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Archive for June, 2008

Yangtze River - Guilin #6

Wuhan

Having less than a day in Wuhan, we didn’t venture far. There is a speccy pagoda though, whose beauty contrasts the stark concrete grey of the rest of the city. Being only a few hundred kms from Shanghai has influenced the feel of the city, but it really is little more than the train centre of the province. They have a ‘mini Bund’, along the river, which makes for an enjoyable walk. Along the river with the sunshine and slightly blue sky, we felt like we were in Adelaide for a little bit.

Wuhan is like Taiyuan in many ways; nothing of note to see, just a junction of train lines. We tried to find chilli pigeon on a stick, a local delicacy (’prooo!’) but to no avail. We walked along the Mini-Bund, or what they’d like to think of as The Bund; Shanghai being 600km away. Wuhan also has Concession buildings of foreign architecture, and the Yangtze and another river going through it.

We actually walked quite a way but didn’t find anywhere to cross the river. Maybe the ferry systems have been suspended now that there are 3 bridges over the river.

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We ended up taking a taxi over the river to an ‘Hube Alley’, mentioned in the LP as a source of meat on sticks. Someone was selling chilli meat-inna-bun, but since no-one had touched them between the time we saw them and the time we left, we didn’t, either. We sampled the produce for lunch, knowing that it was going to be deep-fried and unhealthy in the extreme. I had: an omelette surrounding vermicelli chilli’d noodles, a roast chicken leg, yoghurt & fruit & gelatine cubes in a bowl and a soy milk. Andrew had the local ‘hot - dry noodles’ (Re Gan Mian) which tasted really good, but a touch too hot for me, chilli potato chips, deep-fried dough with something sweet (date paste?) in it, and a fried rice & egg slice that looked different to how it tasted. They like their chillis around here. In truth, we didn’t eat much of the chips or rice & egg fried slice because they were pretty bad. But we got a taste of the local snack cuisine.

Yellow Crane Pagoda

Yellow Crane Pagoda

We walked a short way from the alley to the Yellow Crane Pagoda, which was striking in its colour and beauty compared to the greyness of the surrounding city. It had a lily pond. It featurd 2 cranes. There were Song dynasty paintings, very old, and turtles and wood carvings. The originals burned down a while ago but the pagoda was restored in the last 20 years.

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After the Pagoda we went ot the train station. We caught the evening 5pm overnight train to Guilin. It was an unremarkable evening, with smokers smoking a lot, and about 2metres from the non-smoking sign. They stank out the carriage. Our stomachs were feeling sick before the end of the trip. A common theme here. People were smoking during the night, too. I was despondent when I saw 5 small bottles of spirits walking past, because drinking, cards and smoking go hand in hand.

Yangtze River - Guilin #5

The 3 Gorges Dam

Yangtze River cruise boat

We disembarked (again! but for the last time) and went on a bus to the 3 Gorges Dam Wall. It was really boring. A concrete wall, with more water on one side than the other. Hmm. Andrew’d been looking forward to it all trip though, and since he’d do it much more justice than me, here’s Andrew’s account: …

Click me to make me grow!

I’d been waiting to see the 3 Gorges Dam wall and, to be honest, it was slightly disappointing. It’s a massive thing. It’s hard to get an appreciation for it’s size because you’re never allowed to go out on it, or get up close to it on the lower side. It’s positively huge. No photo can ever to justice to the scale of the construction, especially when most of it is hidden under water. It just fades off into the haze. It’s definitely no “Great Wall” though.

The engineering is seriously super-sized. At full capacity, the dam can output 22 Gigawatts of electricity. To put that into perspective, most nuclear power plants are 1 - 1.5 Gigawatts. There’s 26 turbines and over 1Km of wall that’s more than 200m high.

3 Gorges Dam top side

The ship locks take boats from the top to the bottom in 5 steps. It takes the best part of a day for a ship to get from the top to the bottom, or vice versa. They’ve built a slot in the wall for a “ship lift” that they hope to use to take smaller boats from the top to the bottom in one shot. Trouble is, no-one has yet figured out how to do it. They’ve just built the place for it in the wall. When they figure it out, they’ll let you know ) .

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Standing on the shore line on the low side of the mountain left me with a similar feeling to flying. No, not the “like, wow, man” flying, but the feeling that logically everything is fine but there’s always a “what if” niggling away back there somewhere. Apparently the nearest big city would have 1 hour to evacuate if the dam wall failed before being completely destroyed.

3 Gorges Dam with Andrew

In the end, I recall looking up at the mountain over my left shoulder, looking back at the “little” dam, back up at the mountain and again back to the wall and thinking that man’s best efforts will always fall short. Dimensionally and statistically it’s a massive thing, yet it shrank in the context of it’s surroundings.

So, to sum up, definitely worth seeing but I don’t think I’d be in any rush to come back again. Back to Gail:

… The bus got to Yi Chang, and we grabbed some small nibbles (boiled eggs and 2 minute noodles). There are virtually no vendors here! What’s up with that?! We caught one of the Yichang- Wuhan buses: 4 1/2 hours, and it really felt like it. The driver and others didn’t feel the need to avoid smoking, and we both reeked and felt slightly nauseous by the time 11:30pm rolled around and we were at the hotel.

The scariest part of the trip happened about half-way to Wuhan. It was night and we were just about to overtake a truck, about a bus length behind it and in the next lane, when the left rear tyre exploded. I mean it didn’t just deflated but it blew itself to smithereens, showering the front of the bus (and the windscreen right in front of us) with flying rocks, dirt and bits of blown up tyre. A scary moment, to be sure.

They played 2 funny films on the bus, the first of which was a China vs Japan war movie with comic stereotypes, the second with the American Marines vs Japanese, but the American captain was a short-sighted leader, so the day was saved by the Chinese. Humour abounded. Earlier in the day Andrew and I’d been discussing submarine movies, and Andrew said that the line ‘Descend to periscope depth’ crops up in all of them, without fail. I was sceptical - until the first line of the film - ‘Sergeant! Descend to periscope depth!’ )

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The above little critter was discovered minding its own business near the Three Gorges Dam Wall.

Yangtze River - Guilin #4

Qu Yuan Temple

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This morning we sailed past Wu Gorge and visited Qu Yuan Temple. Qu Yuan was a poet, political figure, reformer, diplomat and all-round Good Guy. The Dragon Boat Festival is a celebration in honour of him. He lived 476 BC - 221 BC. Below is a photo of one of his poems. It can apparently be read at least 2 different ways, then spiralling in from the outside, with the conclusion being the right hand vertical line. In any language that’s a pretty accomplished literary feat. To do justice to it would require a Chinese speaker.

Qu Yuan’s temple has apparently been restored a few times in latter dynasties. It looked very nice and we took a few photos. The mozzies thought it was very nice, too. The walls of the buildings were hung and painted with many of Qu’s works. After the viewing of the temple, we took part in a Dragon Boat race: one paddle each, no dunking / splashing. ) That was very fun. I’m sure the traditional rowers didn’t wear orange vests. There was a second boat which we raced. I’m not sure which boat won in the end. )

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There was a performance of Minority singing, dancing and playing a reed instrument very similar to an oboe (not a sheng or sona). The whole thing was way too loud. I had my fingers in my ears for all of it. With the digit muting it was very nice to listen to. There was some admirable male singing. But why the Chinese must have all performances so very loud is beyond my comprehension. The costumes were beautiful.

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