Trip to China
– July 2008
July 17 – Shanghai
We arrived in China on July 16, and after a good night’s sleep
in the Shangri-La Hotel (5 big stars!) we were up and at ‘em
for our tour of Shanghai. Our morning tour bused us to Old Shanghai,
where we toured the Yu Yuan (Garden of Yu), dating to the Ming Dynasty (mid-14th
through mid-17th centuries).
Like typical Chinese gardens, it contains not only plants but water,
rocks, and structures – the 4 elements necessary for a Chinese Garden. We then had time for our favorite pastime –
SHOPPING! After a typical Chinese lunch,
we visited a rug-making factory, where the workers make elegant silk rugs in
the time-honored fashion – by hand. Then
we were off to the Shanghai
Museum, a wonderful
collection of Chinese artifacts.
Finally, we ended our day’s trip on the Bund, Shanghai’s
waterfront on the Yangtze River. The evening saw us taken to dinner and then
to a wonderful acrobatic show.
to see pictures of Shanghai
July 18 – Suzhou
(after the usual wonderful breakfast at the HUGE buffet at our hotel!) we
boarded the bus that would take us to our ship at Nanjing,
up the river a bit from Shanghai. Along the way we stopped in the city of Suzhou, nicknamed “Venice
of the East” because of its many canals.
Here we visited the Garden of the Master of the Nets (probably so named
because it was classier than Garden of the Fisherman). It is one of the nine Suzhou gardens that comprise a UNESCO World
Heritage Site, and it dates to the Song Dynasty (mid-10th century
through mid-13th century).
After a lovely morning, we had another traditional Chinese lunch and
then visited a silk factory. Then we
were off again to our ship, the Century Sun, where we unpacked and showered
(very necessary – China
is HUMID!) and settled in for nine days of cruising.
Click here to
see pictures of Suzhou
July 19 – Mt. Jiu
Mt. Jiu Hua is one of China’s
four sacred Buddhist mountains. Much of
the mountain is covered with a variety of Buddhist monasteries and
temples. After spending a wonderful few
hours, we returned to the ship and got ready for the Welcome Reception on board.
to see pictures of Mt. Jiu Hua
July 20 – Jingdezhen
The city of Jingdezhen is known
world-wide for its porcelain. They have
been producing porcelain here for over 2000 years. Today we were treated to a tour of the
porcelain-making facilities, where we watched vessels being created by hand as
they have been for centuries. (Some of the workers looked as though they had
been there from the beginning!) We also
viewed centuries-old kilns, and had a chance to buy. After a local lunch, we had a chance to shop
in the city where the wares were not as expensive (or as good!) as they were at
the factory. Then back to the ship and a-sailing
here to see pictures of Jingdezhen
July 21 – Wuhan
is the capital of Hubei
Province and a mid-size
city of only 7.3 million people. It has
a history of 3500 years. At one time, it
was the second most important port on the Yangtze, after Shanghai.
also the place where the revolution began that ended the Last Emperor’s reign
in 1911. It is home to an interesting
museum where the artifacts from the tomb of the Marquis Yi of Zeng, dating to
the mid-5th century. We
visited the museum in the morning and also enjoyed a concert on replicas of the
bells found in the tomb. In the
afternoon, we went shopping in Wuhan. Some of the folks went to Wal-Mart, but Rosie
and I strolled the pedestrian shopping area in downtown Wuhan.
We thought for sure that Rosie could find some shoes to fit her size
3-½ or 4 feet, but would you believe
that even in China
she couldn’t find shoes!
Click here to
see pictures of Wuhan
July 22 – Yue Yang
Yue Yang is the
second largest city in Hunan Province, located between the Yangtze River and Dong Ting Lake (the 2nd largest fresh water lake in China). The lake separates Hubei
(North of the Lake) and Hunan (South of the Lake) Provinces.
On the lake shore is a 3-story watchtower, Yue Yang Tower, dating from the Tang Dynasty (7th
century – 10th century). It
was made famous by a poem written in the 11th century. Over the
years, the tower was rebuilt and refurbished, and the tower we see today was
rebuilt in 1985 in the style of the Song Dynasty (mid-10th – mid-12th
century). The grounds of the tower also
contain miniature replicas of how the tower looked at various times, as well as
a tea-house and (of course!) souvenir shops.
It was a pleasant place to spend some time (and a little money!).
to see pictures of Yue Yang
July 23 – Jingzhou
Jingzhou is a
small port city along the Yangtze River,
dating back to about 2205 BC, when it was the capital of the region of Jing in
the Xia Dynasty.
Viking River Cruises supports one of the schools in the Jingzhou suburb
of Guanyindang. Beginning in 2003, the
support of Viking contributed to renovations and new equipment, including a
computer lab. The school is now named Viking Primary
What a great time we had visiting the students of this school! Even though it was summer vacation time, the
children came back to the school to entertain us. (Imagine that happening in the USA???) They put on a dancing show, and then we got
to visit one of the classrooms. Our
group visited a 3rd grade math class. You’ll see from the pictures how adorable
these children are. I must admit I
smiled continuously as I reformatted the pictures from Jingzhou for the Web!
to see pictures of Jingzhou
Three Gorges Dam
It was raining
today, but not too hard. It just made
the pictures from today all misty and romantic.
If a dam can be said to be romantic, that is! The Three Gorges Dam is located near the
eastern end of the lowest of the Three Gorges of the Yangtze, the Xiling
Gorge. It is 1.3 miles wide and 610 feet
tall; when completely full, it will create a 5,000,000,000,000 (trillion)
reservoir, 385 miles long and hundreds of feet deep. The water is expected to be at its full
height by the end of 2009. Ships use a
series of 5 locks to go west (up) or east (down) the Yangtze.
The Xiling Gorge
is immediately west of the dam, about 47 miles long. Before the dam, navigation was difficult
because of rapids and whirlpools. In
previous times, boats were often pulled along this area by trackers, men who
worked very hard for miserable wages to get the boats through this difficult
stretch. Xiling Gorge’s treacherous waters are no longer a problem since the
dam has caused the water to rise. The
scenery is lovely and peaceful, and it will change over the next year as the
waters rise higher.
here to see pictures of Three Gorges Dam and Xiling Gorge
Lesser Three Gorges
started out cloudy but cleared up beautifully for our trip into the Lesser
Three Gorges, a series of gorges on the Daning River,
a tributary of the Yangtze. The three
gorges are named, south to north, Dragon Gate Gorge, Misty Gorge, and Emerald
Gorge. The rising waters have also
affected these gorges, but they are still quite lovely. We rode in a special boat up the gorges,
since our Viking Century Sun was too large for the trip. When we had reached a point near the end, we
had a catered picnic, then turned around and saw the gorges from the other
perspective. A lovely outing!
here to see pictures of the Lesser Three Gorges
Wu Gorge and Qutang Gorge
Wu Gorge is just
east of the Lesser Three Gorges, 25 miles long.
To the west of the Lesser Three Gorges is the Qutang Gorge; it is the
shortest of the Three Gorges (Xiling, Wu, and Qutang), being only 8 miles long
but quite scenic. Qutang Gorge, like
Xiling, was dangerous to navigate before the dam was built.
here to see pictures of Wu and Qutang Gorges
July 26 – Feng Du
Today we had a
choice of two trips – one to see the Snow
or the other to see the resettlement town of Feng Du.
Rosie went to the cave, and I was going to go to Feng Du, but my innards
decided that I should stay home that morning.
Feng Du is a new town on the north bank of the Yangtze, replacing one of
the same name on the south bank that has been nearly entirely covered by the
rising waters. The Snow
is located up the Dragon
River, a Yangtze
tributary not far from Feng Du. Not much
in the way of pictures today!
Click here to
see (a couple) pictures of Feng Du
July 27 – Chongqing
The huge city of
our debarkation point from our wonderful river trip. So long, it’s been good to know ya! Chongqing
is actually an independent metropolis, with its own metropolitan area that is
not associated politically with Sichuan
Province. Would you believe 32,000,000 people live in
this area? It was the wartime
(provisional) capital of China
during World War II, and generally called “Chungking”
in most of the world. The famous
American group, the “Flying Tigers,” operated out of Chongqing during the war. We didn’t have much time to see the city, but
we did make a really quick trip to the zoo to see the pandas. And, we visited an art gallery (with its
accompanying souvenirs, of course!), had lunch, and then took off for a
one-hour flight to Xi’an,
our next destination, via Sichuan Air. A
bit of a puddle-jumper plane, but not a bad ride!
here to see pictures of Chongqing
July 28 – Xi’an
was the capital of ancient China
off and on starting with the 11th century BC and ending with the
Tang Dynasty’s demise in 904 AD. It was
originally known as Chang’an (Eternal Peace); its present name means Western
Peace. It was the eastern end of the Silk Road – Marco Polo might have visited here. In 1974, some farmers digging a well in the
area found terra cotta fragments and some bronze weapons. Excavation began quite soon, and what was
found was astounding! This was the area
of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di’s tomb, and the area in which they were digging
contained the remnants of a vast army of life-sized terra cotta warriors (over
8,000 total) guarding the entrance to his tomb, dating back to 210 BC. The archaeological complex is huge, even
though the emperor’s tomb has not yet been opened. Archaeologists are waiting for newer
technologies to approach the tomb itself; there is also some fear of mercury
poisoning here! Reports from the past
say that the emperor designed his own sepulcher to look like “the world” with
an ocean and rivers of mercury. Indeed,
tentative exploration has verified higher-than-usual levels of mercury. So, he may rest in peace for quite a
while! After an awesome (“ding ding hao” as our waitress Cici would say!) tour of the
complex and another wonderful Chinese lunch, we flew to Beijing for the final two days of our trip.
Click here to see
pictures of the Terra Cotta Warriors
Great Wall of China
This morning we got up bright
and early, ate too much at the Wonderful Westin Breakfast Bar, and hopped on
the bus to go to a well-preserved section of the Great Wall at Badaling. It was pleasantly cool, with a nice breeze –
a nice change from the heat/humidity of previous days.
Wall of China was built, rebuilt, and maintained from the 2nd
century BC through the 16th century AD. Most of the current Wall was built during the
Ming Dynasty. The Great Wall was over
5660 kilometers long at its greatest extent, and here at Badaling it is 7.8
meters high, 6.5 meters thick, and 5.8 meters wide at the top. The Wall follows the contours of the
mountains, dipping and rising with them, so it is a challenge to walk. The soldiers who were once stationed there
must have had legs of steel to get up and down the slopes and stairs.
Fortunately for me, the Chinese government has installed railings that one can
use to pull yourself up or help yourself down the rather steep ramps. Although the guidebooks often show the wall
with nobody on it, there were indeed hordes of tourists, most of them
It was awesome in the
original meaning of the word! I told
Rosie to go on ahead, and she got higher and farther than anyone else in our
group. Still, I managed to get to a respectable
height! The views were great!
here to see pictures of the Great Wall
the Great Wall, we had lunch at a jade factory, where we also had time to
S-H-O-P!!! We were then bused to the Sacred Way of the
Ming Tombs. The valley is the burial
place of the Ming Dynasty Emperors. The
tombs remain sealed, but the walkway leading to them is quite elegant. After getting cleaned up at the hotel (the
wonderful Westin!) we went to dinner at a Chinese (what else?) restaurant in a
here to see pictures of the Ming Tombs area and our restaurant
Tiananmen Square and Forbidden
These two places
were on our itinerary for the morning. Tiananmen Square is the world’s largest public square
(100 acres) and the site of more than one key event in Chinese history, the
most famous of which may be the student uprising in 1989. The northern side of the square is the
southern gate to the Forbidden City. Because we were there just before the
Olympics, the square was decorated for the occasion – great for photo nuts! (The picture at the beginning of this page is
from Tiananmen Square.)
The Forbidden City
is now called the Palace
Museum, but from the
middle of the 14th century through the beginning of the 20th
century, it housed the Chinese royal family and its household as well as most
of the central government offices. If you
have ever watched the movie The Last
Emperor, you have seen much of the Forbidden City. There are 980 buildings still standing, and
it covers 720,000 square meters. Our
tour of this facility was an eye-opening glimpse into the lives of those who
lived and worked here.
Click here to see
pictures of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City
and evening’s entertainment
great lunch, we visited the Summer
Palace, which was once (surprise!)
the summer home for the imperial family and royal court. Its construction was begun in the mid-18th
century, and it was improved in later years.
It was ransacked a couple of times, the last during the Boxer Rebellion
of 1900 by westerners, but it survived and was rebuilt two years later. One of its main features is Kunming Lake,
2.2 square kilometers. We spent our time
here by riding the Dragon Boat across the lake and wandering among the structures
on that side. What a wonderful place to
For dinner, we
had a superb Peking duck meal, and then we attended the Chinese Opera. Although billed as “opera” it is really a mix
of dance, acrobatics, drama, and “singing” which was, frankly, pretty foreign
to our ears. An interesting way to end
our wonderful trip!
here to see pictures of the Summer Palace and our evening’s entertainment
trip – ding ding hao!