Saturday, October 26th, 2002
Chongqing, China
All Photos © 2002 Ting and Randy Vogel

 Roadside Scene
 Terraced Hillsides
 Brick Aqueduct
 Cinderblock Farmhouses
 Leading the Water Buffalo to Work?
 Ducks in a Row
 Buffalo Zone - No Motorbikes Allowed!
 Trike with trailer
 View Down a Busy Side Street
 Mmmmm, bejau!
 Only Half-loaded!
 Eh, What's This? A Water Treatment Plant?
 Ahhh, Shrimp Farming!!
 the Farmers Spread Their Rice on the Road to Dry!
 Pottery Farm!
 Pontoon Bridge Convoy
 Playing Cards in front of the Machine Shop
 Outdoor Machine Shops
 Melted Plastic Art
 Flower Propaganda?
 the Happy Travelers
 Smoggy Chongqing Panorama
 Ting at Chiang Kai-Shek's Summer Villa
 Another Smoggy View
 An Explosion in White
 Variegated Orange and Gold
 Spider Mums!
 A Pavilion of Flowers
 Two Dragons
 Hmmn, Think it's an Advertisement?
 A Tree Full of Flowers
 A Milky Orange Mum
 Ting Enjoys the View
 Dragon and Horse
 Fake-Flower Archway
 the Prancing Horse!
 Banyan Roots Conquer Stone Walls
 Ground-level view of the Dragon
 Another View of the Banyan
 Pop and Toddler do the Crooked-Stance Dance
 Momma Monkey
 At the Park Entrance
 Another Advertisement
 Walking out to our Boat
 Looking Back at the Quay from the Boat
 Another Look Back
 Our Boat is on the Far Right
 Which Bag is Yours?
 View Across the River
 Another Look
 Looking towards the Center of Chongqing
 [Quicktime Movie of the Night Scenery]
 Group Shot with Mr. Shen

After a visit to the amazing Dazu Grottoes that seemed far too short, we hustled back into the van for the short drive to lunch. We arrived at the Dazu Hotel for lunch at about 1 pm - a large, new edifice built on the outskirts of town. No doubt this choice was due to meal arrangements with the tour company. Happily, today's lunch included a full bottle (520 ml) of Shancheng beer rather than the small glass that was poured last time around. A fine local pilsner! Must be a latent german influence is my guess.

After lunch, we headed back to Chongqing. Retracing our route, we had ample time to contemplate the countryside and observe China's slow transition towards modernity and urbanization. Out in the country, this progress was most evident where relatively new cinderblock farmhouses had replaced tumbledown shacks of uncertain age; in the cities it was the fleets of shiny new bicycles parked on the outskirts of markets and shopping malls.

The farmer's practice of spreading rice on the road to dry out seemed quite hazardous from a road-safety point of view, since the rice generally covered about half a lane on each side of the road. This wasn't such a big deal in the places where the road had two lanes in each direction, but traffic got unnecessarily constricted when the road dropped down to one lane each direction. Playing 'chicken' with the bigger trucks in some places was pretty darn unnerving. Better to sit in the back of the van and stare out the windows instead of in front watching oncoming traffic!

We arrived back in Chongqing at about 4:30 pm. Returning to the center of Chongqing we passed one neighborhood several blocks long of one machine shop after another. Many shops had various types of machinery pulled out onto the sidewalk so that the machinists could work in the open air instead of confined inside. Interesting!

Back in the center of Chongqing again, Mr. Shen directed our driver to Au Liang Flower Garden. Being esteemed foreign guests (hah!), the driver intrepidly navigated the van through the narrow winding streets of this part of town (? perhaps once the old city, or a former palace, since it was on a hill-top above the river), through several areas that seemed to be marked as pedestrian-access only, and eventually dropped us off at the very top of the park.

There we found the reason for our stop: The Three Gorges Exhibition Hall - a somewhat dingy and run-down museum set up to tell the story of the Three Gorges Dam and the changes it will wreak upon the communities upriver. The giant dioramas were kind of interesting to check out (much like the San Francisco Bay model in Sausalito), as was the incredibly long painted scroll depicting sights and cities along the 1300 km journey from Chongqing down to Wuhan.

If I remember my facts correctly, the painter had begun his work on this scroll in the early 60's, finishing it some several hundred feet and twenty-odd years later. Quite an accomplishment, especially considering that his work was done unofficially and fell somewhat outside the boundaries of permissible expression during the Cultural Revolution when the work was started. Experienced Chinese travelers will not be surprised to hear that the museum led directly into a shop selling all sorts of tourist treasures, including freshly painted works by the scroll artist himself, who was on hand to talk and even pose for photos standing with visitors among his works for a small additional bit of remuneration. On the way out, a fellow Yankee tourist made enthusiastic remarks about Pop's New York Yankees baseball cap.

We hustled back out into the park as soon as we could, hoping to be able to check out the flower displays before it got dark. As you can see from the panorama pictures, it was a rotten day for enjoying the parks position atop the hill, as the air was thick with a dark foggy mist. Focusing instead on the attractions within the park, we found that a Chrysanthemum Festival of some sort was taking place, and thousands upon thousands of freshly blooming potted mums had been brought in and arranged into a hug variety of displays. Most were arrayed into colorful geometric arrangements, but others were organized into topiaries and ever more fantastic displays. Of course, for all the tasteful and creative displays, there were a few real duds. For example, the Fake-Flower Archway, ever-so-appealing from a few hundred feet away, turned out to lead into something like a collection of tea houses, with the most awfully tacky arrangements of plastic flowers you can imagine. Must have been sponsored by the fake-flower factory is my guess!

Another of the odd displays consisted of a ten foot tall super-pigeon, cast in grey concrete. Celebration of the squab! Another attraction at the top of the park was Chiang Kai-shek's summer villa, now a tourist museum and trinket shop (surprise, surprise, surprise!). It was surprisingly small for the dwelling of a commander-in-chief! Most of the rooms were piled high with typical tourist stuff, but a few held more interesting objects: paintings for sale that supposedly came from Chiang Kai-Shek's collection (the prices were high enough...) and a dozen-odd worn-looking rugs (also supposedly belonging to the general ... suspicious that they were on sale some 50+ years after Chiang Kai-Shek's departure).  Mom was particularly taken with a yellow jade bracelet containing bands of green and red. Again, pricey, but pretty. The salesman explained that it had once belonged to Madame Chiang. The bracelet was too small to fit Mom's hand. When the salesman produced a bottle of lotion to help Mom get the bracelet on, we knew it was time to leave, so much to the salesman's chagrin, we dragged the folks back outside to continue our impromptu tour of the flower park.

After walking hither and yonder through the park for an hour or so, we found ourselves at the bottom exit, were our van driver was thoughtfully waiting for us. Under Mr. Shen's direction, he then whisked us back to a hotel in the financial district, the East Garden Hotel, just a few blocks from where we had spent the night for an early dinner. As the banquet room was being set up for a wedding, we were ushered off to a small private dining room in the corner where we suffered ourselves to consume yet another ten course meal. Gotta work hard to hold up that good old American appetite!

We finished our meal by 7 pm, and following a quick stop to retrieve our luggage from the baggage check, we soon found ourselves deposited on a quay alongside the Yangtze River. We thanked the driver for delivering us safely through the many miles of driving, then followed Mr. Shen out towards the cruise ships moored offshore. A hardy band of porters waited expectantly, hoping to be engaged for the few minutes of work necessary to transport luggage from shore to ship, but with our wheeled bags, we were confident that we didn't need any assistance.

As it turns out, the walk out to the boats was significantly harder than it looked from shore. The first complication was the hundred-plus steps to get down to water-level. From the bottom of the steps, the path leading to the ships was irregular, varying every few steps from heavy metal decking, to something like corrugated aluminum siding, then to wooden plank bridges, and so on and so forth. So much for the superiority of wheeled luggage, it was time for serious lugging! Coupled with the lack of lighting, there were more than a couple times where I found myself listening to the whoosh of water rushing under the walkway, and visions of a misstep followed by the splash! of heavy luggage tumbling into the water tugged heavily at my attention. "Don't go there" I thought to myself, and with continued effort, the journey was completed without a mishap. Whew!

Coming around the barge stationhouse shown on the left of 20021026-1918-37, we were surprised to be serenaded by a 20- or 30-piece brass band, playing what sounded like a blend of polka favorites, sousa marches, and big-band hits from sixty years ago. Fun! A couple entrepreneurial-minded vendors had set up small stands to sell fruit and alcohol to passengers arriving for the night, but being full-to-bursting from our recent dinner, we waddled on by and onto our ship, the M.S. Isabella #5.

The ship's crew greeted us with hot tea, and then we sat and waited a half-hour or so for the other tour guide from the touring company to show up with our cruise tickets. Apparently, he was entrusted with our tickets because his tour group and our tour group were both supposed to show up at the ship at the same time. Harumph! So much for careful planning! The guide showed up eventually, and we were then assigned to our cabins and allowed to check in for the night. Mr. Shen took a few more minutes to make sure that we were comfortable with everything, posed for a group picture with us, and then took off.

Dog tired from the day full of sightseeing, we turned in soon afterwards, rocked gently to sleep by the rhythm of old man river.