China 1 - Civilization??

We fly from Lhasa, Tibet to Chengdu, China - way on the eastern side of China.

I'm not sure what our expectations where for the city, but we certainly were not prepared for modern China. Just check out this square with the background to Chairman Mao.

Yep, that says Samsung, and it is a neon sign that lights up at night. It was a Sunday and the people where out in the park/square in front of the Mao statue. We could not beleive the pagers, mobile phones, designer clothing, western cars, etc. China's citys were as modern as anywhere in the world (well almost). Anything you wanted you could pretty much find. We treated ourselves to Magnum Ice Cream bars on a regular basis for a while after being so long from civization. The two main things to do in Chengdu which is in the Seshan providence 1) see a Seshan opera, and 2) enjoy the true Seshan cooking. We went to see a Seshan opera. They dress up like their ancestors and have a series of short skits where they make fun of situations they probably got themselves into. Her is a typical costume.

Seshan food, we had some great food. It was nothing like the Seshan cooking we get in the west. And, no where else in China did we find Seshan cooking like it was in Chengdu in the Seshan providence. We also were getting exposed to some of the more unusual tastes in Chinese food. These are 100 day eggs. They bury eggs in the ground for 100 days, dig them up, and eat them (yes, they are kind of rotten, no we did not try them).

The more normal foods were sold in a variety of places, from the new ritzy shopping market stores to the more traditional eastern shop, as below.

We took a day trip out of Chengu to the city of Leshan to see the one of the biggest carved stone Buddha's in the world. 71 meters (233 ft). It even has a drainage system carved into the stone to reduce the erosion, built 713 AD.

From Chengdu we rail down to Chongquing where we get ticked for a 3 day cruise down the Yangze river. We are excited to see the famous 3 gorges. We negoitiate tickets on a Chinese boat and board and begin our trip.

The journey starts in the wider, flatter valley areas. But, the first two days are broken up by stops in some towns along the way. We stopped in a village that gave great views of the boats as well as the Yangze.

We also had a chance to wonder through a local market to see yet another food source (if you are a cat lover I suggest you breeze over the next page).

There is a variety of animal parts for sale but the cooked cat caught our attention. We also took a bit of time out for a little fun with some touristy statues. Any resemblance?

The last day at 5:30 am we were up for the viewing. We reached the first big gorge at by 6:30 am. Photos will never do them justice, but I'll try to give you a little of what it was like.

After the first big gorge, we stop and pay to get on a little river boat where we go up the rapids to see the "three little gorges". Spectacular even though not a large at the bit ones. Lots of color and scenery.

We are then back on the river boat and continue on until we hit the second big gorge. Again, much better in real life.

We continue on but we pass through the third gorge at dusk so killed the photo's. We continue on and arrive at the town of Yichang where we depart and spend the night. We get up the next morning and purchase overnight rail tickets for Xian, home of the terrocatta warriors. We ran into one of those challenges of languages in the train station, for the complete story click here. We go out to the site of the first dam on the Yangze and observe the giant locks in action. Big boats in a bit lock!

We board our train in the evening bound for Xian. We freeze on the overnight train ride as the train passes through snowfall and high mountains. We complained about the heat in India but were sorely missing it now. We traveled by trains frequently overnight. The 2nd class overnigh accomodation was 3 bunks high. A sleeping bunk is a padded board, not terribly comfortable.

We reached Xian and saw several lesser sites, but nothing as incredible as the terracotta warriors. There are actually 3 pits. Pit 1 contains 6000 figures of warriors, pit 2 about 1000, and pit 3 68 (the generals). They are clay, mostly all unique. They used to be in underground vaults, but after the wood rotted away and the roof collapsed they were broken up and buried over time. They were built sometime before 210 BC!

From Xian we railed up to Beijing, capital of China.

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