Day 14 – Sad but glad

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I can’t believe this is already our last day. Referring to the title: we’re sad it’s over, but we’re so glad we made the trip (I really don’t think, this is the last time)

I will do a more detailed reflection over the next couple of days, but let me say already here: We had the great opportunity to learn a real lot about a fantastic culture (especially from our guides, naming Mr XinHao and Mr Tan as the outstanding ones), met really great people over the last 2 weeks, saw great architecture, did some deep dive into Chinese (garden) art and had (with the exception of Day 11 – I’ll write about that soon) the time of our life!

We had a really relaxed day today (also could not take too many good pics as my camera still refuses to take up work again), moved from the tour hotel over to our last resort downtown Beijing, did some last-minute shopping and sightseeing with a crystal clear blue sky and late October sun above us.

After arriving at the downtown, central hotel, we took a cab over to Wangfujing road; mainly a really western style modern shopping street, but also some (a bit touristy, but safe) bazar-like, more traditional area:

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We also found a great spot to sit with a cold brew for a few minutes:

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I took the pic below in front of a shoe store in business since 1902:

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After returning to the hotel we just walked for some time around the area:

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What kind of really got at me was the huge discrepancies shown in a really close area. The following picture sets (two per set) were taken at the same spot – first pic to the left of the road, second to the right:

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Now, looking at the next pic, make an educated guess: Left of right side of the road?

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Still, crossing the bridge got me the chance for my more or less final photos of the trip:

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We’re now sitting in the hotel lounge, from time to time going outside to enjoy the view from the balcony:

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It’s been (as stated above) a fantastic journey – I can’t wait to be back in China to experience more of this great culture and folks.

I will continue to reflect on the trip here – but of course not on a daily basis anymore.


Stay tuned – thanks for reading and all your comments & likes.


Day 13 – Mainly Forbidden

What shall I say? It’s been a beautiful day in Beijing with focus on the Forbidden City.

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Today we started at Tiananmen Square which most of us do remember from the 1989 protests, but also from the annual parades. A fun fact: I guess you’ve all seen pictures or news feed from the annual parade, always presenting a clear blue sky hovering over the parade – but we also all know Beijing is one of the cities most heavily impacted by smog created by industry and vehicles. Today we learned how China manages to have the blue sky each year on 3rd of September: All industry stops producing latest August 24, also from the same day on only half of cars are allowed to drive in the city (alternating by license plate last number – one day odd-numbered allowed, next day opposite). Have a look at what we saw there today:

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The building above shows the first train station ever built in Beijing – built by Brits during colonization; of course not for the public, but for transport of British military. Today the building hosts Beijing’s train museum.

The square itself is really huge – surrounded by partially impressive, partially just “important” buildings like the parliament:

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Still really interesting (and impressive) to learn the building including annexes was built in 10 months – and is still there. Comparing this to German public construction….we probably would have the first draft of “plan the plan” by that time 😉

The picture below shows Mao’s mausoleum; thousands of pilgrims every day to see him in his crystal coffin (no, we did not go inside)

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Across the street (which is 40km long and roof of the first subway built in Beijing in 1969) you can see the balcony, which itself is part of the imperial palace, from which Mao declared the People’s Republic of China in 1949:

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A bit closer:

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After crossing the road we entered the Imperial Palace – I’ll let the pics speak for themselves:

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Have a close look at the two dragons sitting on the edges of the roof in the shot above. Both weigh 4.5tons. This is especially amazing when considering the ancient Chinese way of building “top-down”, i.e. after the floor is done, the roof is set on pillars, walls, windows etc. come later. This also means that the pillars carry all the weight – in this example 9 tons the dragons alone + roof and middle floor.

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These cauldrons used to be filled with water for firefighting. In winter the opening below the cauldron was used for heating to prevent the water in it from freezing.

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In case you wonder: It’s not lemmings jumping down – it’s a gazillion of visitors from all around the globe visiting this place.

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Some spots are so crowded you really loose interest in trying to get a view:

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(Believe me, sometimes I had to wait for minutes to get a shot without 5000 people walking through my lens)

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The engraved marble above is a single piece of rock of 62m!

From this building we walked inside to see some of the birthday presents given to the emperor:

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And then…what a great surprise…

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…my Canon Rebel decided to die on me….meaning from that time on I was carrying around 15kg of useless camera equipment and had to switch over to my phone for the rest of the day (if not the vacation – seems to be a serious error and all hints I tried so far to recover from “error 99” did not help). This also means no images from the great Imperial Garden as while we were walking through it, I was still trying to get my Rebel back to life….my wife might have a few on her phone and I will upload as soon as I have them.

After leaving the Imperial Garden we walked up the “Coal Hill”, an artificial hill behind the palace, heaped soil from the palace area when building the palace; the view from up there is just fantastic:

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Last tour stop after the palace was the Temple of Heaven – another great piece of architecture and Chinese garden art:

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With the afternoon passing and the sun setting, we had a good-bye beer with the great folks we spent the last two days with before they took off direction south. My wife & I had a fantastic traditional duck dinner and are now back at the hotel – she’s reading, I am writing this post.

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That’s it for today, folks. Tomorrow’s basically going to be our last day on this fantastic vacation, Thursday late a.m. we’ll board our flight back to Germany.

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Stay tuned for updates


Day 12 – A dream comes true (2)

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As long as I have been waiting to see the Terracotta Army (see Day 10), my wife wanted to see the Great Wall of China – and today we made it! After early breakfast we picked up the other couple (really nice – explanation will come when I fill in the blanks for day 11) and drove over to the tourist entry point to the Great Wall. We decided to take the south path on the Wall, pretty steep at some points, but less crowded than the easier north path. It’s been an incredible experience walking this ancient world heritage – see yourself:

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Although it’s been cloudy the sight was terrific and got even more intense, when mist started to crawl up the hills:

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Still some way to go:

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A song for the Wall could be “The long and winding road: (Yes, really it’s not “The” Wall, but a series of walls built over 2000+ years)

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Just to show how steep this is at points:

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This was the end point of our walk on The Wall – we headed back to our starting point. It’s been just great!

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If anyone needs more pictures – let me know – I have “a few” 😉

After this fantastic hike we headed for the Ming Tombs – some nice views also on the way (especially now with the sky clearing)

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At the Ming Tombs, we started taking the Main Sacred Way before entering the Changling – what a wonderful park, see yourself:

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The Changling, built by the 3rd emperor of the Ming dynasty, is 600 years old, very impressive:

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27 pillars, each made of a single tree:

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The following picture shows how the marble was transported in ancient times. Only in winter, a well was drilled every 500m, water spilled on the ground, when frozen the marble was pulled over the ice:

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One detail of the wooden roof:

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After the Ming Tombs we had a quick photo stop at the Bird’s Nest (Olympic site):

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We ended the day at a fantastic Kung Fu show, unfortunately no pictures allowed, but definitely worth seeing. I’ll search for the link to the show (which has been traveling internationally since 10+ years) and post then – if you get the chance to see it here in Beijing or on tour somewhere, I can highly recommend!

That’s it for now – stay tuned for updates


Day 10 – A dream comes true (1)

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Today my dream of 30+ years came true – I saw the Terracotta Army, of which I dreamed seeing since I was a really young teenager. My better half & I are also in agreement it would be really great, if we could stay longer in Xi’an, but our flight to Beijing leaves at 7.40am tomorrow morning.

This fantastic ancient city really is the heart of China (or as Mr. Li, our guide put it: “If you want to see the present of China, go to Beijing; if you want to see the future of China, go to Shanghai; if you want to see the roots and history, go to Xi’an”)

But let me run you through our day:

First stop in the morning was the Terracotta Army. As stated above, I wanted to be here for a very long time, and I was not disappointed (other than I could spend months here to really learn and see). A few pics here:

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In Hall 3 some of the human bones found are displayed – assumption is these are from the workers who had to die when closing the emperor’s grave:

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The pic above shows a kneeling archer – the one below show the comparison of the County of Xi’an with the silhouette of a kneeling archer – now you know where the county’s nickname comes from.

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A few more takes from the Army, then we’ll move on:

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The picture above shows a small part of the complex scenery.

After this terrific experience (did I mention I have been waiting for this?) we had a quick stop at a jade museum – interesting if you’re into it. 

From the jade museum we went to the Xi’an Museum of History – and this really is a museum about history; I could spend weeks in there. It basically covers 6-7000 years of culture, architecture, art and how-to – if you plan to visit Xi’an, plan at least a few extra hours for this (we didn’t, so we really had to rush through); still some nice insights:

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The picture above shows how Xi’an has probably looked like around 6-7000 years ago, an early artefact from that time here:

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Bells of an only slightly younger age:

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The picture above shows a tea pot with a tiger riding (i.e. defeating) a hippo.

The duck in the next picture actually is a smoke-free lantern. The burning material was placed in the pot beneath the fish the duck holds in the beak, the duck then “swallows” the smoke through her throat into the water-filled belly. Pretty amazing!

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Some more impressions from the museum:

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The following pictures show that also later emperors did build their own terracotta armies, but due to costs the statues got smaller and smaller over time, going from life size to puppet size and less complex (mass production with all figures having e.g. the same face versus the original army where every soldier is individual):

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From the museum we now moved on to the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda. Due to the rain we decided to not climb up – the view was “limited” by heavy rain, so not worth the effort. Still also a very impressive building – actually the whole monastery is!

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The picture displayed above covers the room on three of four walls – and is made of jade. A fantastic piece of art. 

Funny enough we ran into some nice folks we met on the Yangtze tour in this room – well of course in a city of just a few million people it’s easy to run into each other 😉

Last action before we headed for dinner was visiting the artists’ room in the monastery where we a) ran into the “temporary” guide, Mrs Liu, from the day before (for the 2nd time today) and also (thank you, Mr. Li for the idea) got an introduction into Chinese art. So now we got our names in Chinese language (did not yet take pictures, will do soon) and I also bought a nice piece of art from a local artist. The artists’ room / gallery in the monastery is actually considering every gift or purchase as a donation and uses the money one spends there, or e.g the price they get for donated paintings, to fund social activities including food for the poor. 

After dinner we went over to our hotel room – we have to get up quite early, so call it a day now.

Stay tuned – next update from Beijing.


Day 9 – Who’s our guide?

Another fantastic day on our tour!

The ship had arrived in Chongqing around 4am, so directly after an early brekkie our ship guide did introduce us to our Chongqing guide. After introductions we were informed he’d only be with us in Chongqing, i.e. the few hours before we board our flight to Xi’an. Nonetheless he did a great job and gave us a nice tour through a quite old part of Chongqing named Ciqikou. Chongqing itself is just massive, 6M people in the inner city, 34M in total, massive traffic, massive construction. 

Ciqikou is as stated a quite old part which was more or less unknown / forgotton until about 20 years ago when tourists that came for the three gorges dam discovered that hidden treasure. Of course this also means a lot of Ciqikou has turned into touristy areas, but still it’s the old houses (originals) with real local inhabitants and a breezel of boheme that makes it really interesting. A few pictures below:

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Aside from the touristy areas there are some really nice streets where you can also see workers who are rebuilding and repairing some of the old houses (a few burned down in a fire about a year ago)

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The tree above is about 140 years old – the scarf represents wishes for luck, long life, prosperity

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Due to the narrow roads people here rely on traditional ways of transporting material

From here we directly drove over to the airport to head to Xi’an. At the airport we were greeted by our next guide, Mrs Liu – who was only filling in until our official Xi’an guide, Mr. Li was available later in the evening. we had a quick tour around the city and then went to the old City Wall – which is really impressive. Our really nice temporary guide suggested we take a bike ride on the wall – that’s been a really fun experience; if you ever get here you have to do this.

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I should mention the great piece of work done here: All wood, but not a single nail!

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Now renting our bike:

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After the ride we had a really nice dinner and then saw a fantastic traditional Tang Dynasty theatre show. Also something we really recommend – check at At the theatre we also met our “real” guide for Xi’an – amongst others he’ll take us to the Terracotta Army tomorrow.

The theatre itself is gorgeous, the show plainly fantastic. The folks presented 10 different dances/songs/sceneries – I especially like No.9 where 6 percussionists first imitated the sound of ducks and then an approaching tiger – I could really see the pictures forming in my head by listening to the incredible sounds they were producing with their instruments; real artists:

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Now for the final and as mentioned above my favourite of this show:

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Hope you liked what you saw here – stay tuned


Day 8 – Riverbound 3

Our last day on the ship (one more night, tomorrow early morning after arrival in Chongqing we’ll get off board and head to the airport to fly to Xi’an. Due to the expected fog (which will/would(?) force the captain to slow down), the afternoon tour (ghost city) got cancelled so everyone will make their flights tomorrow, but the morning tour to Shibaozhai Pagoda took place. Definitely a must – not only the pagoda itself, but also the view one has from the top. It’s a bit awkward to get up with what feels like a million other tourists around you on the narrow steps, but other than feeling like canned tuna a very pleasant experience. A few pics below:

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in the next picture you can see the masses trying to get in:

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The view is just fantastic. Like a lot of the older/ancient buildings along the Yangtze, the sites have been heavily impacted with flooding the dam; before the dam was built the pagoda was high above the water – today a dam is required around it to keep the floods away.

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Next to the figure shown below (this is inside the pagoda, 2nd floor (i.e. 10 to go)) there are statues of important generals and the emperor himself – but I always deemed the one below underrated, so showing The Consultant / Advisor:

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Some more beautiful views:

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The pic below shows the bridge you walk to/from the pagoda:

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Last picture from this tour shows the view from our ship to the pagoda island:

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As stated above, this basically was the program of the day, so we enjoyed the rest of the day reading, watching the great scenery along both sides of the river. A few more pics below. In general you can get the impression that wherever you look you will find a construction site near. This country (or at least the part we’ve seen so far) is constantly extending, rebuilding, adding…just amazing. Already now I can state this is not my last time here.

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That’s it for today, we’re now enjoying our final evening & drinks on deck.

Starting tomorrow night we should have better connection again, so stay tuned


Day 7 – Riverbound 2

What a relaxed day!

Early morning after breakfast we embarked small boats to ride up on of the side rivers – great views. The tour took about 2.5 hours and was absolutely worth it – actually would not have complained if we’d been able to stay a bit longer. Also had great company on the boat, including our guide, Yao, and the other group’s guide who taught us a Chinese folk song.

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Before we started the tour we had the luxury of watching the trash boat being loaded a few decks below us:

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After some time the trash boat was pretty loaded – unfortunately the swimming debris we saw from time to time on the river gives proof not all of the trash makes it to a dump site.

A few minutes later we took off for the tour. Hope you like the following pictures of the boat tour (as I wrote yesterday I still need to be a bit cautious on data consumption, more to come when in hotel Wifi)

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The last picture above shows the “Moon Stone” – named after it’s curve

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The following pics show a construction site along the river where a concrete pathway is built so the passage can be also be used during summer (for tourists walking) when the lower river doesn’t allow the boats to run all the way up to the return point of the tour.

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Shortly after the construction site we did arrive at the end point of the tour:

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Just a few more pics from the way back:

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Due to the hot weather (31 degree Celsius) we skipped the afternoon tour and decided to just stay aboard our cruise ship and relax – it’s been actually so hot we had to leave the sun deck and hide below in the bar on the 5th deck. Spent the time reading and taking pictures from time to time., especially while driving through a pretty impressive canon with natural caves which in old times got used as natural grave yards

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I am still not sure if the above is a house boat or a makeshift ferry.

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Some passengers actually bought dried fish from this boat – the purchase and payment was done using a net on an extra-long pole.

Around 6pm we’re up on the sun deck enjoying the sunset over the Yangtze – beautiful view as you can see:

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With the half moon over the Yangtze we’re calling it a day

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Stay tuned for updates


Day 6 – Riverbound 1

We did arrive a bit too late last night to update, so to close last night’s entry: All good. We arrived almost on time in Yichang, our new guide, Yao, was there to pick us up and drive with us (+ driver) to the harbour. We got our cabin on the ship and had a short, uneventful evening. The ship itself is not the youngest anymore, but well maintained with really friendly staff. 

I have to be a bit cautious with posting pics for the next few days as there’s no wifi on the boat (OK, there is a small internet café where you can buy a few MB for an outraging price, but that’s it) so I am relying on my rented Chinese SIM in my MiFi….as data volume on this is limited I can’t send all the pictures I’d like to – but will post more when in a hotel a few days from now.

Anyway: We started quite early this morning with a slow cruise of about an hour heading east from where we boarded. Stayed there for a few hours and then headed back to the original place close to the 3 gorges project. Along this route we really did enjoy the great scenery:

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The picture above and the next few show parts of an artificial ancient city built for tourist, but still a nice view, right? 

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Definitely built in a nice area of the river:

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…and partially with a real authentic touch…

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We also had a little guest during our stay on the sun deck:

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Some views were just awesome:

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…guess the tree is not recently built….same for the eagles…

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While driving towards 3 gorges project, we really found some nice spots:

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Oh, and in case you didn’t believe the village is recently built: Here’s the proof it’s still being extended:

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Nature along the Yangtze (Ok, the few kilometres we’ve seen so far) is really fantastic. We really love the scenery:

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The next picture shows the temple close to where we boarded our buses to the 3 gorges tour. In older times (so we were told) the traveler who had to do the dangerous trip through the 3 gorges did the prayer for safe travels in here:

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The dam itself, spanning more than 2.3km, is extremely impressive. I assume most of us have mixed feelings about relocation of 1+ million people but this is (sorry – repeat) an extremely impressive piece of work. See yourself:

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Right now we’re in the first of five ship locks we have to pass in order to continue our journey on the long river:

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Next update tomorrow – stay tuned


Day 5 – Train Stationed

As I wrote in yesterday’s post, today’s to be the train-day from Shanghai to Yichang. Before we drove to the train station our guide Pan XinHao (aka Hans) invited us to his favourite noodle restaurant in Shanghai’s Old Town to taste the real Shanghai traditional style – really great food in a restaurant that’s more than a hundred years old:

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The train station itself is impressive – as big as an airport, from time to time as crowded, some not-too-tough security checks and gladly (since we had to wait for about 2 hours until departure of our fast train to Yichang) equipped with coffee bars and a few shops.

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While writing those lines we are still on board the train, about 90 more minutes to Yichang – hoping the transfer to our ship won’t take too long. 

Soren – as you asked for it: The max speed we had today was 248km/h, most time we were around or shortly below 200km/h. Actually a really nice ride (although maybe a wee bit too long). Every seat in the train occupied with seats comfy enough for the length of the ride. In case we don’t get to the boat too late I might add some pictures from there – if not, stay tuned for tomorrow’s update from the Yangtze