A Travellerspoint blog

Hot Yoga meets Stairway to Heaven

Shibaozhai Temple

overcast 38 °C

So we exited the boat early this morning to climb to the top of the Shibaozhai Temple, or Temple of Heaven. It is truly impossible to explain the heat and the humidity we encountered today. The ship docked, we climbed a number of stairs and were already soaking wet. Not just sweaty but SOAKING wet. Everyone has sweat dripping off of them, big, small, fit, young and old. It doesn't matter if you have a hat or an umbrella you are HOT! They call this sticky rice weather here!

So before we head to the temple we must walk through the city markets. I marvel at their determination to sell you something and they are all selling the same stuff, shirts, ties, silk pajamas, wine covers and, of course, fans! As you can imagine the fans are quite popular. We get to wander through the town, waving and calling Ni Hao to the children who are adorable.

Over a "drunken" swinging bridge and we start our climb to heaven. The are 9 levels all with 11 stairs. 99 stairs to the top of the pagoda and to the temple. The climb isn't to difficult in spite of the heat. I do wish I had brought an extra bottle of water! The views are spectacular and we learn a number of things along the way. I still marvel that these small people make temples with such large stairs.
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Back through town to practice our bartering skills, we learn who is and who isn't the best at bartering. Not want to spend our money all at one place we show great restraint for what is to come.

The time on the ship is coming to an end. The part I have loved the most is the open seating concept. We have had some excellent, interesting, funny and stimulating conversations with people from the U.S, Britain, Wales, and Scotland. For example tonight we sat with a couple from Stoke on Trent in England. She is a wedding seamstress that works on wedding dresses for gypsy weddings. Their friends live about an hour away. He is a test driver for Aston Martin cars, yes the James Bond 007 car. He brings these $4000,000.00 cars home for the weekend! The staff is in no hurry to have you leave so the conversations can carry on long after dessert and the wine keeps flowing. Last night we were treated to a crew entertainment show which is always amusing and entertaining.

Well of to pack our bags. Just like big cruises our bag has to be outside our cabin by 11 PM tonight. We are off the ship at 7 AM. Off to see the pandas in Chongqing.

Posted by jonaway 09:58 Archived in China Comments (0)

Gorgeous Gorges

Well, we are almost halfway through our trip, a truly eye opening experience so far, with so much more to see. We entered the scenic part of the river today. This was a welcome transition from the first couple of days, where we saw mostly industrial cities with smog and haze. Not very scenic. However the scenery has changed drastically. We passed through the first dam, Guangzhou, which was practice for the Three Gorges Dam. The dam was small compared to what we were going to see later. We did get to see our ship lifted in the lock with the big doors opening before us allowing us to continue the journey. In the late afternoon we pulled into port and were off on our Three Gorges Dam tour. Although not part of the official stops we had to walk through the market, later coined "Maybe later" because that is what all the shop keepers say. Maybe later lady! They get an " A " for effort.

Our first stop was a security check shop. God forbid one would take out the dam. Now that would be a catastrophe! The security check wasn't anywhere near our airport security. Our first stop gave us a chance to see the five locks we would be travelling through that night. We also saw a large model of the project. From one side of the dam to the other there is 2.8 kilometers of cement and turbines and water. I marveled at the fact that it is 8 times larger than the Aswan Dam in Egypt.
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Next we stopped at a spot overlooking the dam. Here we met with several times more Chinese visitors than Caucasians. And did I mention that it was hot, hot, hot! Holy cow, even the locals had sweat pouring off of them.

Many of the Chinese tourist have never seen "Big Noses"', the local terminology for foreigners. So I had my first encounter with a young girl who wanted her picture taken with me. This is a very common occurrence and one we have been told will happen very frequently throughout our trip.

In crowded situations it is easy to try and photo bomb someone else's picture. I can't wait for Tienanmen Square!. Unlike the gypsies in Europe we have nothing to fear from these encounters. It is good we have been practicing our Chinese.

Ni Hao is hello, xiexie thank you, bong is very good, bong bong is excellent and mamahouhou is very bad. So far the trip is bong, bong. Only a few in our group are having stomach issues and are feeling a bit mamahouhou.

The part I like the best about the dining room is that you come in and sit down at a table, wherever you want so every night is a new dining experience. There is a large number of Americans and lots of Brits, Welsh and Scotsmen. Dinner conversations are lively, some more than others. Wine flows freely thanks to our purchase of the bar package offered the first day. I think the per drink price has come quite a bit since the first day.

So back to the original story, Gorgeous Gorges. Today we headed off in two smaller boats to visit the Lesser Three Gorges. Just like the fjords of Norway and Milford Sound in New Zealand these gorges provide spectacular scenery. While trying to avoid the sun (41 degrees Celsius today) we snapped pictures of the cliffs, tried to find the wild monkeys and found the spot where the Ba people of 2500 years ago interred their dead in hanging coffins.
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Our cruise director wound up the day with an interesting talk on "China Today", part history lesson, part personal commentary on where China will be in the future. Very insightful and informative.
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Posted by jonaway 09:56 Archived in China Comments (0)

Too busy to write!

Day 2/3/4

Well, time for some catch-up. We have been on our river vessel, partly boat and partly ship for two nights now. Everyone has settled in nicely to the routines of eating, drinking and relaxing. The cabins are nicely appointed, everything you need, lots of water and a comfy bed.
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The biggest plus of a ship with only 250 people is that you get to know the staff very quickly. Take Lois, for example, as she is the epitome of a sales person. House beer and wine are free and unlimited. However, Lois is quick to point put that the beverage package is the best deal. For 150.00 you can drink unlimited amounts of outstanding world wines, mixed drinks or whatever else your heart desires. Of course Lois sells us. I, in turn, sell most everyone else sitting at our table on the idea. Now to reduce the overall drink cost will be the challenge. My sales class students know that you need to sell the 'WIIFM" or what's in it for me. My benefit, you might ask, is not having to drink inexpensive Chardonnay for 6 days!!!!!!
Here is a shot of Marty and our waitress, Bella, who is also part of the crew entertainment show.
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This type of cruise is different in many different ways. Three meals a day, served buffet or served plate for breakfast and lunch. Last night's dinner was a family style Chinese meal, the night before was your choice of beef, pork, chicken, fish and vegetarian. There is one single reason I could stay on this ship for a long time and that is the house made Greek yoghurt. It is made in individual jars and comes in flavours of green tea, coffee, mango, blueberry, etc. So far all that I have tried is OUTSTANDING. I am looking forward to breakfast already.
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They also have some unique shopping opportunities. Yes, there is a tailor on board. Yesterday morning I was measured for a beautiful silk jacket, red and black or course, and it was ready late in the afternoon. You can sit for a tea ceremony, watch artisans paint bottles from the inside and buy a strand of pearls! No tacky tourist gifts here.

Activities are limited on the ship. This is not a trip for those who need to be entertained. There are one or two talks a day about what we are going to see. This morning's talk taught us about the Three Gorges Dam project that we will be visiting this afternoon. This dam is 8 times the size of the Aswan Dam which I have seen. I can't quite imagine the magnitude of this project.

The scenery up until this afternoon has been a bit ho-hum. However at lunch today we entered the first lock and was lifted up to a whole new world. The color of the Yangtze changed to a deep green color from the brown we had previously seen. We have already passed some beautiful pagodas and have now entered Xi Gorge. The scenery has changed to deep forests, white cranes and cicadas chirping in the air.
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Have I mentioned how hot it is? I think the forecast is for 38 degrees. Having spent about 90 minutes outside coming through the gorge I have caved and retreated to the air conditioned, National Geographic windows and a Tsingtao beer, maybe two. It isn't exactly your high test, Peroni type beer. It is more like a traditional American lite beer. Think Coors Lite......and is it hot, The always soaking wet, clammy, muggy wet when you combine hot weather with high humidity. This is something we Calgarians know little about. Even the breeze of the boat provides little relief. I will remember this day when it is freezing cold in Calgary in January.

Posted by jonaway 09:53 Archived in China Comments (0)

China - First Impressions

33 °C

Day 1

Well, our adventure to China has begun and for the most part our first impressions have been very positive. The drive from the airport had us wide eyed and marvelling at the modern highways (relatively free of traffic jams) and large vehicles (everything from Buick Lacrosse to Audis and Mercedes Benz).

This does not seem like a Communist country except for the blocking of Facebook, Twitter, Google and anything else that might link to the outside world. Let the Facebook detox begin. It is amazing of the extra time you have without Facebook and Twitter.

We have no complaints with the hotel, Ritz Carlton Portman. The hotel prides itself on outstanding service and they deliver. We accidentally put the electronic Do Not Disturb sign on our door this morning so the room hasn't been made up. A quick call to housekeeping had them scrambling to make up our room. And they were the ones apologizing!

After a gigantic breakfast with more varieties of food than anyone can ask for we found our tribe for the next 2 weeks. Viking River Cruises have sold the entire ship to about 250 people. We are divided into 8 groups of 30 passengers who will be our travelling group for the entire trip. We have a great group of mostly Americans and mostly from the east coast, Rhode Island and New Jersey. There is one other one other Canadian couple from Vancouver. Interestingly most of our tribe are teachers......seems we are the only ones crazy enough to travel during the height of the hot season.

Today was spent sightseeing in Shanghai our tour guide, Iowa. Yes, just like the state. His Chinese name is Aihua and Iowa is the closest to his Chinese name. It is always interesting to see how the Chinese select an English name. His Chinese name translates to "love China". He makes a good point that a tour guide who does not love their own country cannot be a very good tour guide.
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Our first stop was Old Shanghai. We learned of how everything symbolizes something. I hope I get them right - I would hate to mess up my Feng Shui. Here are just a few; tortoises for long life, cranes for prosperity, lotus flower for clarity and many more we can't recall. Maybe I should get a lotus flower for some more clarity! We toured the Yu Gardens and then were released into the market area. It is total craziness and you want to go into the stores, otherwise you are hounded by the street salespeople. Add to that we have these wonderful Viking name tags making you an easier mark because they can call you by name. I heard this person talking to Marty on the street with, "Hey Marty, wanna buy a watch?" I wondered how the guy know his name already!
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Our afternoon was spent on the Bund (river walk), seeing silk embroidery art, silk carpet making and indulging in a Mongolian barbeque lunch and a stop at the Shanghai Museum to see the ancient calligraphy, furniture and ceramics. Our night was capped off with a 90 minute Peking Acrobat show. We are still a bit jet lagged but managed to see most of the show. Very interesting And very similar to what I remember seeing in Calgary when I was very young.
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There is so much more to write about. But first back to the delicious breakfast and our flight to Wuhan and our Yangtze River Cruise.

Posted by jonaway 09:50 Archived in China Comments (0)

Almost ready to go!

Well, once again we are off for our summer adventure. This year we are headed to China, one of our bucket list countries. Who doesn't want to see the Great Wall. I know my nephew, Spencer, is crazy excited for us to leave on our trip!

We will be travelling in a different way, for us, on a Viking River Cruise tour. Travelling with a group is not usually the way we roll so we are excited to see how that goes. Highlights will include Shanghai including the Chinese Acrobats, a 6 day Viking River Cruise on the Yangtze River, a stop to seen the Terra Cotta Warriors of Xian and then off to Beijing for the trek to the Great Wall.

We are not sure how reliable the Internet will be or if we will have access to this blog site. Hopefully we will be able to post. If not I will write about our adventure and post when we get back. Fingers crossed.

Posted by jonaway 10:31 Comments (0)

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