She was a short order pastry chef….
Apr 25, 2014
|In a Dim Sum dive on the Yangtze tideway
She had shiny hair
She was the daughter of a engineer….
Alright so never a dull moment, and always something to entertain me. We left Tibet and flew to Chengdu, China. The plan was to get a good meal and go see the Panda’s.
So, first things first, we set out for a traditional Hot Pot Supper which is famous in the province of Sichuan. Now when they say Hot they mean HOT! The set up for the meal itself is very fun, you order a bunch of different dishes - meats, noodles, vegetables - and then drop them into one of two broths that they set to boil right on your table. One broth is for normal people and the other broth is for crazy people! Then as the food cooks you “fish” for the cooked ingredients with your chopsticks or a slotted spoon, which is even more fun to watch then you can imagine. So, there we were, all 11 of us (well okay 10 of us because our Chinese guide knew what he was doing), trying to actually get enough food from the boiling concoction into our mouths without it winding up in our laps. Then of course the guide kept putting more and more of the raw products into the “crazy people brew” and because I was struggling getting much to eat I started actually eating food from the Hot Hot Pot. WOW! It was full on head sweats and tongue burns. Mmmmm….
The next day we set off to the Giant Panda Breeding Center. Which is basically a big zoo for Panda’s. And though I am not much for zoo’s this is actually a pretty cool one. First of all their mission is to breed and then release Panda’s back into the wild, which is cool. Second, where else could I see a bunch of very large furry animals eating tons of Bamboo? Oh yeah, San Diego :-)
Anyway there we were wandering around the zoo trying to catch the Panda’s in the act of doing something besides sleeping (they like to sleep a lot!) and also me trying to make sure I didn’t get peed or poo’d on by one of the numerous Chinese toddlers that were lurking around. (In case I hadn’t already mentioned it, the very young children in China are outfitted with pants with no seat in them? or more like children chaps! so when nature calls they just squat wherever they are and let go. Yeah, anywhere they are! In line at the souvenir stand. At the train station. Standing right next to me! etc…) So in-between sidestepping a few children in chaps I managed to see a few Panda’s chilling out. I also found out that there are Red Panda’s (much smaller then the Giant ones), who knew?
The best part of the day for me, and yes if you guessed it had to do with food you’d be right, was lunch at the Bamboo Restaurant. We had another 20 course meal and almost all of the dishes had Bamboo as one of the ingredients. Delicious!
From Chengdu we hopped a Bullet Train to Chongqing. Now, I am not the brightest bulb on the tree, but I never even knew there was a city in China called Chongqing, did you? Anyway not only is it a real city in China it is massive. It has like 28 million people or something like that! China is amazing, cities with 28 million people I have never even heard of! Incredible. So there I was in this huge city with so much to explore and all we had was an hour or so before boarding a cruise ship for our cruise down the Yangtze River.
So I poked around a bit, bought some supplies for the boat and off we went to the docks. We boarded the Victoria Anna Cruise Ship and were promptly shown to our upgraded suites! My room had a king size bed in one room, a full bathroom, a full living room and a balcony! Sweet. We set sail as the sun started to set and the lights of Chongqing flickered on. Beautiful.
The next 3 days were spent mostly enjoying the views of the Yangtze River. I did manage to get up early on a few mornings and join the early risers on the top deck for some morning Tai Chai. And I also did a few Shore Excursions.
On the fist full day I did get tricked into a shore excursion which for me will go down in the “okay I learned a lesson” category. The excursion was to Fengdu or “The Ghost City” which is a Temple on the top of Ming Mountain that pays tribute to the “King of the Underworld”! Sounds good right? Hahahaha…
Alright so a little info to set this up. First of all the Yangtze in this area is about 75 meters or so higher then it used to be. The Three Gorges Dam project caused about 2 million people or so to relocate and most if not all of what once was along the river banks is now gone or at least very deep under water. Secondly China had a little something called the Cultural Revolution which, not to get into too much detail, saw many historical relics and artifacts destroyed and cultural and religious sites were also ransacked and destroyed. Okay so off we go on our shore excursion. Us and about a billion (okay maybe only a million) other tourists from a bunch of different boats. I knew I was in trouble when we met our local guide and she was using one of those around the neck microphones and a crackly speaker hooked to her waist. My next sign of trouble came when she instructed us to follow her “Flag” so we wouldn’t lose her. Oh how I hate being a tourist!
There were a few redeeming moments of the visit though. When I was able to block out the hordes of people, ignore the fact that most of the artifacts were plastic, and the most glaring point of contention, that the “ancient” Temple had actually been rebuilt in the last few years as some kind of "Ghost City Theme Park!” I did find entertaining moments in the diorama’s of torture or the rubbed smooth butt of a strange statue.
The next day, safely back on board, I retreated to my suite cabin and took up a spot on the balcony to watch as we entered the first of the Three Gorges - Qutang Gorge. The weather was misty and cloudy and the scenery spectacular. I sat and stared for hours. Next we entered the second of the Three Gorges - Wu Gorge - and it was equally spectacular. Then there was the announcement….
Okay so I learned a lesson right? Why must I be such a slow learner? Not more then a day after my “Ghost City” debacle that I once again allowed myself to be coaxed off the ship for another Shore Excursion. Well this actually wasn’t a true shore excursion as we were supposed to just be on a smaller vessel to go up the Goddess Stream of the Lesser Gorges. The trip was actually pretty cool. We boarded a smaller boat (okay so it was one of about one hundred smaller boats all heading to the same place) and motored up the Lesser Gorge. Again the scenery was amazing. The river narrowed and the cliffs soared up all around us. Around the last bend there was a group of floating docks and everybody was getting off to see some “Cultural Dancing”. Really it was just our local guides doing a few dances to try to make us fell like we were actually having a cultural experience. The redeeming factor this time though was the dude in his bathrobe. For some reason I cannot fathom, some really rich Asians feel that it is a desired display of their wealth to not get dressed to go out with others. This dude had the full on bathrobe thing going on with his designer shoes, designer glasses, and designer handbag! Oh I love life.
Okay so here I am on day 3, still none the wiser. Now the last of my Shore Excursions turned into a farce not because of the excursion itself, which was actually supposed to be pretty cool, but because of the weather, it didn’t cooperate. (I know sounds like a lame excuse.) Let me back up a second and say that we spent the last night going through the 5 Locks of the Three Gorges Dam itself. Which is the largest hydroelectric project in the world! So that morning we were going to tour the dam. It was pouring rain and foggy and cold. So off we went, it was so bad that we couldn’t even see out of the window of our bus! By the time we arrived at the Visitor Center they had closed most of the dam for safety reasons. It was pure madness. There were so many people and so much noise, it was China at it’s best! We wound up standing under umbrellas by a large poster of the dam and having our local guide point to parts of the picture and explain the dam to us! Hahahaha….
Fortunately the weather cleared once we were back on board and the last hours of the cruise were amazing as we sailed through the last of the Three Gorges - Xiling Gorge - on our way to the City of Yichang, where we disembarked and after an uneventful day (I went to go see Captain America in 3D) made our way to the Airport for our flight to...