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Sunday, 16 June 2019

Travels in the Land of the Dragon, pt 2

Wuhan to Jingzhou and beyond

The internal flight from Shanghai to Wuhan was straightforward but our escort, Iowa, inadvertently caused much merriment.  Before the flight, he provided us with lunch boxes containing a sandwich, fruit and other things to eat on the plane .  He thought that we may not like the "warm milk" served on the plane.  A bit of head-scratching at that statement but we thought that it must be a local airline custom on short hauls.  When the food came round on the plane, it was clear that he actually meant "warm meal" and a good laugh was had by all!  He was right about the airline meal - flavoured noodles and not much else.

First stop after disembarking was to see some artifacts discovered in a tomb dating back to 433 BC. Of these, a set of 65 bells and chimes weighing 5.5 tonnes was the most spectacular.  These are shown below.

   Massive bell and chime set

After looking round the collection, we were treated to a performance on a replica set with other traditional instruments which was superb.  Here's a short video of one piece they played - you might recognise the tune.

Replica bell set

From there, it was to our ship, the Viking Emerald and shown to our nicely appointed stateroom which had an open air balcony.  Holding some 128 staterooms, it never seemed crowded.   The Yangtze is some 6300km long and although our cruise component was significantly less than that, it struck a perfect balance between water and shore-based activity.

As a bit of semi-irrelevant trivia, on arrival at Shanghai airport, the handle on my wheeled suitcase was found to be jammed in the closed position and I couldn't shift it.  Ended up walking like Quasimodo with it through the airport as I naturally had no tools to effect a fix.  However, once on board the Emerald, a quick word with one of their engineers saw it fixed and returned within 30 minutes - awesome service!

The Viking Emerald (file photo)

Casting off and leaving Wuhan late afternoon we were treated to in incredible moving light show projected onto waterfront buildings and bridges stretching several km at dusk and into full darkness.  It was mesmerising and we could have watched it for hours.

Ever-changing colours and shapes on a bridge

Waterfront lights starting to come on at dusk

This is part of the waterfront after dark.

Another of the many bridges

Wuhan waterfront

Wuhan waterfront

Wuhan waterfront

Illuminated pier of a river bridge

Meals and service on board the ship were outstanding and at dinner that evening, we were able to reconnect with two couples we had met in the hotel, Kathryn and Richard from Florida and Janet and Greg from South Dakota.  We all had the same cynical sense of humour and we were to become great friends.

Pre-dinner drinkies!  Kathryn and Richard passing by

Jennie soon discovered the on-board tailor and was promptly measured for an evening dress jacket in silk.

Instant measuring service

The result a few days later........

Hot chick in silk evening jacket

Wuhan also has a large coal-fired power plant and significant heavy industry on the outskirts.  There, pollution was noticeable as it left a burnt carbon smell in the nose and a metallic taste in the mouth.  In other locations whilst we were there, it wasn't really noticeable.  There was a haze in many places but I suspect most of this was due to humidity and temperature.

Next day, we tied up at Jingzhou and visited a school which Viking sponsors.  What an utter pleasure that turned out to be!  There was a festival going on in the school grounds to celebrate National Children's Day the following day.  There were lots of parents also present to watch the performances.  

A warm welcome from some drummers

Schoolkids taking part in the festival


Yours truly crammed into a minuscule classroom seat.  Our escort Iowa is up front.

As an ex-teacher, Jennie was in her element

Despite the obvious barriers, it's amazing how well you can communicate with a few Chinese words,hand gestures and drawings.  It was so much fun interacting with the children and one of our true highlights.  We also sang them a song in English and the same one in Chinese, having been coached by Iowa.  They probably didn't understand a single word of the Chinese version!  Returning to the ship later, a raffle was held which raised approximately US$6500 for the school!

Roadside barber and hairdressing salon

Before casting off. we also visited the ancient city walls which were well-preserved. It provided a great contrast to the rest of the modern city.

City gates

Part of wall with statue


Pretty substantial defences

Massive stone statue of poet Qu Yuan (340BC-278BC)

Travelling upstream, I was fascinated by the river traffic and the different types of boats.  Many of them seemed to be bulk carriers carrying civil construction materials for the massive projects along the Yangtze.  A lot of the boats seemed to have very little freeboard but maybe in relatively flat water, you don't need much!  Also, we both remarked on the fact that the same bulk loads were being shipped in both directions which was somewhat curious!


Certainly not a lot of freeboard here

A decent load of logs!

As a retired professional engineer (cue eye-rolling from Jennie when I mentioned what I'd seen), I  noticed something odd on quite a few vessels.  A lot of them had the bow bulb designed to reduce drag but some had strange protuberances on their anchor ports which caused their not inconsiderable anchors to drag (pun intended) through the water.  Bit of a conundrum which I may or may not follow up. Don't want to be accused of being totally anal!  Here's an example of what I saw: 

Weird bow anchor arrangement

Great scenery and attractions, interaction with the wonderful schoolchildren and logistics/engineering problems to ponder - what could be better? (said with an almost straight face).

Next - the Three Gorges area

8 comments:

  1. Woohoo Wuhan!!How beautiful. And you can't complain about the variety in your day. P.S. Love the jacket, Jennie.

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    1. Hiya Marg,
      More stunning sights yet to come. Jennie's jacket is stunning. Wait until you see her gold and jade bracelet...... ouch 😐

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  2. Some pretty interesting looking history there Geoff.


    And yeah, can't see how those anchors are helping improve drag...

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    1. Hi Andrew,
      Yep, both interesting and surprising in many instances. That anchor business sure is perplexing!

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  3. Thank you for Part 2.

    "Warm milk"...? Hey, I am lactose intolerant. Just reading about it gives me a reaction.

    Milk rhymes with silk: Stunning outfit, Jenny. Loving it!

    The colourful lights remind me of Las Vegas. As pretty as they are (especially that bridge) I can't help wondering how much energy it might consume.

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    1. In the temperatures we were facing, the prospect of warm milk turned my stomach! We all had a good laugh though. Thanks - it only took 2 days to make and the jacket detail is absolutely stunning. China is mainly coal-dependent but it's clear that they are working to reduce that dependence. NZ no longer exports any great quantity to them.

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  4. Wow. It looks pretty amazing Geoff. When the Chinese do something, it is full steam ahead for sure! How was the grub on the boat? Local stuff or a bit of everything?
    On another note - just wondering by chance if you looked at my blog while over there? I seemed to get a lot of “spam” comments with an Asian feel while you were over there and I’m wondering if they were following your browsing? Perhaps it was just a coincidence. No harm though.
    Looking forward to the next instalment! ;)

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    1. Hi Dave,
      Food was divine! A big buffet choice at each meal as well as any main theme. European as well as Asian. Heaps of fresh fruit and veg. Didn't put on any weight although that might have been all the walking!

      For the reasons I mentioned in part 1, the internet was largely unuseable. Didnt use it apart from trying to read emails and even then, the success rate wasn't that high.

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