on his extra large fancy cocktail! We also had opportunities to buy Three Gorges Dam books and I decided to get one, mainly for the photo of naked men pulling a boat through what used to be a very narrow gorge - a service no longer performed sadly, due to the flood water levels making it easy to pass through now. We were invited to have our books signed by the very dapper looking Captain, and how could we resist. I was also given a certificate for some reason too.
After another slap up meal we decided an early night was in order
as we were to be woken early again the next day at silly o'clock. I woke up during the night and found we were on the move and not docked as we'd been the previous night. I hoped the Captain hadn't had too many cocktails!
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