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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 soold! 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
And the trees and rhododendrons are all in bloom.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
I was intrigued with ‘people watching’ while in the crowds.
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.
Some of the carvings on roofs and the side of buildings:
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:
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!
We say good byes, go to our room to pack everything up to fly to Hong Kong in AM. Get to bed by 10.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
Our next stop was to the Drum Tower.
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!
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.
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.
We next are headed to the Terracotta Gallery where they show and explain the making of the warriors.
From the gallery we headed to lunch on a university campus with a nice lunch beside a koi 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We continue cruising and enjoying the sights even with it still raining.
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.
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.
Next we go to a talk on Chinese medicine – acupuncture & acupressure.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After walking around Old Town we walk the back side streets by local homes and see some local flavor.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Our first adventure in Suzhou is to go on a boat ride on the Grand Canal.
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.
We enjoy just walking and seeing the sights.
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.
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.
We take the subway back to the hotel and make it into bed by 9:30.
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.
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.
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.
We also see the flower wall, scenes and designs made with real flowers.
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.