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Home Up Itinerary

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In 2009, we enjoyed a wonderful visit to China.  It is such an amazing country with its incredible history and culture.  So, in March 2010, we once again put on our touring shoes and visited this unique land.  Read the details below!

Tuesday, 23 March:  We began our adventure by flying first to Vancouver so that we could then enjoy a long flight to Hong Kong via Cathay Pacific, one of our favorite airlines.  We had a fabulous dinner of tortellini in a porcini mushroom sauce and a great red wine on our American Airlines flight from Dallas to Vancouver. We arrived in Vancouver at 7:30PM and enjoyed a quiet evening there.

24/25 March:  Our Cathay Airlines flight was approximately 13 hours long.  We left Vancouver at 3PM on 24 March.  While enjoying great gourmet Chinese dining and fine wines we also were able to watch the latest movies (i.e., Blind Side and Up in the Air – both terrific).  We arrived in Hong Kong at 8:00PM on Thursday, 25 March.  We then went to the Marriott Sky City, an airport hotel with complimentary shuttle, for the evening.

Friday, 26 March:  After a great breakfast (yes, we’re back in the land of noodle soups to begin our day), we returned back to the airport.  There we purchased an “Octopus Card” which provides for round-trip transportation to/from the airport via the Airport Express Train as well as three days of unlimited travel on the MTR system (metro & buses).  We then took the Airport Express to the Kowloon Station (on the tip of the mainland of China but still part of the Hong Kong Special Autonomous Region).  From there, we took a complimentary bus (K3) to the Hotel Nikko, our home for the next four nights.  After checking into the Club Floor we enjoyed delicious appetizers and some of the best dim sums we’ve ever had with a wonderful Spanish Rioja wine before calling it an early evening.

Saturday, 27 March:  While Ed got up early for paper work and to catch up on computer work, Lindy slept until 8:00AM (hey, not bad for the first evening of coping with jet lag).  We then enjoyed a delicious buffet breakfast before beginning our touring.

After a quick metro ride, we were within walking distance of several terrific sites.  First, we visited the Nan Lian Garden.  It was stunning with incredible bonsai trees, ponds and beautiful Chinese bridges and structures in a beautiful setting.  Also, there was a very relaxing music which played throughout the area.

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An overview of the entire
Nn Lian Garden as shown in a model

Lindy standing by a giant bonsai
The Golden Pagoda
Ed in front of a rock garden
A decorative bridge over
a coi pond
A beautiful waterfall
A wooden water wheel
The grinding mechanism
attached to the wooden water wheel

[ T O P ] 

From there we wandered to the Nan Shen Monastery which is actually attached to the garden.  It too was quite beautiful with huge wooden buildings.

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The Monastery Buildings

The water gardens in the Monastery
A closer view of a beautiful
blooming bonsai in the gardens

[ T O P ] 

Then, we went to the Chi Lin Nunnery a bit further into the property.  Most of the facility was open to the public except those areas still in active use by the nuns.  We were able to see some of the nuns and their heads are shaved like the male monks but instead of wearing the orange robes, their robes are gray.  The most impressive part of the Nunnery was its main building.  It was constructed without the use of any nails.  Amazing! 

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The Nunnery

A beautiful altar featuring
three statutes of Buddha

[ T O P ] 

Afterwards we returned back to the hotel (via a different metro route) and then enjoyed cocktails and snacks (and again those dim sums) in the Executive Lounge before calling it a day.

Sunday, 28 March:  It was a beautiful Sunday morning so we decided to hit some outdoor locations in both Kowloon and on Hong Kong Island.  We took a short metro ride to the morning flower market.  It had throngs of individuals purchasing flowers for the upcoming week.  We were so impressed with the many beautiful orchids – just superb! 

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The bustling flower market

A vendor selling orchids
A close-up of some beautiful orchids

[ T O P ] 

Next, we continued walking and eventually came to the “bird garden”.  It is an interesting description since it is basically an area where there are both sellers and buyers of birds as well as other individuals taking their small song birds for an outing.  There was an amazing array of sounds as well as beautifully colored birds; every thing from tiny song birds to giant parrots and macaws. The Chinese really love birds as pets. It definitely was something new for us and something you don’t see in many locations.

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This fellow is giving his
parrots a spray bath

A vendor selling birds
A beautiful wall tile we
discovered in one of the
walkways in the Bird Market
Two singing birds in beautiful cages
A young woman is "sharing" another
individual's parrot; that is, the
owner let this young woman put
the parrot on her arm
A "bevy of beauties" posing
for the camera

[ T O P ] 

After we finished our visit at the bird garden, we took the metro to Hong Kong Island’s central station.  From there, we took an escalator system which moves people up the height of the island.  It is a series of escalators with various access points so you can get on or off at numerous spots.  However, there is one key to note:  it only goes uphill (it does go downhill but only for a few hours in the morning when individuals are getting to the central business district for work). 

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Looking back down into the
Central Business District as we
make our way up Hong Kong's
escalator system

[ T O P ] 

So, once we arrived at the top of the system, we had to work our way back to the CBD.  Thankfully, the Hong Kong Zoo is located just a bit down from the escalator system and was the perfect way to break up the walk down.  It is known primarily for its primate collection.  Due to severe land shortages, the animals don’t have extensive grounds but are instead kept in large caged compounds.  While we were there, the keepers were doing feedings and it was impressive that they physically entered the cages of the smaller animals.  One lemur even ate grapes that his keeper hand-fed him.

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Welcome to the Zoo!

This Orangutan is checking us out
A stunning Ruffed Lemur
These are Spurred Tortoises
A fountain near the Zoo with
Hong Kong's CBD in the background

[ T O P ] 

After enjoying our time at the Zoo, we took the balance of the walk downhill into the CBD.  From there, we caught a metro back to Kowloon and ultimately walked to the Nikko Hotel from the Hung Hom metro.  On our way to the room, we stopped at the Executive Lounge to enjoy a cold soda (and to enjoy some time off our feet).  Afterwards, we relaxed until we returned to the Executive Lounge for cocktails and snacks.  Since it was a Sunday evening, the place was jammed with business people relaxing before the work week.  Hey, it’s great to say “been there, done that” and know that our coming day was more touring at our own pace.

Monday, 29 March:  We decided to visit Lantau Island today.  It too is accessible via the greater Hong Kong metro system.  So, we took a very long ride (our longest yet) to reach the final station on Lantau.  From there, we walked to the key site of the island, The Big Buddha…. And boy, is he BIG!  The Buddha is a beautiful bronze statute about 85 feet tall which sits atop a hill and is accessed by a long staircase.  In the same complex (but at the foot of the hill) is the location of a former monastery which is being restored as well as a small temple.  The area was very beautiful and impressive.  Many individuals were offering prayers and burning incense.  In fact, we saw the largest incense sticks we’ve ever seen; before being lit, they were taller than Lindy.

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Our view as we approach Lantau Island
from the relatively new metro line

A small village on Lantau Island
The entry gate leading to Buddha
The long flight of stairs up to
the Giant Buddha.  The size of
the people gives you some perspective.
A closer view of Buddha
sitting on the lotus flower
This is an amazingly detailed
and beautiful Buddha
A temple in the complex
Lindy behind some giant incense sticks
Golden Buddhas within the temple
The temple has beautiful ceiling
paintings complemented with
hanging ornaments

[ T O P ] 

After spending our day in The Big Buddha area we returned back to town and to our hotel.  We enjoyed a final night in the lounge and thanked the staff who had been so gracious to us during our stay.

Tuesday, 30 March:  This was our first travel day into mainland China.  After enjoying another yummy breakfast of soup, fish, salads, etc., we caught a shuttle bus to the Airport Express Train.  At the Kowloon Airport Express Train station, we were able to check-in both ourselves and our bags for the flight to Xiamen.  After doing so, we took the Airport Express Train to the airport.  It’s a great idea to be able to get rid of the baggage before getting to the airport.  Then, it’s so easy to get through security, immigration, etc. and then enjoy the airport itself.

We arrived in Xiamen in the Fujian province at 1:30PM and were met at the airport by a representative of the Marco Polo Hotel, our home for the next three nights.  It was a quick drive to the hotel and we immediately went to the Continental Club Floor.  We were greeted by Ms. Alice Ye, Club Floor Manager, who provided all the information we needed about amenities offered.  We then were given a beautiful room with great views.  We settled into the room and relaxed until it was time to go to the Club for happy hour and snacks.  Actually, the “snacks” were an incredible selection of delicious buffet foods including eel, salmon (cooked and raw), beef/leek skewers, assorted breads, cheeses and fruits.  Wow!  We enjoyed a refreshing G&T followed by an Argentinean Shiraz wine along with the wonderful foods.  Afterwards, it was time to return to the room and relax for the balance of the evening.

Wednesday, 31 March:  After enjoying a scrumptious breakfast (again, at the Club Lounge – we ignored the Western fare and instead focused on assorted dim sums, veggies, rice and noodles), we took a local bus (fare of 1 CNY or about 15 cents) to the ferry terminal.  We quickly realized that very few non-Chinese tourists make it to Xiamen. We were definitely off the beaten path! We (particularly Lindy) were stared at by almost every one and people wanted to have their pictures taken with us.  It was like the first time we came to China in the 80’s.

From the ferry terminal we caught a ferry to Gulang Yu (Gulang Island).  Gulang is a small island (about two square kilometers) which has only foot traffic.  It boasts a lush environment and has many trails plus lots of avenues with shopping and historic buildings.  The principal products for sale were dried fish and seafood.  We enjoyed an entire day on the island.  We then took a ferry back across the channel to Xiamen Island where we caught the return bus back to our hotel.  Again, we enjoyed a wonderful happy hour before calling it a day.

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Ms. Alice Ye, Club Floor Manager,
at the Marco Polo Xiamen

A statute of Zhengchengong
on a boulder as we approach
Gulang Island
Typical residences on the Island
A street cart on a very lovely lane
A narrow shopping street
Lindy and a new friend
(Chinese love to have their
pictures taken with Americans)
Ed with a cactus in full bloom
This is a photograph of a "photo shoot"
(We don't know what product or person
is being featured but it's a great shot.)
A view back to Xiamen
The ferry used to get to/from
Gulang Island

[ T O P ] 

Thursday, 1 April:  When traveling the bus the day before, Ed noticed an area of street markets in what is known as Xiamen’s old town.  The buildings were ancient and very close to the sea.  So, we decided to begin our touring today by taking a bus back to those same street markets.  Vendors were selling lots of different kinds of fish, meats and vegetables; some were cooked and others were alive and/or raw.  It was as fascinating to us and we were fascinating to the people shopping and working at the market.  After wandering the narrow streets for over an hour, we caught a bus back into our area of town.

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The very, very busy street market

One of the many vendors
How about some live fowl?
A variety of live fish
A tiny beauty
More and more and more fish
This area provided meat
and fowl (already cleaned)
Stands in the vegetable market
A giant squash in the
vegetable market stands

[ T O P ] 

Next, we took a bus to visit Nanputuo Temple complex.  Nanputuo originally was built in the Tang Dynasty (618-907).  During the Qing Dynasty (1662-1722), it was rebuilt into a Buddhist temple.  The buildings of Nanputuo are spread over the mountain side and have varied forms according to their function.  All the buildings are marked with multi-layered roofs decorated with yellow glazed tiles and carvings of animals, which are in accordance with traditional South Fujian architecture.  In addition, local granite is largely used in columns, beams, arcs, rails and pathways. All and all, Nanputuo is quite impressive!

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The entry into Nanputuo Temple

Our first view of the Temple complex
Some of the beautiful buildings
inside the Temple
Turtles sunning in the pond
 in front of the Temple grounds
A view of a carved stone pagoda
in front of a Temple building
Lindy beside an elephant
which guards the Temple
A gilded guardian of the Temple
A very ornate building within
the Temple complex
Roof lines of the many buildings
A close view of a decorative tile
dragon perched on the corner of a roof

[ T O P ] 

After leaving the Temple, it was time to return back to the Marco Polo for our final night at the hotel.  Again, we enjoyed a leisurely evening of wining and dining before returning to our room to gather up and pack our belongings for the next city on our agenda.

Friday, 2 April:  This was a travel day.  We left Xiamen (to which we will definitely return) and took a flight to Wuhan, in the Hubei province located in the interior of China.  Upon arrival, we took an airport shuttle bus into town.  From there, using our hotel name/address written in Chinese, we were able to walk to the Ramada Plaza Hotel, our home for the next four nights.

We checked in at the Club Floor and then settled into our room.  At 6:30PM we returned to the lounge.  Again, the evening appetizers and drinks were excellent.  There was a wide assortment of delicious goodies such as crab, salmon sashimi (raw), smoked salmon, scallops in the shell, shrimp and a small lobster or crayfish.  The only red wine the Club offered was Dynasty, a wine made in China.  While not our favorite, we enjoyed a glass or two before a contingent of French men arrived and began drinking all that they could find.  Oh well, time for us to retreat to our room and enjoy the balance of the evening there.

Saturday, 3 April:  We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the hotel’s main dining room.  We choose this instead of the Club Floor so that we can indulge in the various soups, congee and other treats made while you wait.  The fresh noodle soup with beef broth was especially yummy and you watch it being made according to your tastes in a few minutes.

After breakfast we made inquiries about how we could use public transport to reach the Yellow Crane Tower.  We were assisted by a member of the Club Floor staff.  After numerous telephone calls, she explained that we could walk to a local bus stop and catch the no. 706 bus to the Tower.  Unfortunately, the bus stop she referred us to didn’t have stops for the no. 706 bus.  We walked the area and still couldn’t find any other stops for the no. 706 bus.  So, we instead decided to take the metro system (Elevated train) to the Wuhan Passenger Port.  Lindy had some information that there was a tourist bus that ran from that location. 

So, we boarded the metro and rode for two stops (for a combined total of 3 Yuan or 45 cents).  When we alighted we were on a pedway (Jianghan) that was jammed with vendors, shops and lots of shoppers.  It was about 1.5 miles long and we walked its entire length to reach the Port.  Again, however, no luck with any buses going on either a tourist route and/or directly to the Yellow Crane Tower.

Since it was now late in the day, we opted to make the pedway our choice of exploration for the balance of the day.  We wandered back through it slowly and enjoyed looking at the goods being offered for sale as well as the smells of the various foods.  It was definitely a place to enjoy on the weekend based on the crowds of locals there.

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The pedway filled with shoppers

Another view of the pedway
(You have to laugh at KFC ad
on the high-rise in the background)

[ T O P ] 

When we returned back to the hotel (via the metro and walking), we checked with the Concierge about using public transportation to get to the Yellow Crane Tower.  This time we were given a totally different bus number.  So tomorrow we’ll give bus no. 609 a try.

In the meantime, since it was late afternoon, we stopped by the Club to enjoy a cool beverage.  Then, we went back to our room to catch up on a few items before returning to the Lounge at 6:30PM to enjoy a refreshing gin & tonic along with delicious foods.

Sunday, 4 April:   Today was another try to reach the Yellow Crane Tower – and we did so with success!  After enjoying another breakfast of soups and other interesting items, we went to the Club to ask the individuals there if they knew how to use public buses to reach the Tower.  One individual, Ella, gave us the specific bus no. 584 (not the no. 609 suggested yesterday) and told us it was a double-decker bus and that we could pick it up at a station across the street.  She also wrote the name of the Tower in Chinese characters so we could show it to the bus driver.

We walked over to the suggested bus stop and the no. 584 bus came very quickly.  As we got onboard and paid our 2 Yuan fare each, we showed the bus driver the Chinese lettering that Ella wrote and he shook his head “yes” that the bus would go to the Yellow Crane Tower.  So, we rode the bus for about 25 minutes first crossing a small river and eventually over the Yangtze River.  Then we arrived at the stop where we could see the Yellow Crane Tower.  It was stunning!!

We walked a short distance to the compound and paid our admission fee.  The Yellow Crane Tower is located on Snake Hill so it requires a bit of a climb to access the various buildings.  The Tower was originally built during the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280).  However, it was then destroyed and rebuilt seven times.  The Tower itself is about 168 feet tall and has 6 levels.  We walked up its five flights of stairs.  There were great views but the haze (and/or pollution) made photography difficult.   For your information (and with lots of imagination), you can visualize that the yellow tiles on the upturned eaves on each floor seem to have been designed to resemble a yellow crane spreading its wings to fly.

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The Gate Entry to Yellow Crane Tower

A bronze crane atop a tortoise
The beautiful Yellow Crane Tower
Us in front of the Tower
A huge bronze bell beside the Tower
Young people ringing the
Yellow Crane Tower Bell
(yes, it's allowed)
A view of the complex taken
from Yellow Crane Tower
A tile mosaic of a crane
located within the Yellow Crane Tower
Lindy with a beautiful vase in
one of the passageways in
the Yellow Crane Tower

[ T O P ] 

After visiting the Tower, we strolled along the various lanes in the compound and passed multiple pavilions and many water gardens.  There were many Chinese enjoying the area but no other Westerners so we were quite the anomaly. 

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Isn't that cherry tree beautiful?

A stone bridge within the complex

[ T O P ] 

After enjoying our day, we once again were able to catch the no. 584 bus back to the area near our hotel.  It was an excellent way to spend a lovely Sunday here in Wuhan.

Monday, 5 April:  Once again armed with information obtained from the staff at the Club, we were ready to explore Wuhan by traveling by bus to the Guiyuan Buddhist Temple.  We began by taking the no. 584 bus again across the Yangtze River.  We got off one station past the Yellow Crane Tower and then switched to bus no. 401.  Everything went smoothly except that the no. 401 bus was so overcrowded it was unbelievable.  We barely squeezed in and rode most of the distance in the doorway.

It was quite a relief when we arrived shortly at the entry to the Guiyuan Temple.  We paid a nominal entry fee and began our explorations.  Although called Guiyuan Temple, the compound is comprised of numerous temples, each with unique character and statuary.  Photography inside the temples is forbidden but Ed did manage one quick snap of a beautiful carved wooden statute of Buddha.  Also, in one courtyard there is a tall bronze statute of Buddha which is a mirror image – that is, you see Buddha on both sides of the statute.  It was truly impressive.

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The entry to The Guiyan Temple Complex

A small temple with a Buddhist priest inside
Ed's quick snap of a beautiful
carved Buddha (subsequently
gilded) in one of the temples
The large bronze Buddha (which is a
mirror image on each side) as
well as the huge bronze incense burner
A closer view of the giant Buddha
A side view of this amazing "double Buddha"

[ T O P ] 

We spent our time exploring the temples and buildings along with the numerous other tourists.  We must admit, however, that at times we felt like we had purple heads and eight orange octopus arms each.  That is, people would stop in their tracks to stare and/or form a group around us as we wandered through the complex.  As we noted, there are not too many Westerners on the streets here and, of those, the vast majority are men, so you learn to take it in stride.  Anyway, we were definitely glad that we visited Guiyuan on a Monday rather than yesterday (Sunday) as we could only imagine the crowds on a non-work day.  The most famous hall in the complex is called Lohan Hall.  It is filled with 500 carved wooden statues of Buddhist monks that have become Enlightened and achieved Nirvana like the Buddha had. They look just like real people and each one is unique.  Pretty impressive!

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A view of typical buildings
in the Guiyan Temploe

The Bell Tower in the complex
Ed decides to give it a ring!
A large temple building
Decorations under the eaves
in the large temple building

[ T O P ] 

When we were finished with our touring, we once again were able to catch the no. 401 bus back into the area of town near the Yellow Crane Tower.  From there, we caught the no. 584 bus back to a stop near our hotel.  It was then time to relax and unwind before leaving Wuhan tomorrow via train to reach Yichang, the beginning city of our cruise on the Yangtze River.

Tuesday, 6 April:  We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast this morning and lounged in our room until check-out time.  Then, we relaxed in the Club until 1:00PM before heading to the lobby where we able to obtain a taxi when an arriving guest vacated it.  The ride to the station was quick albeit in maniacal traffic and our first day of rain.

Once in the station, it took us a bit of time to get acclimated as unlike the airports, there was very little written in English.  We eventually found the sign board and were able to locate the track for our train.  We also saw that the front cars (nos. 1-9) boarded in a different area than the back cars (nos. 10 -18).  So, we were then able to relax for the couple of hours before our train departed.  While sitting in the station, a young Chinese man (we later learned he was 18 years old) introduced himself to us and wanted to make sure we were okay.  Westerners in a train station are a real rarity we later learned.  He was so glad to hear we were Americans since he had never gotten to practice his English with foreigners. Anyway, we spent the two hours waiting for our train speaking with the young man, Peng Lucheng.  He was traveling back to his University from his home town Yue Yang in Hunan Province after coming home for three days for Qing Ming days (the “tomb-sweeping” holiday).

We boarded our train at approximately 3:35PM and left at 3:50PM on time. Eventually we arrived in Yichang still in Hubei, Province at 9:35PM.  We were actually due in at 8:50PM but because of our train had to wait at several places where the rail track was only one-lane, we were late.  When the train did arrive, our guide, Ginger, was waiting at the exit to the train station.  She and our driver transferred us to the Century Diamond cruise ship, our home for the next four nights.  The Century Diamond is one of a handful of Five Star cruise ships on the Yangtze. It is very new and very beautiful. It has 6 decks and can hold up to 264 passengers but we only had 150 passengers and a crew of 138. Talk about being pampered!!! We quickly settled into our cabin (with private balcony), enjoyed a quick night-cap and called it a very full day.  FYI, below are a few snaps taken while we were on the cruise that show the ship, our room, etc.

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The Century Diamond

The Ship's Lobby
A map of our cruise route
An interior hallway in the ship
Our room (pretty nice!)
Enjoying our balcony

[ T O P ] 

Wednesday, 7 April:  Early in the morning we motored through the first of the three Gorges, the Xilang Gorge.  It was quite spectacular!  We then enjoyed a leisurely (and totally awesome) Chinese buffet breakfast on board.  The vast majority of the guests were from mainland China. There was also a group from Germany.  Since we were the only Americans (and the only English speaking guests) on the ship, we shared our table with some of the crew – the Hotel Manager, Andreas Achaz from Vienna, Austria but fluent in English, the Assistant Hotel Manager, Lily Yang, Cruise Director Gary Xiang (Mandarin and English speaking) and Guide Isa Yang (Mandarin and German speaking).  One of the owners of the ship, Ekhardt (from Germany but fluent in English), also joined us.  Boy, did we feel special!

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Our approach to Xilang Gorge

The gorge walls
A small town within the gorge
A side gorge with an
amazing bridge crossing it
A view of the steep walls
deep within the gorge

From 9:00AM until 12:00 noon, we went on a shore excursion to the Three Gorges Dam Site.  The Three Gorges Dam impounds the Yangtze River, the third longest river in the world behind the Nile and the Amazon and one of the top five rivers in the world in water volume. The major reasons for the dam are flood control and power generation. Our local guide, Mandy, explained that the damming of the Yangtze River had taken about 14 years (1994-2008) (though technically there are several projects still going on at the dam).  The body of the dam was completed in 2006 but the project was declared completed in 2008. It is the largest hydroelectric power station in the world.  The dam is 7,661 feet long (nearly 1½ miles) and has a height of 331 feet.  At its base, the dam is 377 feet wide.  Pretty massive indeed!  It creates the Three Gorges Reservoir with a surface area of 403 square miles and a volume of 9.4 cubic miles of water!  There are 26 electric generators at the dam each capable of generating 700 Mega (million) watts.  Six more will be added by 2011 bringing the total generating capacity of the dam to 22,500 Mega (million) watts. As of April 2009, the dam had generated 300 TWh (tera or trillion watt hours) of electricity, which covers ~30% of its estimated $USD 39 billion cost.  It has been hailed as a breakthrough in large turbine success but still has its detractors due to the flooding of an area which displaced 1.24 million individuals and greatly altered the ecology of the area.

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A model of the Three Gorges Dam

Looking down on a ship in one
of the locks as we are on the
road ascending to the dam
A view of the dam with its intake towers
Three Gorges Dam
A slightly different view of the dam
with Ed in the photo for some perspective
Look at the power output!

[ T O P ] 

After our tour, we enjoyed another leisurely buffet lunch.  Our ship then proceeded to the lock system where it was subsequently moved through five locks in about three hours to continue our journey upriver on the Yangtze River.  It should be noted that behind the Three Gorges Dam the Yangtze River (technically the Three Gorges Reservoir) is vastly deeper than its original river - approximately some 165 – 200 feet deeper at the dam depending on dry or wet season.

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Ships entering the lock before
the Century Diamond

A ship getting into position
next to our ship in the lock
Ed on the ship's deck and look
how close we are to the lock walls!
The lock doors begin to open
Exiting the lock
A final view of the Three Gorges Dam

We ended our day with a cocktail party hosted by the ship’s captain, Mr. Tang Jian, followed by a fabulous Chinese dinner served family-style at our table.  Wow, what a full day!

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A beautiful hostess greets the guests
(not exactly what one expects in the PRC)

Enjoying a cocktail with the captain
(by Ed) and co-captain (by Lindy)
Isa (Guide), Gary (Cruise Director) & Lindy

[ T O P ] 

Thursday, 8 April:  Our day began early as we were on the Sun Deck (6th floor) at 7:00AM so that we could enjoy views of the Goddess of Wu Gorge high above the Yangtze.  Midway through the Wu Gorge we left Hubei, Province and entered Sichuan, Province. Then, we once again were at the buffet table for an early breakfast.  At 8:30AM, our ship docked on the Yangtze and we boarded a smaller ship to explore the Lesser Three Gorges.

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Sunrise at Wu Gorge

Can you find the Goddess of Wu Gorge?
Here's a closer view
(you can  see her standing next to
the large pillars on the left)

The Lesser Three Gorges are three separate valleys of the Daning River a tributary of the Yangtze.  We began first at Dragon-Gate Gorge, then motored into Misty Gorge and finally into Emerald Gorge.  Each had sheer cliffs and was quite beautiful.  Apart from the natural beauty, we also saw some of the suspended coffins (wooden coffins left in caves by prior inhabitants), remains of an ancient walkway and some monkeys playing among the rocks.  The end of Emerald Gorge was very narrow so we switched to small junks to view this area.  Again, it was quite beautiful.  After a 20 minute ride, we returned back to our smaller ship.  The smaller ship then returned back through the Lesser Three Gorges until returning to the Century Diamond.  After re-boarding our ship, we once again continued along the Yangtze River.  Of course, we enjoyed another yummy buffet lunch.

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Dragon-Gate Gorge

A freighter in front of our boat
Tiered farming along the river bank
The walls of Dragon-Gate Gorge
Entering Misty Gorge (you now
know why it has this name)
The amazing gorge walls
One of the hanging coffins
in Misty Gorge
The green waters of Emerald Gorge
The walls of Emerald Gorge
A closer view of the gorge walls
showing amazing erosion
Ed enjoying the beauty of Emerald Gorge


Some of our shipmates traveling
via san pans (just like we are in
this area of narrow mini-gorges)
The walls are so narrow that you
can see why travel must be
via small san pans

The afternoon highlight was seeing the beautiful Qutang Gorge.  Ed was able to capture the identical scene that is used on the back of the 10 Yuan Chinese bank note. It included the tallest peak in the gorges - some 1500+ meters (about 5000 ft.) It was absolutely spectacular and some of the best views we had enjoyed on the Yangtze.

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Gary announcing the ship will
soon enter Qutang Gorge

The entry into the gorge
Characters carved into the gorge wall
The shot of Qutang Gorge
which appears on the 10 Yuan Note

[ T O P ] 

In the evening, we once again enjoyed the company of others at our dinner table. 

Friday, 9 April:  Today was our most leisurely day aboard the Century Diamond.  There were no events and/or sites scheduled till 9:00AM so we didn’t go to the dining room until 8:00AM.  After a leisurely breakfast, we docked at 9:00AM to go explore the temple city of Fengdu. 

Before the flooding of the Yangtze, Fengdu set high on the mountain top.  Now, it is easily reached via walking and/or a chair lift several hundred feet above the river.  Most guests (including us) took the chair lift up to the temple area.  Then we began our explorations.

Fengdu is believed to be the entrance to hell.  All people in China believe that they must report to the King of Death when passing on.  So, in Fengdu, you can visualize images of what to expect.  Depending on whether one is good or bad, you may spend eternity in hell or a short time in hell where you are tortured (kind of like purgatory).  Then, after your penance, you receive a drink that makes you forget you’ve been tortured and you’re reborn as a human being, an animal or a ghost depending on how good you were in life.  In essence, the Chinese beliefs (both Buddhist and Taoist) are enhanced and one is reincarnated and hopefully enjoys a better life in the next coming. 

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The main entry into Fengdu

An interior gate which also forms
part of a covered walkway
Painted ceilings in the corridor
as well as wall paintings depicting
"good" scenes and "bad" scenes
A stone bridge with a
beautiful walkway behind it
Buddha inside Liaoyang Temple
(Qing Dynasty) within
the Fengdu complex
Roof tiles, a pagoda and
the mountain background of
Liaoyang Temple
The ancient wooden pillars
in Liaoyang Temple
An interior courtyard of Baizi Temple
which houses the Goddess of Fertility
The Goddess of Fertility
One of the many statutes in
Fengdu - This one is "Naughty Boy"
This statute is pretty bizarre
This statute features a deer nursing
(but not with its natural mom)
This is Ghostly Gate - only
good spirits are allowed to pass
through it
Lindy made it through Ghostly
Gate into the beautiful
courtyard directly beyond it
Another pagoda (we can't
resist photographing this
amazing architecture)

[ T O P ] 

For us, we enjoyed the interesting buildings and sculptures.  Then, we choose to walk back down to the river where we rejoined our group and once again boarded our ship for a buffet lunch.  We’re never far from food at any time (and perhaps this is why cruises are so popular!).

Anyway, in the afternoon we attended a brief cooking demonstration held by two of the ship’s chefs.  One chef made Kung Po Chicken and spicy tofu and the other showed us how to make dumplings.  Then, in the evening everyone enjoyed a delicious “send-off” Chinese dinner.  It was a great celebration of our final night on the ship.

Saturday, 10 April:  The Century Diamond docked in Chongqing at 8:00AM. We enjoyed a very early breakfast as we had to have our luggage outside our door at 7:30AM for pick-up by the ship’s porters.  At 8:30AM, our guide, “Richard,” came aboard the Century Diamond to collect us and our luggage.  Since it was low water and the ship was docked well below the street level, we hired two porters to carry the luggage up to our vehicle.

Richard and our driver then proceeded to drive us into Chongqing.  Chongqing is the 4th municipality that reports directly to the central government (the others are Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin -- Hong Kong is a totally separate thing).  It sits at an altitude of 5,528 feet.  Our first stop was the former home of American General Stilwell who is somewhat of a hero to the Chinese people. Stilwell had lived in China for about 20 years and even learned to speak Chinese. He was put in charge of the China/India/Burma Theater during much of World War II.  A bronze bust of him sits outside his former residence. Since it was undergoing renovations, we were not able to go inside.

We then stopped at a museum dedicated to the Flying Tigers. The Flying Tigers were a group of American volunteer P40 pilots operating within the Chinese Air Force who helped defend the airlifts over the Burma Road in 1941 and 1942 during World War II.  General Claire Chennault was the commander of the group. The carburetor air intake on the front of the planes looked like an open mouth so the military painted giant sharks’ teeth on the nose of the planes. It made the planes look very ferocious. Some say the name “Flying Tigers” was given to the group by their Washington support group However,  the Chinese say the planes looked like flying tigers (an animal native to China and one the Chinese treated with great respect) with their mouths open about to strike and this name stuck!

Once inside, we were given an overview of the Flying Tigers role during the war.  The 700+ mile Burma Road extended from India through Burma (now Myanmar) and over The Himalayan Mountains into China. The road was the only supply route for critical supplies and equipment for the war effort in China against the Japanese. However, early in the war, the Japanese controlled much of Burma so the Allies supplied their forces with airlifts from India to China. The Japanese sent fighters to attack the transport planes and bombers to attack bases and Chinese cities like Chongqing.  In spite of never having more than 62 flight-ready aircraft and pilots, the Tigers were credited with downing 300 Japanese aircraft while losing only 14 pilots on combat missions. Obviously, they were some great airmen. The museum contained photographs of every pilot and lots of memorabilia. It treasures a great deal of history.

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The Flying Tigers Museum

A painting of a group of pilots
A painting of the famous
Flying Tiger planes

While at the Museum, we also received a demonstration of painting from a local artist.  Basically, the Flying Tiger Museum receives no government support – only donations from visitors.  So, one way to raise funds is to sell the local paintings.  Although we have no wall space left, we bought a painting of a flowering plant to help support the museum.

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A local artist at work

The finished painting
Yes, we supported the museum

After leaving the museum, we drove to the Chongqing Zoo, home to eight Giant Pandas as well as several of the Lesser Pandas.  They didn’t disappoint us as it was feeding time and all the animals were enjoying their morning snacks.  We were able to get some great photographs of these lovely creatures.  Richard also took a great snap of us with a panda in the background.  We also went over to the compound which houses the tigers and were able to get photographs of a rare South China tiger which is extinct in the wild.  This tiger was also awake and active in the morning. It was a very enjoyable outing since many locals and their families were enjoying the zoo too.

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We're at the entry to
the Chongqing Zoo

You You is a male who
was born at the Zoo in
September 2006
You You is really enjoying his snack!
Now it's time for some bamboo
A great threesome shot with You You
Here's a Lesser Panda
(he happens to be begging
for (and getting) french fries
from a zoo visitor)
This is a great shot of Er Shun, a male
who was born at the Zoo in
August 2007, enjoying some bamboo
Er Shun decides to talk a walk
This cutie is Ya Ya, born at the
Chengdu Panda Breeding Center
in September 2000 (we
visited the Chengdu Center in 2009)
Another great shot of Ya Ya
The beautiful and majestic
South China Tiger
Another shot of this beauty

[ T O P ] 

Afterwards, Richard took us to a wonderful buffet lunch at The Carlton Hotel.  Here we got our first taste of the region’s famous “hot pot” – a very, very spicy dish which can include meats, vegetables and tofu.  We loved it! 

About 2:00PM, we were taken to the Hilton Chongqing where we said good-bye to Richard and our driver.  We checked in at the Executive Lounge and then settled into our room.  In the evening, we enjoyed cocktails and fabulous food.  Perhaps the most unique (and tasty) was dim sum made the crab roe.  You don’t get that often!  We returned back to our room at 8:30PM and relaxed for the balance of the evening.

Sunday, 11 April:  We first enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the hotel restaurant.  Again, we avoided the Western menu items and focused on noodles, vegetables and rice.  We each enjoyed a bowl of soup with rice noodles and vegetables which we asked to be hot and spicy.  Boy, was it – probably one of the most spicy yet!  We enjoyed every bite but we both were sweating when we were done.

Then, we decided to explore the neighborhood near the hotel.  It was a combination of apartments, businesses, retail stores and restaurants.  The hotel is very centrally located so access to buses and the light rail line are nearby.  Along one major street there were tunnels bored into the side of a hill which had been used as bomb shelters during WWII. Post WWII, they were converted into shops and small restaurants. While taking our walk, we also took time to locate the stop for the airport bus which we will be using tomorrow to go to the airport for our flight to Kunming.

When we returned to the hotel, we relaxed for the balance of the day and caught up on paperwork, email, etc.  Then, we returned to the Executive Lounge for happy hour and snacks.  The feature this evening was dim sum made from shark’s fin; again, another first.  We stayed at the Lounge until 8:00PM and then returned to our room in anticipation of getting ready for our departure in the morning.

Monday, 12 April:  This morning we decided to go to the Executive Lounge for breakfast rather than to the main restaurant.  Again, they had everything we would possibly want but it was much less crowded than the main restaurant.  We enjoyed ourselves there until 9:30AM.  Afterwards, we returned to our room, gathered our bags and checked out of the hotel.  We walked a few blocks to the airport bus station and were able to get on a waiting bus which subsequently left as soon as we were onboard.  The ride took about 40 minutes and cost 15 Yuan each (~$2.25 each) so it was quite the bargain.  We were at the airport by 10:45AM and checked-in and through security by 11:00AM.  So, we relaxed until catching our plane to Kunming at 12:35PM.

When we arrived in Kunming (our first destination in the Yunnan province), we asked about an airport bus but were told there wasn’t one.  So, we cued up for a taxi instead.  It was about a 30 minute drive but only cost us 26 Yuan (~$4.00), again another great bargain.  Upon arrival at the hotel, we checked into the Club floor.  After settling into our room, it was time to hit the Club for happy hour (which began at 5:00PM – very early by any standards).  We enjoyed some great snacks and then returned to our room to relax and unwind.

Tuesday, 13 April (Happy 13th):  This morning we enjoyed breakfast in the hotel restaurant.  Interestingly, this hotel had a “make your own” soup bar so Chef Eduardo went to work.  He began by placing some rice noodles in a bowl. Then he added veggies (cabbage, bok choy and bean sprouts).  Next came hot chile oil, sesame seed oil and soy sauce.  Then he added some boiling broth (mushroom and pork-bone broths).  A good stirring, then let it sit awhile and enjoy!!

Kunming is known as the “Eternal City of Spring” despite it being at an altitude of 1900 meters (6,200 feet).  It was a beautiful morning so after breakfast, we went to Green Lake Park located about five minutes walk from the hotel.  It was surprisingly busy for a weekday.  People of all ages were enjoying the beautiful scenery and waterways.  We actually came across two large groups of individuals in one area who were getting their exercise via dancing.  One group was doing line-dancing while the other was doing more traditional dancing in a circle.  It was quite the sight!

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A view of Green Lake from our room

The entry gate into Green Lake
A small pavilion on the lake
Lindy beside some maple trees
Three Arches Bridge
A group of individuals dancing
in the park, including one
individual in traditional costume
(and it's not the guy with the
cowboy hat!)

[ T O P ] 

We stayed in the Green Lake area for several hours enjoying both the beautiful day and some great people watching.  We returned to the hotel and spent the balance of the day doing laundry, catching up on paperwork, etc.  Then, we joined a rowdy group of interior designers from America in the Club for happy hour.  Thankfully, the noisy bunch didn’t stay too much longer so we were then able to enjoy a leisurely evening in the Club.

Wednesday, 14 April:  Again, we went to the main restaurant so that Chef Eduardo could once again make us a spicy soup.  After enjoying a very leisurely breakfast, we decided to continue our walking exploration of Kunming. 

We left the hotel and headed onto one of the main thoroughfares, Renmin Street.  We walked along it several blocks before coming across a pedway.  “Pedway” is almost a simplistic description in that the area was the width of a huge city block and then the stores went five stories high.  Wow!  It was an amazing mass of traditional stores as well as alleyways full of tiny shops selling everything from antiques to birds.

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The pedway is somewhat empty
because of the early morning hour

A view of the high-rise buildings
immediately off the pedway
A busy side-market street

[ T O P ] 

After wandering through the larger areas, we eventually strolled through an area of small vendors.  There, Ed spotted a pair of Jade earrings that were the perfect compliment to Lindy’s bracelet and recently acquired pendant.  We got initial pricing and then continued on throughout the area.  We eventually returned back to the same stall and Ed bargained a bit and Lindy got some great earrings at a great price.  We learned a long time ago that except in the big department stores, bargaining is an expected procedure and the Chinese will think you’re stupid if you don’t do it. Since women do almost all of the buying in Chinese families, they are great bargainers and men are considered an easy prey. The end result, Lindy has a beautiful keepsake of Kunming.

We then returned back to the major pedway and eventually stopped in a grocery store in the bottom of a major department store.  Of course, you could buy anything and everything from live fish, frogs and turtles to specialties we couldn’t identify.  After exploring the grocery, we walked to another major street and began walking back to our hotel.  We choose this route so that we could locate the bus route for a future adventure to the Golden Temple, our destination for Friday.

By now, it was late afternoon so we returned back to our hotel and enjoyed a cold beverage.  We then returned to the room for about an hour before returning to the Club for happy hour and cocktails.

Thursday, 15 April:  This was our day to enjoy a private tour to the Bamboo Temple and the Stone Forest.  Our guide, Sunny, met us in the lobby at 8:45AM and our explorations began.  We first drove north of the city to the beautiful Bamboo Temple.  Since there is no public transport to the area, we had the place virtually to ourselves.  It is a beautiful temple located above the city.  We were able to get great photographs and it was very special enjoying this special place alone.

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We're standing outside the Temple entrance

Looking into the Bamboo Temple complex
A closer view of a beautifully carved urn
A wall decoration
This is the Golden Temple
A giant incense burner
that is beautifully decorated
A sole visitor brings
prayers to Buddha
The amazing Buddha
A beautifully ornate wooden
building within the complex
A closer view of the carved and
painted wooden doors of the building

[ T O P ] 

After enjoying this magical place, we had about a two hour drive across the city of Kunming and then into the mountains to The Stone Forest park.  Before accessing the park, we enjoyed a delicious lunch in a nearby hotel.  Then, we went directly to the park.

While in the park, we enjoyed looking at the beautiful limestone formations.  We choose to walk a variety of paths which wound through and among the rocks.  Sunny selected the routes and we were able to get away from the majority of other visitors (who were almost all Chinese tourists) which was a real plus.  While we saw what appeared to be a forest made of stone pillars, we were actually enjoying formations that were created by weathering and erosion.  It’s simply amazing!  On one path, we were able to view an actual unconformity where there were limestone layers formed under sea water and then the sea receded and the layers were eroded down (and missing) before the sea returned and subsequent layers of limestone were re-deposited.  Wow, talk about a great natural wonder! While the park is a National Park, the land around it belongs to the Yi people, a minority group whose heritage goes back thousands of years. They have their own language and traditional costumes which are very colorful. Some Yi dancers and musicians performed for us in the park. It was really great.

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Arrival at the Stone Forest

A stone reflecting in a pool
Walking among the "trees"
A closer view of a large formation
A delicate archway
Us standing above the Forest
The Yi peoples in traditional costume
beginning a dance
Dancing in pairs across from one another
The Yi people return to
dancing in lines based on gender

[ T O P ] 

We stayed at The Stone Forest for about three hours.  Afterwards, we returned to Kunming and made it back to our hotel about 4:30PM.  It was a great day and we truly enjoyed our explorations!  We settled back into the hotel, did some financial transactions and then enjoyed another pseudo-private happy hour at the Club Floor before calling it an evening.

Friday, 16 April:   After enjoying another breakfast featuring Chef Eduardo’s soup, we decided to do some exploring on our own.  We left the hotel and walked to a nearby bus stop.  There we caught the no. 10 bus to reach The Golden Temple complex, in the north of the city and the last stop for the bus. (All bus rides in Kunming are one Yuan – about 15 Cents – regardless of distance.)

We arrived at the Temple gate in approximately 45 minutes.  After paying our admission fee (very nominal), we walked up an incredible number of very steep stairs.  Kunming is a very hilly city and the temple complex was built on Mingfeng Hill.  The place was jammed with lots of school children exploring with their classmates.  Having some Westerners, particularly Americans (us), at the temple, was an extra plus for them.  We had our pictures taken with them so many times, we lost count.  Many of the young girls wanted a picture of themselves with Lindy.  Even though she could be their Grandmother, she got so many compliments!

We enjoyed looking at the various structures – gates, small temples, the main temple, the statutes of Buddha and the bell tower.  Each were beautifully decorated and in excellent condition.  The scenic area around the temple is a well-known Taoist attraction.  We enjoyed strolling (once we were on top of the mountain) through the various buildings and gardens.  It was a beautiful day and we thoroughly enjoyed being out and about.

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The entry gate into the
Golden Temple complex

Lindy inside an interior gate
Steps into the Temple
A beautiful Buddha inside the Temple
An decorated pavilion ceiling
with a carved incense burner
outside of it
(the Chinese are very, very
friendly towards Americans!)
A beautiful pagoda
Ed with a "guardian lion"
who protects sacred buildings
A bronze bell, the biggest
in the Yunnan province
(for perspective, Lindy is
standing slightly behind it).
It was molded in 1423 and
it weighs 14 tons
Beautiful gardens are an
essential part of all Temple complexes

[ T O P ] 

We stayed at The Golden Temple until mid-afternoon.  Then we caught the return no. 10 bus back into town.  We missed the closest bus stop by one station so we got a little extra exercise on the way home.  Upon our return back at the hotel, we stopped at the Club for a cold beverage and then headed to the room to do some reorganizing prior to our departure for Lijiang tomorrow afternoon.

Saturday, 17 April:  This was primarily a travel day for us.  We checked out of the Grand Park at 11:45AM.  Then we caught a taxi to the airport.  We had a 2:45PM flight from Kunming to Lijiang.  The flight was only about 45 minutes but it was quite the ride because it was through mountains and over deep valleys.  The Lijiang airport is about 20 miles outside the city in a valley area.  After gathering our luggage, we were able to catch an airport bus for the 45 minute ride into town.  From the bus stop, we tried to catch a cab at the taxi stand but the next driver in the queue didn’t want to take us to the Crowne Plaza.  Another driver tried to negotiate an overpriced fare (15 Yuan versus the 10 Yuan we had anticipated) so we said ‘no’ and headed to the street.

We didn’t know how far we would have to walk so Lindy went to a policeman with the hotel name/address (she had all our hotel names/addresses written in Chinese characters).  Anyway, the fellow indicated it was a long way and signaled to follow him which we did.  He walked out into the street, blew his whistle and flagged down a cab and told the driver to take us to the Crowne Plaza.  Ever have a cop in New York do that for you?  The driver, a female, actually spoke a bit of English.  She drove us directly to the hotel for 10.2 Yuan.  Ed paid her 13 Yuan and she even tried to return 2 Yuan (~$0.30) to him.  Talk about being honest!  It was a pleasant surprise after dealing with the “good ole boys” at the taxi queue. 

We checked into the Crowne Plaza and WOW – we were immediately adjacent to the UNESCO World Heritage site.  The hotel itself is built in the identical Lijiang Ancient Town style.  The buildings are only two stories high and topped with tile roofs.  The complex contains typical gardens, hanging copper pots, water wheels, dried corn towers, plots of local crops and a rambling stream.  Simply stunning!  Also, from the deck of the main hotel building, we had great views of the beautiful snow covered Jade Dragon Snow Mountain which has peaks over 18,000 feet.  Again, WOW!  The rooms, the restaurant and the lobby area were among the most beautiful we’ve ever seen, not to mention the food!! This was a great place to call home for the next three evenings.

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Our room is in the building
patterned after the Lijiang Ancient Tower

Lindy enjoying the wooden
balcony of our room
Ed standing by a water wheel
with Lijiang Ancient Town in
the background
Lindy standing by some
towers of drying corn
The beautiful Yulong Mountain
(as seen from the hotel bar)

[ T O P ] 

Sunday, 18 April:  We woke up to a very cloudy morning and headed to the main hotel building for a delicious buffet breakfast.  The variety and types of foods were amazing.  Of course, we began with our usual - a spicy vegetarian soup made to order.  Then, we enjoyed lots of delicious local specialties; we even tried some yak – quite delicious and very low in fat and cholesterol!

At 10:00AM, we decided to begin our first explorations of the Ancient Town. The Ancient Town which occupies a couple of square miles has buildings going back to the 1200’s and is still primarily occupied by the Naxi minority people. Most of the buildings were converted to shops and restaurants on the first floor and the people still live above. For the most part the original stone streets still exist as do original water canals. Two small rivers flow through the town and have been channelized for the people to use. The water which is runoff from the surrounding snowfields and glaciers in the high mountains is quite clear and cold. Over the centuries many beautiful arched stone bridges have been built to cross the rivers.

We entered the Ancient Town from the Crowne Plaza property directly into the historic area.  It was an absolute maze of beautiful streets – some lined with trees; others with decorative lanterns.  There were many beautiful cherry trees which had just begun to flower and some huge rose vines that also had flowered. Add to these some huge old bougainvilleas with numerous bright blooms and this place was a fairyland!  It started sprinkling as we wandered and then it finally turned into a pretty heavy rain.  However, we didn’t let it prevent us from enjoying the sites and the people.  Also it was less crowded in the rain which was great for photography. Some of the shots in the rain were more interesting than those in the sun.

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We certainly enjoyed the yak
but couldn't quite muster
finishing the yak penis

A large "People's Square"
at the entry to the Ancient Town
A street paved with handmade
bricks which includes a small water canal
A view of a larger canal with
a stone bridge (we're standing on
one for the photograph) as well
as decorative lanterns
A typical street
A narrow walkway featuring
a beautiful mural on the right wall
A woman dressed in traditional
garb doing laundry
Two women in traditional costume -
One is a shopkeeper and the other
is carrying a baby on her back
A row of beautiful wooden homes
A small shopping street
Another shopkeeper in her
traditional costume
A beautiful canal setting
albeit in the rain

At about 1:30PM, the sun actually came back out so we were able to try some shots of the area without the rain. We stayed in the Ancient Town area until almost 3:00PM.  Thankfully, Ed’s travel watch has a digital compass built in or we might still be wandering the streets.  Since we had been walking for about six hours, we were ready to return to our beautiful room and unwind.  All and all and despite the rain, it was a wonderful experience.

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A deserted Tower

A small garden with
cherry blossoms in bloom
A working water wheel
A carved relief wall on the
outskirts of the Ancient Town
A closer view of a
multi-armed goddess
A young weaver in her
traditional costume
An unpainted portion of an
interior city wall reveals that
it is adobe - mud and straw -
just like in New Mexico

[ T O P ] 

Monday, 19 April:  While Lindy was sleeping away the morning, Ed snuck out of the room for about 30 minutes and took some early morning photographs of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (also known as Yulong Mountain).  The peaks were absolutely gorgeous without a cloud in the sky.  After he returned and Lindy got her act together, we went to the hotel restaurant for another wonderful breakfast.  In addition to our usual soup, veggies, etc., this morning we tried yak yogurt.  It turned out to be really tasty!

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A view of Yulong over Lijiang Ancient Town

A closer view of Yulong Mountain

We then returned to the Ancient Town to continue our explorations.  We first wandered among the various shops and Lindy found a beautiful pair of silver earrings.  After making our purchase, we also were able to follow a vendor to the local food market.  As always, it was fascinating!

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A wooden gate in the Ancient Town

An individual taking veggies to market
The local street market for food
products, including all sorts of meats
Now, we're in the area selling
lots of green vegetables

[ T O P ] 

Next, we visited Mu’s Mansion.  It was a bright, sunny day and a perfect one to visit this extensive complex of buildings.  Tusi Mu was an early chief of the Naxi people (1271 – 1368) and he and his family used the palace as did 22 subsequent generations of local chieftains through the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.  When the Naxi were in power, this residence was the center of politics, power and wealth.  Unfortunately, during warfare in the Qing dynasty, most of the residence was destroyed.  However, it was rebuilt from 1996-1999 in its original site and captures the essence of the original mansion or palace. 

The buildings cover multiple acres.  The complex sits against Shiza (Lion) Mountain and faces east in the direction of sunrise.  After entering the main gate, the first building you approach is the main hall where business matters were attended to by the Naxi officials.  Subsequent pavilions also were used for business matters but those at the back of the complex were reserved for family members’ use.  Along both sides of the complex are beautiful gardens and running streams which add to the beauty of the complex.

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An entry gate with a bonsai beyond

A beautifully painted covered
walkway and tower
A traditional building with
a marble fence in front
A traditional throne
Ed in front of a weapon's collection
A beautiful pagoda in Mu's complex
Another view of Yulong Mountain
A display of beautiful vases
Ed sitting on a bronze doorstep
in front of huge wooden doors
Looking down over Mu's complex
Another beautifully designed
and painted wooden building

[ T O P ] 

We spent about four hours wandering through the various buildings.  We also were able to take some photographs of two beautiful girls in minority attire.  Both were Naxi but from different clans and the costumes and their colors were quite different.

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This costume is very beautiful
and very unique

This woman insisted Lindy pose with her

[ T O P ] 

After leaving Mu’s, we wandered around again in Old Town.  The sky clouded over so we decided to head back to the Crowne Plaza late in the afternoon.  Thankfully, once again Ed was able to use his compass to get us back without too much difficulty.  Otherwise, we might still be walking around the maze of streets.  We enjoyed the balance of the day relaxing, packing for tomorrow’s travel and enjoying a delicious dinner.

Tuesday, 20 April:  After enjoying our days in Lijiang, it was time to head to our next destination.  We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the Crowne Plaza and relaxed there until about 12:00 noon.  We then took a taxi from the hotel to the Airport Bus terminal.  We waited about an hour for the Airport Bus and eventually arrived at the airport at 3:30PM.  We checked into our flight for Chengdu without incident and we arrived at that city at 7:00PM.

After grabbing our luggage, we headed out to the cab queue to find a taxi willing to drive us to the Chengdu Exhibition Center where the Holiday Inn is located.  One guy wanted an outrageous 150 Yuan so we blew him off.  It took a couple of other attempts until we found a fellow willing to drive us there.  Their hesitation arose because it’s tough to get a fare back from the Exhibition Center in the evenings.

We arrived at the Holiday Inn at 7:45PM and went directly to the Executive Floor.  When we walked in, “Bianca” was waiting to greet us.  She had been our hostess last year and she remembered us immediately.  Hey, it’s wonderful coming home!  Bianca and her assistant, Julie, helped us check-in quickly. 

Since the Club had happy hour until 8:00PM, Bianca quickly offered to make us a gin & tonic.  During last year’s visit at the hotel, Ed taught the girls to make this standard drink.  Bianca said that she had used Ed’s instructions for making the drink for many, many subsequent guests and they were always very happy.  She now refers to it as Edward’s drink.

Afterwards, it was back to a bit of business in anticipation of our travel to Tibet.  Bianca located our Tibet Travel permit which had been delivered to the hotel earlier in the day and arranged to have it delivered to the Club Lounge as we had to sign a receipt for it.   

Even though the happy hour was supposed to close at 8:00pm, Bianca & Julie kept the happy hour open for us (and two fellows from Newcastle who joined our table) until 10:00PM.  The ladies were so sweet in wanting to make sure we each had a drink, some food and a glass of wine.  Obviously, this kind of service is one of the reasons we returned back to the Holiday Inn despite other hotels being closer to the airport.  At the end of the evening, we told both Bianca and Julie we would look forward to seeing them on 30 April (the night we once again return to Chengdu).

Wednesday, 21 April:  We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the hotel restaurant.  As soon as we walked in Kelly, who does the seating at the restaurant, recognized us and said “oooh you’re back.”  She gave us a prime table and spent a little time talking to us.  Again, we had only Chinese dishes including spicy soup, steamed veggies, noodles, fresh fruit, etc.  At 11:00AM, we returned to the Executive Floor where Julie checked us out.  She also arranged for our taxi back to the airport.  Today was another travel day and a big one at that – our first adventure into Tibet.

                                             SEE “TIBET 2010” FOR DETAILS (APRIL 22 – APRIL 29)

Friday, 30 April:  We returned to Chengdu at 1:15PM.  After collecting our luggage and finding a cab driver who would use the meter to take us to the Holiday Inn Century City, we arrived at 2:30P.  We went immediately to the Executive Lounge where Bianca was waiting to check us in.  Also, we saw “Kiko” who we know from our 2009 visit at the Lounge.

After settling into our room, we returned to the Executive Lounge to enjoy Coke Zero on ice, a real treat, while catching up on business work and culling of photographs.  We stayed in the lounge until Happy Hour at 6:00PM.  We then each enjoyed a gin & tonic, a glass of wine and snacks.  All a real treat!  We called it an evening at 8:00PM when we returned to our room to relax.

Saturday, 1 May:  Today was again a travel day.  We had an early breakfast (with some great spicy noodle soup) and left the hotel at 8:00AM.  Due to it being Saturday as well as the May Day holiday, we arrived at the airport at ~8:15AM and were sitting at our gate at 8:40AM.  Pretty amazing! 

Although we had tickets issued on the same airline (Southern China Airlines), we had to reclaim our luggage and check-in again in Zhengzhou before taking our final flight to Qingdao, our home for two evenings.  Talk about a pain.  Ed said (and I believe he was right) that we had to re-check in at Zhengzhou to make sure that our luggage actually m
ade it onto our flight.

We arrived at Qingdao a little after 4:30PM.  We caught an airport bus into town (the airport is 30KM on Qingdao’s outskirts) and we made it into town at 5:30PM.  We were able to walk to the Crowne Plaza from one of the last stops of the bus.  We did have a bit of a detour as we initially walked the wrong direction.  However, we asked a young man for assistance and he pointed out the Crown Plaza building in the other direction. 

We arrived at the hotel at 6:00PM and checked-in quickly at the Executive Lounge.  We went to our room and had a great surprise; we had been upgraded to a two room suite.  Very, very nice!  Then, we returned to the Executive Lounge where happy hour had begun at 5:30PM.  It too was pretty special.  They had four hot dishes (pasta, fish, etc.) plus hot soups, a salad bar, fresh breads and desserts.  We enjoyed ourselves and it was a very relaxing evening.  Afterwards, we took some evening shots of Qingdao from our room. 

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Looking out from our room

[ T O P ] 

Sunday, 2 May:  We had a relaxing morning followed by a delicious breakfast in the main hotel restaurant (including our spicy noodle soup).  Then, we did some touring of the area near the hotel.  In the process, we also located the pick-up spot for the return bus to the airport.  We ended our day walking along the seaside boardwalk where the sailing events for the recent Olympics were held.  It was unbelievably crowded!  There were hoards of groups of Chinese tourists arriving by bus (there must have been 50 huge buses in a nearby parking lot).  Oh well, it was the May Day holiday weekend!

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The Olympic Sailing Center

The flags of all nations
participating in the Olympics
Lindy relaxing in our living room suite
A view from our room albeit a bit hazy
Another view of the Qingdao skyline

[ T O P ] 

Monday, 3 May:  We once again had a relaxing breakfast in the main hotel dining room.  By the way, they had a chocolate fountain for dipping – rolls, breads, fruit – whatever you want and we didn’t but it was fun to watch the kids.  We left the hotel at 10:45AM and walked to the airport bus pick-up point.  We then caught the 11:30AM bus to the airport and we arrived and were checked-in by 12:45PM.  Our flight to Nanjing was uneventful and we arrived at 4:00PM.

After collecting our luggage, we took an airport bus about 32KM into town.  We arrived at its first stop at 4:45PM and there we transferred to the Nanjing metro.  We took the metro to the Xinjiekou Station and found the exit listing the Crowne Plaza.  We went out onto Hanzhong Street (the hotel is at 86 Hanzhong Street) but we couldn’t see it.  So we asked for directions and a bank security officer walked us to a back-alley and indicated that the hotel was straight ahead.  It seemed a bit strange but we continued as directed and asked another man who also pointed straight ahead.  When we arrived at the end of the block, across the street was a Golden Eagle shopping center and we still couldn’t see the hotel.  So, we walked a half-block back to the Hanzhong Road to once again have a look.  Ultimately, a young woman saw us standing near a map board and asked if she could help us (in English).  We gave her the hotel address and she walked us back off the main street directly from where we had come and showed us a side entry for the Crowne Plaza (and, yes, there was a small sign that we had missed).  Our confusion arose because the hotel was on top of a Golden Eagle shopping complex and you couldn’t see it until we were behind the mall. 

So, once in the hotel we quickly checked-in at the Executive Lounge.  We then went to the room to quickly unpack and freshen-up.  We then returned to the Lounge for happy hour and snacks.  Boy, it was nice to relax, especially since we had traveled on a very hot, humid day.

Tuesday, 4 May:  Today we were back to touring.  After having breakfast, we returned to the subway to begin our explorations.  We went two stations to the south (Sanshanjie Station) for 2 Yuan each.  We then walked about 10 minutes to what we thought was the Confucius Temple but instead was the Zhanyuan Garden.  The Garden is a well preserved architectural complex built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).   In 1853, officials in the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom chose Nanjing as the capital of the Kingdom and the garden was the residence of its East King.  The Kingdom fell during war in 1864 but relics from its period of power are maintained in a museum at the Zhanyuan Garden.  The grounds also include numerous pathways, gardens and two outdoor pavilions – one for cold days since it had underground heating; the other for hot days due to a natural breeze.  Our admission included being shown around by a young man who spoke English so it was very informative as well as being very beautiful.

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A beautiful dragon screen
at the garden entry

The museum building in the garden
We learned that curves in walkways
prevent ghosts from using the walkway
The "Warm Pavilion"
The beautiful walkway,
gardens and pond
Beautiful Fall foliage
A wedding gown in the museum
A display of weapons
A carved water holder
Royal furnishings

Upon leaving the Garden, we inquired about how to reach the Confucius Temple.  We were directed onward and walked another 10 minutes and we ultimately found it in a wonderful pedway area filled with great shops and traditional buildings.  There was also a canal with many boats on it and several traditional bridges crossing it. Very picturesque! We took our time enjoying the area before going into the Temple. 

The Temple was built in the Song Dynasty (1034).  Upon entering the Temple, you are greeted by a huge statute of Confucius.  Then, there are several halls and, in between, are two pavilions.  One has a huge bell and the other has a huge drum.  After photographing these, we were fortunate to enjoy some traditional music being played in one of the major halls.  It was very beautiful.

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The Confucius Temple wall
with a huge decorative dragon

The beautifully carved
wooden Temple building
The Temple entry
Inside the Temple
A screen featuring Confucius
with incense offerings below
An intricate wooden carving
depicting the Temple
Lindy beside the Temple's drum
The Temple's Bell Tower
A musician playing a traditional
instrument at the Temple

[ T O P ] 

After enjoying this area, we decided to return to the hotel.  Thankfully by using Ed’s compass and following a few signs, we found the metro without difficulty.  The metro ride was quick and we were back at the hotel late afternoon.  It was time for a well-deserved cold Diet Coke after walking and touring on another hot, humid day.

Later, we once again enjoyed happy hour at the Executive Lounge.  It was the perfect way to spend the end of our first day of touring in Nanjing.

Wednesday, 5 May:  We decided to tour in our local area today.  After having breakfast, we went to the Executive Lounge to ask opinions about what to see.  The overwhelming vote by the staff was that we visit Nanjing’s Presidential Palace.  So, we headed out with that goal in mind.  En route, we made a detour to WalMart to check to see if the store carried dried mushrooms for Ed to use in making Chinese dishes.  We were surprised that the store had an incredible selection and some in WalMart's own brand – Great Value.  We didn’t buy anything yet but we’re likely to do so before we leave Nanjing.

After leaving WalMart we walked a couple of more blocks and found the Presidential Palace.  During the 109 years from 1840 to 1949, it was the backbone of the Chinese military and politics.  The only period in which it was not was when the Japanese invaded in 1937 and took over the Presidential Palace.  The older sections of the Palace were built during the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Empire.  Of course, as far as recent history is concerned, most of us know the Presidential Palace as the seat of the government of Chiang Kai-Shek.  Following the fall of his government to Mao’s Peoples Liberation Army, the Presidential Palace became a large historic site.  It also includes some beautiful garden areas.

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Inside the Presidential Palace

Lindy standing in an interior garden
The Heavenly King's Throne
This is the Heavenly King's secret
meeting room where meetings
were held with trusted counselors
This garden features a marble
boat with a wooden building on top of it

[ T O P ] 

We spent the entire day exploring the Palace.  It was a good choice since there were light rain showers and we could stay dry (albeit the humidity was 100%+).  Anyway, we enjoyed our explorations.  We returned to the hotel late afternoon and were pretty tired.  We unwound for a bit in the room and then went to the Lounge for our evening cocktails before calling it a night.

Thursday, 6 May:  We got an early start today because of needing to take care of some travel business.  We had been expecting train tickets for delivery since 4 May but none had ever arrived.  We had sent several emails to the agency but we didn’t get any response so we were getting a bit anxious.

After breakfast, we went to the Executive Lounge to see if one of the staff could assist us by calling the agency.  “Cindy” immediately made the call and after a quick conversation in Chinese, Cindy hung up the phone and said that our agent would contact a local agent to see what was going on and make a return call to Cindy.  So, we decided to chill for a bit and read the newspaper.  In just a few moments, Cindy asked for our agent’s telephone number again.  Then Cindy proactively called and insisted that the tickets be delivered to the Executive Floor by early afternoon (we found this out after she made the call and came to give us a status update).  Wow, it was a huge relief since to know everything was under control!

So, we decided to go forward with touring in an area south of town known as the Linggu Temple Scenic Spot.  We took the metro to the Nanjing Railway Station so we could also observe how things operate there since we’ll ultimately go there on Saturday for our trip to Hangzhou. Afterwards we went looking for tourist bus no. 1 which was supposed to leave from near the railway station. After a bit of confusion as to where to catch the bus and some misinformation we asked some police men and a police woman who spoke some English where the bus was and they walked us a few hundred yards to the bus stop! Try for that in New York. The bus came and we took it to the end of the line where we then walked about 1KM to access the Linggu Temple Scenic Spot.

The whole area is outside of town and, for the most part, is a natural park.  There are a few areas of lawns but most of the site is forested.  After accessing the park entry, we first visited was the Wuliang Hall.  This is a huge building built of stones without use of any wood.  It’s also known as the “Non-Beam Hall.” 

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Entering the Linggu Temple Scenic Spot
Accessing Wuiliang Hall

Arrival at the Hall

Ed with a giant stone turtle
outside Wuiliang Hall
Inside the "Beam-Less" Hall
which was built without wood
Another view within the Hall

[ T O P ] 

Next we visited the Linggu Temple itself.  There were no crowds at the temple and most of the “worshippers” were having their picture taken while burning incense.  It was a huge contrast to the devout visitors in the temples in Tibet.  Afterwards, we walked to the Linggu Pagoda, an eight-story pagoda atop a nearby hill.

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Linggu Temple

A bronze bell
Another temple and altar
A close-up of the beautiful altar
The beautiful eight-stored pagoda

[ T O P ] 

At the end of the touring, we were both pretty tired.  Thankfully, tourist bus no. 2 actually begins at the Linggu Temple Scenic Spot so we were able to catch it and actually have seats.  By the time we got off back in town at the Presidential Hall, the bus was absolutely packed.  We had to squeeze off and it took some elbowing to do it. 

We then walked about 20 minutes back to the hotel about 4:15PM.  Before going to our room, we went too the Executive Club Lounge and “Sophia” immediately gave us our train tickets.  What great service we received once again from the Executive Lounge staff.

We returned to our room to relax for a bit and to get cleaned up before returning to the Executive Floor Lounge for cocktails, snacks and a well-earned break.  This was definitely not a night we had any desire to leave our wonderful haven.

Friday, 7 May:   We once again had to attend to business first-thing today.  After examining our train tickets, we saw we had the right train number but it appeared that the train was leaving at 4:30PM instead of 12:30PM. If we kept them, we wouldn’t arrive in Hangzhou until almost 9:00PM.  Not something we wanted to do!

So, we began our morning at the Business Office since personnel there can arrange train tickets and flights.  “Betty” examined the tickets and also agreed it was for a 4:30PM departure.  Betty then called the Nanjing Railway ticket office and subsequently told us that train no. 5589 was now the train leaving at 12:30PM for Hangzhou.  Next, Betty wrote a note in Chinese for us requesting that our train tickets be switched to the no. 5589 train.  She then explained that if we went to the railway ticket office with that note and our tickets, they should be exchanged for free.

We once again visited the Railway Station and Betty’s note worked great.  We got the tickets exchanged and were finally set for tomorrow’s train ride to Hangzhou.  Since we had time for a bit of touring, we set off for the Drum Tower.  It was only a couple of stops on the metro so we arrived quickly.

The Drum Tower is situated roughly in the center of Nanjing, on a traffic circle on Beijing Xilu. The Tower was built in the Ming Dynasty (1382). Afterward, it was destroyed and rebuilt for several times. The existing structure was built at the end of the Qing Dynasty (late 1800’s).

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A view across Westlake to Zifeng Tower,
the tallest building in the Jiangsu Province,
(in the center of the shot)

The Drum Tower
A photograph of Zifeng Tower
from within the Drum Tower complex

[ T O P ] 

Afterwards, we headed back to the Crowne Plaza.  En route, we stopped by WalMart and purchased four different varieties of dried mushrooms.  Hopefully, they won’t cause any problems in customs.  On an aside, we were amazed at the numbers of people in the pedway nearby.  However, since everything (including banks) is open seven days a week, it’s not just weekends when the masses are out and about.

Saturday, 8 May:  After having breakfast we proceeded to the Executive Floor to check-out.  Unfortunately, due to a discrepancy between our guaranteed rate and the hotel rate, this procedure took an hour and 20 minutes.  Unbelievable!  Thankfully, the hotel provided a courtesy car to the railway station so we were able to still catch our train to Hangzhou.

The train ride was pretty uneventful.  We had “soft seats” meaning first class do despite the train being full, we had lots of room although we did have to hoist the luggage over our heads to get it into the storage bin.  We arrived in Hangzhou at 4:40PM.  Then, we couldn’t find a cab queue so it took a bit of time to find a cab that was willing to drive us to the Crowne Plaza in rush hour.  When we did, we tipped the gentlemen well upon arrival at the hotel because it was a pretty nasty drive in terrible traffic. He didn’t quite get the concept of a tip and tried to return the extra money. The Bellhop told him in Chinese that the money was for him.

We checked in at the Executive Club and were warmly welcomed.  We quickly settled into our room so we could return to the Club for happy hour and snacks.  It was definitely time to relax after a frustrating morning and a long train ride.  We enjoyed speaking with a family from Spain and sharing a few bottles of good red wine with them as well.  Then, time for bed.

Sunday, 9 May (Happy Mother’s Day):  After enjoying a leisurely breakfast, we inquired about how to get into town from the hotel and obtained a map from the concierge.  Then, we stopped by the Executive Lounge for suggestions as to what to see.  In 2008, we spent about four hours in Hangzhou as part of a day tour from Shanghai.  We had only two quick stops – West Lake for a boat ride and Lingyin Temple, a Buddhist temple not far from Westlake.   “Fanny,” Executive Club Manager, and one of her staff members, “Cecilia,” suggested that we visit the Qinghefang area.  She then printed out information about which bus to use (the K12) to access the area as well as a walking map.  Talk about great service!

We followed the directions – both for the bus and for the surrounding area – and it worked like a charm.  The bus ride took about 30-40 minutes and cost 2 Yuan per person (~30 cents).  Then, our walk into the Qinghefang was another 20-30 minute walk.  Qinghefang was the marketplace of the ancient capital during the Southern Song Dynasty.  It is a collection of old buildings that have continuously housed stores for local specialties such as West Lake Longjing Green Tea, silk and traditional Chinese medicines such as ginseng as well as crafts such as wood carving and jewelry especially jade.  The streets were booming with shoppers and tourists and we enjoyed wandering along them for hours.

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Chenghuang Pavilion

The very busy Qinghefang area
Colorful Signs
Various shops and overhead banners
Another pedway featuring
beautiful flowers and a canal

[ T O P ] 

Afterwards we found our return bus stop and returned to the hotel late afternoon.  At Fanny’s insistence, we returned to the Executive Lounge for enjoy a cup of the famous local Longjin Green Tea.  It had just been harvested (just born she said) and was very fresh. It was very good and a very relaxing way to unwind after being on our feet all day (both walking and riding the crowded buses).

We returned to our room until happy hour and then once again returned to the Lounge for a cool gin & tonic, followed by wine and snacks.  Yum!

Monday, 10 May:  We got an early start this morning because it was a fairly clear day which is unusual this time of year (most days are quite hazy).  We once again took the bus into town and then transferred to a tourist bus that circled West Lake, one of Hangzhou’s most treasured attractions. 

Afterwards, we walked along the many trails by West Lake to take photographs of the gardens, waterways and the beautiful Leifeng Pagoda.  The Pagoda was erected in 977 by Qin Hongchu, King of the Kingdom of Wu and Yue, to celebrate the birth of his son by his favorite concubine. 

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Colorful garden art on one of
the walkways in Westlake

A shelter and feeder for the
West Lake swans
A view of Leifeng Pagoda
across West Lake
A close-up view of the
top of the pagoda
A hidden corner of West Lake
One of the many decorative
gardens composed of both a
waterway and lush greenery

[ T O P ] 

It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed being outdoors.  Because it was Monday it wasn’t very crowded but there were lots of buses with Chinese tourists.  Thankfully, the park area is huge so it was easy to get off by ourselves and take some photographs of secluded spots.

We again returned to the hotel via public bus.  After taking time to catch up on a few business matters, email, etc., we returned to the Executive Lounge to once again enjoy the famous green tea.   We then went back to our room and returned to the Lounge to enjoy happy hour before relaxing in our room for the balance of the evening.

Tuesday, 11 May:  Again, we had a fairly early start as this was our next to last day of touring for this trip.  So, we decided to revisit Lingyin Temple since our 2008 visit was very brief given that we were with a small group who had taken a day trip from Shanghai to Hangzhou.

We once again took the bus into town.  There, we caught the Y2 Tourist Bus and went to the drop off point near the temple.  It was about a 15-20 minute walk to access the Lingyin Temple Scenic Area.  Once there, we were in a small canyon and on its walls are numerous beautiful carving Buddha.

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A Laughing Buddha carved
into the canyon wall

Another Buddha on the Lotus
A Reclining Buddha
en route to Lingyin Temple

After enjoying this area, we went into the Temple complex.  Lingyin was first built in the first year of Xianhe of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (326).  There are multiple halls, each of which is beautifully painted and each highlights a different Buddha.  The Hall of Mahariva, which is the main hall, has a woodcarving of Buddha that is covered in gold gilt.  It is the largest woodcarving of a sitting Buddha in China and it measures 24.8 meters including the seat.  Pretty spectacular!

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Lingyin Temple's
Hall of Mahariva

The amazing Sakyamuni  -
a wood-carved Buddha covered
with gold gilt measuring 24.8 meters
(That's about 81 feet!)
Sakyamuni with Disciples
A side view of this amazing Buddha
A nearby statute of
a guardian
Kwan-Yin Statute, also
known as the Goddess of Compassion
Dhiritarshtra, the Heavenly
King watching the East


We wandered from hall to hall with each one being built on the hillside at a slightly higher location.  We were surprised when we visited the last hall and were able to see mountain tops from it.  We had climbed up quite a distance but had done so slowly.

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A decorative curving roof
with a hilltop behind it

Looking down into the
Lingyin Temple complex
A pagoda hidden in the bamboo

[ T O P ] 

We spent our entire day enjoying Lingyin Temple.  When we left, we were grateful that we were walking downhill the entire way, including in the small canyon outside the temple.  We caught the Y2 bus back into town and later caught our K12 bus back to the hotel.  Thankfully, the bus was empty (a first in China) so we had a seat the entire ride.  We returned to the hotel late afternoon and only had a few minutes to clean-up before going to the Executive Lounge for happy hour.  We relaxed there until about 7:00PM and then returned to the room to take care of a few items before calling it a night.

Wednesday, 12 May:   For our final day in Hangzhou, we decided to do some shopping.  So, we once again caught the bus and went to the Qinghefang shopping area.  Lindy was looking for earrings to match the jade bead necklace that we bought in China in 1983.  We didn’t find those earrings but Lindy bought five “fun” pairs at a small shop.  However, we then found two bracelets made of jade beads almost exactly the same color as her jade necklace.  So, we purchased both and Ed is going to convert one of them into earrings.  All and all, a wonderful shopping day!

We returned to the hotel in mid-afternoon to begin organizing for our departure tomorrow.  We thoroughly enjoyed Hangzhou, especially with our ability to access the major sites via public buses.  At happy hour, we gave the town a big toast as we thought about the wonderful sites we had enjoyed.

Thursday, 13 May (Happy 29th 13th!!):  The beginning of our day was once again a travel day as we headed to Guangzhou. We took a taxi at 8:30AM to reach the Airport Shuttle Station in town.  It took about 30 minutes due to very heavy traffic.  To his credit, our taxi driver was creative in using the smaller streets to avoid some of the big slow downs we have witnessed when on our K12 bus route.  An airport bus was getting ready to leave as we arrived so Ed quickly bought tickets and we were the last ones on.  We weren’t able to sit together for the hour long ride but it is worth it to know we were on our way.

Our flight to Guangzhou was about 30 minutes late so we didn’t arrive until 2:30PM.  We waited until about 3:00PM to catch a shuttle into town.  This one was a real treat because it dropped us at the Holiday Inn City Center.  We quickly checked in at the Executive Floor. 

During happy hour, we inquired about touring in town for a future trip.  It turns out that there are sites to see and the city has a metro.  From the hotel, we could see the typical blend of old and new areas plus lots of green.  So, Guangzhou is on our future “to do” list.

Friday, 14 May:  This was our final day of intra-China travel before heading back to the USA.  After breakfast we were able to use the Holiday Inn’s complimentary shuttle to access the East Guangzhou Train Station.  We then took a train into Hong Kong’s Hum Hong station.  We arrived at 2:10PM.  Then, we had to take two different metro lines to reach the Jordan Station.  Unfortunately, it was very crowded on the metro and we had to drag our bags up/down stairs.  Then, it was also hot and humid so by the time we emerged from the metro we were pretty well spent.  We only had about a two block walk to the Novotel Nathan Road but it felt like two miles! 

Thankfully, we were once again on a Club floor so after check-in we quickly settled into the room and then went to the Club to enjoy a cold Diet Coke on ice.  Delicious!  We also enjoyed a few snacks before returning to the room for showers and some cold air conditioning.

We enjoyed happy hour at the Club and called it a night at 8:00PM.

Saturday, 15 May:  This morning we had a quick continental breakfast in the Club as we knew what awaited us at the Hong Kong Airport.  On Friday afternoon we previously arranged to return to the Airport via an airport shuttle rather than using the metro and Airport Train.  So, we were picked up at the door at 9:15AM and dropped at the Airport at 10:30AM.  We were sitting in our favorite Cathay Pacific Lounge, The Wing, before 11:00AM.  There we each enjoyed a couple of great soups from the Noodle Bar.  Yum, yum!

At 12:30PM we boarded our flight to Hong Kong after going through an additional luggage search which took a bit of time.  Irrespective, our flight actually left early and some 13 hours later, we arrived in Los Angeles at 11:20AM on Saturday, 15 May.  Hey, it’s magic!

We then caught an American Airlines’ 1:30PM flight into D/FW where we spent the night.

Sunday, 16 May:  We returned home via American Airlines after enjoying a wonderful trip!  It’s amazing how quickly our time in China went by.  We have no reason to be sad since we know we’ll returning very, very soon!!!

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