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Published: June 26th 2005
I took my first train ride in China to Chongqing, a huge city in the middle of China. Trains here are an interesting story, but I will tell about them in a later journal.
Chongqing is a Hong-Kong wanna-be. It's an industrial city, with a modern down town, shopping malls, etc. Not really interesting. The only reason to visit is the docks - where the ferries down the Yangtze river are departing.
I had some time to kill there while waiting for my boat to leave, so I went to a small temple in the middle of the city. It's quite ironic to see the old temple, Chinese style, surrounded by modern tall buildings of glass and steel.
The main reason to cruise the Yangtze river are the Three Gorges that are formed by the mountains around the river. Another reason to cruise it is that these gorges are going to disappear soon when they finish building a huge dam down the river and the water level will be raised greatly. They are forming a lake more than 600 km long, destroying villages and even a few cities, saying it will help control floods in this huge river. Some
people say it won't help...
So I went on the boat, a huge boat full of Chinese. We took off at night, leaving the city behind us. The gorges are quite far away, and we were supposed to meet them on the second day of the cruise. During the first day we stopped at some temples along the river to visit, which were great opportunities to have something real to eat. The view of all the people leaving the boat at each stop was funny.
The first stop was at 6 am. We stopped at a place called Fengdu, also known as Ghost City. The reason is the temple for the King of the Dead that is built on the hill next to it, but it's also ironic that this city is about to disappear when the dam is finished, and therefore it looks like a ghost town these days.
The temple is nice and has some strange things in it. There are pictures and statues telling the stories of doom's day and hell according to the local belief. Some statues have nothing to do with that, and are just funny.
Later on we stopped at Lanruo Dian, an hanging
temple on a cliff wall. 13 stories high (i guess they don't fear that number). It has circular windows, with some legends attached to it, but I won't bore you with the details.
There was another stop along the way - but I really had enough of temples for one day...
The next morning we were supposed to pass through the first gorge at 6 am. I set my clock to 5:30, just to wake up and see the last km of it from my window... Apparently they were fast during the night.
Then we stopped at Wushan, and they took us to a smaller boat. That boat cruised a smaller river through something they call the "Minor Three Gorges". Actually, since this river is smaller, they are more interesting than the big gorges, being narrower.
Along the way we saw signs showing the height of the water in the future. It's amazing how many houses were below these signs...
The small boat also stopped at a temple along the way, and many Chinese went there. There was a rock with two Chinese letters, and each person in his turn closed his eyes and went towards this rock with his
hands up in the air. According to the way he touched that rock a monk gave him some advice...
Later, the small boat stopped again and they put us all on even smaller boats. There was a sign "Mini Three Gorges", and I thought i am in a Hitchcock film. Was afraid I will never be able to get out of this fractal world of gorges.
After a short ride down these gorges we finally started heading back...
Back on the big boat we went through the next two gorges, but because of the haze they weren't that amazing compared to the smaller ones.
Later that evening we arrived to the site of the dam. It's not that high like other dams you know, but it's very wide. Apparently the water level is already higher than it was, because in order to go through the dam the boat had to go through a canal with some chambers with different water levels. The boat went into a chamber, the doors closed behind us, the water level was lowered, and then the doors forward to the next chamber were open. We went through 4-5 chambers, going down about 20 meters each step.
I only heard of these things in the Panama Canal, and it was quite an experience to go through it in real life.
After that we had another quiet night to our final destination - Yichang.
And until the next time,
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