Day 7 San Dou Ping (Three Gorges Dam Transit)

Trip Start Aug 01, 2011
Trip End Aug 25, 2011

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Where I stayed
Victoria Cruise Ship "Lianna"
What I did
Toured and Transited the Three Gorges Dam

Flag of China  , Hubei,
Friday, August 12, 2011

Good morning from the Yangtze River

Today is 12 August 2011, and we have finally set sail towards our primary destination of the day; the Three Gorges Dam. The engine noise woke me up (0600), so I decided to go out on the balcony and take a few pictures of the departure harbor and other ships that were also preparing to sail.  The activity reminded me of a normal cruise departure; all the ships leave within a short period of time from each other, on basically the same itinerary.  As soon as I walked outside the HUMIDITY hit me!  WOW; it was bad.  I quickly went back inside the cabin to regroup.  It was so humid that as soon as I took the lens cap off my camera, the lens fogged up.  I got a Q-tip and tried to wipe the moisture off; it didn't work.  It took approximately 30 minutes for the lens to clear up. 

Anyway, I got Rosalind up and we were off to breakfast at 0730.  We were scheduled to dock in the village of San Dou Ping at 0830; the tour to the dam was scheduled to begin at 0845.  As a result of our room upgrade, we eat all of our meals in a private dining area.  That was nice too!  We were joined by only about 20-25 others at four different tables.  That sure beat having to compete for food with 160 others during one seating.  Back to our breakfast, it was a combination of American and Chinese dishes.  I ate the basic fare; Rosalind was a little more adventurous. 

After breakfast, it was time for the tour.  Rosalind decided to stay on the ship.  It was a short tour and we were passing through the locks of the dam anyway.  So I joined the other in the group, got an identification lanyard and headed to a waiting bus.  The buses were parked on the far end of a small market area.  That made us have to walk through the market area to give the vendors an opportunity to make some cash.  They were immediately in your face.  I told them maybe later and headed to the bus. 

We drove through an area in the town of San Dou Ping to get through a security checkpoint.  Everyone had to get off the bus, show you ticket, go through a security check, and then reboard the bus in a secured area.  Let’s talk about the ticket taker for a minute.  The attendant took my ticket and cut it along a perforated edge with a pair of scissors; he did every single ticket that way!  He gave me my part back; his cut-off stubs just piled up on the counter in front of him.  Modern technology at its finest! 

The drive from the security checkpoint to the dam was only about 15 minutes.  Our local guide gave us a little history of the project (will discuss more later).  We slowed down over a bridge to get a good view of the locks and support facilities.  Our first of two stops was at a little tourist area that allowed good views of the majority of the dam and gates.  We were briefed on the dam’s capability and given an opportunity to take a few pictures.  After about 45 minutes we boarded the bus and headed to the official "The Gorges Dam Visitors Center".  Just in case I haven’t told you yet this morning; it’s HOT!  At the Visitors’ Center, we got a briefing on the dam project with the narrator using a nice scale model to demonstrate the key points.  After the briefing, we were free to walk around the area for about 45 minutes.  I went to a great viewing point in the bus parking lot.  After taking a few pictures, it was back to the bus and back to the ship.  I forgot I would have to confront the vendors back at the village.  I made it through okay but later regretted not getting a 12-pack of beer that was really cheap.  And you could bring it back on the ship!  Jim and I tried to get off the ship, run over and buy some beer, but couldn’t because the ship was about to sail.  About five minutes later, we were off to navigate the five locks of the dam and continue our journey upstream.  It’s 1300 now, so we ate lunch and got ready for the transit.  A crew member narrated the transit over the ship’s intercom.  I decided to watch the transit from my room since I had two good vantage points.  As we approached the first lock, the area looked like a parking lot with ships waiting their turn to transit.   The locks are so big that two of the cruise ships and two barges fit into one two abreast.  One additional lock called "the elevator" can lift and lower small ships the entire 150 meters in one attempt.   The ship was raised a total of 150 meters through five locks in a little ovr three hours. 

Now let me give you a little more information about the Three Gorges Dam project as promised above.  The Communist Party Council passed a resolution approving the project in April 1992; construction began November 1994.  The first ship navigated the locks in June 2003.  The dam is 2,335 meters long, 115 meters wide at the bottom, 40 meters wide at the top and has a crest capability of 185 meters.  The dam has the largest hydroelectric producing capability in the world; but only produces 3 percent of the electricity consumed in the region.  The greatest benefit of the dam is flood control and commerce up and down the Yangtze River.  Over 45 percent of the total money spent on the dam project was for resettlement.  Over 1.4 million people had to be relocated from 2 major cities, 11 counties (provinces) and 1771 countries (villages).  Flooding of the reservoir began in April 2003; it only took 10 days for it to reach a level of 135 meters.  The total area flooded was 632 square kilometers.  Imagine everyone in Bexar County being relocated higher up the river side or to other areas and cities.  Complete cities were rebuilt.  44 national archaeological sites and ancient monuments were impacted as well.  Imagine all of the local historical sites, artifacts, generations of family dwellings, farmland, temples, etc… that were gone forever.  Very few of them were relocated.  Grave site were relocated depending on family wealth.  Our local guide on the dam tour family had to be relocated.  They left with what he called was “a piece of the earth.”  He stated how difficult it was to be forced to abandon their home.  Once the reservoir flooding started, he went to a vantage point every couple of hours to see how much of his home had been submerged; that had to have been real tough. 

The educational part is over; let’s get back to the cruise.  We cruised until just after sunset and dropped anchor for the night near the village of Badong.  Dinner was buffet style with a mix of American and Chinese cuisine.  After dinner, the crew put on a show modeling traditional Chinese costumes.  I went back to our cabin after dinner; Rosalind went to the show with the other group members. 

Now here are my two cents about the show.  It was a demonstration of fashion from the Ming, Qinq (pronounced Ching) Dynasties and other minority ethnicities. (Did you know that Pakistanis, Afghans and Indonesians are considered Asian?)  The costumes were spectacular.  Silk embroidered with fine threads, beads and sequins. They told different stories in dance; and how the emperors had both a wife and a concubine.  The wife is always to the right of her husband because she is always right.  The detailing in the costumes also determined the wealth of the wearer. This also applies to the minority ethnic groups too.  There were dances of the women w/a thousand hands, young men trying to pick up a young lady; a courtship dance (an art lost in American culture today, yet still remains important here.  In fact young people in Hong Kong do not date until after high school).  To the engagement dance and finally the bridal dance all wearing different clothing.  Finally, they modeled current fashion trends and these dances were modern dances with the same meaning as the ancient ones.  Because of the single child per family living in the city rule in China, the pickup line on the dance floor is,” Are you from a one or two child family?” If one there might be a chance, if two that means you are a farmer and live outside of the city.  If two single child families meet and marry, then they can have two children so that they can take care of the grandparents and parents. Usually, three generations live together.  In America we are calling this the Sandwich Generation, where you take care of your parents and your children under the same roof.  That’s why here the parents buy the Condo and furnishes it for the newlyweds so that they will always have a place to live.  Farmers on the other hand, may have as many children as they want so that they can work the farm.  More and more of the Chinese young people have become modernized and prefer to live in the city.  All in all it was an awesome colorful and informative show.

Rosalind was back to the cabin by about 2200.  It was lights out!

Love you

Lionel and Rosalind
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