The Three Visitors Cave

The next morning dawned bright and sunny again, just not in my room. With no window to see I still got up at 8:30, packed my things and after a cup of tea (furnished from the nice Danish gentleman at the South train station in Xi’an) I was on my way.IMG_2370

 

I had looked up the online information on the cave since I was almost sure there would be no English guide available.IMG_2369

 

I already knew the way to the bus station and on the walk there I bought an apple from a vendor. This would suffice as breakfast. Once at the station bus number 10 took a while to come. What turned out to be really irritating was that on the information sheet it said 18 stops instead of final stop. I was counting each stop and was throughly irritated when the bus stopped at no clear indicated station. Should I count that one or not? Finally I asked the guy next to me who made a gesture as if to tell me when to get off. He didn’t but it was not necessary after all.

I had arrived at the right place as all the other local tourists indicated. The village had a lot more to offer than just the cave. There was also a bungee jump place, boat rides and some kind of cable chair with which you could cross the gorge (I am sure there is better word but since I don’t even know the word for it in German…, sorry).

I went for the all-in one ticket which was a bit of rip-off in the end because although it had sights from A-F on it (with the cave being B) nobody could tell me what the rest was except that F was a 5 minute boat ride which was prolonged by another 5 minutes because we had to dock three times to take other passengers on board.

The cave then was a spectacular walk with lots of scenic spots on the Yangtze and a few historic sites of Chinese defense against the Japanese in WWII.IMG_2375 IMG_2376 IMG_2380 IMG_2381 IMG_2384 IMG_2391 IMG_2393 IMG_2394 IMG_2397 IMG_2405 IMG_2407 IMG_2409 IMG_2410When I came out of the cave ‘park’ it was time for some lunch. Since the choices were limited I walked into the next one which had a very lovely view on a tributary of the Yangtze. Alas, not for me. Single diners are always banned to the darkest corner. In this case not a corner since I was just banned into the cave.IMG_2421 IMG_2416

On the other hand who knows how well built the terrace structure was. After the earthquake one cannot be too careful. The restaurant had a few specialties, one of them being an olm (or something similar)! The picture on my table number was definitely not inviting.IMG_2415

 

To stay on the safe side I ordered vegetables instead, noodles and fried rice. Portions again were large enough to feed a family of four, but I love to have a choice.IMG_2417 IMG_2418 IMG_2419

Sylvia would have loved the vegetables covered in bacon.

After the meal I was ready for the other sights, but as already said there were non (at least for non Chinese speaking people) except the boat ride. So I made my way down the gorge, already worried about walking all these steps up again.

The boat ride then was nice but short, nothing special except for seeing the cave from a different perspective.IMG_2422 IMG_2424 IMG_2425 IMG_2426 IMG_2427 IMG_2431

After the ride I slowly walked up again, ready to go back to the hostel. The bus ride into town was a lot less exciting than out of it since I could read and it was enough to look up ever couple of minutes to see were I was. Since I came back in good time I stopped at the cafe from yesterday and had a coffee. I had a long day still ahead.IMG_2440

 

The coffee was rich, creamy and sweet and had almost nothing to do with coffee. But it gave me a little downtime and a boost to tackle the airport issue.

With my backpack and my front pack in place I decided I would take a taxi to the airport shuttle station. It seemed rather heavy all of a sudden. I tried first on the street in front of my hostel to no avail. After 10 minutes I thought it prudent to walk to the bus station to have this option at least in case of taxi hailing failure.

It wasn’t that there were no taxis, just that no one wanted to take me on. And I had the destination in written Chinese. I was at the end of my rope here.

At the bus station I realized that it was rush hour and that it would be next to impossible to get on the bus what with all the Chinese pushing and shoving to get on first. So back again to lining up for a taxi.

While waiting I asked a young woman next to me if I was at least waiting on the right street side to go to the shuttle. As it turned out she spoke English, explained to me that the taxi drivers were changing shifts and therefore didn’t take anyone on and that bus no. 8 as written on the hostel information was not going to the shuttle. She knew because she worked near the hotel from where the shuttle left.

In the end she managed to hail a taxi, took me with her and payed for the it. I was overwhelmed especially since she walked with me to the correct hotel. Really, the Chinese are a lot better than their reputation!

At the hotel I found out that the shuttle would be leaving at 6pm, but by that time it was shortly before 5pm. The bus was already there but wouldn’t leave for an hour? I was flummoxed.

Anyway, I settled down in the lobby, reading my book and prepared to wait. I still had ample of time since my flight left only at 8:30pm. When the bus finally started after 6pm I was already less relaxed. I like to be at the airport early. Rather have a coffee there after check-in than being nervous about making the flight.

When the bus made its second stop we were only at the train station, a huge hub that I had seen already the day before. By then it was 7pm and I was on tenterhooks. Babsi (my friend in Beijing had ordered a driver due to my late arrival).

I tried the Tibetan mantra of ‘on ma ne be ne hum’ (I am sure it goes totally different but this is the way it sounded in German to me) and to be indifferent about it. After all it was only a flight.

In the end I was at the airport at 7:30, could check-in right away and had time for a water. Turned out that the airport was super small and all flights except mine were delayed.

Delayed for hours, like six or seven. Just imagine you have to wait that long. Apparently this was nothing unusual. I later heard that the air force is taking precedence over all flights and if they are having maneuvers then the air is theirs. Maybe this is exaggerate, I couldn’t verify it.

Long matters short, I left on time and a bit over two hours later I arrived in Beijing where Mr. Shi awaited me. He had a sign with my name but when I saw it first they seemed like Chinese characters. Since he kept looking at me I tried to decipher the sign again and then recognized my name. I think I need a new prescription for my contacts.

In no time at all we arrived at the Hutong where Babsi lived and then it was really time to relax. Yours, Pollybert

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Yichang 

From the train station it was easy to get a taxi that knew the way to the Yiduo Youth Hostel. But easier said than done cause once the driver stopped, there was just another hotel. I mimicked him to go on searching and we drove in a bigger circle into the same street again. Since he was not giving up on that street I searched on both street sides for the hostel. And really, he was right from the beginning, the hostel was just the other side of the hotel. I am still not sure though how the numbering of the houses works.

Once checked in and in my room, I was glad to relax again. Not that I had done so much this day (except go onto the dam), but the momentarily terror of being stranded at the mini harbor had drained me of all energy and I needed to rest.

Since the room had no window except a small one onto the hallway, it was dark and quiet and I slept for 2 hours.IMG_2355

 

Once I awoke I spoke to the daughter of the owner who could speak English and was very helpful (she was also only on visit from Beijing). She had made a map of the area on where to find good restaurants and the main bus station.IMG_2357

 

There were also descriptions of the main sights in the city. I settled on a half day excursion, the 3 Visitors Cave.IMG_2363

 

The information on how to get to the airport was not so clear but once I came back from dinner she had also written up an information sheet for this.IMG_2365

 

Meanwhile I went out in search of the bus station for the next day and something to eat. On my way around I saw a Catholic Church, my first in China.IMG_2358

 

I eventually went into a restaurant that showed its communist colors broadly. From Karl Marx to Mao and Stalin, the who’s who in communism was up on the wall.IMG_2362
With the help of my efficient dictionary I ordered fish (I was near the Yangtze after all), some vegetables and the usual beer (very important to re-charge the electrolyte household).IMG_2359 IMG_2360The food tasted as always delicious although the fish was a tad difficult to eat since it was hacked into pieces from head to tail or rather fin, bones included. I think I had one of the eyes by chance. Not really sure what to make of that but I am glad I didn’t swallow one of the bones.

On the way back to the hostel which was anyway only 5 minutes off I stopped at a café/tea house/ bar. This place had a bit of the ‘Old World’ charm with cosy nooks and an upstairs dining room. I tried to order some G&T but failed on the translation of the tonic. After 10 minutes of discussion, using my dictionary and the waitress’s translation app, we gave up and I ordered her recommendation. Which was not good at all. We tried again for the second drink but then I got Gin on the rocks, really not much better. With a lot of ice and over time, it was drinkable.

It helped to get really tired and I was asleep in no time. Yours, Pollybert

Cruising on the Yangtze

My cruise on the Yangtze was a four day three nights tour. Since you board very late on the first day and leave at noon the fourth day it is rather a three day cruise after all.IMG_2149 Still I am not going to complain here, it was very relaxing not to be responsible for anything, just to arrive at the meals and otherwise listening to the intercom and show up at the indicated times in the lobby.
The first morning I started lazy, had my breakfast and then went to a presentation about TCM instead of the optional Fengdu ghost city excursion.IMG_2150 IMG_2151

It was more of a snooze event especially since I felt a bit out of place on the cruise. 3/4 of the travelers were Chinese, and they were loud and obnoxious. Permanently on the phone, yelling (I don’t think they can talk to each other in a regular voice) or eating like pigs. The way these people storm the buffet you would think we were in Dafur.

The last quarter then was full of every other nationality from all over the earth. But were they old. I felt like the proverbial youngster on this ship (I saw maybe 6 people under 30, and 10 under 40). In the end it felt good to be one of the younger ones!

Anyway, after the TCM presentation I relaxed a bit in my room (lived that I had it to myself), then went for lunch and then around 5pm or so we arrived at our first stop, the Shibaozhai Pagoda or treasure stone. This was the first of three planned excursions for all passengers.IMG_2161

We walked through the little village with our respective groups and over the bridge to this old treasure. It had more than enough steps to climb to the top but I needed the exercise after reclining (except when I went for the meals) all day.IMG_2168 IMG_2169 IMG_2173 IMG_2176 IMG_2181 IMG_2182 IMG_2185 IMG_2187 IMG_2189 IMG_2190

Upon our return it was almost dinner time and after another battle at the buffet. We were then invited to attend a costume show on the entertainment deck. While watching it, I sat at the bar and wrote my postcards. It was the only illuminated place in the room and also the show was not really much to talk about.

For the next morning I had signed up for a visit to the White Emperor City and already went for breakfast at 6:45. It turned out the cruise was not so relaxing after all.

We walked through a little market to get to a bus station that would bring us to the site.IMG_2192 IMG_2193 IMG_2194 IMG_2195

 

 

 

Passengers who didn’t want to go with the organized ship tour were not allowed from board until an hour after departure. With this rule it was made sure that none could go alone. Very strange, I wonder if all cruises are like this?IMG_2196

 

We arrived and had to walk over a bridge and then again a steep staircase was waiting for us to get to the top. For the ones who didn’t want to walk carriers were available. Before starting to the top we had to walk to the staircase first from where we had a really nice view on the first gorge of this trip.IMG_2200 IMG_2205 IMG_2206 IMG_2209
At the top there was next to the usual pagoda a little museum about the history of the cliff coffins. Our guide couldn’t tell us if the water was higher in former times and the coffins lowered down from the top of the cliffs or if they built some kind of construction to get the coffins up. Whatever it was it looked very interesting and gave us something to search for while we were going through the gorges.IMG_2212 IMG_2213 IMG_2214 IMG_2216 IMG_2227 IMG_2228 IMG_2229 IMG_2230 IMG_2232 IMG_2233 IMG_2234
The smaller coffins were for a second class funeral. Meaning you were first burried in the ground and when your flesh had sufficently rotted, your bones were collected and then you got the cliff burial. In honesty it makes no sense to me, and I asked who would later pay for a cliff burial for someone who was long dead, but the guide knew no answer (also possible, he didn’t understand the question).

On the way to the ship I saw some interesting stalls selling all kinds of meats.IMG_2238 IMG_2240 IMG_2241

Finally we entered the first gorge (the gorges were the main attractions of the cruise) and I had to take some more pictures.IMG_2244 IMG_2245 IMG_2246 IMG_2249 IMG_2250The weather was always a bit hazy and overcast, so the background in the pictures looks all white. We were told that it’s really nice to come on the cruise in November and December because then the leaves would change their color to red.

After lunch we entered the second gorge and while in it we came to a point called the Goddess Peak in the Wu Gorge. Here we stopped and had another excursion. This time we changed into smaller boats and ventured into a small tributary. Steep cliffs on both sides made for a tight feeling and when our boat captain hit the rocks on one side I only thought not another disaster. It didn’t turn out to be the case, at least something! But I got gorgeous pictures from the tour.IMG_2262 IMG_2263 IMG_2268 IMG_2270 IMG_2273 IMG_2275 IMG_2280 IMG_2287 IMG_2291 IMG_2298 IMG_2299 IMG_2302

And this is the famous Goddess Peak.IMG_2303 IMG_2304

 

 

For that evening we had a captain’s dinner planned since it was also our farewell. This time no buffet but instead a set meal which was perfect and the Chinese food was wonderful.IMG_2317

 

The next morning we had our last excursion to the Three Gorges Damn which was impressive but in the end it’s a damn and who really cares.

On the way to it there was a security check were all passengers had to get off the bus, get screened and on the other side of the building had to get on the bus again. These checks were so weird.IMG_2318

 

And then we were finally at the dam.IMG_2320 IMG_2321 IMG_2322 IMG_2323 IMG_2324 IMG_2326 IMG_2327 IMG_2328 IMG_2330

 

On the way to our final stop we went through the last of the three gorges and easily the most picturesque.IMG_2336 IMG_2337 IMG_2368 IMG_2340 IMG_2342 IMG_2344 IMG_2348 IMG_2351

Then we arrived at Yichang were I got desperate for a second cause when we neared the harbor I saw that it was just another small ship station without any infrastructure. So there would be no taxi waiting for me to catch it. When I went down to reception to inquire about it, it was already too late to do much about it. On my way back to the cabin I met a guy I had seen about and told him my predicament. He offered to ask if they had a seat on their shuttle and really 15 minutes later I was driving with a group from New Zealand to the train station where I would grab a taxi and go to my hostel. Yours, Pollybert