Great Lakes Tour Day 1

Well life gives us many twists and turns and we have had our share to deal with lately. We thought we were prepared for this trip but I think Tin Lizzy was just a little too smug in getting to go again and leaving her siblings behind. As things turned out she too gets to stay at home this time and see what it feels like! (The reason being my Mom had a cardioversion done two days before we were to leave, which was successful, but the following day ended up in the hospital with fluid overload and early CHF. She was discharged to a rehab hospital Monday evening and we were able to get tickets and fly to Chicago on Tuesday morning, leaving Tin Lizzy behind.)

We rented a ‘FORD’ in Chicago and drove to West Allis, making it just in time to go to the Welcome Dinner and beginning of the tour. It was so great to have everyone glad to see us. We enjoyed dinner at a German restaurant, called Mader’s German Beer Hall and Restaurant.

Our first sighting of one of the Great Lakes-Lake Michigan as we fly into Chicago.

Makes for a very enjoyable starting of our tour!

GREAT LAKES TOUR

As always preparation is half of making a tour turn out fun and enjoyable. We have a lot going on so prep time is going down to the wire with all its twists and turns. The weather here has gone from the 90’s to our first snow and a high of 45* in the last few days. Thus a lot of winterizing both to the cabin and here that we weren’t planning on doing before leaving on the tour. Also a lot of prep has gone into making arrangements for Mom since she won’t be joining us this time. She had a cardio version done today with success, now if her heart will just cooperate and stay in normal rhythm. The rental house has taken up a lot of time, but will be here when we return. So somewhere in there Rick has been burning the midnight oil working on Tin Lizzy. With any luck we will pull it all together and leave Thursday morning to have a GREAT TOUR around the GREAT LAKES! (Thank you Marcus and Mary – you have definitely had your share of twists and turns in putting this tour together, and we appreciate all you have done!).

View from our driveway of first winter storm, just a few days before leaving for Great Lakes Tour.
Tin Lizzy is enjoying all the attention and has no trouble saying good bye to her siblings – ” MOM’S 30″ and “The Coupe”, leaving them at home again.

European Riverboat Cruise

DAY 4-August 8 Amsterdam & Viking Tir

WEATHER: Partly cloudy and 71*

We get up at 6:45, shower and pack our luggage and set it out to be taken to the ship – The Viking Tir. We have breakfast and are ready to go on our tour today called the “Golden Age”, which includes : Rijksmuseum, Coster Diamonds factory, a canal cruise, restaurant-Vijff Vlieghen, a living area -Het Begijnhof, sculptures depicting The Night Watch painting by Rembrandt, and the Museum Van Loon.

Our first stop was at Coster Diamonds which is the world’s oldest diamond polishing factory. We see a crown and polishing tools. Rick gets sick again and we almost miss the next group tour to Rijksmuseum, but make it at the last moment.

Royal Crown of Great Britain – replica, at Coster Diamonds,where they polished the diamonds.
Replica British Royal Crown Coster Diamonds

The Rijksmuseum is our next stop and a very informative one. It has Rembrandt’s most famous masterpiece: “The Night Watch”, as well as many of his other paintings. It also has other famous paintings such as those by Van Gogh and here you can take pictures! Our guide is very good and explains the meanings behind a lot of the paintings. The museum is in the process of restoring “The Night Watch” painting, but before even starting they are scanning ever inch of the painting and analyzing it.

The museum also has a huge research library of books on history and the arts. The public is allowed in to look individually at books. They also have a model of the three masted ship that is part of the maritime museum.

We are then onto a canal cruise of the city, seeing some different things than we saw last night.

We get off the canal cruise and get lunch at a restaurant called Vijff Vlieghen. It is a very pretty old building and they serve a traditional Dutch meal with salad, meatballs and mashed potatoes with carrots, and apple pie. Rick is brave and tries eating a little.

Where we ate lunch in Amsterdam.

After lunch we continue on foot to see sights in Amsterdam. Our first stop is to where our older tour guide lives – Het Begijnhof. It is where only single women over 55, who are very religious, but don’t want to go into the convent live. You have to apply and be accepted to live there. It is very peaceful and quiet.

We continue walking. We go by a square where there is a statue of Rembrandt. It is the oldest statue in Amsterdam. There also are bronze statues depicting his “Night Watch” painting. We also see stained glass windows with Rembrandt depicted in them.

We continue walking and the guide points out homes/buildings that are actually sinking because the ground is so wet in this area.

Note the sloping angle under the windows on the middle black house and the last gray house.

We pass by more of the beautiful city of Amsterdam. Glad we spent two extra days here, in order to see the sights, and we still didn’t see it all.

We make one last stop for the day to see the Museum Van Loon. It is the home of the Van Loon family who have been connected to Amsterdam for 400 years and one of the best preserve homes in the Netherlands.

We then go by taxi to embark on our ship – The Viking Tir. We were upgraded to a room with a balcony, rm #229.

We have dinner, on board our ship, which was very good. Dinner is one seating and seating is open every night, so you never know who you will sit with. We end up sitting with a couple from Vancouver Island – Parksville Graham & Roseann and another couple from Conneticut. After dinner we are back to our room and to bed. Rick is out in no time. It was another big day. The ship is to leave the dock at 11:55, leaving Amsterdam. We really enjoyed our time here, but now on to more new places and things to see.

European Riverboat – Day 3


DAY #3, August 7 – Amsterdam & Haarlem

WEATHER: Blue skies with clouds, low 70’s

Well today we are awakened by a phone call, it is 9:30, and our Viking representative lets us know they are leaving on the Walking Tour of Amsterdam that we had scheduled. Oops, guess we will miss it! Oh well, guess we needed the sleep. We get up and shower and walk to a little local cafe to have breakfast. I have the “Dutch” Breakfast – boiled egg, ham and cheese slices, 2 rolls & 2 slices of toast with jam and peanut butter, hot tea and orange juice! We finish and meet our rep who takes us to our guide Steven for our tour of Historic Haarlem. It has just one other couple, who are from North Carolina. We ride in a van to Haarlem. I am fascinated by how everything: buildings, churches, streets, and homes are so old! I mean like from the 14th century!

Our first stop is to a restaurant to have lunch. It is called Jopenkerk, which used to be a church with pretty stain glass windows and now is a brewery! We have a huge meal and finish off with a tasting of four different beers:

  • 1. Jopen Adriaan Wit, Witbier/5%

2. Jopen Mooie Nel IPA, American IPA/6.5%

3. Jopen Ongelovige Thomas, Quadrupel/10%

4. Special Ancient Recipe from 1407!

I liked the darker one from the ancient recipe the best.

We then walk through the city on the old cobblestone streets, watching out for the bikes.

We visit and see different gardens/inner courtyards and local homes. The usual is no curtains on windows, and windows open because no air conditioning. Always cats in the courtyards (to catch the mice/rats). The homes have “cat doors” instead of doggie doors!

We next go to the world’s largest collection of Frans Hals paintings.

Military painting by Frans Hals
Frans Hals’ detailed portrait painting, noting fine detail of beard on top of white collar.

While we are touring the Frans Hals Museum Rick gets sick again, his gut just isn’t tolerating eating yet. We continue on to the Warmoesstraut shopping square in the center of town, including the large church – Grote Kerk.

We then head back to Amsterdam with a stop on the way out of Haarlem to see the only remaining old entry gate. It was built around 1400.

We arrive back in Amsterdam and walk around and do some shopping. We do dinner at a place called Savini, with homemade pastas. The old building is leaning like the tower of Pisa. We get back to the hotel and to bed by 11.

Savini where we ate dinner in Amsterdam – building leaning but has very close neighbor buildings so hard to see how much it is leaning.

GRAND EUROPEAN RIVERBOAT TOUR

DAY 1 – August 5: Verdi -> Reno -> San Francisco -> Amsterdam DAY 2 – August 6: Amsterdam (Day 1 turned into Day 2 with flight and time changes!)

WEATHER: Reno – warm & sunny, San Francisco – foggy & flight delayed, Amsterdam – warm, cloudy & 72*

We get up at 6:00 AM Monday to find out the bear got into our trash last night! Oh well, at least that is all he got into this time. Nick takes us to the airport and drops us off, Carrie is at her first day of her new job as a landscape architect. We make it through check in, but even with Pre-Check Rick has to do full scanner and full pat-down, but he just smiles and makes it thru without incident. Then an hour wait to board, but so much for that. Our flight is delayed for an hour due to fog in San Francisco.We arrive fine and no problem with timing. We get two text messages though: First from Loyalton and Sherri has new bruises and the Second from Jim & Shawnee and we are going to be GRANDPARENTS again! They send us a picture of the baby from the ultrasound. So starts our ADVENTURE this time!

The flight was 10 hours from San Francisco to Amsterdam and Amsterdam is 9 hours ahead of us in time and we were delayed an hour out of SF, but we arrive in Amsterdam right on time at 10:15 AM on Tuesday. Customs was a snap and we meet the Viking rep who takes us to our hotel – The Renaissance.

Hotel in Amsterdam, on a bike with front cart of flowers. Like the saying: LIVE LIFE TO DISCOVER
Art piece depicting all the bicycles in Amsterdam.
Our hotel-Renaissance in Amsterdam, the cow representing the Cheese Making in the Netherlands

We decide to take the tram system to get around. Our first tour is to the Van Gogh Museum with a guide and only 5 other people. It is very interesting, learning his life history and that of his paintings , but taking pictures isn’t allowed.

Grand Central Station behind the tram we took to get around in Amsterdam.
Van Gogh Museum with exposition of his Sunflower paintings
Self portrait painted by Vincent Van Gogh
One of Van Gogh’s paintings

Our second tour of the day that we scheduled was the Anne Frank walking tour. It was showing her history – where she lived, the school she went to, and where she bought her diary. But soon after meeting our guide Rick gets terribly sick. The guide is very understanding and finds him a bathroom in a bar. He almost passes out. We decide we can’t finish the tour and find the tram to head back to the hotel.

Building where Otto Frank worked and Anne Frank lived after going into hiding.
The house where Anne Frank lived before having to go into hiding.
Statue of Anne Frank in memorial park in the neighborhood where she lived before having to go into hiding.

After we get on the tram Rick gets sick again and we get off the tram and find another bathroom in a cafe. This time it costs 1 euro to use the WC. He throws up and we get back on the tram. By this time we are old hands at using the tram system! It is now later in the day and he says he will try doing our third tour we had scheduled for the day. It is a 4 course dinner cruise on the canals. The boat does have a bathroom so we give it a go. What a trooper! It ends up being a very nice dinner: bread, wine, mixed greens salad, hot tomato soup served in mug, veal & salmon, and rhubarb compote and chocolate mousse. All served on white linen tablecloths & napkins, not paper, while seeing and hearing all about the sights of Amsterdam. Actually quite relaxing. Here are some of the sights from the canal cruise:

Windmill as seen from dinner cruise.
Anne Frank House on Prinsengracht canal.
Westerkerk tallest church in Amsterdam
Westerkerk
Saint Nicholas – Catholic church with night lights.
St. Nicholas Catholic church in Amsterdam.

Dinner :

Salad
Veal
Dessert: Chocolate mousse & rhubarb compote


Rick has about had it for one day! And no wonder, we have now been up for 30 hours and he has been sick on top of it all!

At the end of the dinner cruise we find our way back to the hotel on foot. It is now 11:00 PM here and definitely time to hit the sack. We have been up for 32 hours and jet lag is really setting in!

My first impression of Amsterdam is a very pretty, clean, well maintained really OLD city, with a lot of BIKES and CANALS!

“Bikes and Canals”
Two most popular ways of transportation in Amsterdam.

China Trip – Day 18

Hong Kong->Beijing->Los Angeles->Reno->Verdi (home) 30+ hour day! Weather: Hong Kong: raining, Beijing: sunny & smog, LA: blue sky with clouds, Reno: night time, COLD and suppose to snow.

We get up at 4:30! I can tell it is going to be a LONG day. What a way to leave China. We are in the lobby by 5:15 with our luggage and leave in a small van with Jonathan for the airport. He helps us get our luggage checked through to LA, which is a big help, then we are on our own. We go through security checks without any problems. We have to take a shuttle out to the plane and board up stairs, in the rain, onto the plane. The plane is to leave at 8:30, so we are now already 4 hours into our 30+ hour day and so far so good.

Boarding plane in Hong Kong, leaving for home.
Leaving Hong Kong

We make the 3 hour flight and go through a lot of security checks even for just a transfer. All goes well until we have to ‘strip’ for the last check before our gate and guess who leaves her passport AND boarding pass in the basket!! Yep, yours truly, because the guard took it away from me and put it in a basket (yeah, yeah excuses, excuses). Luckily Rick came after me and saw them just sitting in a basket, lucky for me or I would have been in a world of hurt at the final gate!

It is now 1:00 and we don’t board until 2:30, so Rick goes looking for some food for us, hoping to find something that will take US cash or credit card because we have spent our Hong Kong currency and have no Chinese yen left. He is successful at a Burger King, oh well, guess we need to start acclimating away from chicken and rice every meal. Will a spicy chicken sandwich fit the bill? Yup, it went down just fine.

We board the plane and settle in for the 12 hour flight to LAX. We have a window and middle seat for the flight. We don’t get much sleep ,but not a bad flight.

Good bye China!
Smog and all, but really a great trip!

We get to LA and the wait through customs isn’t bad. Maybe we are getting the hang of it! (using modern technology and Rick’s iPhone made things a lot faster).

While we are in LA waiting for our final flight home to Reno, Rick gets a call from Nick that they had to call 911 and REMSA took Grandma/Mom to the ER. So when we land in Reno, Nick meets us and takes us straight to St. Mary’s hospital. Mom is still in ER. The hospitals are all very busy with respiratory illnesses and Northern Nevada was on divert so Mom was taken to Saints. We wait and find out she has pneumonia and is in A-Fib! They put her in an ICU bed. She is stable and we head for home. Carrie and Jim stay with her.

It has been an extremely long day. We have now been up over 30 hours! So it brings to end a very interesting trip, full of new, exciting and different experiences, that we fully enjoyed, but we are now tired and glad to be home. Nothing like HOME, SWEET, HOME (and your own bed)!

Just a little post addendum:

It has now been 5 weeks since Mom was discharged from ICU to home with Home Health Care to help us both out. I think we all have recuperated, she was discharged from all therapies, and we are all ready to head onto to our next adventures in life!

China Trip – Day 17

Hong Kong>Lantau Island:Tai O fishing village & Po Lin Monastery/Buddha Weather: Cloudy & mist, sprinkles in AM, humid and warm

We get up at 6:30, shower and go down to breakfast. We leave for our tour at 9. We have to transfer buses part way, to a smaller one that has a permit to go up the narrow road to the monastery.

Going up the mountain on a narrow twisty road on Lantau Island. They drive on the left hand side .
Tai O – a small fishing village

On the way up we stop at Tai O, a fishing village with traditional houses built on stilts. They have three ways of transportation: 1) walking, 2) riding a bike and 3)boats. (of course there are cars to get to the village also). It is the real deal, away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. I really enjoy it.

Rick entering Tai O, by first method – walking.
Parking lot for second method – bikes.
The streets are narrow through the town thus no room for more than bikes and pedestrians.
Main street through the market.
A bicycle repair shop!
And the third way of getting around in this fishing village, by boat.
This getting you to your house built on stilts in the water.
Right into your garage! With your garden on the roof.
Homes built right over the water, on stilts.
All kinds of fresh fish right off the boats.
Fresh fish
More fish in bins.
Me and others walking through the market place.
Where you can find ALL kinds of food to buy.
Even puffer fish!
We stop at this shop and enjoy fresh cut pineapple, roasted on a skewer. Oh, so tasty and juicy
At this home they were grinding grain into a milk paste. Very interesting stop at this quiet and quaint little fishing village. No put on for tourists, just the real way of life for these people.

We get back on the bus and continue up the mountain to the Po Lin Monastery and the Giant Buddha. It is the tallest outdoor seated Buddha in the world. It is neat the way the mist is coming in around the Buddha. Glad we get to see it before the clouds come in and cover up everything. It gives it a mystical atmosphere.

The mist and clouds starting to shroud the mountain.
The Giant Buddha sitting on top of the mountain, rising above the trees. It is bigger than it looks.
You can see the size of the people in comparison to the sitting Buddha.
The stairs going up to the Buddha.
And looking down the stairs to the monastery from the base of the Buddha. Note the clouds coming in. Any later and we would not have been able to see the Buddha.
We actually arrive just as the clouds are coming in at the back of the Buddha.
Views from the sides.
Front views
Up close and personal before disappearing into the clouds.
Other statues at the base, with the cloud cover coming in.

We then do a visit to the Po Lin Monastery at the base of the Buddha. We go to a vegetarian lunch, which was very tasty with about eight different dishes. Then we walk around the shopping plaza.

Rick entering the monastery area.
The Po Lin Monastery and the mountain in the clouds, no longer being able to see the Giant Buddha
The entry walkway is lined with statues.

And the trees and rhododendrons are all in bloom.

Tulip trees
You can tell it is a rhododendron vs an azalea because they have 10 stamen instead of 5!
Incense burning, big time, in front of the monastery.
Outside of monastery.
We spend some time in the shopping area and have an ice cream.
Rick in shopping area under the Buddha.
We head to the end of the plaza to ride the Skyrail cable car (seen in background) down off the mountain only to find it shut down for maintenance. So we continue looking around while waiting for our bus to ride down in.
Giant drums of various sizes representing different things. I would have liked to listen to them being played.

We get back to the hotel by 4 and say good-bye to the other 8 people left in our tour group, for almost everyone is flying home tomorrow. John and Nancy and Rick and I are the first to leave in the morning at 5:30!

Rick and I go out for one last dinner in China. We share and have more than we can eat. We get back to the room by 8:30 and have to pack and be ready for the long trip home tomorrow.

China Trip – Day 16

Hong Kong: Tour of Hong Kong Island – Victoria Peak and down via cog railway, Stanley Market, along the coast by Repulse Bay and Deep Water Bay to Aberdeen Harbor and take both a day & a night cruise to see Hong Kong.

Weather: Blue sky/clouds, in the 70’s, at night the clouds come in more.

We get up at 6:30, shower, have breakfast and meet in the lobby at 9:00. We get on a bus to tour Hong Kong Island.

We leave the hustle and bustle of the big city, with skyscrapers everywhere.
And I guess you can find a McDonalds most anywhere, (even next to an “hourly hotel”, maybe not quite the high rent district like in the photo before).

We head up a curvy little mountain road, driving on the left hand side to the top of the “Peak”, which is the highest mountain on the island.

Small and curvy, we ascend
on the left hand side of the road
Peak Road that is, which goes to the ‘Peak’!
On our way up
the vegetation gets thicker and greener!
I like seeing the green, trees, and the mountains! (No smog, just clouds)
And I can even see blue sky!
It is a very pretty view of Hong Kong from the top.
I am enjoying the day.
We are enjoying the day together! Better enjoy the sights while you can see them, the clouds are coming in.
Rick and our guide Jonathon on the top of the Peak looking down on Hong Kong.

We come down off the peak via a cog railway. Rick gets spooked thinking it is going to be an open gondola. I tell him he does ski lifts so he can do this. But it is nothing like that and he does fine.

The Tram, all enclosed like a train car.
The track and not even very far off the ground!
On our way down off the mountain.
Coming down
Looking back up the mountain and the top is already covered in clouds. We timed that perfect!

On our way back we ride along Repulse Bay and Deep Water Bay. We make a stop at Stanley Market. I like it and we do some shopping for Jenner and Mackenzie (T-shirts with their name written in Chinese and a little Chinese dress and a Chinese shirt). We continue on to Aberdeen Harbor and take a boat ride through the harbor. There are every kind of boat you can think of from working to very expensive yachts.

Our boat
Heading out of the harbor.
Going out of Aberdeen Harbor, looking back at Hong Kong.
Some of the boats we pass.
Fishing boats

We are then back to the hotel and have lunch there. We end up running into John and Nancy who had met up with an old employee of John’s who is Chinese and happened to be in Hong Kong visiting with family. It really is a very small world!

We have until 4:45 when we meet up again and go on the Hong Kong Harbor Night Cruise. We have drinks and enjoy the night lights of Hong Kong as they come on as it goes from dusk to dark.

Looks like Rick needs a couple more drinks to be having as good a time as John!
Me on the Harbor Cruise.
This is our boat for the Night Harbor Cruise.
The night lights start coming on
The dji building is a giant toy shop. The people in lights circle the building as if they were walking around it.
The clouds make an interesting back drop.
Some reflection on the water from the lights.
It is a little choppy – don’t know if those drinks are catching up or it is just the water!
Either way I think we all are having a good time.
It is a really pretty site with the reflection of the lights getting greater.

We get back and at 7:30 we go to a very high end Chinese restaurant overlooking the harbor. We have a window table. They do a laser light show with music but we opt to just watch from our table. After dinner we go and walk in the city center and take some more pictures before we call it a day.

Rick in the city center with night lights in Hong Kong.
The ending of a very full day.
It is time to bring another day to a close. (Clock in Hong Hong City Center)

We make it to bed by 10:30.

China Trip – Day 15

Beijing -> Hong Kong Weather: Cooler/cloudy, smog doesn’t go away but much less in Hong Kong

We get up at our now usual time of 6, shower, and have our luggage out by 7:45. Our things are much easier to fit in since we bought the little carry on for all of our souvenirs! We go to breakfast and leave on the bus for the airport at 8:15. We say good-bye to our fantastic guide – Frank, helping us out up to the last minute, by getting us to the right terminal. We go to the Hong Kong Airlines and check our luggage and get our tickets. Our flight out is at 12:05. Security isn’t bad and we get to Hong Kong at 3:30.

Hong Kong is another huge city. It is located on a deep natural harbor and has a lot of shipping. We go through immigration, get our luggage and meet our new Gate 1 tour guide – Jonathan. His English is much harder to understand than Frank’s was, we were spoiled!

Coming into Hong Kong, it is a cloudy day.
All the shipping cranes in the harbor.
We are on the 14th floor at the Metro Park Hotel (Kowloon).
Guess I am a “country girl” at heart and not a “city girl”, because I can’t get over how they hang their laundry in these huge cities. Country and City are definitely two different cultures, but that is one of the reasons I enjoy traveling is experiencing new and different things!

Only 12 of our original group go onto Hong Kong. We have 45 minutes to get settled in our room and go down and meet our guide, who walks us to the shopping area: “The Lady’s Market”. It is a huge shopping area with everything imaginable, but I don’t see anything we want. We continue on through the streets and end up getting Dim Sum – trying 6 different dishes, beer & tea for 6 people for a total of $42. I liked all of the dishes, especially the barbecued pork ‘in’ a bun – not ‘on’ a bun like in the U.S. We went with Tim & Fred from Bakersfield and Rosie & Bruce from Kamas Washington. We walk back to the hotel and have ‘happy hour’ at the bar with Nancy and John and Tim and Fred. We go to bed at 10.

Busy streets of Hong Kong.
With all kinds of street vendors with a huge assortment of regional specialties to choose from.
Walking back to the hotel I saw this sign and wondered where the school was? ? They certainly don’t have a play ground like in Verdi!

China Trip – Day 14

Beijing : Tiananmen Square with Gate of Heavenly Peace, Forbidden City (Imperial Palace), Pearl shop, Summer Palace, and Peking Duck dinner. Weather: Cloudy with smog (can’t see sun), 45* in AM & 79* in PM

We get up at 6 and have breakfast and leave on the bus at 7:30. Our first stop is at Tiananmen Square – the largest public plaza in the world – built at the height of the Ming Dynasty. The square’s Gate of Heavenly Peace was once used as a staging ground for imperial edicts and by Mao Zedong himself to declare the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949. There are four different areas surrounding the square, including a large statue in front of government building, a large tower for Tiananmen Square, Square’s Gate of Heavenly Peace (Mao Zedong), and the National Museum of China.

Large statue sculpture on Tiananmen Square
Rick in Tiananmen Square in front of tower.
Tower in Tiananmen Square.
Looking across Tiananmen Square to the Gate of Heavenly Peace, thru the smog.
Guards on duty in front of entrance.
Me in front of the entrance to the square’s Gate of Heavenly Peace.
Rick in Tiananmen Square by the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Mao Zedong)
On the fourth side of Tiananmen Square is the National Museum of China. Hard to get clear pictures with all the smog today, it is an alert day with it over 230, I think.
So we leave Tiananmen Square with the China flag waving high,
and push on with the rest of the crowd of people entering the Forbidden City/Imperial Palace (until 1912) thru the Gate of Heavenly Peace.
Frank tells us this is a quiet day with only about 30,000 people, usually 80,000 people visit in a day!
Rubbing buttons of stone on gateway for “good luck”.
The crowds and smog (thus the masks) in the Forbidden City.
The Forbidden City is a walled community with a moat around it.
Rick and John in fore ground in Forbidden City. It has over 800 buildings – for the Emperor and all his family, concubines and servants.
Showing some of the architecture, Three Front Halls was constructed on 3-terraced marble foundations.
UP close of the dragon head drainpipes on the foundations of the Three Front Halls.
The Golden Throne in the Hall of Supreme Harmony. (Not easy to get this shot over the heads of hundreds of people in front of me!)

I was intrigued with ‘people watching’ while in the crowds.

Native Chinese people from other places in China wearing their native clothes, but note the ‘tour hats’, placed over their own head wear!
We pass behind this group of Chinese ladies. (Arlene, Nancy, and John in back)
I liked this Chinese gentleman
and this little Chinese boy.
I guess we were as interesting to them as they were to us!
Outside of the Palace of Gathering Excellence.
Large bronze vats to hold water to use to put out fires if they should occur.
Bronze dragon playing with ball in the yard of Palace of Gathering Excellence.

Next we saw some of the furnishings inside the Palace of Gathering Excellence, which was the residence for imperial concubines. The Empress Dowager Cixi lived here.

Difficult to get clear pictures because we weren’t allow in but had to look through windows and the glare was bad. But you can get the idea of the fine furnishings.

Some of the carvings on roofs and the side of buildings:

We go to the Summer Palace after lunch. It was the resort of the Empress Dowager.
A portrait of Empress Dowager Cixi, also know as “Dragon Lady”, the only Empress of China.
An actual photo of Empress Dowager Cixi before she died. (1835-1908)
We walk down a long covered walkway which was covered with pretty paintings.
We ended up at the ‘cement boat’.

It has been a very full day and is time to head back to the hotel. On our way to the bus we pass some stands with local delicacies:

Scorpions
Snakes
Tarantulas
And sugared fruit on a stick, a little more to my tasting!

On our way back to the hotel we stop at a pearl shop. They have pearl necklaces for as much as $6,000. Once again I just window shop. We make it back to the hotel with an hour before going to a ‘Farewell Dinner’ for those not going on to Hong Kong, about 2/3’s of the group. Dinner featured China’s famous Peking Duck!

Chef carving the duck.
Duck, duck sauce, cucumber, and bean sprouts – all served together in very thin crepes – very tasty! Add another 12 dishes and finish with lemon tarts, apple fritters, and fresh fruit.

We say good byes, go to our room to pack everything up to fly to Hong Kong in AM. Get to bed by 10.

China Trip – Day 13

Beijing -> Jade factory, Great Wall of China, Panda Bears Weather: Overcast with the ever present smog, 45* in AM & 70* in PM

We get up at 6, shower, have breakfast and onto the bus by 7:30. Our first stop is to a Jade shop. We see people carving and polishing pieces. They explain to us how to tell the difference between cheap and expensive jade. They have bangle bracelets from $200 to $2000 and above. I just did window shopping!

Carving jade

We are then back onto the bus and on our way to see “The Great Wall of China”. It is 2,000 years old and about 4,000 miles long along the northern border of China. It was built to help protect them from the Mongolians.

Our first sighting of the Great Wall!
Climbing up this section of the Great Wall is equivalent to climbing up 42 stories high of steps! Can we do it?
The entrance, and we are off and climbing.
We decide it is doable if we take it one step at a time!
Our starting point, doesn’t look too hard, right?
They trick you by starting out going down a few steps.
Rick isn’t convinced that it will be that easy.
But we are on our way up. First flight – not so bad. No hand rail and the steps are not even though.
The steps are really steep and rests are needed by almost everyone.
John and Rick on the way up.
Rick makes it to a rest/overlook spot. Look at the wall behind him, those are some STEEP stairs!
I leave Rick at this point and head on to the top. He isn’t sure he can make it up and back with his knee in the amount of time we have before the bus leaves.
So on I go a step at a time!
It really was very steep!
Almost to the top. It would be a fantastic view if it weren’t for the smog!
I must say it would not be easy to sneak up on you way up here.
I make it to the top! Inside they are engraving medals that say the date when you climbed the Great Wall. I buy one on a loan from another couple from our group since I didn’t bring any money.
Me showing off my medal with the Great Wall seen behind me.
I go back down and meet Rick and we head back together. The ‘Wall’ really is an amazing accomplishment and something to see at least once in a life time! We can now say we saw it and were on it!
Rick on our way down.
How many more steps to go??? Think he was glad he didn’t try to go all the way to the top.
Me on the way down surprised to find Rick waited for me about half way up.
Our group at the “Great Wall” after we completed climbing. What a feat both climbing it and the building of it. It is one of the most spectacular structures ever built by man. Now I can say I have been on and in both The Great Wall AND The Great Pyramids of Giza!!! (Pictures can’t do either justice, just not the same as being there in person)

It is then back on the bus and off to another huge lunch with 14 different dishes being served. After lunch we get back on the bus and go to the Beijing Zoo to see the Panda Bears. They are native only to China and are on the endangered list. The zoo has five Panda Bears and we get to see all of them. It is extremely smoggy here today. We are even offered masks to wear if we want one. Not sure that they do that much, but if you lived in this smog everyday it certainly wouldn’t hurt. I am very thankful for our beautiful clear blue skies and clear air to breath.

Some of the lunch foods.
Entrance to the Beijing Zoo.
Entrance to the Pandas
Statues at the entrance to the Panda Bear area.

The Pandas:

They were fun to see.

We are on the bus and back to our hotel. Outside our hotel is a man that seems to always know where and when we will be places with his little truck /motor scooter and tourist treasures to buy! And always for such a deal. We have bought so many things that we end up getting him to bring us a carry-on suitcase to pack things in to get home!

Time to eat again? This time dinner only has seven entrees. We are back to our room by 8 to get to bed before our last day of sightseeing in Beijing tomorrow.

China Trip – Day 12

Xian -> Beijing -> Hutong Day Tour: Olympic Village, Rickshaw ride, Grand Canal/Jing-Hong, Home visit and Drum Tower. Weather: Sunny, 40-70* and the ever present smog!

We get up at 5:30. We have a very quick breakfast from 6:15-6:30. We check out of the hotel, get on the bus by 7:30 and go to the airport. We go through security and fly on China Eastern to Beijing. They give us a funny little hot dog for our ‘snack’. Once in Beijing we get on a bus again, but glad we aren’t trying to drive in this traffic. We drive by the 2008 Olympic stadium. The bus driver is great and makes a short stop so we can take pictures of the “Birds Nest” and the “Ice Cube”.

Beijing is one big city. I can’t get over so many people living in the huge high-rises .
There is a lot of traffic and the smog is terrible.
It is a modern city with an IKEA store. That is where the people in the high-rises buy their furniture.
Me standing in front of the “Ice Cube” building and the Olympic towers.
The Olympic Towers and the “Ice Cube” building. Note how bad the smog is!
The building called “The Bird’s Nest”.
The “Bird’s Nest” and note how I managed to include a bird’s nest in the tree to the left!

Only about half of our group decide to go on the optional tour of Hutong. It is the old part of Beijing which has the old courtyard homes and little narrow streets. These courtyard homes once covered all of Beijing, now only a few still survive. We take a rickshaw tour through these streets and stop to visit one of the local homes.

Showing the old style homes built around a central courtyard.
Their little narrow streets.
Carrie this one is for you: a garden plot between their home and the street.
Little narrow street between courtyard homes.
Doors to homes on the narrow streets, in a courtyard block.
Going in one of the local homes for a visit.

The rickshaw ride through the old town was fun. However four of our group end up apart from us when we arrive for the home visit! Their drivers took them back to the starting point instead of to the home we got to go in and visit with the family. Modern technology (cell phones) saved the day and got everyone back together.

Rickshaw ride through old part of the city.
It gets a little hairy when rickshaw versus modern cars happens.
Down a street with shopping.

The rickshaw leaves us at the local home and we then walk along the Jing-Hang/Grand Canal. It is the oldest and longest canal hand built in the world. It is 1100 miles long. It starts in Beijing and connects the Yellow River and the Yangtze River.

Part of the Grand Canal.
Walking along shopping area along the Grand Canal.
All kinds of little shops.
This seemed to be a popular item – sugared fruit on a stick.

Our next stop was to the Drum Tower.

That is the Drum Tower at the end of the street, up on top of the hill in the smog.
This would be a very pretty view if it weren’t for the smog. I know I sound like a broken record , but I can’t get over how bad the smog is here.
Once we get there we have to climb the 70 VERY STEEP stairs to get to the top. Note the warning on the hand rail to the left.
Rick makes it up but going down with his fear of heights is another story.
The Drum Tower, looks innocent enough from the outside. It did have good views of the city though.
Inside at the top are ancient drums, thus the name.
There was also a display of ancient time keeping devices, which are no longer used.
A way of telling time with running water, bronze kelou.

We then head back to the hotel after having lunch at a local restaurant. The hotel we are staying in was built in 1952, but is in nice shape. Rick’s cold has caught up with me and I stay in the hotel while Rick and John go on a city walk with Frank. This is Frank’s home town, but he has to ride the metro for 50 minutes from downtown to his home. He does not own a car. To buy a car you have to enter a lottery system, which he has several times but has never won. Also it is very expensive to pay for a garage space to keep a car if you do own one. Thus the metro is widely used and very crowded, but a fast and cheaper way of transportation.

We go to bed by 9 and don’t even celebrate either John’s birthday or Saint Patrick’s Day. Oh well, it was a good day anyway, and tomorrow is another big day with new adventures – seeing the Great Wall of China and Panda Bears!

China Trip – Day 11

Xian: A very full day seeing: Xingqing Park, Lacquer furniture shop, lunch at a university restaurant, Terracotta warriors gallery, the archaeological site of the Terracotta Warriors, City wall, and dinner with dance performance by the Tang Dynasty Troupe. Weather: Sunny with it being 41* in AM & 70* in PM

We get up at 6:00 AM, this is becoming my new norm. Again have a fantastic huge buffet breakfast. We meet Frank and Ivy at 7:30. We get on a bus and go to Xingqing Park, which had a lot of interactive things to do. I enjoyed it very much.

Entrance to Xingqing Park
Local people doing morning exercises. They invited us to join them, which I did.
We next meet a group doing a fan dance and we have fun joining them also.
Me with the local dancers and Frank our guide.
Rick with one of the local dancers.
A group picture of our group and the local dancers.
I was having fun, Rick was taking pictures.
We join another exercise group. Ivy our guide in center with green jacket.
We continue on and listen to a local band playing music. They play Christmas carols for us!
We continue walking through the park, very pretty with the trees starting to bloom.
An up close of blossoms.
Yours truly, taking time to enjoy the small things.
Enjoying the sights of spring.
On our way out we are stopped by this interesting 91 year old Chinese man that wanted to talk to us.
Also saw this lady writing in Chinese characters on the sidewalk. Don’t know what it says.

We are back on the bus headed to a Lacquer furniture shop. On the way we pass the City Wall. It surrounds the city for a total of eight miles. It is the only original complete wall around a city that remains in China. We also see the Bell Tower.

Part of the City Wall.
More of the City Wall.
The Bell Tower.
The City Wall
Some of the furniture in the lacquer shop.
Lacquer furniture shop

We next are headed to the Terracotta Gallery where they show and explain the making of the warriors.

Man making small terracotta warriors.
The making of the warriors from individual molds.
Small Terracotta Warriors. We buy two, plus a set of four and a horse. Plus a painted plate of Chinese scene done in blue.
Large warriors that can be bought.
These warriors were seen on the way out!

From the gallery we headed to lunch on a university campus with a nice lunch beside a koi pond.

Relaxing site for lunch.
Koi in pond.

We are now headed on to the actual archaeological site of the Terracotta Warriors – life-size soldiers, horses and chariots that were entombed with China’s first emperor, Qin She Huang. On the way we pass a carved monument representing the warriors.

Monument of warriors and horses in city.
Carved monument of warriors.

Then on to the actual site where a farmer discovered the first warrior head while digging a well. We bought a book with his autograph. He is now 86 years old and no longer goes to the museum. We spend 3 hours looking at the pits and the original warriors. The first Pit has 6,000 warriors with 2,000 restored at this time. They originally were in color but as soon as they are dug up they oxidize and lose their color.

The museum – Pit 1, 2, & 3
The first of the ‘Pits’.
It is hard to show the massive area in pictures.
Rick overlooking Pit 1.
Showing some restored in front of how the pieces are found.
Two restored warriors next to uncovered pieces in the next aisle.
Digging out ruins.
Some restored warriors and horses.
Showing some of the faces. So far there are no two warriors that are the same!
Pit 2 & 3 are warriors and horses in the process of being restored (pieces being put together).
Showing how pieces are collected in boxes and slowly sorted and put together.
After assembled they are put up in the exact site where they were found.
The exact site where the first warrior head was found when digging a well. It is the soldier that is ‘headless’!
Showing the first discovered warrior (one in front row without a head).

On the way out of the ‘Pits’ we see special warriors that are encased in show cases. The archer being the only warrior found complete in the entire area.

Then it is to the building that houses the chariots.

Chariots behind enclosed glass and thus hard to get good clear pictures.

This is an amazing site and photos don’t do it justice. Very lucky and glad we had the opportunity to see it all in person.

We make it back on the bus to the hotel by 5:15, change to nicer clothes and back on the bus by 5:45 to go to dinner and the dance performance by the Tang Dynasty Troupe. It is an hour long dance depicting the only female Empress’ life.

Some of dinner.
Prior to dinner, Chinese music played on different instruments.
Pictures from the dance production:
The ending scene.

But that is not the end of the day yet. We get on the bus and see the night city lights and the city wall lite up.

The City Wall lite up.
The Bell Tower in lights.

We get to the hotel at 9:30 and have to pack our luggage and have it out to go to the airport by 10:30 PM. We have to leave the hotel by 6:30 AM. It has been a very long day but an extremely interesting and informative day!

China Trip – Day 10

Disembark the Yangtze River cruise in Chongqing -> Stilwell Museum -> Three Gorges Museum -> airport -> Flight from Chongqing to Xian Weather: Chongqing – rain and overcast and 54-63*, Xian – sunny and 66*

We get up at 6:15 and have our luggage packed and outside the door by 7:00. We go down and have our last breakfast on the ship. We disembark. It is raining. We get on a bus and go to see the Stilwell Museum, walking up the hill in the rain to the renovated former residence of General Stilwell – who helped the Chinese win the War of Resistance against the Japanese invaders.

We disembark in Chongqing in the rain.
It is another large city and one of the top emerging cities of China.
We visit General Stilwell’s former residence, in the rain.
Plaque outside the museum.

We walk down the hill and meet the bus, which takes us next to visit the Three Gorges Museum. It is a very large museum with all kinds of different displays about Chinese culture. It has the name because the building is built to look like the Dam with water flowing out. We have time to only visit the first and third floors. Frank started to tell us about the displays and the guard stops him. They no longer allow private tour guides to explain things. Supposedly someone explained things in a way they didn’t approve of so they no longer allow it. Thus we continue on our own, making the best of the displays not knowing Chinese. We see a lot of Chinese history.

The Three Gorges Museum in Chongqing.
A large display about the “rope men’ on the Yangtze River.
A fishing boat on the Yangtze.
Pottery displays
Various statues
Showing the many varying ethnic groups of China
Including these two visitors!
A lot of art and statues
This was a display of different types of drums.

We leave the museum going past this large building in the park to our set meeting place, ‘KFC’, to get on the bus to take us to the airport. Our flight is at 11:45 and it takes 1 1/2 hours to get to Xian. Once we are there we take another bus to our hotel – Novotel.

Leaving the museum, it is still raining.

After checking into our room on the 12th floor, we walk to the mall and eat in a Cantonese restaurant. We order three different dishes – pork dumplings, shrimp wrapped in large noodles, and a vegetarian noodle dish. All are very tasty. They only have chopsticks so I have a crash lesson in using them. After dinner we went to Dairy Queen and I have a mango parfait!

Dinner: dumplings and noodle dish.
The shrimp wrapped in noodles.
After dinner, on way back to hotel we saw this group dancing on the street corner.

The end of another interesting day packed with activities and new experiences. We go to bed by 9 because tomorrow is another really full day.

China Trip – Day 9

Continue on the Yangtze River with an excursion to Shibaozhai Pagoda / Weather: Cloudy, overcast, with occasional rain and the ever present smog

We get up at 6:30, go to breakfast. (I thought this was vacation, what is it with all this getting up so early?) At 8:15 we go on the shore excursion to the Shibaozhai Pagoda in Changqing. This pagoda is referred to as one of the eight construction wonders of the world. It is built into the side of a rocky cliff face and done without the use of nails! The pagoda is original, greater than 400 years old, built in the Ming Dynasty. It is 12 stories high and stands over 100 feet high. To get to it we hike up the hill through the market to the swinging bridge to the island. It is much quieter here and our guide tells us he gets a three bedroom house for only $300/year!

Looking back at our ship at dock in Chongqing.
Entrance to the city and market place.
Walking through the market place. Lots quieter here than in the big cities.
Walking through town square to the pagoda.
Entrance to the big swinging bridge to cross to the island where the Shibaozhai Pagoda is. This was our local guide with Gate 1.
Our little group was small in comparison to all the Chinese visitors.
Rick isn’t too sure about this swinging bridge idea. All the wooden slats move and especially with so many people on it. Nancy and John also staying close to the railing.
Sign at the base of the pagoda and temple. The temple has been rebuilt due to being destroyed in the revolution. However the pagoda itself is all original.
Us in front of the pagoda.
Can I do it? I decide yes and climb up to the very top. Rick says he will stay at bottom and take pictures.
Chinese sayings on the ancient walls.
Me after making it about half way up, stop and wave to Rick.
Showing statues and original tiles on the roof.
Some of the statues inside the pagoda.
Looking out of one of the windows of the pagoda back to our ship.
I made it to the very top!
Looking down from the top of the pagoda. Rick is the dot sitting on the planter box, it is a ways down there!
View from the top, looking out the back over the swinging bridge and back to the city.
Coming down the back side is a lot easier than going up the front!

We head back to the ship. We stop and buy two circular wooden carvings of dragons that I think we will use for hot plates on our table. A few more interesting sites we see on our way back:

Interesting carvings on giant planters
A lady getting a ride back down the mountain in a human powered carriage.
Local women doing laundry at the river
Looking back at the island, pagoda and bridge
We get back on our ship the Century Sun.
One last view of the Shibaozhai Pagoda as we start cruising again on the Yangtze River.
As we cruise we pass a lot of barges with coal.
All the coal and industry adds to the horrible smog.
Things brighten up with these fields of canola.

While back on the ship we watch a demonstration of painting in snuff bottles, like the ones we bought yesterday. It is a dying art, there are less than a hundred artists left. The new generation has no patience to do it. We have lunch and then get to take a private tour of the captain’s bridge. They have a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd mate on duty. The captain is on the bridge only for going in and out of port. The mates work 4 hours on, 8 hours off, 4 hours on and 8 hours off.

The mates on the bridge.

Rick still doesn’t feel well, now feels like he is getting a cold. I go to watch a demonstration on how to tie scarfs. Rick ends up going to learn how to play the game Mahjong. Next we go to a documentary about the Three Gorges Dam. Two Chinese ladies in front of me are very rude and talk for the entire hour instead of watching the movie.

We go to the farewell dinner and join in celebrating with drinks. After dinner we find our ship manager – Stephen and pay him a gratuity. We then head to our to pack and be ready to disembark tomorrow.

Our Gate 1 Tour Manager – Frank and the ship manager – Stephen.
As we cruise our last night we enjoy the night lights of the cities as we pass by.
The end of our cruise on the Yangtze River.

China Trip – Day 8

Yangtze River -> through the “Three Gorges”: from the Three Gorges Dam thru Xiling Gorge, thru Wu Gorge; including up & back Goddess Stream on smaller local excursion boat, past Wushan, and thru Qutang Gorge. Weather: cooler with heavy rain at times and always cloudy and misty

We get up at 6:45 and have breakfast at 8:30, as we are cruising on the Yangtze River. We cruise through the Lesser Three Gorges: Longmen Gorge, Bawu Gorge, and Dicui Gorge. It is raining today and the mist and clouds adds to the mystic of the steep mountain walls that surround us. While we are sailing through the Wu Gorge we stop and do an excursion on a small local boat up Goddess Stream.

Small village on the banks of the Yangtze River.
Modern coffins in mountainside along river. The old ones were made of wood.
Leaving cruise ship in rain to get on local small boat to go up Goddess Stream.
Our cruise ship on the Wu Gorge.
Picture of the small boats we went on the Goddess Stream in. Note steep sides to the river.
This is our guide on the excursion up Goddess Stream. She is 26 years old and from the local mountains. Her family lost their home and were relocated when the dam was built. She went to college and got her degree in finance but came back to the mountains where she grew up to live with her grandparents. Her parents work in the city and she only sees them once a year when they come home for New Year. She has two sisters, both in college. Since they live in the mountains and are a “minority” group of Chinese people they could have more than one child. Unlike Scotty in Shanghai. She improves her English by studying two hours everyday after work on the internet to learn new words, very self motivated. She teaches us some Chinese words through music!
View of the steep gorge as we go up the stream.
Part of our group on excursion up Goddess Stream. Luckily the boats had a roof to protect from the rain.
The ride is very picturesque with the mist and clouds.
This rock formation is what the area is named after: The Goddess.
Closer view of ‘The Goddess’, rock formation on top of Goddess Peak.
Rick returning to the ship.
Nancy & John returning to the ship after excursion up Goddess Stream.

We go back to the ship and continue cruising, and listen to commentary on the area as we cruise through the gorges. As we go through the Qutang Gorge they tell us this is the area where the picture on their 10 Yuan paper money is taken from.

Area on the 10 Yuan (their paper money).
Picture taken from Qutang Gorge is featured on their 10 Yuan.

As we continue cruising with it raining I go and watch a demonstration on how to fold bath towels into different shapes. They make one into an elephant. Rick isn’t feeling well at all, ? food poisoning. He stays in the room close to the bathroom. I go to a private showing for our group of making “Hot Pot” – a local way of cooking dishes in a HOT broth. Meaning both temperature and the spices they add. They use a lot of chilis. I tried it at the end and thought it was very tasty, however the chef made it only a “2” out of 10 for us.

Elephant made from bath towels.
Chef making ‘Hot Pot’ dish.
Hot Pot dish/soup with all kinds of things added.

We continue cruising and enjoying the sights even with it still raining.

A lighthouse on one point. Can see why they need it with the low clouds and steep sides to the gorges.
Chinese writings on the rock walls.
Narrow roadway/walkway along the river, either way Rick says he will pass thank you!
Pretty mountain area, showing the sides that make the gorges, with the low clouds lingering.
We see quite a few barges caring gravel for all the concrete used in making the new skyscraper buildings in the cities.
The bridge over the Yangtze River as approaching Wushan.
This is Wushan, a new city built after the dam was built, at the end of Qutang Gorge.

We spend time talking to the man that paints the inside of snuff bottles and end up buying two. One was done by him of The Great Wall and the second one with very fine detail done by his grandfather, now deceased. It is painted of Suzhou where we went on the gondola boats.

We go to dinner but Rick’s stomach is still bothering him and he eats very little. After dinner we go to the Crew Cabaret Show. It is all done by the ship’s crew members. It is an hour and a half of various Chinese dances. I like the mask changing one best. He changed masks seven times, don’t know how he does it. Ended the evening with me on the dance floor with the local dancers! We get to bed at 10:15 as the ship continues to cruise throughout the night.

China Trip – Day 7

YiChang -> Yangtze River on Century Sun Cruise -> Three Gorges Dam / Weather: 46*-72*, Partly sunny with clouds and smog.

We get up at 7. Our ship has 6 decks. We (Gate 1) have a private lounge on Deck 4. Our room has two small twin beds, rather hard, but I slept OK. We go to breakfast at 7:30 and then check out the private lounge.

Rick checking out private lounge. It is nice, at bow of ship, with large windows and protected from rain and wind.

Next we go to a talk on Chinese medicine – acupuncture & acupressure.

One of our group volunteers to have acupuncture done for painful knees.

Next I go listen and watch a gentleman who does fine paintings inside snuff bottles. His family has been doing it for generations. Talk about needing steady hands.

Watching the painting on the inside of snuff bottles.
The brush used has only one little bristle.
You need very steady hands and a lot of patience and time to complete the very fine intricate work.
I didn’t capture the detail, but amazing work.

Our next stop is to attend a lecture on the Yangtze River. It is the longest river in China and the third longest river in the world. In the Chinese language the river is known as the Chang Jianh River. The gentleman giving the lecture told us that his family lost their home when the dam was built on the river. 1.3 million people were relocated as a result of the dam being built and given no choice about the matter. Very hard on older generation. Some families had lived in the same village and homes for 400 years! The younger generation liked the possibility of moving closer to the city with the opportunity to go to school, even if it was two hours away. After lunch we go on the tour to the Three Gorges Dam. It is the world’s largest hydroelectric project ever undertaken by man. It is nearly six times the size of the Hoover Dam (in length and number of turbines, I think). Honestly, having toured and gone in Hoover Dam and watched the building of Oroville Dam – the largest earthen dirt dam (at least at the time) I was not impressed. We only got to see the outside of the dam from an overlook. I was more taken by how it affected the people who had to relocate. The dam has 32 turbines in 3 different power houses.

Map showing the river course.
Our first sighting of the Three Gorges Dam.
It is one BIG DAM.
It is so smoggy and cloudy on the day we are there it is hard to get a clear picture of the dam.
Taken from the overlook on the side of the dam. We take 5 escalators to get to the top (used to have to go up over 700 steps) so the new escalators were muchly appreciated.
What the dam looks like on a somewhat clearer day.
The dam was built not only to produce electricity , but also to increase the Yangtze River’s shipping capacity. This is the locks beside the dam. It takes freighters 4 hours to go through. Cruise ships may have to wait up to 3 weeks to get a place in line to go through.
A freighter going through the locks. The dam also helps reduce the potential for floods.
Our ticket for the tour of the Three Gorges Dam Project. They are still expanding and working on the dam.

At the overlook for pictures my camera’s battery goes dead. It is OK though because with the smog it is hard to get good pictures. We take the bus back to the ship by 5:30 and have dinner at 6:30. Roasted duck is our special local plate for tonight. The best thing for me was the bread pudding! We go back to our room and change clothes for the Captain’s Welcome Party at 8:45. The ship leaves the dock and starts going up the river at 10 PM. Time to close another busy day.

China Trip – Day 6

Shanghai -> Yuyuan Garden -> Silk Embroidery Shop -> Fly to Yichang -> Century Cruises embark on Century Sun for cruise on the Yangtze River – Weather: Slightly cloudy, mostly sunny, warmer in the 60’s, smog

We get up at 6:30. We set our luggage out by 9, have breakfast, and check out of hotel by 10. We get on the bus and drive by the Bund one last time. This time the sun is out and we can clearly see the skyscrapers.

The skyscrapers of Shanghai – the new financial district.
The ‘can opener’ building and the 2nd highest building in the world. Clear day, but always smog!

We continue on to the Yuyuan Garden, it is 450 years old. It is half of the garden yesterday (900 years old), but I like today’s garden better. It is in the Old Quarter, built during the Ming Dynasty. It is pretty and calming.

You can see the ‘old’ meeting the ‘new’. The old building in the foreground, with the new skyscraper noted in the background, through the smog.e
Rick in the garden.
Me sitting by the tree in bloom.
Koi in pond.
Garden with ponds and koi.
The trees are in bloom adding to the beauty.
I think this bare tree has its own beauty. I like the guy standing by it too!
Intriguing opening from one garden into another area.
Dragon wall in the garden.
Rick and me in front of the dragon wall.
Some of the ancient roof tiles. Each one tells a story.
Rick in the garden.
We found ‘Heaven” for Ninji, too bad it is in China!
Exiting the garden into the Old Town.
Exiting via the ‘crooked’ walkway, which gives you good luck.
Walking around Old Town.
We stopped in a tea shop and bought some of their tea.
Rick buys an ice cream cone, very creamy and tastes like vanilla taffy.

After walking around Old Town we walk the back side streets by local homes and see some local flavor.

I like this photo with shoes, sweater and intestines and meat all drying together on the line! The yard/garden are the flower pots on the walk. And the owner is as interested in us as we are of her!

Next we are back on the bus and go to the Silk Embroidery Shop, where pictures are made by hand with silk thread. They can take any where from months to years to complete. The pieces are amazing, looking almost like photos. We buy a small one of panda bears.

Fascinating watching the hand work. And I thought the embroidery that I do is time consuming!
This is the one we bought. I thought it represents China.
This one of wolves looked so real.
One of the Grand Canal we went on. Amazing hand work.
Another one, this of the Great Wall of China.
A work in progress.
They also did beautiful rugs. This was one in the making. Would love to get one, but for the price would never want to walk on it!

We are then off to have lunch. Next we take the bus to the airport, an hour drive. We say good-by to Scotty our guide for Shanghai. He was 38 years old with one daughter who was 10. At the time she was born they were only allowed to have one child. We board our flight at 5:50 PM. It is a two hour flight to YiChang.

Flight leaving Shanghai to YiChang.

We ride on another bus for an hour to arrive at our cruise ship with Century Cruises. We are on the Century Sun for a four day cruise on the Yangtze River. It is 11 PM when we board the ship. We are in room #511. It is a small room with twin beds, but has an outside balcony. It is midnight and time to go to bed after a very interesting day. Ready to relax a little.

Our boarding pass to cruise.
Room #511 with outside balcony.

China Trip – Day 5

Shanghai -> Tour to Suzhou & Cruise on Grand Canal -> Shanghai Weather in Shanghai: Cloudy & overcast, Suzhou: Cold & cloudy

We get up at 6 AM and shower. Down to breakfast at 7. Start our tour to Suzhou at 8. It is known as the “Venice of the East”. It is a two hour bus trip to Suzhou. And if you know me, it is important to know the following word in any language!

It was nice to make a stop here on our way.

Our first adventure in Suzhou is to go on a boat ride on the Grand Canal.

These are our “gondolas”.
They row and guide the boat with this one row , that balances on a small ball.
This is the boat in front of us. The rower is female and she sings as she rows.
The canal winds through the town.
This is an old town. No skyscrapers here.

After the boat ride we walk along the local shops on Pingjiang Road and through narrow side streets. It is more interesting to me than the BIG city.

This is a mouse trap, found all along the side streets.

We enjoy just walking and seeing the sights.

In this shop a lady is making individual pastries each by hand.
All along the walk along the canal there are young couples dressed in traditional dress having their pre-wedding photos taken.
(This one is for you Nick!) In one little shop there was this high end bike with frame made from bamboo.
This dragon was at the entrance to a little shopping area.

Next we go to lunch as a group, and then onto the Garden of the Master of the Nets, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On the way I am still interested by all the bikes and scooters.

All the electric scooters outside a market and KFC.
Scooters with their warm blankets for your hands and legs.
This was part of lunch, an entire fish, served whole. I tried almost everything, that was the nice part of having a lot of meals served family style – you could try a lot of different foods.
Garden of the Master.
Interesting tree at parking area.
Scotty guides us through the Garden. Scotty’s native name is Pan Rui (pronounced Ray), which means “wisdom”.
Sedan chair, made of mahogany.
The garden is very pretty and full of carvings,
Rock work, this one of a crane,
Other rock and plant arrangements,
Bamboo
Ponds, buildings and trees starting to bloom
Anda cute little Chinese boy! ( Rick to the right)

As we leave, we buy four very pretty Chinese pictures done in silk thread, machine embroidery. We will probably use them as placemats under the glass on the dining table.

Then it was the return trip on the bus to Shanghai. We get back at 5:15 PM and put on more warm clothes and go out again at 6:15 with our tour guide. Only 12 people go. We take the experience of taking the busy subway back to the “Bund” to see it with all of its lights at night. What an experience! The crowds of people are unbelievable. Navigating through some of the 25 million people in Shanghai, plus all the tourists. And Frank tells us this is a quiet night. The rain has stopped and the clouds lifted so we can see the top of the skyscrapers this time. It is pretty with all of them with lights.

Getting a quick lesson in buying a subway ticket.
The crowds and the buildings across the river all lit up.
This time we can see the top of the world’s second tallest building and the one next to it (blue) that they call the “bottle opener”.
The twosome in front of “Little Ben” in the Bund with the night lights, to end our time in Shanghai!

We take the subway back to the hotel and make it into bed by 9:30.

China Trip – Day 4

Shanghai – City Tour / Weather: Raining, low clouds, 54*

We get up at 6:30 after a good night’s sleep. It is raining. Rick goes down to the front desk and they have our luggage – yeah! We have a fantastic buffet breakfast with everything you could think of both Chinese and American food. We leave at 9 AM on a city tour on a bus. It is raining.

I am intrigued by the “rain gear” used on the scooters: hand mittens, leg protectors, & umbrellas!
They come in all colors and styles.

Our first stop is to the Jade Buddha Temple. It has the jade buddha, which is made of “white” jade instead of “green” jade, which makes it even rarer. There are lots of buildings with gold plated buddhas.

Buddha at the Jade Buddha Temple.
At the Jade Buddha Temple.
Very pretty and intricate ceiling above this Buddha.
Rick by some of the statues at the Jade Buddha Temple.
One of the interesting pieces in the courtyard at the Jade Buddha Temple.
Monks come into the courtyard, singing, while we are there.
Rick in the courtyard at the Jade Buddha Temple with the trees in bloom.
Nancy and John at the Jade Buddha Temple. Looks like we are enjoying our first stop of the tour!
Women writing passages in Chinese characters with black paint and brushes.
Some of the figures on the roof tops.

The next stop of the city tour was to the “Bund” district downtown on the river. The left side is old and English style buildings. One being with the “Little Ben” clock on top. It chimes every 15 minutes. Across the river are all the new skyscraper buildings. One is the second tallest in the world – 118 floors. But you can’t see the tops of any of them, with the rain the tops are in the clouds.

Nancy, Rick, and John in front of “Little Ben” in the “Bund” in the rain in Shanghai.
A rainy day in the “Bund” district on the river in Shanghai, China.

We also see the flower wall, scenes and designs made with real flowers.

Flower wall
Part of the flower wall.

We go back to the hotel and have a meeting with Frank our tour manager and then enjoy a huge Chinese dinner, served family style on a large lazy -susan. A short walk through shops before going to bed by 9.

Many various dishes served for dinner.
Rick and Lori on walk in Shanghai, China. A great start to our China tour, even with the rain!