Day 13 of my trip to China was spent on the Yangtze River & visiting the Xiling Gorge.
I woke early this morning to find we have moved overnight & are docked further up the Yangtze River. At around 6:45 am I go to the Yangtze Club on deck 5 where I have a cup of tea with Branwen our fantastic tour rep. At just gone 7:00 am I go up to deck 6 for breakfast in the restaurant, which I have upgraded to.
The meals are all exactly the same as the buffet service on deck 2, the only difference is we don't have to fight to get anything to eat as there are only 7 of us here rather than around 250 in the lower restaurant. Breakfast is very relaxed & we are waited on by the staff who bring us tea, coffee, fruit juice or other drinks we ask for. I say good morning to my wife who has been having problems with her foot & will not be joining us on our morning optional tour today.
Tribe Of The Three Gorges in the Xiling Gorge.
The optional tour today cost 280 Yuan per person which worked out at around £28. I was not sure what to expect but at around 08:30 I, along with my daughter Mel & friends Pat, April, Mike & Hamilton leave our ship to take a small launch to the Xiling Gorge for our trip.
Location of the Tribe Of The Three Gorges in the Xiling Gorge:
We are told the history of how people lived in the Gorges as we travel up through this beautiful area. How people fished, worked & lived on the river & how they sang to each other as distances & the terrain made it difficult to meet each other. Partway up we also see wild monkeys that live here. These days they seem to do quite well being fed by the tourists who feed them.
We walk along past several waterfalls that are beautiful & are told to follow our guide as there is a show about to start nearby where we will learn more about local customs. When we arrive our guide has saved us a few places on a step at the front of the show where we can sit & even provides us with some paper to sit on so that we don't get our bums wet on the stone. The area soon fills up with about 10 English & American people and around 200 Chinese people as we sit down to watch the show.
The show is all in Chinese but we get the gist of what the show is about. It appears that the girls are singing because their friend is to choose a husband & then will leave the village to go live with him. There is much singing & weeping before the Matchmaker appears in front of us & the veiled bride appears on a balcony above us. The matchmaker explains (in Chinese) that much like our custom of the bride throwing a bouquet to her friends to catch to see who will get married next, here the bride will throw a bouquet to the man she has chosen for a groom.
The bride looks out at all the people below, goes to throw her bouquet one way then the other, then throws it so accurately at the person she chose to marry that he can not fail to catch it. In fact, I would say it landed right in my hands rather than I caught it. Oh well, when in China do as the Chinese do, what the wife back on the ship doesn't know, won't get me a slap. I am led up to the house where I am dressed in a fetching red wedding dress & rather a dapper hat. My wife to be, then leads me out onto the balcony where we are greeted by the people below, who are now our wedding guests & witnesses to our marriage. The matchmaker then leads my wife, who leads me, downstairs through the large crowd of Chinese people, to an area in front of the house where we are to marry. The girls all perform songs & I am led by my wife to be to the alter. The matchmaker performs a ceremony, in Chinese, & gently leads me through my wedding vows, my new wife then gives me a matrimonial gift which she hangs around my neck. We then link arms & drink a shot of rice wine to seal our vows. Then as a couple, we both give a shot of rice wine, to two of the witnesses to our wedding.
After the ceremony, my new wife is eager & practically drags me to our bedroom, undresses me & drags me down onto the matrimonial bed. It is at this point that I hope wife number 1 doesn't find out or I could be in trouble.
My witnesses & I make our way back to the dock to get our launch back to the cruise ship. It appears that the very sweet tasting rice wine is stronger than I thought. Both Pat, who I gave some rice wine too & myself seem to be slipping on every wet patch on the walk back to the launch. We are soon on the smaller launch & make our way back to & onboard our cruise ship. As I board the cruise ship our Captain approaches me & on seeing the wedding gift around my neck he shakes me by the hand & congratulates me on my wedding.
I decide not to tell wife number 1 about my new wife & hope that none of our friends will mention my indiscretion. Our ship moves away from the dock & we sail upriver where we will be approaching the world's largest hydroelectric project, the Three Gorges Dam at Sandouping. I return to my room take a shower, get a change of clothes & go to dinner in the private dining room on deck 6. We also get free beer & wine with dinner & I sit down for dinner with a cold beer. When wife number 1 appears, she asks if I enjoyed this morning's trip & if I have anything to tell her. Apparently, my wedding had been filmed by an onboard photographer & the video was now being played onboard the ship's television channel, I had been rumbled.
The Three Gorges Dam.
This afternoon we dock at Sandouping where we board a coach to take a tour of The Three Gorges Dam. After visiting the Hoover Dam in the USA I am interested to see just how big it is. It turns out it was huge and from my memory, it dwarfs the Hoover Dam.
We are taken to a welcome centre & shown a model of the Dam complex & are told all the facts & figures about it. Our guide tells us that we will forget all of the figures & to remember that it is the worlds largest hydroelectric project in the world. I would like to prove that I was listening intently & remember every single figure we were told about the Dam & so I have provided this link to all of the information I remember about it.
After the welcome centre, we are taken to the Dam itself. Looking down at it from above gives you a better idea of its size & watching the ships queuing up to enter the dam we are told what this area is called. Our guide explains to us about the area the ships enter before going into the locks. He tells us that in English it simply translates as the waiting or queuing area but in Chinese, it is known as "The Pushin". Who says the Chinese don't have a sense of humour.
On our way back to the ship we walk through the obligatory market. It's like Disney, at Disney you go on a ride you exit through a shop, in China, you view something & walk through a market on the way out. What isn't like Disney is the number of soft porn magazines on display here. You can't help but notice it as it's sandwiched between t-shirts, drinks, hats, books, fruit & other foods. It is the first time I have noticed this sort of literature in China & find it quite strange that these market stalls all have it openly on display. I think Tracy is getting used to having me as a husband as she decides to buy some lychee as a gift for Ewen who apparently likes them. I say this as she decides to buy them, picks what she wants & I pay the stallholder. I wonder if the vows I said in Chinese, only this morning to my Chinese wife, translated as "I take you, to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honour you all the days of my life. What's mine is yours & what's yours is also yours".
Chinese Medicine Talk.
When we arrive back on board a few of us go to the Yangtze Club for a cheap cocktail. Ewen tells me how good Manhattan's are & not wishing to offend I try one. It will be the only one of these I try as I find they dry my mouth very quickly & I have to have a few beers to hydrate myself again.
As we sit at the bar the ship Dr comes out to give a talk on Chinese medicine. I have always wondered about Chinese medicine as Western medicine seems to be concerned with fixing something broken rather than preventing it from being broken. Dr Hu, yes that really is his name & no he is not a time lord, begins by explaining about different types of Chinese medicine including acupuncture, cupping, deep penetration massage, massage & electrical treatments. After listening to his explanation it is quite obvious he is about to ask for a volunteer to show us an acupuncture treatment.
Before he gets the words "Would anyone like" I have my hand in the air waving & volunteering to have what I believe to be an acupuncture treatment. He asks me a few questions about my health & I tell him that I have a shoulder that often locks & causes me a lot of pain. He beckons me forward & I'm soon sat in front of a small group of English & American people being used as a display specimen whilst he shows everyone how acupuncture, cupping, deep penetration massage, nerve massage & electric therapy is administered.
I must say of the 8 large needles he inserted in my back & shoulders I only felt a small scratch on one or two of them. The cupping was completely pain-free but did leave some bruising. The deep penetration massage could be felt but didn't really hurt & the normal massage felt great. The electric treatment I was a bit nervous about, especially as I couldn't see a thing he was doing. He attached leads to two of the needles in my back & passed a current through them. He lent over & whispered to let him know if it hurt as he was going to turn the power up. I can honestly say it felt great & didn't hurt at all. I have also had no problem with my right shoulder since. Tracy took some great photos of the huge needles going into & disappearing in my back & as soon as she forwards them to me I will post some here.
As soon as he is finished with me & his talk I book up for a further session tomorrow as I am pleased to read that Tinnitus, which I suffer badly from, can be treated with acupuncture & some Chinese herbs. I then go back to my room for a shower before dinner & tonight's entertainment.
Captain's Welcome Reception.
I arrive early & save seats for our English & American group. To reward myself, I have a couple of beers whilst I wait for the others. I'm soon joined by Branwen & others in our group before the Captain turns up. I had collected some free champagne from Selena one of the girls looking after us on the ship, between that & the beer I was soon very relaxed.
The Captain made a speech in Chinese, which was translated by Amanda our river tour guide, then he raised a glass & a toast & declared the free Captains buffet was now open.
Chinese Olympic Display.
As soon as the Captain had cleared the floor the Chinese passengers then provided us with a display of some of the finest Olympic disciplines I have ever seen. They vaulted tables, jumped chairs, sprinted to the buffet & wrestled each other out of the way to get to the buffet. It was the closest thing I have ever seen to a plague of locusts descending on a farmers field & stripping it of everything that could be devoured. In less time than it took the fastest of our party to rise from their chair, the Chinese had completely cleaned out the buffet, the only things remaining were the few odd pieces of food they had dropped on the floor. Our tour guide Branwen asked if there was more to come out but was told there was none left.
How far away from the buffet were we, how many obstacles stood between us & the buffet I hear you ask. We were next to the buffet, there was nothing between it & us & not one of the English or American guests at the Captain's reception got a single morsel of food. If this is what the buffet was like for those that hadn't upgraded I'm glad I had.
Luckily for those people who could not leap over tables or do a 9-second 100-yard sprint our dinner would be served shortly, mine being served in the upstairs VIP restaurant with waitress service. It was whilst we sat watching the locusts flock off to their next buffet that Pat pointed out that our waitress Selena had a soft spot for me. I hadn't noticed, but after Pat told me I did notice that my champagne glass was always being filled up. At one point I had two glasses of champagne thanks to my new favourite waitress. After relaxing whilst the locusts were taken to their own buffet my fellow VIP's & I went for dinner & some more free wine & beer.
Chinese Dynasty Show.
The show was very good & went through different Chinese costumes from different eras. The show was put together by the people that would otherwise have been our waiters, waitresses, bar staff, cleaners etc. These people don't stop working & whilst we are here to relax & enjoy ourselves it should be mentioned how hard these people work every day. It should also be mentioned that the girls all look beautiful in their fantastic dresses & looked very elegant. The boys in the show however looked like they would rather be anywhere but here prancing around in their costumes & I felt sorry for them, the girls definitely got the good costumes.
After the show, I prop up the bar at a happy hour & have a few beers & a few bloody Mary's. The girls in the party go up to the deck to watch as we approach the waiting area before entering the locks. After a few hours, the girls come back down as we enter the first lock. My companions Ewen & Mike retire to their rooms & I accompany Tracy back to her room where we sit on the balcony watching the lock wall as the water fills it and we rise. It is amazing how interesting a lock wall can be after a few beers, wines & cocktails. At one point Tracy is so excited at getting a signal on her mobile she uses Facetime to contact her sister back in England & shows her the grey concrete wall that we are watching as the lock fills & our ship is raised.
After a few hours we go back on the top deck & apart from a few Chinese ladies we are alone as we enter the last dock. The ladies point out that if we turn round we will see the gate behind us close, which we do. We then turn around as the last lock quickly fills. We are left alone to watch the last lock fill & then open out to allow us passage to the Yangtze above the dam.
I'm not sure what I was expecting as we passed through the locks but it was dark and the vast lake we went out onto was only dimly lit by the lights on the ship & the top of the lock. We could not see much so we called it a day & retired to our rooms for the night.