Friday, 12 April 2013

From China (2)

The next few items are fairly bare-bones statements of our activities. I'm conscious that I haven't included very much in the way of commentary. I do have a number of observations that I certainly intend to record at some point in time, along with some images, but just when this will occur remains to be seen. At present, I'm concentrating on recording our activites while I can rememnber them!   The issue is further complicated bby the fact that at the time of posting we're in a relatively remote part of the river, and the speed of the internet isn't the best!

Monday 8 April -
The national guide for our tour group had contacted us and told us that our tour started off with a lunch. Well, it wasn't in the itinerary, but who are we to knock back a meal that didn't involve putting our hands in our pockets? Nothing special, but no complaints. This interrupted the day somewhat, so we filled in the morning by exploring in a bit more detail the area around the hotel, including a local shopping plaza and spending some quality time in the very nice little park nearby. Like all the parks we saw in Shanghai, this one was really well maintained and very well used, especially by parents (and sometimes grandparents) with small children, older people doing their exercises and people of all age giving their dogs and birds an outing. I say "outing" rather than "walk" in the context of dogs, because the smaller dogs are often carried – and seemingly quite contNent with the situation. The poor birds seem to be kept in small cages, which are hung on trees around the park and allowed to chirp noisily. Someone told me that for much of the rest of the time they're kept covered, but I can't say whether or not this is so.
After lunch we took our first (and only) Metro trip down to people's Square and checked out No 1 Department Store and the other shops in the Nanjing Dong Lu mall – two activities that obviously had to be done! This was followed by the tour briefing and we were then bussed a short distance for another tour group meal.
Tuesday 9 April Shanghai
This was the full-on day tour of Shanghai, part of the tour package. It started with time at the Shanghai Museum (most impressive, deserving of a blog post in its own right.....whenever), more time on the Bund including checking out the interior of the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank building, lunch at a floating restaurant (interesting concept, but atmosphere inside was much the same as the standard restaurants catering for tour groups!), an opportunity to take in the observation deck on the Jinmao Toweer, a return trip on the Maglev train (well, since it's there, you just gotta do it), a visit to the Yu Gardens (which we missed out on when we were previously in the area, as by the time we got to them, they'd closed), a twilight cruise on the river (very worthwhile), another somewhat ordinary group meal, and an evening walk around the Xintiandi area (in the French Concession), marked by its reconstruted 1920s-style "skikumen"architecrure – and nowdays numerous upmarket restuartants and shops! A very full day – which we subsequently learned was to be characteristic of this tour.

Wednesday 10 April – Shanghai to Yi Chang and then to Victoria Jenna
The trip from the hotel to the airport for the domestic flight from Shanghai to Yi Chang diverted for a visit to the "Silk Factory" (yes, lots of things for sale, but bearable). The flight to Yi Chang had a flight time of 2 hours, so it's quite a distance from Shanghai. nto This was followed by a bus transfer into town, a meal, and then another bus trip (this time, in a bus operated by the cruise company) to the cruise terminal just upstream of the Three Gorges Dam. It's nearly and hour and a half from Yi Chan to the Three Gorges area, mostly along a dual carriageway road in terrific condition with very little traffic. At one point the road travels through several long tunnels which by my rough calculations must have a total length of nearly 10 kms. The cost of the massive road and bridge infrastructure that has seenmingly been consstructed in conjuction with the dam must be incredible. It was after 8 pm before we were settled on board the Victoria Jenna, to be our "home" for the next 4 nights.

Thursday 11 April – Three Gorges area
The cruise boat didn't actually go anywhere today! However, two excursions were provided. We spent the morning checking out the Three Gorges Dam itself: enormous wall, massive power generation facilities (about 23000 MW – aboput twice the total generating capacity in the whole of Victoria, if my memory serves me correctly), a dual carriageway lock system (5 locks in each direction), do that shipping can get around the dam and opf course a 600 km long lake behind the wall.
We took the optional excursion in the afternoon to visit the "Three Gorges Tribe Scenic Spot". This is an excellent, if somewhat condescending, folk custom museum of the Tujia ethnic minortiy. It really is quite beautifully presented, and well worth vsiting from an aesthetic perspective. Neverthess, I suspect that it idealises the living conditions and customs of these people – a point that is possibly not well appreciated by those of Han ancestry!

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