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Published: October 21st 2016
Tribe of the Three Gorges tour
The background is smog, but they call it 'fog'...
The bullet train was all we expected. It was super quiet, super smooth and quite quick at 304kph. Think of that between Brisbane/Sydney Melbourne. The carriages were fitted out with plane seats. Staff walked up and down selling fruit, noodles and drinks. There was free hot water and western style toilets – thank heavens. The stations at either end were more like international air terminals; lots of retail and spotlessly clean. After 5 hrs and 2 stops, we arrived in Shanghai. We were told to meet our new guide at the North Arrivals exit, but unfortunately the train bought us in at the South Arrivals end of the complex so we had to navigate our way to the other end of the station some 300 mts away with not a single sign mentioning anything connected with “North”. Our guide was nearly as pleased as we were when we finally found him; it wouldn’t do to lose 10 Aussie travellers. At this point we merged with a group of 14 (also from Australia)
The hotel here was a lot better than in Beijing and we settled in quickly. The first thing we noticed is that Shanghai traffic is a lot
than Beijing. We were on the go from the start. The guide gave us 30 minutes to check in and have” a rest” before meeting him in the foyer for our night’s adventures. We headed off to the Nanjing Rd shopping area for a quick look at the lights and shopping area before walking to dinner about half a kilometre away. Geoff wants to go back to Nanjing Road as he was offered 3 ‘massages’, 2 ‘genuine’ Rolex’s and 1 I-phone – all in a distance of 200 mts. After that excitement we had dinner, which was good but not exceptional, in a hotel in the area before heading off in the bus to a trip up the Hauphong River to view the city lights from a large ferry style boat. It really was a show. The constant announcements on the speaker system described it as a romantic cruise, despite the fact that we were squashed in like sardines with hundreds of others viewing the scenery.
Day 2 in Shanghai saw Geoff head off on the Watertown tour. Marg finally conceded that her knee should get some rest if she was to haul the suitcases and purchases around for
Shanghai night lights
The light show was fantastic with some buildings doing a complete moving picture story.
the next week. Strict instructions were given to take lots of photos. It took over an hour to clear the city and reach the Watertown. This little village is indicative of the style of living and working from a bygone era. It has been preserved mainly for the tourist appeal, although it now has a “modern” section as well. They call it “the Venice of China”. Eventually we arrived and made our way along a street that was actually a canal with foot paths on both sides and lined with little shops (about 3 x3 mts) primarily selling food of some description or clothes/tourist trinkets. We wound our way around to the entrance of a market (read tourist trap) laneway. The range of merchandise was limited with most offerings being repeated at least 6 times along the length of the lane, and prices fairly rigid with bartering only achieving a 10% reduction at best. Very tentatively Geoff purchased a couple of small tapestries and was very relieved when his choices were met with approval from SHMBO. We had lunch, followed by a Chinese ‘gondola’ ride back to our starting point; loading and unloading the gondola took longer than the trip,
Tribe of the Three Gorges tour
The lady standing on the bow is inviting you to enter the gorge.
but was a quaint idea.
Next stop was the Shanghai Museum, and I know that I said that Chinese traffic jams keep moving, but we managed to get into one that didn’t. The overhead travel time indicators did not give us any hope and after consulting the Chinese version of Google maps, the guide announced that there was really no way around the problem. We did however get the opportunity to study many eras of Shanghai’s architecture in minute detail. By the time we got there we had just on an hour to look around 4 floors of different classifications of Chinese art and artefacts. That was a rush, although I guess that there some in our group who found it better than not seeing it. The trip back to the hotel was easier that getting to the museum, but on reflection, so far the 2 “days” in Shanghai have been mostly spent in some sort of transport.
We have found that most restaurants in shopping centres will sell food to take away. Some are a lot better than others at charades to a) establish that they do take away and, b) what some of the dishes are.
Geoff had a lot of trouble establishing the content of some (meat) balls at one place and after a lot of unsuccessful attempts to get an answer, was eventually shown a caricature of a pig on one of the assistant’s I-phone. We managed to get a meal for 2 including the pork balls (not the actual animal’s bits and pieces) for AUD 8.00
The additional 14 people parted from us on the third day. That left us with a free day in Shanghai and our group scattered to the four points of the compass. Two couples took a Metro train to the new Disneyland, which lived up to their expectations. Apparently the train trip was an experience in itself with a new standard being set for the term “packed in like sardines”. We opted to head into a shopping mall closer to the CBD and purchased another proper carry-on bag to replace a back-pack that was not going to cope with the extra luggage we have now.
We were picked up at 1.00 pm for a 4.45pm flight out of Shanghai. Overall, the Shanghai segment has not been a highlight of the tour, with far too much time
spent in transit.
So on to the Yangtze River cruise. We were meet at the airport by our guide and taken to a restaurant for dinner. This was a bit of a surprise as we had deliberately had a very late lunch at the airport before departure, and then had another meal on the plane! Needless to say we left a lot on the table. We got to the ship in the dark and on boarding were given the “upgrade spiel” 2 couples chose to upgrade from the standard cabin. Then there was the drinks package for the tour… only $90 for a couple to have ‘unlimited’ drinks at meal times which Geoff insisted we purchase. We have yet to see anyone drinking wine with breakfast. Geoff had spotted that they had Rawson’s Retreat (that’s a big deal in the scheme of things) on the drinks menu, so thought that he would be able to choose his ‘unlimited’ drinks… Ho, ho, ho, no you get what they are serving and the reds are Chinese camel’s urine! Marg is coping with the whites, but she has been drinking beer on this trip and that has never
been seen before, so
Heading upstream to the first excursion
China is a very "can do" society. Need to get from A to B quickly - build a AUD 35m bridge and cut the travel time from 4 hrs to 20 mins!
read into that what you want.
I would love to give you some information on the ship, but that appears to be a state secret. Suffice to say that we believe it has a capacity of approx. 480 people, it looks to be about 180 mts long and it has 6 floors.
The first tour was a shore excursion to the Tribe of the Three Gorges. This involved a very pretty walk along the side of a stream. The local guide explained the meaning of a lot of the symbolic scenes along the way. At the top of the walk, we were shown a local marriage ceremony which was very short and business like. I think it was the abbreviated version for the tourists. The valley and stream offered fantastic scenery every step of the way, and was well worth the trouble. After what could have been confused with being the last lunch on the ship if you took the push and shove into account, we headed off on the second excursion, which was to the Three Gorges Dam (TGD) site. Talk about a mega enterprise. The Dam wall is 2.3 kms long and the retained water goes
Shennong Stream excursion
Some of these oarsmen were touching 80 years old!
10’s of kms back upstream. They claim the main purpose of the dam is for flood control, and if you look at it another way, it could well be a very smart investment in drought proofing the land for 100’s of kms around. A secondary use is the generation of hydro-electricity, with the 32 turbines/generators contributing about 2% of the total power in China. There are 2 banks of locks (1 up and 1 down) that raise/lower ships and barges a vertical distance of 170 mts in 5 contiguous locks. The maximum depth of the Dam is 181 mts when the dam is full – which it is expected to be every wet season. Massive just does not get close to covering this undertaking. The clever folk in charge of the project realised that it would be a great tourist (propaganda) feature and built in a great display on the tallest peak – Tanziling Ridge, between the dam and the lock system. They provided a series of 3 very long and steep escalators to ferry people from the visitor centre (about half way up the ridge) to the viewing area. Whether you view it as propaganda or tourist attraction, you
Oh, I feel tired, I think I will lean against this big rock.
cannot deny that this is a fantastic achievement.
The second day of the cruise we went onto a smaller ferry which took us to the Shennong Stream. This area is famous for its hanging coffins which are about two thirds of the way up a very high vertical cliff. How the ancients got the coffins there no one knows. They are about two thousand years old (apparently). We then transferred to small wooden boats each carrying 12 passengers. These were rowed by three standing oarsmen in the front, one at the back and another one steering with a large oar. We have kept our ticket to show you all when we get home. The ones illustrated on the ticket are naked, however ours were all clothed. One or two had bare chests and you should have seen the six packs and arm muscles. They ranged in age from 50s to 89! We then returned to the ferry which then took us back to the ship.
Our last real day of the tour is upon us, but there was one more excursion to cover before preparing for the 30 hours of travel to get back home. An early start
Food vendors attack the ship
People (local) actually bought dried fish and other food items from these vendors. It was all weighed by the bloke in the boat and transferred by the long pole.
saw us disembarking in Zhong (pron. Jong – sort of) County for a casual walk to the Shibao Pagoda. This pagoda was built long ago in the town of Shibao. It was built leaning against a tall rock spire deliberately, using the spire for support. Sadly the town was somewhat lower down and when the TGD filled, is drowned the town. The Govt. chose to save the pagoda and have built a 9 metre wall around it, resulting in access being via a suspension bridge. The bridge is known as the drunken bridge for good reason.
We have been travelling with a great group of ten Aussies and have had lots of laughs along the way. 4 couples are from SA and 2 from Vic.
Some more observations:
1. It doesn’t matter where you are in China there is every likelihood that you will be able to see a high rise somewhere,
2. Shanghai has a population greater than the whole of Australia,
3. You cannot walk anywhere without a souvenir hawker trying to sell you something – cheap, cheap,
4. A hawker may offer you a tapestry for 700 yuan and accept 80
Tribe of the Three Gorges tour
Not original, but indicative of what went on in the days long ago.
yuan (if you are firm with him/her)
5. There does not seem to be any relationship between the cost of the good or service, and what you receive,
6. There is no such thing as a queue in China,
7. Standing aside for someone will not get even the slightest acknowledgement,
8. The Chinese have no mute button and will only ever converse at shouting level,
9. There is smog everywhere in China, even in the countryside we are now travelling through.
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