Monday, July 16, 2018

Yangtze River Cruise - It's a Long Post with Loads of Photos

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We spent a lazy day at the hotel, enjoyed another nice breakfast and a free late checkout before departing for the Grand Theater district to meet up with our transfer bus.  The water level of the river in the city was unusually high so the cruise company sent us a last minute change.  Instead of boarding the boat at the city port, we were transported two hours further downstream to the city of Fengdu.  The bus ride was pleasant and the scenery as we traveled through the suburbs of greater Chongqing was interesting....this "town" went on forever it seemed and it was not until a hour later than we started to see a bit of farm land and open areas inbetween the populated sectors...and still after two hours all within the city

In typical Chinese style we were ushered through a gauntlet of welcoming handshakes, endless instructions and direction, and finally made it to the boat.  They are certainly detail oriented if nothing else.  We were met by "Cindy" our English speaking representative on board who instructed us as if we were in grammar  She was very sweet and we understood of course that for most folks this might be their first dance.

Our first class Chinese state room was lovely, well appointed and comfortable. Once again we recognized that first class on a Chinese boat is not the same as on a European or Carribian cruise ship.  And since we are not "cruise" people is mattered little as long as the bed was comfortable and everything worked.  It was immaculate as expected and we had a private balcony on the third level..well away from the engines and generators and two decks below the endless music in the PERFECT!

The boat is decorated throughout with portraits of world presidents...mostly from western nations.  We were pleasantly greeted by President Obama each time we ascended the stairs to our floor.  When asked why they was no portrait of the current US president Cindy indicated that they cruise company did not want to "upset their Chinese guests and distinguished foreign visitors..."  a first class act for sure bearing in mind the current world view of the US leadership.

Since our first port of call would have been the next day where we already were, we stayed moored all night and throughout the day as activities in Fengdu unfolded.  We opted to not take the optional visit to the Ghost City...from the photos and description it was much like what we have already seen a dozen times.  Instead we enjoyed relaxing on the boat, exploring the six decks and avoiding the 100^ temps outside.  Breakfast and lunches today and for the rest of the trip were buffet...a nice combination of both Chines and western cuisine...tasty and filling and the best part was our lovely and overly accommodating table server, "Jessica," who from the first day through the last remembered our first names, what we liked to drink, and our personal choice of utensils.  In addition she was very personable and spoke excellent English.

For the next three days we cruised from one city to another, stopping at a few to visit some interesting historic sites.

The landscape along the river if unique in that prior to the building of the dam in 1998 water level of the river was 200 feet below the current mark in this photo.  The highwater mark is seen and reached each winter as the summer accumulation from the rainy season finally reaches the river and makes its way downstream.  Towns and villages, farmland, and historic sites have been buried underwater forever.
 We say lots of archaeological sites along the water like this cave located high above the river and accessed from above by a very long and narrow walkway.

 One of countless waterfall areas.

 The site of several "hanging" coffins, some dating back to 537 AD.

 An ancient cave temple, once reached by climbing 1500 steps from the river, now only a fraction of that from the newly built dock and visitor center.

 Gardens of the White Emperor Temple.  This building was built during the colonial period 1750-1900.

 A view of the famous Horsehead Gorge as seen on the 10 Yuan note.   The White Emperor Temple was built on a large mound at the end of a peninsula.  Today it is an island with a bridge for access.

 Gate to the White Temple.  Beautiful grounds and gardens, lots of "temples" to honor the emperor, not the gods.

 Most of the temple was built again after an massive earthquake in 1512.

 A method of burial for nobility and weathy people were the hanging coffins.

 Depictions of the court and their attire.

 At the bridge that linked the now shoreline with the "island" these folks were busy hand laying each of those stone and filling the grid with gravel...such grueling work in the hot sun...and common labor like this is the least paid of most professions.
 Local fisherman pulling in their catches amidst the floating debris of the river.  We remembered this when they served fish that night.

We visited a Dao temple known locally as the "nine story pagoda."  Our guide for the site, "Jason" was a very animated and charming host who spoke constantly of himself in the thrid person, "please follow Jason this way...etc."  These fellows were litter bearers for those who did not want to climb the stairs.   The temple was saved by building a huge wall around the highground.

Lots of statues of noblemen and gods.

View of the suspended bridge connecting the town to the site.
 More construction of the river banks to prevent erosion from the constantly changing water level.

 We cruised through some pretty awesome canyons of granite and sandstone.

 NiRVana's sister.

 We docked in YiChang on our last morning and said goodbye to our cruise ship.  We boarded busses and were taken to the dam site for a tour of the complex.  Desgined for tourists the site provided great overlook of the entire project.
 Ship locks.
View of the flood gates open.

Large ship locks.  Since 2016 only cargo and a few long trip cruise ships are allowed to pass through the locks because of the increased river traffic.  There are five stages and it takes about four hours for one ship to get through.

The newest lock is a single stage water elevator designed for small to medium cargo only and takes about 30 minutes to transition.
At the end of the tour we were met by a private transfer and taken to the local train station one hour away.  From there we had a sleeper car...very comfortable...for our five hour journey to Zhangjiaje and our next five day hiking adventure.

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