China, Summer 2004 

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Kini and Kimi decided to try to look like the traditional Chinese dragons they saw so many of on the trip. Bob & Amy agreed that they looked cute, but they still looked like Hawaiian lizards with points and whiskers rather than dragons from any country. Since we didn't find any lizard sized silk clothes for them, they enjoyed dressing up in the digital world.

K&K wanted to remind everyone that this webpage covers not only two weeks of travel, but volumes of stories and pictures. We tried to organize it into chapters based on the cities we visited. Consider reading these stories in small bits - as chapters, rather then in a one time sit down bundle. Our story is divided into the following chapters / cities:

Headed to China Yangtze River
Beijing Wuhan
Xi'an Shanghi
Chongquing Headed Home

We'd like to take a moment to thank Aero-Marine Tours, all our guides, and the CITS (China International Travel Service). The guides were knowledgeable and comprehensive. In addition, and most importantly, they were flexible. When our schedule got unexpectedly changed in China, faxes were sent, copies handed to us, & the guides handled it with ease and always asked for our input.


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Headed to China 

On Saturday, June 26th, 2004,  Melissa, Amy's mother, drove Kini, Kimi, Bob, & Amy to the Roanoke, Virginia airport. We were headed to Detroit, Michigan - then to Tokyo, Japan to catch the flight to Beijing, China.

The adventure started earlier than we had planned. After boarding our 747 plane in Detroit, we were told that there was a mechanical problem - the break lines were showing "no go" lights. After spending 5 hours on the plane at the gate (with a 20 minute "you can get off the plane" break) the airplane was ready to roll-back.

Our planed flight was 12 hours to Tokyo - with the 5 hours spent on the tarmac, our total on board airplane time was 17 hours - longer than our flight to Australia.

When we finally arrived in Tokyo, no one was able to catch a connecting flight. Many of the passengers (probably 200 people) had to go through customs, get a bus to a hotel, spend the night at the airline's expense, take a bus back to the airport in the morning, and find the correct flight to arrive at their destinations. We had a bit of trouble operating the phones, but we finally let our CITS contact know what happened.

The adventure begins!

Bob found a robe in the Tokyo's hotel closet - K&K thought he was very cute - Amy did too.  :)

Then we saw the epitome of high tech, "western" style, Japanese toilets. This puppy came with knobs & dials, and directions laminated to the wall. The scariest dial was the power/water flow control. There were cute little pictures of where the water would squirt from and where it would hit depending on your settings (and sitting). There are more things in heaven, earth, and the Asian cultures, then have ever been dreamt by the western culture. Trust us on this one. 

When we arrived in China, we stayed in hotels that had western style potties (and we thank our tour company - deeply - for that). They were not as technologically advanced as this one in Japan, but they were "familiar". If you would like to take a small peek at the typical  potty the Chinese citizens know and use, click on this link - it will take you down this page to a rest stop we visited while on the road. Please use the link located there to return to this section and continue reading our story as it unfolds.


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In the morning we caught the first plane to Beijing. Katy & our driver were at the airport (again) waiting for us when we arrived. She held a sign with our names & we were thrilled to see her. Since we were half a day late she rearranged our itinerary to make every minute count. 

In the US, we are proud to be southerners, cowboys, or whatever represents our individuality even when we are all also proud to be Americans. In China, the  same holds true. Katy talked about "my city." She wasn't just a city girl - she was from Beijing. The other guides felt the same.


We walked through Tiananmen Square, said to be the largest public park in the world.

Katy said that the people of China have a saying about the square. They say that 1 million Chinese could fit inside the square, while only 1/2 a million people from any other country could fit.

Amy understood first. The Chinese people tend to stand much closer together - they have a smaller "personal space."

The square above, was a great example of how the Chinese come together to exercise. The old, young, & younger came out at all times of day to get physical - dance, sing, exercise, fly kites. Everywhere in China we saw parks with exercise bars, open spaces, & gym equipment that the people used everyday - and they were located on every major and minor street.


Tiananmen Gate leads to The Forbidden City, also called The Palace Museum.  For more than 500 years, this area housed 24 emperors and their imperial families during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It is huge - over 861,112 square yards or about 178 acres!

Many roof tops of the temples & gateways have dragons on each side with a carved sword through their head. In China, dragons spit water not fire. So, to protect the wooden structures, the Chinese carved the dragons holding them symbolically on the roof with the carved swords.


Many of the buildings in ancient China also had stone, porcelain, or wooden figures on their roof corners. The number of figures indicated how important the building was.

The animals are usually mythical beasts of all sorts who looked out for evil spirits. The last, biggest one, is usually an immortal animal - dragon like with deer antlers - who can eat or scare away the evil spirits.


Our first night in Beijing took us to a famous restaurant for an authentic Peking Duck Dinner. We could watch the duck being slow-roasted in a fire pit through the kitchen windows. The chef then brought the duck to the table (head, feet, and all) and proceeded to carve it in front of us. The skin went on one plate and the meat on another. Amy was not impressed - Bob loved it!


  The Great Wall covers more than 4,163 miles and stretches across a major portion of China from east to west. In the beginning, some 2,000 years ago, the wall was actually a series of separate walls built by different states in different areas of China. Emperor Qin Shihuang had all the walls joined to defend China from the Hun invasion. It is ironic that today the wall brings people to China rather than keeping them out.

In the background of this picture are two watch towers joined by the wall at the top center. Across China some sections of the wall are crumbling while others are solid and spectacular.


At the top of the stairs and to the right is Bob hiking up a section of the wall. The stairs aren't the only steep places - the "smooth" inclines can be at a 35 degree grade! Amy felt like Batman walking up the side of a building!

The day we were there it is was raining which made the stones very slippery.


  Kini and Kimi decided to climb on the Great Wall's wall. This picture shows how steep of an angle the the wall is. There were no stairs on this part, it was just a smooth incline. Off in the distance is some more of the wall snaking up the side of the mountain.

The watch towers were manned by the emperor's guards year around. Since the towers were so far apart and so remote, many soldiers died from the cold winters or lack of food. 


The Ming Tombs cover about 15 miles and have 13 emperors buried in the area. The first tomb was started in 1409. On the way into the tombs, we walked down The Sacred Way where an emperors' death precession took place as he was carried to his tomb.

The Sacred Way is an avenue of 24 animals and 12 people carved out of stone in about the 15th century. The statues are like twins guarding each side of the walk. Also, each animal is first seen sitting and then standing. This is so that they can take turns resting and guarding the emperor's tombs in the day and night.


Kini and Kimi decided that they wanted to sit on the head of the Chinese unicorn statue.

At the far end of the path there was a slight curve to the right. The ancients believed that evil spirits could only travel in straight lines so many of the walkways and bridges would have a built in curve or corner.

Also, evil spirits could not bend their legs, so most doorways had small ledges you had to step over.

The weeping willows that lined the Sacred Way were called Lio or "stay here." They were a perfect setting on this last great walk for the ancient emperors.


The Temple of Heaven is another huge palace area which was dedicated to offering sacrifices to Heaven. It was built in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty. The picture is of the Hall of Good Harvest. Inside are 28 huge posts, arranged in concentric circles and representing the seasons, months, and hours in the day. 

This temple is circular representing heaven while the wall of the temple area is mostly square representing earth.

At times we would see a round doorway and a few feet later a square one. The Chinese believe in Feng Shui - the art and, for the Chinese, the science of arranging everything from architecture to individual items in a harmonious way and thereby creating health, wealth, and peace of mind. If one looks through the round door to the square one, they are reminded of the order & importance of heaven and earth.


After dinner we were delivered to the Peking Opera - an experience that can't be missed. As we walked in we could see the actors painting their faces in traditional mask designs. K&K were watching a man become a frog. Our server served tea from a very long spouted tea pot (notice the distance from the teapot on the left to the teacup on the right)!


The Opera was delightful, but unlike anything westerners would call an opera. The music is traditionally Chinese and the singers have the most amazing high pitched voices.

This opera told a story of a man who falls in love with an immortal woman. Their love is so strong that she and he fight the rest of the immortals to be able to continue their love in life.

It wasn't just the dancing, it wasn't just the singing, nor the costumes, nor the acrobatics and precision movements that made the show so amazing. It was the total experience that was unforgettable. We were transported back to a time when ancient emperors sat where we sat and were delighted by the show.


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The next morning we said goodbye to Katy at the airport and flew to Xi'an (pronounced she-on) where we were met  by Vincent, our guide,  and Mr. Zhang, our driver.

Being a passenger in a car in China was impressive - being a driver? Unthinkable. Cars,  trucks, bicycles, motorcycles, & pedestrians crowded the streets. Lights didn't mean much (to us at least), but major intersections would have a display counting down the seconds till the light changed.

Other drivers (not ours!) would actually slowly bump people out of the way! We think we could have actually scratched any other driver's nose for him from the back seat of our car! Amazingly, most of the cars had no dents!

We actually walked across two streets in China - holding on to our guide!


We asked Vincent what time it was locally. His answer was very simple, "It is Beijing time. All of China is on Beijing time. There are no changes." China is about as big as the U.S. and it has one time zone - Beijing time! Well ... that made traveling easier.

Our first stop was at the Small Wild Goose Pagoda. The temple dates to 684 AD, is 148 feet high, and has the most amazing history...

In 1487, the pagoda was split in half by a major earthquake from the top to the bottom with about a foot separating the top section.

Ancient records also show that in 1520 another strong earthquake hit, miraculously putting the two halves back together into one solid structure. Minor repairs were done to the "seam" but the top two stories were lost to the quakes. The people believe that the temple was healed by the gods and that its good fortune will infuse worshipers. 


In the pavilion area is a brass bell that is almost 15 feet tall, 10 tons in weight, and has 16 lucky words engraved on it in  the back. It was made in 1192 and is said to send your thoughts and prayers to family members when it is rung.

Bob decided to give it a try for a few Yuan (the Chinese currency). He had to pull a full sized log back, which was used as the hammer for the bell, and let it go - the sound was deep and resonant. We all believed that our loved ones could hear that bell - in heaven or on earth!


  While in Xa'in we found a small Buddhist Temple where we could buy and burn incense for our friends and family who have joined the gods and those that are still with us. We said a special prayer for Lee, Bob's father, who passed away earlier this year.

We burned incense at a few of the temples which surprised each of our guides. They wanted to know if we were Buddhist in faith. We explained, to the best of our ability, that it is always wise to honor the gods and temples of any land. And that friends and family, past and present, are never far from our thoughts and hearts.


In the evening we were taken to the Tang Dynasty Dinner Theater. It, again, was one of the most memorable shows we have ever encountered. The dinner was excellent, and the show ... unbelievable! The traditional instruments, singing, and performances were beyond anything we had seen in the western worlds.

The multiple performances showcased ancient musical instruments no longer commonly used & traditional costumed dances. We saw a dance with Chinese Remie cloth invented 1,500 years ago, masked dancers who banish ghosts, and celebratory dances honoring spring and the emperors. It was wonderful!


The next morning Vincent picked us up and took us to the site of the Terracotta Warriors. They date back to over 2,000 years ago to Emperor Qin Shi Huang's rule (about 246 BC).

This museum is larger and more impressive than anything we imagined. It encompasses over 19,000 square yards or about 4 acres & is divided into 4 separate pits. Pits 1, 2, & 3 have a total of about 8,000 terracotta figures standing 5 feet 11 inches high. Pit 4 was dug to house more warriors, but the emperor died before being able to fill it with his guardians.

Each of the pits are partially excavated & the buildings were built right over the top of the find. The Chinese people are working slowly to both preserve the area and waiting for the technology of excavation and preservation to catch up with the finds and tombs in this area & across the country.


We were excited to go inside pit 1, but we had to take the mandatory entrance photo first.

Pit 1 is the one most people are familiar with in terms of the photos. It contains 6,000 life-size warriors and horses that are lined up in battle positions. All the pictures below were taken in pit 1.

Pit 2 has 1,400 warriors and 90 wooden chariots. Pit 3 has 68 figures which make up the command post for the entire army.


Bob and K&K are looking down the rows of warriors. Between the rows are large earthen walls that supported a roof of wood and reeds. The entire floor of each pit is paved with black bricks. In the background are a series of horizontal walls that divide the areas that are still being excavated. As you walk around the building, you can see warriors and horses still partially buried.

Bob saw a wall still being excavated that had the rear end of a horse sticking out of it. With humor he said, "I wonder how fast that horse was going when he hit the wall." We tried to explain that comment to Vincent. Humm...

Most of the figures were broken and or crushed after the long years of burial and a fire that burned away the roof causing a cave in. Experts have spent years repairing the statues and returning them to their original positions.


Kini & Kimi are looking at one of the rows of horses that used to be pulling a wooden chariot. As the cart disintegrated it fell to the side where an imprint of one wheel can still be seen. Just behind the gap that was left stands the charioteer, who, at one time, rode in the chariot with his two side guards that walked beside him.


Originally the warriors were painted with bright and life-like colors and armed with swords, bows, & lances. Although the paint and wood is now gone, the metal survived. In fact, a found sword was covered with an extremely thin coating of chromium to protect it against corrosion while buried. This technology was "re-invented" 2,200 years later in western countries in the 1920s & 1930s. 


The terracotta warriors were discovered in March 1974 when 4 peasant farmers started to dig a well and found what they thought was some old broken pottery. They were mystified by the find and eventually took it to the government to find out what it was. The discovery stunned the world. Amy & Bob met one of the farmers and had him sign a book about the site.

Each warrior is individual in facial features and clothing. The hair styles, shoes, and armor indicate the rank of the warriors. After being shaped and molded each figure had to be fired to harden the clay and then individually painted and placed.

There is no way to describe how incredible this site is. It has to be experienced to truly comprehend it.


The Great Mosque is one of the oldest Islamic mosques in China. The red sign (top & right) points to the mosque through a large open air market that has grown up around it.

The mosque was built around 742 during the Tang Dynasty. Travel and trade brought the Muslims to China. In the middle of the mosque is the "Introspection Tower" or Shengxin (below on left). It was used to call the people to prayers. The last picture shows us in the courtyard.


Before dinner we spent some time walking the Xi'an City Wall. We decided that all of China was constantly under construction. The ancient, older, and new exist side by side.


When there are this many photos of one dinner, you know it not only was delicious but an experience in and of itself. We were taken to a restaurant famous for its Chinese Dumplings. Chinese dumplings are made of flat, round, noodle-like wraps that are crafted by the chefs to look like the type of filling they contain and then steamed or boiled. Interestingly, we never saw soy sauce on the trip.

The first picture below is of our table ornament - a big carrot carved into a phoenix. You aren't supposed to eat the table ornaments, but we suspect that Bob ate one anyway - they can be very hard to tell from the real food. Dumplings are steamed in the bamboo containers below - this one had little crabs and some vegetable shapes. Dumplings in various shapes were brought out for at least a half an hour. The last picture shows Kini looking at a Chinese cabbage, duck, chicken, and frog (we don't think it was frog meat, but it could have been as frog meat is pretty popular).


The last dish was a big surprise - our guide didn't warn us about this one. The waitress brought out this big caldron of soup that looked like it was uncooked - & indeed, it was. We sat there and looked at it wondering what to do.

A bit later, the server came out with some tiny little dumplings that were uncooked & dumped them in the pot. Then she struck a match and tossed it in the bottom, & promptly left.

That sucker started to burn - spitting flames out of both sides! K&K ran - Bob and Amy inched their chairs back watching the fire with big round eyes!

When the fire went out the waitress came back & ladled out some soup for each of us. She told us that the number of dumplings in our bowl would tell us about our happiness, long life, etc. It was awesome!


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In the morning we said goodbye to Vincent and hello to Henry in Chongquing. We had about half a day in this city and then we would be put on the ship to cruise the Yangtze River. Our guide first took us to The Zoo to see the giant pandas, tigers, and monkeys.

During our trip we were always delighted and amused to see the signs that were translated into English for foreigners. Below is a portion of a wall that told about pandas in China - read it carefully.

"Its moving slowly and dully often makes people laugh into t-
ears. Panda mainly eats bamboos, also some fruits, crops and meats,
appetite for sweats like sugarcane."

For the most part, we were the best attraction at the zoo. Most of the people had seen pandas, but few, evidentially, had seen Americans.

We then went to the highest point in Chongquing called Pipashan or Loquat Hill. At one time, this was the residence of Chiang Kai-Shek. On the wall is a photo of Chaing Kai-Shek with Mao Tse Tung standing in Shek's doorway. We took a photo in the same doorway that these two influential leaders stood. 


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Yangtze River

The Yangtze River is to China what the Nile is to Egypt. It is their life line, trade route, and supplier of over 70% of China's aquatic vegetables. It crosses a majority of China east to west, and empties into the China Sea at Shanghi. As the Yangtze crosses 10 of China's providences, it changes names, but for simplicity's sake we will refer to the whole river as the Yangtze.

Before we left home, we got an email that said that we were on a different ship than originally scheduled and would have to leave the ship one day early and drive to Wuhan - our final destination. No problem. Then while in China, we were told that our ship had changed another time - again no problem. Our guides and tour company had taken very good care of us and we were positive that they had it under control. Indeed, they did - it was a great adventure thanks to them.


Although this photo was taken later in our trip, it is the only one we have of the ship itself. Her name was the
MV Sunshine China
and she & her staff were delightful!

We had an international group of English speaking people, a group of Germans, and a Japanese contingent of passengers. In addition, we found out later that the Minister of Transportation of China was aboard with his aides.


Thomas was our guide while on board. He was delightful! His sense of humor was marvelous & he took good care of all of us. As with all our guides, at times we had trouble understanding his pronunciation of English. (We might add that the Chinese also had trouble with all of our attempts at their language and had a lot of questions about our accents.) At times the misunderstandings, our and theirs, would leave everyone in tears of laughter.


Before we get too far into the stories of the cruise, we would like to introduce you to our English speaking contingent of new friends. Thomas, our fearless leader, is pictured above. Everyone had fun when they were with him. Kini and Kimi promised him that we would mention him on this webpage along with the fact that he is single. Ladies, he is motivated, cute, fun loving, and did we mention that he is single?

Joan & John, from the British Isles, were absolutely fabulous! She met him at a party where he was dressed up in a grass shirt and she went up and tweaked his nipples. Needless to say, not only do they have fun, but everyone around them couldn't help enjoying themselves. They became our dear friends & partners in - oh my - The Talent Show.... read on for the full story.

Tony & Linda, and their children Kelli & Keith are from Colorado, but now live in Oman. If they wrote a book about how to be lovingly married and raise fabulous children, it would be a best seller. Kini & Kimi were enchanted and even asked if they might be able to visit them to see what home life and school would be like in their country. Stay tuned....
Kim (in the blue shirt) & his dad were so much fun! Jesper & Christina were awesome too! They were all from Denmark and their English was fabulous! Kim gave us his webpage address - of course, the page was NOT in English! But we did find his team's shirt page - this is cool. Kim and his buddies wear team shirts, take photos in the greatest places and post them on their web site.



On to the cruise itself...
The first early morning took us out of Chongquing & through some small but awesome gorges, until we disembarked for our first land expedition.


Our first view of
The Ghost City of Fengdu

was of a new hotel being built in the shape of a ghostly Buddha.

Most of us decided to ride the tram (a modified ski lift chair) to the top, rather than walk up the steep steps.


The Ghost City was built in the Tang Dynasty about 618 AD. It is believed that when people die their spirits meet here and are judged. Those have who have disobeyed Chinese morals will spend eternity in horrible punishments. Those that are deemed worthy are rewarded.


The picture above is all about the Wishing Bridge. If you walk over the bridge with your husband or wife in exactly 9 steps, you will be reincarnated together. In other areas you have to decide whether you want health or wealth and whether you want to come back as a male or female. To the right is a worker applying gold leafing - he is adding a thin layer of real gold to individual sections of carving that are being restored.



On the left is one of the more beautiful pagodas. Above are the three Buddhas that oversee the first gate of the dead. And yes, we burned incense here too.


Just as in the the USA, there are lucky and unlucky numbers. In America 13 is unlucky, 7 is lucky. In China, 4 is unlucky - the Chinese word for 4 sounds like the same word for death, or to die. We actually stayed in a hotel that did not have a 4th floor button on the elevator. 8 & 6 are lucky because they are pronounced similar to "make more money."



The first night we were treated to a fashion show by the staff after dinner. We decided to watch from the top viewing level (Bob & K&K are in the top right). The show was great - the staff turned out dressed beautifully and strutting. Early the next morning we started through some spectacular gorges.


The Yangtze provides its people with trading, work, and transportation, even to school. The first picture above shows the spectacular gorges with a "high speed taxi" cruising up river. The next picture shows that same craft,  a hydrofoil, passing our ship. Finally, and for most of the population, there is the regular, slow taxi. When the kids miss school, they can literally say, "I missed the boat." 

Finally, & to the right, is a small boat with the traditional sails. The temple on the right had a monk in it beating the drums as a call to prayers.


The Yangtze river itself is changing - and it is changing the lives of billions of people. When the construction of the dam started in 1997 the government knew that a large portion of the river would rise to significant levels. They also knew that this would mean 1.1 million people would have to be relocated. The people were required to tear down their buildings to make sure that no debris would be left in the river's course. Many of the materials were reused in newer housing projects.

This is an example of one city of tens of thousands of people preparing for their move & the final river level.

The moving of the people was filled with sadness and joy. Families with generational histories on their farm land were going to face moving to new crop lands or city living. Ancestral sites would be submerged. Monuments and ancient sites would have to be protected, moved, or lost.

However, new lives and life-styles were born. Farmers who would never had the opportunity of further education could now dream of life in the city for themselves and their children. The tourist trade is flourishing - what river folk did to survive, they now do for paying tourists. And, the all present flow of electricity by a cleaner source than burning soft coal, promises cleaner air for all and a more energy efficient access for many. 

In the cities, one must be cremated. The ashes or set in building sized "tombs" or scattered. In the country, cremation was still advised, but the tombs were more spread out - grave yard style. It is important to note that the Chinese believe that if you take care of your dead, they will take care of you.


In the ancient times, when the water was lower and the channels were much more narrow and shallow, workers and slaves had to pull the small crafts through the gorges. The picture below & on the left shows what is left of carved paths along the rock walls to help pull & guide these boats.

The red arrow on the right & below is natural rock formation that looks like a goddess standing on Goddess Peak. She stands on a mountain that is over 3,300 feet high. This goddess was believed to ease floods and help guide the sailors through the gorges.


The second excursion off the boat was a chance to take a ride up a small stream in small, hand-hewn, wooden peapod boats (a literal translation from the Chinese word) that were paddled and pulled by local boatmen.

Our ticket shows these men buck naked pulling the boats up the shallows. Recently, and with a larger tourist trade emerging, these people were required to wear shorts and shirts on the job. (Although the local standing in front of Amy forgot to wear underwear under his shorts.  We couldn't refrain from giggling - but did refrain from posting the pictures.) On the back of the ticket, it states, "You can also appreciate the full bodied Tujia folk custom ... it makes you on the scoop."  Say What?!!



The picture of the rock cliff below shows a "hanging coffin" (which don't actually hang, but sit in caves). The second picture is a close up shot. In ancient times the people would bury their dead by finding or making caves in the cliffs where they could place the coffin.



The Yangtze's waters were fairly polluted and muddy. The locals seemed to have no problems with drinking or washing in it. As foreigners - it was safer to avoid getting wet.

Amy's favorite pass time was to watch for shoes that would float by the boat. When shoe straps broke, the Chinese simply tossed them in the rivers or fields (which then washed into the rivers). She stopped counting in the very high hundreds - but never stopped watching!


Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, we have no photos of the Talent Show presented on the last night. Each group of similar language was asked to present a skit, song, show, etc. to add to the staff's talent show. The English speaking "International Group" presented three separate acts. The first was a marvelous piano piece by a young lady who said she hadn't played for years (we didn't believe her - she was awesome!).

The second, was the "3 contortionists." Bob came up with the idea and name. He recruited Joan & Amy, mapped out our stylish walk to the center of the stage (based on the staff's fashion show), then pulled us together for a 1 minute practice session - where Joan and Amy dropped into puddles of laughter. And it hadn't yet begun!

When we were called, Bob led the way down the walkway, Joan and Amy strutted their stuff right behind him and took their places on stage. And then we began to "contort" - in the British/American way. Bob made his pointing finger sort of pop when he moved it like a worm in and out. Joan did that cool thing where it looks like you can remove your thumb from your other hand. Amy could arch all her fingers about 35 to 40 degrees backwards in the air. It was was a riot!

Okay, so it wasn't a typical contortionist act, but then again we were tourists on a little boat in the middle of China. And we had FUN!!! However, we must give our vote to the third team from the International Group. Our two young dudes - and yes, that includes Kim, dressed up like Chinese women strutting their stuff up and down the stage! The staff, Thomas, & the rest of the passengers were totally impressed! Go Girls! - I mean Guys! Thomas later confided that he had never had this kind of response from any of his tour groups - but then again, he said, he had never had a tour group like this. We, the International Group, we rocked!!!

We all want to thank Thomas for getting us so inspired!


When the 3 Gorges Dam Project on the Yangtze is completed, it will be the largest dam & power plant in the world at 1.2 miles long, 600 feet high. It will provide about 7 times the power that the Daya Nuclear Power Plant in the Guangdong providence provides!

Along with electricity, the dam will raise the water level of the Yangtze between the project itself & the Chongquing area. As mention before, the government will move 1.1 million people and countless temples / historical areas to higher lands, and in return the people will get cheaper power, lower shipping costs, and a greater tourist industry.


On the left is another ship pulling up next to us in the lock - four more will come in behind us before we move to the next lock. The top photo is of the ships moving to the next lock. And of course, the locks move the ships up the river and down too.


When we went to bed that night, about an hour before we left the last lock, we did what we always did - we opened the curtains in our cabin. Thank the gods that we had not gotten undressed yet! As soon as the curtains opened, we had, what?, 15 Chinese men, women, & children looking at us from their boat's walkway - eye to eye and not 10 feet away! Okay... smile, wave, and SHUT THE CURTAINS!!


The above picture is of a model of what the dam will look like when completed. Take a look at the section of the dam pictured under the two red towers on the left side. It is still under construction and is dry land right now. The photo above and to the right is of us standing on the long concrete platform that divides the now working side from the unfinished side.

It took about 4 hours to move 6, 4,000 ton ships through the 4 locks now in service. When it is completed and the water levels reach their planned height, the last lock will go into service.  


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When we left the ship in Yi Chang and said goodbye to Thomas we were met by our next guide and the driver. Because of the changes to our travel itinerary, we would get driven from Yi Chang to Wuhan. The 4 hour trip was delightful. We saw the country side, took a short nap, and heard many stories about China and its people.

China's policies are shifting - here are some "think-abouts" ...

  • Mao's policy was basically - the more children you have, the more workers there are, the more support for country, family, & elderly. It didn't seem to work.

  • So, in 1978 with the new regime, a new policy was in acted - one country, one family, one child. Please note that anyone up to 26-27 years old, by 2004, is a single child!!! They have no brother and/or sisters. It is normal for them - the idea is amazing to us.

  • And now it is 2004 and the government is realizing that the children are having a hard time supporting and caring for their elders. There are more elderly getting older in the country than youth that are available to take care of them. For example, a single child could have two parents, four grandparents, and even great grandparents all to take care of. When the child marries, it doubles the problem. It can be both physically and economically stressful.

Half way through the drive, we stopped for a break. And, yes, we had to use the potty at the Chinese version of "Gas & Stuff." We had seen these Asian toilets before but always in places where western or handicapped toilets were also available. Although we never thought we would be discussing potty issues on one of our web pages, in this case we just couldn't help ourselves.
We laughed ourselves into tears.

As a prelude, please note the following:

1) Sanitary paper seat covers are not provided.
2) We assume this is because there are no seats.
3) There are no toilet paper dispensers.
4) Again, we assume this is because they do not provide toilet paper.
5) The waste baskets are fairly full since, evidentially, you are not supposed to flush the toilet paper you have brought with you.
6) Some toilets have ridged edges on them to, evidently,  keep your feet securely in place, some toilets don't. Oh, double dear!
7) The doors & walls go to the floor ... gee, wonder why?!!
8) The floors aren't exactly clean ... again, gee, wonder why?!!

So, here we are stopped in the middle of China, sucking down water in the constant 90+ degree heat, with high humidity & smoggy weather everyday, and having to go potty. Lets just say that being somewhat forewarned via the Internet, is not necessarily being prepared for the actuality.

And it gets weirder ... There were 8 (eight!) workmen in the women's bathroom, cutting board and tile and renovating the other stalls when Amy and other women were in line ... okay, no problems.

The sinks, all two of them, were located outside the bathrooms in a communal area. Amy thought that was a bit to weird to watch the men come out of the bathroom, still zipping their pants, and wash their hands beside her in the public sink on the side of the building. Actually, many of the older communities have no bathrooms in the home - they are located within a block or two of one's dwelling and shared by all. Cultural differences!

Last potty comment ... we both left wondering about all those Asian ladies that wore 3 inch spike heels and tight "spray-painted-on" jeans or pantyhose. Just how did they handle it? The answers we came up with are not appropriate to post in this format, but they had us rolling in tears of laughter (and fear!) for the next two hours of the drive!

 back to the top of the story

In Wuhan, our guide took us to The Hubei Provincial Museum that houses the incredible finds from the tombs of  The Marquis Yi of Zeng. It dates from 2,400 years ago, about 433 BC.

One of the most fabulous finds was of the intact set of chime bells - 3 tiers of bronze oval bells - weighing over 5,500 ponds - 65 bells on wooden supports in which each bell can be hammered to create two distinct sounds. The originals are in the museum, reproductions are played for the public.

We arrived at the museum, along with scores of Chinese students ranging from all ages, just in time to see a performance of the brass bells, stone chimes, drums, and other traditional instruments.  3,400 year old bells played Bach's "Ode to Joy" as their last piece. It was beautiful.

Found along with the bells were one set of marble and and one set of jade bells - rung with a small wooden "hammer." While we were in the museum, two older students saw us looking at them and walked up to Bob pointing at them and said in English, "Rock. Original rock music!" Then they started to laugh and walk away. It took us a moment, but we finally got it, "rock music" - not what we hear today, but actual ancient music played on rock slabs! Too funny!


After dinner, we were dropped off at our hotel with a free evening to enjoy. The day had been hot again (they averaged in the mid to upper 90s), but the evenings cooled off to the low 80s / high 70s., So we decided to take a walk down to the River at Wuhan.
The locals were cooling off with a swim....

We were tickled by the whole thing - intertubes for rent, swimsuits & sodas for sale, and toss the ring games for the children. But, the most amazing thing for us to watch was the game of "don't get hit by the barges."

Young & old alike would paddle out in the river to catch the current. Huge and heavy barges would hug the edge to stay out of the current. And lo & behold, the game was on! Swimmers either planned ahead or paddled with conviction when they heard the horn to avoid the ships.

 We also found a second game on the river that the Chinese enjoyed - "stare at the Americans." One sweet little tike took us on as a special challenge - he would follow us for a little while and then all of a sudden we would stop & turn to look at him. He would instantly stop and start looking at the sky, sometimes pointing and talking. As we started walking again, so would he - grinning with the enthusiasm of youthful joy. The game lasted for blocks. We enjoyed it as much as he did!


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In the early morning we were taken to the airport for our final flight inside China - destination: Shanghi. We said goodbye to our old guide and hello to our new & last one, Vick. After asking us about our travels so far and explaining that Shanghi was, in relative terms, a very new and modern city, Vick wanted to know what we wanted to see or do. He barely got the words out when Amy said, "SHOP! Find Silk!" He said we had come to the right place - we could even see the silk being made. JOY! JOY!
Vick first took us for a walk down the Bund where people stroll and play along the walkway by the river. Shanghi is proud of its modernization, and it should be.

In the background is the Oriental Pearl TV Tower - the tower that has two circular parts. It is the world's 3rd largest TV tower.

The pointy one, center back, is the Jin Mao building, and is one of the tallest buildings in the world. 

In the far back, you can see the constant construction that is a signature of China's cities.

We then went to the Yu Garden. It is located in the middle of a very busy tourist & shopping area of Shanghi. Amy almost had to be dragged past the shops and vendors to go inside. But once there, the world became quiet and serene. The garden is classical in design and about 400 years old. It transports one back to a world where the ancients lived.

As said before, dragons in Asia spit water rather than fire. They are the decorations on many wooden temples roofs of old and new as an early form of fire insurance. The one below & to the right is a special dragon - it is almost impossible to see in the photo, but there is a little frog with a big forked tongue scratching the dragon's chin under the dragon's mouth.

Dragons must balance the ball of life on their tongue. To do this they have to keep their mouths open. Open dragon mouths mean saliva, spit, & drool constantly drip down their jaws which tickles and makes the dragon's chin itch. Frogs eat dragon spit, so they live under the dragon's mouth to feed.

The Chinese believe that nothing is free - it you want to eat, you have to work. So the frog has to scratch the dragon's chin which helps him to keep his mouth open & drooling, and a fat & happy frog. A symbiotic relationship, that keeps the ball of life going on for all.


After leaving the garden and reentering the shopping plaza, or what Vick called "The China Town of China," Amy just had to shop!

Vick took us to a silk factory where we saw real silk worms and how their cocoons were unraveled and made into silk thread. The silk in 10 single-worm cocoons is twisted together to make one thread - about 1,000 yards long. Cocoons that have two worms inside, which happened regularly, were split, stretched over forms, and added to until they are pulled out by hand (like taffy) to form layers for bed quilts. 


Vick next walked us through the menu at the famous Lu Bo Lang Restaurant (at the center of this shopping mecca) where we would eat dinner later. He told us what street would be the best for finding a taxi and made sure we had a "get back to the hotel card" with us (see below). Then he left, and, for the first time in China, we were miles away from our hotel and on our own! YIPPEE!

We shopped, we ate (decided against the shark's fin dish), had a few beers (China beer is some of the best in all our travels), and shopped again. K & K got to practice English with lots of Chinese kids and adults. It was a blast! And yea, blonds get taxis & beggars faster in China!


In the morning, Vick took us to a Children's Palace - we were surprised, as usual. It was not the kind of palace we had be visiting - these were a series of children's schools across Shanghi dedicated to teaching the arts. We saw children learning Chinese traditional instruments, western instruments, the art of calligraphy, and were told that language classes, painting, and other fine arts classes were in session on different days. The music these children played was complex & delightful!!

We learned that during their first year of study children attend for free. After their exams, only those that score well enough may stay - and when they do, it is paid for by the government. Children may start as early as 6 years old. In the store at the school, we bought some of the most beautiful artwork we had seen in China - done by an 8 year old and a12 year old. The money helps the government provide the students with funding.

K &K did not get to see the classes - Bob & Amy felt that they would be a serious distraction to the children. Most of the kids had their parents sitting in the room taking notes on the good and bad points of their child's lesson. We didn't want to tangle with that!


Next we went to the Jade Buddha Temple. We were allowed to take photos on the grounds, but not of the large Jade Buddha itself. We took the image home in our hearts as the monks requested. We are sure it is on the Internet - we didn't look - it is a request and philosophy we honored.

(From the Internet)

On a sad note, the day before we visited this temple we found out via email that Amy's mother's friend, Carol Yates, lost a brother while we were in China - we promised to light some incense to remind the gods that a loss of one, is a loss shared by all. We burned half the incense in the temple and brought the other half back so that Carol and her family could honor her brother again in the US, in the Chinese way.

In this temple, one lit the incense, spoke to the gods in prayer, then put the incense in a huge burning pot. Unfortunately, we didn't get a photo of our burning the incense sticks - our focus was on the act itself. Fortunately, photographs aren't probably what the gods focus on - they recognize the smoke, smell the incense, and hear the prayers.

While we were there, the monks were being called to prayers. One monk rang the prayer bell made of intricately carved marble with a traditional wooden "hammer." The sound resonated deeply and loudly - ancient and powerful.


In the afternoon, we drove to a small village outside of Shanghi that was a "Water Town" - an example of, as Vick said, "Venice in China." These people live on one of the river's tributaries - water, fish, tradition, and now, tourists comprise their livelihood. The water breathing Chinese dragon meets visitors & tourists as a symbol of hope and faith.


As one enters the town, vendors come up with little bags of live fish in water. For a few Yuan, you buy the fish, go to the water steps, say a prayer, and release the fish. The prayers are carried by the fish.

We then got on a small boat with Vick & the boat captain and were leisurely rowed through the water avenues of the town. Yes, the name "Venice of China" was apropos.

After the boat tour, we got hit by a huge thunderstorm, had fun walking in the downpour, & shopping in the vendor's market.


It was our last night in China & so far, we had been able to pack all our purchases in our two carry-on bookbags and one check-through backpack. Now, however, we were "packing challenged." How many new silk kid and adult clothes could you pack in with the dirty t-shirts and underwear? Amy had the only answer - NONE! The hotel gave us a handled plastic shopping bag that we could carry on board the airplanes. Yippee! We still had only one check-on bag to go home with - albeit, it was fully full!


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Headed Home

Our bags were packed and two of the most incredible weeks had passed. We boarded our plane to Japan then on to Detroit and home. When we passed through customs in the US, our customs agent smiled and said, "Welcome home." Those words hit us harder than we imagined. We loved our trip, we loved the Chinese people, but it was good to be home in the USA again.

We had traveled not just to a different country, but for all purposes, to a different world - the Asian world. We had learned so much about how different & the same we were; how far & close our countries are; and, how lovely it was to see with new eyes on our return, the diversity of America, the signs we could read, and the clear skies & Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.


A special thanks goes out to Melissa Jager, Amy's mom, for keeping Tai Chi, our Pekinese, and emailing us with news and best wishes from the whole family.


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