Day 16 of my trip to China took me away from the Yangtze River at Chongqing towards Beijing.
Chongqing to Beijing.
As always I awake early & have a cup of tea around 6:30 in the Yangtze Bar, before going for breakfast. I see Selina our waitress before she leaves, thank her for looking after me & then go for breakfast. Today we leave the Victoria Selina our home for the last few days and should be spending some time looking around Chongqing the huge city we are docked at.
Unfortunately, it is pouring with rain & our tour rep & today's guide decide to scrap the normal tour that we would do and take us instead on a tour that will allow us to stay a little dryer.
Due to the rain, our guide takes us on a short coach tour of Chongqing. One of the first things we notice is the gradient of the mountains here, I am glad we don't intend to walk far here. We visit a temple close to the river & as the ladies in the party are worried about the rain & Ewen has decided point blank he doesn't want to look around, I amuse myself & lots of Chinese people by doing my rendition of Fred Astaire's singing in the rain. I sing, I dance & I splash around in the puddles but I can get no one to join me in the rain.
I find the museum very interesting & the guide is very amusing, once again I think Rob has found something he quite likes & I don't mean the temple. After being shown around the temple grounds, its different rooms & learning about its history we are shown a Banyan Tree & told how to gauge the age of the trees by the size of their leaves. We are then taken to a small shop where we are shown Banyan tree leaves that have been skillfully painted by father & son artists, who we are told are the only people in China licenced to do this work. Whether this is true or not the artwork is fantastic & I use up some of my last remaining Yuan purchasing a framed leaf with a painting of the Original city of Chongqing on it. It costs 180 Yuan or £18 & is one of my favourite souvenirs of the trip.
Whilst in the temple our guide says that she likes my hat & compares me to the Kung Fu panda who has a similar hat. I believe by this she didn't mean that I was fat, but rather that she meant that like a panda I was revered & should be respected. This was shortly put right when seeing the Jade Buddha hanging round my neck she remarked that I had a tummy like a happy Buddha. I offered to let her rub it, just to bring her luck but she declined as her husband may not have felt it was lucky.
After the temple, we are taken to a museum to look around where we will be able to stay out of the rain. After walking around for a while with Mel & Tracy I decide I have had my fill of culture & decide to go to the cafe for a drink & to sit down for a while, Tracy joins me & we walk towards the Museum Cafe.
It is on the way to the Cafe that I'm approached by a girl waving a camera at me. She is a student at a local university & would like a photo with me. I tell her that is fine & her friend takes our photo & asks if she can have her photo with me. As the second photo is being taken the rest of the university group of girls appear, about 16 of them. I then have my photo taken with groups of the girls, girls on their own, with me wearing my kung fu panda hat & with them wearing my kung fu panda hat. The photoshoot was watched over by our guide Branwen who says she has never seen anything like it. She tells us she is used to the girls being asked for their photo because of their blonde hair or blue eyes but this is the first time she had a member of her party that is seen as a sexy Buddha or Panda pin-up.
After fighting off all of our adoring fans Tracy & I settle down in the cafe, where I am surprised to find they serve Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. I purchase us both one of these special coffees & we wait for the rest of the gang to finish their look around the museum.
We all leave the museum & are then taken to lunch in Chongqing. The coach driver performs an unbelievable 3 point turn, reverse park movement on a busy road & we park up to walk a short distance to our restaurant. We walk past a large pet shop with hundreds of caged birds singing for their freedom & I'm convinced I am not the only person who wonders if there is a link between the pet shop & our restaurant's kitchen. We enjoy a Lazy Susan dinner & say goodbye to each other & to our guide Branwen. Branwen tells us, with tears in her eyes, that we are the nicest group she has ever had. We of course believe her.
After lunch, we are taken to a hotel where we have two rooms in which we can freshen up & get ready for the flight home. Ewen takes the key for the men's room & goes straight up to refresh himself. Rob decides to do a bit of last-minute shopping & disappears into Chongqing. I refresh myself in the bar where I am joined by Michael. The girls take turns to use their room & settle in the hotel bar to wait for our coach to the airport. Mel, Michael & I all play an impromptu game of 'Guess the song & who sang it', courtesy of my laptop. After a few hours, we leave for the airport.
We will be flying from Chongqing to Beijing where we will catch our flight to Gatwick.
Chongqing to Beijing.
Our gate is changed & when we arrive at the new gate there are lots of people milling about due to already cancelled flights. There is it seems a large storm front coming in. I use the last of my Yuan to purchase my wife & daughter some chocolate to keep them happy. Our flight is delayed for a few hours & we will be lucky to catch our connection.