China day 5&6

China Day 5

We were ready for the 5 a.m. wakeup and standing at the restaurant door eager for brekkie before setting out for our morning flight to Wuhan from Xian. We bid our Xian guide Ruth farewell and headed for check in.

Tina our Sinorama care giver is fantastic. Not only has she kept us on track, she takes care of a myriad of details including getting our boarding passes, minding our passports, looking after our luggage check ins, finding restaurants, making sure our bus is ready to pick us up after every stop and generally keeping us well informed and entertained with a wide store of knowledge and an unfailing sense of humour. Top among her priorities is making sure we are directed to only the best ‘Happy Places’, those rest rooms without which we seniors simply cannot function.

Wuhan on the Yangtze River is the largest city in central China with several million population. Our guide variously known as Chuck, Charlie, or Stick serenaded us with Red River Valley. He then filled us in on the life for a young Wuhan person and the problems of affording a home, getting married, and making it to work. Same problems as in North America, just a little different scope.

After lunch he dropped us at the river terminal where we are resting in our cabins of a Sinorama River Cruise ship the Centennial Diamond, refreshing our bodies for a few hours. We need it.

Well into the tour now, it is time to reflect on our overall experience:

1. The service by Sinorama has been first rate. For us at least, organizing a tour without this level of care would have been a disaster.
2. This was a very exhausting schedule that is just giving us a basic ‘taste. Of China. The country is so vast, with so many sites and so much to see, a visit to one city alone like Xi’an could easily occupy a full two weeks. Wished our scheduled days were not quite so full. Running on empty some days.
3. The food is good. The hotels are excellent at least the 5 star ones we have used and appear modestly priced, but difficult to tell as we had a package price.
4. The people are friendly, the streets are clean and they appear safe. The language is. . . well it’s Chinese.
5. There is no graffiti, the roads are good, the traffic is terrible- don’t even consider driving yourself.
6. The smog is bad but did not bother us so far.
7. So far no one in our groups is sick but a few complaints from rest of tour. WE have our travelling pharmacy well stocked for emergencies.

We found the bar and had a welcome aboard libation before retiring for a short afternoon nap. Woke up at 7 pm just in time for dinner. Fought with the onboard Wi-Fi before giving up. Google and China is not a good mix.

Finished dinner onboard and retired to our cabin after a short tour of the sundeck. The evening lights of Wuhan were spectacular including Chinese lanterns soaring over the river until they flamed out and found a watery grave. Cruise ships with their entire sides lighted with LED billboards steamed past.

Tomorrow we head upriver, but for now blessed sleep

China Day 6

Slept like a baby. We are on our way up river. Up to the lounge for early coffee and rolls and watched the tai chi exercises. Norm and I observed. Perhaps tomorrow we’ll participate.

Breakfast at 7 a.m. and by now not only the bartender Eddie, but our waitress Carol have our group of eight first names down pat, although she did have a little trouble with Norman and Norma. Delightful staff all round. Filled up on coffee as it is only available free at breakfast. Thoroughly charged up on caffeine, I did 3 km on the deck before watching a presentation on the Three Gorges Dam project.

Counter to our expectations, it was a very objective presentation, airing both the pros and cons of the project from an environmental, economic and social perspective. The problems of pollution, climate change, and use of coal are much more openly discussed here than we had expected. Climate change ‘deny’rs seem to be absent here compared to many in the west. The air pollution here is so obvious; the view here seems less myopic. The huge effort at urban and riverbank reforestation is quite dramatic.

As we head up river we meet and pass 100s of ships of all sizes. A steady stream of bulk carriers of coal greet us, interspersed with container vessels, LNG tankers and some ocean going freighters. We are hundreds of miles from Shanghai so this corridor is an amazing traffic route. Dredges are busy clearing silt from the channels and the grey skies are gloomy.

The rest of the group are off on a shore excursion while the Pearl and I are giving our bodies a rest and catching up on the reading. Still can’t get the darned Wi-Fi to work!