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23 July 2024
Longjinxi ferry terminal on the Yangtze River.

I woke early this morning to find we had moved overnight & were docked further up the Yangtze River. At around 6:45 am, I went to the Yangtze Club on deck 5, where I had tea with Branwen, our fantastic tour rep. At 7:00 am, I went to deck 6 for breakfast in the restaurant.

Xiling Gorge.

The meals were the same in the private restaurant as the buffet service on deck 2. The only difference was that we didn't have to fight to get anything to eat as only seven of us were there, rather than around two hundred & fifty in the lower restaurant. Breakfast was very relaxed & we were waited on by the staff who brought us tea, coffee, fruit juice or any other drinks we asked for. I said good morning to Tracy, who had been having problems with her feet & would not be joining us on our morning optional tour today.

Tribe Of The Three Gorges at Longjinxi.

The optional tour today costs ¥280 per person. I was unsure what to expect, but at around 08:30 am, along with my friends Mel, Pat, April, Mike & Hamilton, I left the Victoria Seilna to take a small launch to the Xiling Gorge for our trip.

We were told how people lived in the Gorges as we travelled up through the beautiful area. We were told how people fished, worked & lived on the river & how they sang to each other as distances & the terrain made it challenging to meet each other. Partway up, we also saw wild monkeys that lived there. These days, they seemed to do quite well being fed by the tourists who gave them food & treats as they walked past.

We walked along past several waterfalls that were beautiful & were told to follow our guide as there was a show about to start nearby where we would learn more about local customs. When we arrived, our guide had saved us a few places on a step at the front of the show where we could sit. He even provided us with some paper to sit on so that we didn't get our bums wet on the stone. The area soon filled up with about 10 English & American people & around 200 Chinese people.

The show was all in Chinese, but we got the gist of what the show was about. It appeared that the girls were singing because their friend was about to choose a husband & then would leave the village to live with him. There was much singing & weeping before the Matchmaker appeared in front of us & the veiled bride appeared on a balcony above us. The Matchmaker explained (in Chinese) that similar to the custom of the bride throwing a bouquet to her friends to see who will get married next at British weddings, the bride here would throw a bouquet to the man she has chosen for a groom.

   Photos from the Tribe of the 3 Gorges.

My wedding.

The bride looked out at all the people below her. She went to throw her bouquet one way, then the other & then threw it so accurately at the person she had chosen to marry that he could not fail to catch it. I would say it landed right in my hands rather than I caught it. I was led up to the house, where I was dressed in a fetching red wedding dress & a rather dapper hat. My wife-to-be then led me out onto the balcony, where we were greeted by the people below, who were now our wedding guests & the witnesses to our marriage. The Matchmaker then led my wife, who led me downstairs through the large crowd of Chinese people, to an area in front of the house where we were to marry. The girls all performed songs & my wife-to-be led me to the altar. The Matchmaker performed a ceremony in Chinese, & gently led me through my wedding vows. My new wife then gave me a marital gift, which she hung around my neck. We then linked arms & drank a shot of rice wine to seal our vows. Then, as a couple, we both gave a shot of rice wine to two of the witnesses at our wedding.

After the ceremony, my new wife was eager & practically dragged me to our bedroom, undressed me & dragged me down onto the marital bed. The darkened window with the lights behind us left nothing to the imagination of the guests sitting outside, who watched her undress me & pull me on top of her on the bed.

Photos of my wedding.

Pat, my witnesses & I made our way back to the dock to get our launch back to the Victoria Selina. It appeared that the very sweet-tasting rice wine was stronger than I thought. Both Pat, who I gave rice wine too & myself seem to be slipping on every wet patch on the walk back to the launch. We were soon on the smaller launch & made 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.

Our ship moved away from the dock & we sailed upriver, where we will be approaching the world's largest hydroelectric project, the Three Gorges Dam at Sandouping. I returned to my room, showered, changed clothes & went to dinner in the private dining room. We also got free beer & wine with dinner & I sat down for dinner with a cold beer. When Tracy appeared, she asked if I enjoyed this morning's trip & if I had anything to tell her. An onboard photographer had filmed my wedding & the video was now being played onboard the ship's television channel. I had been rumbled.

Video of my wedding at the Tribe of the 3 Gorges.

The Three Gorges Dam.

This afternoon, we docked at Sandouping, where we boarded a coach to tour The Three Gorges Dam. After visiting the Hoover Dam in the USA I was interested to see just how big The Three Gorges dam was. It turned out it was huge & from my memory, it dwarfed the Hoover Dam.

We were taken to a welcome centre & shown a model of the dam complex & were told all the facts & figures about it. Our guide informed us that we would forget all of the statistics & to remember that it is the largest hydroelectric project in the world. I want to prove that I was listening intently & remember every single figure we were told about the dam, but I can't.

After the welcome centre, we were taken to the dam itself. Looking down at it from above gave us a better idea of its size & watching the ships queuing up to enter the dam, our guide told us what this area was called. He explained to us the area the vessels enter before entering the locks. He informed 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?

We walked through the obligatory market on our way back to the ship. It's like Disney; at Disney, you go on a ride & 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 couldn't help but notice them as they were sandwiched between t-shirts, drinks, hats, books, fruit & other foods. It is the first time I have noticed this sort of literature in China & found it quite strange that these market stalls all have it openly on display.

Photos from the 3 Gorges Dam.

Chinese Medicine Talk.

When we arrived back on the Victoria Selina, we went 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 I try as I found it dried my mouth very quickly & I had to have a few beers to hydrate myself again.

As we sat at the bar, the ship's doctor came out to give a talk on Chinese medicine. I had always wondered about Chinese medicine as Western medicine seems concerned with fixing something broken rather than preventing it from being broken. Dr Hu, yes, that really was his name & no, he was not a time lord, began by explaining different types of Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, cupping, deep penetration massage, nerve massage & electrical treatments. After listening to his explanation, it was apparent he was about to ask for a volunteer to show us an acupuncture treatment.

Before he got the words, "Would anyone like?" I had my hand in the air, waving & volunteering to have what I believed to be an acupuncture treatment. He asked me a few questions about my health & I told him that I have a shoulder that often locks & causes me a lot of pain. He beckoned me forward & I was soon sitting in front of a small group of English & American people being used as a test patient whilst he showed everyone how acupuncture, cupping, deep penetration massage, nerve massage & electric therapy are administered.

I must say of the eight 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 hurt & the nerve massage felt great. For the electric treatment he gave me, I was a bit nervous, 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 leaned over & whispered to me to let him know if it hurt, as he would 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 enormous needles going into & disappearing in my back, but I have since lost them.

As soon as he had finished with me & his talk, I booked up a further session tomorrow as I was pleased to read that Tinnitus, which I suffer badly from, can be treated with acupuncture & some Chinese herbs. I then return to my room for a shower before dinner & tonight's entertainment.

Captain's Welcome Reception.

I arrived early & saved seats for our English & American group. I had a couple of beers to reward myself while waiting for the others. I was soon joined by Branwen & others in our group before the Captain turned up. I had collected some complimentary 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 Amanda, our river tour guide, translated. He then raised a glass & made a toast & declared the free Captain's buffet was now open.

Chinese Olympic Display.

As soon as the Captain cleared the floor, the Chinese passengers then gave us 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 farmer's 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 usual buffet at meal times was like for those who hadn't upgraded, I'm glad I had.

Luckily for those 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. While we sat watching the locusts flock off to their next buffet, Pat pointed out that our waitress, Selena, had a soft spot for me. I hadn't noticed, but after Pat told me, I saw that my champagne glass was constantly 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 buffet my fellow VIP's & I went for dinner & some more free wine & beer.

Victoria Selina Show.

The show was excellent & went through different Chinese costumes from various eras. The show was put together by the people who 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 noted 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 got the good costumes.

Photos of the show.

After the show, I prop up the bar at a happy hour & have a few beers & a few bloody marys. 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 retired to their rooms & I accompanied Tracy back to her room, where we sat on the balcony watching the lock wall as the water filled it & we rose. 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 that 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 return to 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 turned round, we would see the gate behind us close. We were left alone to watch the lock fill & then open out to allow us passage to the lake above the dam.

I'm not sure what I was expecting as we passed through the locks, but it was dark, & the vast lake we went 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.