Whenever you see Chinese written in English, remember that “a” has a short “a” sound when pronounced in China, so Shanghai is pronounced Shahg hi. Anyway Shanghai is not a typical Chinese town and is the most European in its architecture. Its main commercial and governmental areas are within walking distance of the ocean bay. Many 5 and 4 star hotels and other tall buildings grace the skyline. Our flight was delayed and by the time we reached the Westin, we were satisfied to eat then relax in the room. The next day we walked to some ancient gardens, ate at McDonald’s, and then walked the Bund, which is what they call the boardwalk along the Yangtze just before it empties into the ocean.
The Chinese translate most signs and instructions into English and sometimes the results are comical because of the misspellings of or improper use of English. We found out in one hotel that “If you want the waiter to clean your room as soon as possible, please chang up the brand of “Please clean up the room”. We figure out that meant if you wanted your room cleaned by the maid, hang up the door handle tag that says “ Please clean up the room”. In the taxi on the way to the airport was list of passenger rules was posted among which was “Drunkards or psychos must have a guardian accompany them”. Probably not a bad rule.
This former key city in WWII was called Chungking then, it has about 5 million population and lots of pollution, mostly because it is surrounded by mountains. We got off the plane and were fortunate to find someone who spoke English and could write in Chinese the location of our river boat. This city is not attractive except at night when they light up the buildings in profile and the banks of the Yangtze. We got on the boat and they offered us an upgrade to a suite for an extra $600 and we took it after looking at the cramped quarters we would have not enjoyed. Never have I used “shoebox” to describe a room before but it fits fine here. Our suite has two rooms AND a king sized bed instead of the bunk beds we would have had.
The someone who could speak English was a Nepalese guide that an American couple had traveling with them. They were on the plane and we met at the luggage claim. They were going to the same boat fortunately.
Three Gorges River Trip
The Yangtze (known to the Chinese as the ‘Chang Jiang’ or ‘long river’) had already risen 60 meters from the Three Gorges Dam and will rise another 30 meters when it is completed. The scope of this project exceeds by far any dam project in world history. Whole villages and parts of large towns and cities are being relocated and during our land excursions, we saw the old buildings nearly uninhabited and the new buildings up on the hill/mountain sides. The first day was very foggy and overcast so there was not much to see. This view was mostly what we saw all day.
The second day is when we went through the 3 gorges and by the time we completed the first gorge, the skies cleared up and we enjoyed the rest of the day on the deck of the boat, with the narrator pointing out from time to time that if you used your imagination, the could see the outline of Buddha or an elephant, etc.
The fishermen along the river have carved into the rock to make narrow trails to the river. They supplement the trail with planks supported by ropes.
With the exception of the captain, the entire crews were young Chinese men and women, who did their daytime duties and then provided the entertainment at night. They were all eager, bright eyed, full of energy, and constantly smiling and polite. All spoke good to excellent English. They were the crew, the musicians, and the entertainers during the 3 night trip. We will always remember that they assembled just before the boat left and played "Turkey in the Straw".
The three land excursions included a sand pan trip where we were paddled upstream and when the stream got shallow, pulled up from the banks. The men chanted and sang as we were pulled along. This was a demonstration and how boats made there way up the Yangtze before the water rose in some sections of the river.
At the end of the last full day, we went through a series of locks that dropped us 30 meters. We arrived in Wuhan about noon of the next day. We then got on a tour bus and traveled back up to the dam which was still under construction. At the main building there, there was a model of the dam and shops and the stone mural where visitors had their pictures taken. When I took this picture of this old man, I could not help but wonder what he had lived through.
The other half of the dam was still under construction and is shown here.
Back to Wuhan for another AIDS workshop.