There were five fantastic cities on the tour after the cruise: Jingzhou, Wuhan, Hangzhou, Huangshan, Shanghai
We went to Jingzhou so we could experience one of the four ancient cities not destroyed in the Cultural Revolution. It has 11K (7 miles) of city walls around the city. It is a small town by Chinese standards with a population of only one million.
We witnessed a reenactment of sorts. This was the beginning of their “Labor Day Weekend”, so there were crowds.
We took a shuttle bus through the park. Families rented bikes. It was all so jolly.
We passed a car wash….such industriousness
We went to the Jingzhou Museum.
It has many buildings with pottery, embroidery, lacquer and metal pieces, but their claim to fame is Mr. Sui, who died in 167 B.C. He is a very well preserved 2,000 year old mummy from the Western Han Dynasty. Those are his entrails in the box next to him
Here is yesterday’s wine carafe. From 206 BC – 25 AD.
Would the Deerys love this or this in their garden?
A view of the museum from the back. It was a lovely setting.
I show you this scene, because it was our cattle car drill after each excursion. Every bus was comfy and spacious, especially with only 17 of us, including the bus driver.
Good time to take a break and discuss the beer.
Let Rick explain.
Each locale had their own beer. Here are a few:
(Here’s one we’re familiar with here in the U.S.)
Was it Mons or Snow Beer? You might think I had too much…but these were 2.0 beers. Just my lame brain, that’s all.
But the very best was “Blue Cowpie Beer” I’m not sure they knew what they were doing when they named this one.
We took the bus to Wuhan. This was our view from the window of the very swanky Holiday Inn.
We walked along the beautiful riverfront and saw dancers and families.
Here’s Kevin helping a couple who must have forgotten their selfie stick.
At the luscious breakfast, I witnessed a couple of other Sinorama travelers loading up zip lock bags with all kinds of goodies. Seemed gauche to me. And when I mentioned how beautiful the hotel was, he scoffed that it was terrible. “Didn’t you see the base boards?” It turned out he was in the hotel business and what he noticed was WAY different than what we noticed.
The next morning we headed to the bullet train.
In line, our unabashed Val explained something to this Chinese guy.
Fortunately, we had Sweetness Cookies with Overbalanced Mouthfeel for the road.
We ended up in Hangzhou. This is where Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, lives. There are 110,000 millionaires and 65 billionaires in this town. (They were quick to point out there were 594 billionaires in China in 2016 vs. 535 in the U.S.) 90% of the businesses in Hangzhou are private. A parking place can cost up to $40,000.
We learned several interesting things:
- Deng Xiaoping , who ruled from 22 August 1904 – 19 February 1997 started China on a different path from pure Communism. He said “it doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, as long as it can catch the mouse.”
- Don’t travel October 1st through 7th since that’s Chinese New Year. And July, August and January are school holidays.
- They bound women’s feet for 1,000’s of years to make vaginas tight. What?
We joined the throngs of people enjoying the last day of their 3-day weekend and went to the park flanking West Lake.
We boarded a boat and headed out onto West Lake.
It was filled with tourist boats.
We got to see the view that is printed on their 1 yuan bill:
This was the view from our hotel room the next night. Little different from the previous night. Would you want to be living in the building that was spared?
Now I’ll set aside time to talk about the obligatory sales rooms we visited. I already told you about the Jade and Pearl Factory. It was easy to just say no in those and although the Embroidery Factory was impressive, we passed there as well.
Since city women aren’t interested in learning to master the tedious skill of embroidery, they bring gals in from the countryside for training. Their creations, that take years to stitch, are beautiful, but not $10,000 beautiful.
But, I have to admit, we were suckers for tea and silk.
We shelled out at the green tea factory and at the silk factory we fell off our wallets (big time).
I’m guessing these visits to storerooms are important in keeping down the price of the trip. Show off China’s industries and maybe help them bring in some income. Makes sense.
At the green tea factory, we learned that black tea is fermented, oolong tea is half fermented, but green tea is not fermented at all. They save the good stuff (the spring crop) for themselves and export all the rest to us schmucks.
Our local guide in front of some tea bushes.
The sales girl, Meijing, was the best sales person I’d ever encountered. We had to buy some just to honor her skills.
We could have spent $240 for 500 grams of the very best, Empress Tea, but we didn’t go quite that far.
Our next shopping encounter (in Shanghai) was to the silk factory.
The beginning of our silkworm education.
The Chinese have been raising silkworms and producing silk for over 5,000 years
- The silkworm lives on mulberry bushes
- The silkworm life cycle is 45 days
- The female lays 400 eggs which become the silkworms
- After they spin their cocoons, they become pupa and in 3 days metamorphose into a moth and escape.
- 50% of the pupa die inside the cocoon. These are the only cocoons they use to produce silk.
- 1,200 meters of silk are produced by a single cocoon
- After they find the end of the “spool” of silk, the machines in the photos below untangle the silk into a usable form.
- We were warned by Jerry not to buy silk from just anyone. When the label says “100% silk” there’s a very good chance it’s the label they’re referring to.
However, there are many double cocoons, with tangled silks. They don’t try to untangle these, instead using them for pillows and quilts.
Here is a photo and video of our group stretching a pile of double cocoons into quilt batting.
Part of our purchase…which we’re dreaming under these days. *sigh*
It took 5,100,000 cocoons to produce the silk for the goods we bought. If they had to kill the pupa, I’d feel bad. The producers just take advantage of nature.
Posing in my souvenir, a red silk vest.
We headed out to Huangshan, our launching point for Yellow Mountain. Never heard of Yellow Mountain? According to the signage, it’s the #1 tourist attraction in China, and we missed the 50,000 people who visited the mountain the weekend before we got there. If you saw Avatar, you saw the mountains, since the movie was filmed there. They are spectacular and none of my photos do justice, so you just have to trust me.
But along the way, we stopped at a rest area. At first I thought this might be a “Most Wanted” poster, but it turned out to be the staff.
Then we saw this giant, colorful map. Now THAT really helps!
Along the way we saw the houses and structures all in black and white, typical of this region. (Inspired by the black mountains and white mist in the Yellow Mountains.)
Checkin’ into the hotel in Huangshan, here’s Kevin finding BBC, usually the only channel in English. We kept up on the news through them, sort of.
There were two weddings at the hotel:
It is the law that women have to be 20 and men 22 to marry.
From the hotel we could walk up to the “Ancient City”, a pedestrian shopping street. Along the way we saw a fellow punting…we did that on the River Isis in Oxford, England, so knew it was probably a shallow river.
The Ancient Street during the day.
And at night.
And the walk back to our hotel at night. Really wonderful.
The next day we took a bus to the base of Yellow Mountain, where we caught first a shuttle and then a gondola.
On the way up on the gondola, one of the Germans, said she just wanted to start yodeling. Seemed about right.
(Phew, I just made it!)
I loved these purple velvet pants on the mountain.
Fun on the mountain top.
Another bird! This one is called an Eight Tone Bird.
One more thing, if you will.
Old man with a cap.
I loved this very direct sign.
This could’a been us…but it was just a photo taken on another day. We lucked out again!
The mist rolling up.
It was definitely spring there.
A panoramic video from one of the viewpoints.
Some of us decided to take advantage of the very reasonably priced massage after climbing the 1,403 steps it took to reach the top of the mountain. The massage involved slapping, pressing pressure points, rubbing and stretching. $250 yuan for 90 minutes. You do the math. (6.8 yuan to a U.S. dollar.)
On the way to Shanghai the next morning, the bus driver took a wrong turn (or the GPS wasn’t updated) but it was great because we got to see a cemetery up close and personal.
We were finally in Shanghai. They dropped us off on Nanjing Road, where there’s shopping aplenty, but we just walked and people-watched.
At the end of Nanjing Road is the Bund along the waterfront. The park along the Bund is beautiful and lush with flowers.
All along we thought this statue on the Bund was Mao, but it was Chen Yi, a Mayor of Shanghai who was executed by Mao.
Not yet the land of capitalists, but well on their way
We stayed at a Crowne Plaza quite a ways out of town. It was beautiful.
The next day, we went into Shanghai again, and after the silk factory, we went to the Shanghai Museum on the Bund. It was what you’d expect, old stone sculptures, pottery, ancient garb and so on. I loved this hanging dragon.
But it was the exterior that was spectacular. There was a magical fountain between the museum and some massive government buildings. Here are lovely children enjoying the fun.
The only pigeons we saw the entire trip. Never could find out what happened to all the birds. Anyone want to hazard a guess?
That night some of us went to an Acrobatics show. It was worth it. Just a few fuzzy photos of the escapades.
Our last night, we took an hour-long boat tour of the buildings of Shanghai lit up.
Only illuminated in the spring and fall, when energy usage is at its lowest, it still costs the city one million dollars a night to put on the show.
The Bund lit up.
The next morning, we left the hotel at 5:20 a.m. with a picnic breakfast all packed up for us. Goodbye, lovely China.
Here’s to you! Thanks for reading 🙂
After a layover for one night in San Jose, we boarded a United Flight to head home. It laid over in O’Hare, where we were delayed, and delayed some more, and than some more. We were there after the terminal emptied out and all the stores has closed.
We finally hit the sack at 4:00 a.m. in Charlotte. Home Sweet Home!
Some afterthoughts to share:
I came down with Vertigo two days after arriving home. Seems the congestion I suffered on the boat, and didn’t take antihistamines for immediately, caused the crystals in my ear (that help with balance) to get out of whack. After some physical therapy (The Heply move…really weird) it went away. But always have antihistamines with you.
We learned about a gal who had a gall bladder attack in Shanghai. Fortunately, she could prove that she had insurance to cover the surgery she needed. Do get travel insurance, and get it within days of booking your trip. If you don’t, preexisting conditions will not be covered. Fortunately, we didn’t have to learn the hard way. And now we all know for next time.