Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Chongqing & Xian

Dock at Chaotianmen Port, Yuzhong District, Chongqing.  Tour Chongqing, perched on steep hills at the confluence of the Yangtze and its major tributary, the Jialing river.  Chongqing was the capital of China during WWII, when the American Volunteer Air Group, the "Flying Tigers," was based here.  Visit the Chongqing Zoo to see China's national treasure, the Giant Panda Bears. 

Fly to Xian.  Check into the Golden Flower Hotel by Shangri-La.

Xian is in the Yellow River Basin, one of the birthplaces of civilization. It has seen 3,100 years of development and 13 dynasties. It reached its peak during the Tang Dynasty.

This morning we woke to see our boat in the middle of the river.  Apparently, that is as close to shore as they can get.  Therefore, we walked across metal floats that were tied together; yep, a little unstable to say the least.  As soon as you exit the boat, a hoard of men are waiting to "assist" you to shore.  Although I was warned about this, I was startled when one man aggressively grabbed me.  I reacted quite strongly to let him know I did not want to be touched.  We had been told that Chinese have a different concept of "personal space" and will crowd you in confined spaces.  I tolerated that to a point; however, this was just too much!  We then climbed 150 stairs to our bus.  Yes, sir!  Someone counted.  Gerry and I had no difficulty, but clearly this was a real problem for several people.  Amazed this has not prevented some people from reaching the buses. 

At the Chongqing Zoo, everyone loved seeing the Pandas!  Really adorable.  Gerry and I had seen the panda at the Washington, D.C. zoo and were just as fascinated again to see how much bamboo they can consume.  For me, the most interesting sight were the shedding Bactrian camels.  Truly weird to see portions of their hair hanging from their body.

Bactrian Camels are much less common than dromedary (one-hump). Bactrian camels are native to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. Aside from the obvious difference of the number of humps, Bactrian Camels differ in a few other key ways. For example, the Bactrian camel grows a thick coat of hair each winter. That coat of hair falls off every spring. This is to deal with the extreme variation of temperature in the Gobi desert where summer highs often top 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and winter months can see significant amounts of snow. In general, Bactrian camels are much more mild-mannered than their hot-tempered dromedary kin. (The Dromedary camel has a uniform length of hair year round.) Estimates for the number of Bactrian Camels in North America range from about 400-800 head.

A food note:  At lunch one of the items was a Parker house roll with several slits that had been deep fried.  OMG, really???  Oozing grease.

We boarded the plane on the tarmac in 100+ degree clear weather.  On the whole, I have been impressed with the airports and planes. Our guide said that China had made good strides in their air travel compared to roads throughout China, but were now making more effort on the roads since more Chinese can afford cars.  Flying into Xian, I was delighted to see miles of wheat fields. Finally, farming as we know it instead of small plots on hillsides. Also, the air is much less smoggy. 100+ degree and raining as we deplane on the tarmac.  Another thing that has impressed me is the fact that most road/street signs have also included the English translation.

A great sight - driving through Xian at night seeing the lights atop the City Wall.

When Zhu Yuanzhang, the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), captured Huizhou, a hermit named Zhu Sheng admonished him that he should 'built high walls, store abundant food supplies and take time to be an Emperor,' so that he could fortify the city and unify the other states. After the establishment of the Ming dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang followed his advice and began to enlarge the wall built initially during the old Tang dynasty (618 -907), creating the modern Xian City Wall. It's the most complete city wall that has survived in China, as well being one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world.

One of the options on this trip was the Tang Dynasty Dinner and Dance.  We are so glad we elected to do this.  It was set in a beautiful theatre, the dinner was excellent, and the performance was a highlight of our trip.  We loved the colorful, elegant costumes and were in awe of the grace of the dancers.  Their voices were remarkable.  This, from someone who can't carry a tune, but I think this was the universal opinion. 

1 comment:

  1. And how did you like that walk from the ship to the bus?