Big Buddhas and Small Cruises

Trip Start Sep 16, 2002
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Trip End Jun 14, 2003


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Flag of China  ,
Thursday, October 10, 2002

Our journey through China then took us through mid China from Xian to Wuhan.

Xian - Terracotta Warriors. There is little else to see in Xian, partly because of the terrible pollution in the city which means that visibility terrible. The army themselves are so impressive, either close up (behind glass) or as part of the massive army. There are about 3000 unique pieces on display and there are thought to be many more still to be excavated. We also met the man who originally discovered the warriors back in 1974.

One sour note came from the fact that the wonderful Chinese habit of spitting seemed to get out of hand as someone actually spat into the Warriors. The problem is that not only do the Chinese spit alot but they make a sound like they are vomitting each time they do it. Worse is when they spit inside or on buses. We found out there is actually fines for spitting in some places but these do not seem to be in place where we have been.

Chengdu - Pandas and Cooking. Chengdu was a great place to chill out after the big cities beforehand. The Panda Reserve has about 20 pandas (both Giant and Red) and they are just tremendous. The small, year old pandas were playing up to the camera and just rolling round and playing. There were also new born pandas in incubators who were no bigger than 20cm. The remaining, older pandas seemed happy to spend their time eating bamboo and then sleeping - quite a nice life.

Jo and I also had Chinese cooking lessons and cooked up a few rather tasty dishes. These inclued a top sweet and sour pork and Gaungbo Chicken - a local hot dish made with plenty of chillies. While we were not as skilled at the chef, our dishes came out well primarily because they are simple dishes to make.

Leshan - Big Buddha. This is meant to be the biggest Buddha in world - a massive 71m high, carved out of a rock face. We took a boat out to look at the Buddha front on from the water and then on land climbed hundreds of steps to see it from it's head and then feet (it's big toe was a rather large 8.5m). There were thousands of Chinese tourists there and most seem to be over 60. On the journey home we experienced one of the more annoying aspects of Chinese life - an inability to queue. We only had to get from the small docking bay on the large boat and although there was more than enough room for everyone, there was the most almighty bundle with everyone pushing and shouting. One old lady fell between the docking bay and boats and had to be pulled to safety. This seems to affect all people in Chinese society but from our experience in Leshan, it seems that the older generation can push as good as anyone.

Emei Shan - Jo's Birthday. Thought we would enjoy a relaxing few days in the mountain to celebrate Jo's birthday. While we did not do the full climb (there was a bus alternative) we did walk up the last part of the mountain, up countless number of steps. By the top we were knackered. The view was well worth it as the summit was above the clouds.

Yangzi River - Three Gorges. Our three day 'cruise' down the Yangzi was certainly an experience, partly because of the beautiful Gorges which are soon to be flooded due to the building of the Yangzi River dam, and partly the boat which resembled a floating shed. Our second class ticket got us a room of three so we shared with a Chinese chap who had both the Chinese talents of smoking like a chimney and snoring. The boat was tatty and the shared toilets and showers soon began to smell slightly fruity. There wer few places you could spend time aside from the decks after the recreation room was soon turned into 5th class. By the end of the journey there were people sleeping everywhere. Amazingly, the restaurant served good (if slightly) greasy food.

The boat was full of Chinese tour groups, complete with flag and megaphone waving guide and matching caps. The boat stopped at various places on route but everyone was there for the Gorges which do not disappoint even despite the bad weather. Unfortunately, the col weather then set in, so by the time we arrived in Wuhan, we were freezing cold and feeling ill again.

Our final destination was Wuhan which proved a difficult city to leave. Trying to find a ticket to Hong Kong proved an absolute nightmare and involved paying way over the odds to get something. We walked for miles to be told we would not leave for five days and then a friendly agency finally helped us out. A visit to the train ticket office highlighted just what problems there are getting by when speaking no Chinese. We only know 'Thank You' and that is not going to buy a hard sleeper ticket for two leaving tomorrow night. Even in this case hand signals did not work or shouting slightly louder. By some miracle we did leave and after yet another unsettled night on the train we arrived in Hong Kong.
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