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2006 Dec by Veikko Huhtala*
In Chongqing Railway Station we booked our train to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. With eleven of million inhabitants Chengdu is one of the main cities in China. Elevation of Chengdu is only 500 meters, but 200 km to SW there is 7,500 m high Daxue Mountains. Chengdu is also main transport hub in Central China when travelling to Tibet, for example. It is same are you travelling by road, rail or air. From Chengdu we continued our journey to Xian, Shaanxi. |
2004 May by Jorge Sanchez
If you travel to Chengdu, Sichuan capital, you have many fantastic choices: to visit the Panda Bears in its natural habitat, to climb the gorgeous and poets inspiring Emei Shan (Shan means Mountain in Chinese), travelling to the Leshan Buddha carved into a cliff, the biggest in the world (71 meters), etc. Chengdu Sam’s Guesthouse, in the centre of the town, is a must for every traveller. He will help you in everything, free transport to the airport, excursions, advice, visa to Tibet and tickets, etc. For an authentic Chinese restaurant go just 100 metres from Sam’s, where there is a good one with round gyratory tables. Sichuan has probably the best kitchen in China, but is hot!
In 2013 I returned to Sicxhuan, and this is what I wrote: I caught a morning bus in Lijiang (West Yunnan) to Panzhihua (Sichuan).
The journey took half day but I enjoyed it. All the time the bus descended the mountains.
We made two stops, the first for lunch and the second for toilet.
My intention was not to stay in Panzhihua, an industrial town without tourist’s attractions, but to continue to Chengdu the same day.
Reaching Panzhihua bus station I had to board another bus to the Train station, which was very far away and the bus took about one hour to get there.
Panzhihua is located at the confluence of the Jinsha and Yalong Rivers, both being tributaries of the River Yangtze.
In that part of Panzhihua I saw only signs in the walls of the railway station showing the economy of the city, very rich in resources.
I had to wait several hours for my night train to Chengdu, so I entered an Internet café to write to my family and friends.
Usually Internet is forbidden to foreigners and in most places you are not allowed to use them, but in Panzhihua the boy in charge was so surprised to see a foreigner that he immediately gave me a computer.
I did not have Chinese identification card, which is compulsory to use Internet in China. To solve this problem the boy got his and registered me in his name, because my passport was not accepted, being a foreigner.
Then I leant another word in Chinese, Uang Pa.
Nobody in China understands the word Internet.
The signs are easy to remember, the first one consists on a square with two crosses inside, and the second one is a rectangle and a square.
All internet cafes are around the railway stations. The price to use them is fixed at 3 Yuan per one hour (for 1 euro you receive about 8 Yuan).
The internet cafes, or Uang Pa, are always full with young boys playing games.
In Sam Guesthouse, Chengdu, where I was lodged (100 Yuan per a single room), I joined a small group of tourists to visit the Chengdu Panda base.
It was not an expensive excursion. The car reached there after less than half an hour. The place was in the outskirts of Chengdu. We were given 3 hours to visit the white panda plus the red panda.
It was an incredible experience to observe the life of these adorable animals.
They were not wild, but in captivity, protected.
I calculated that they were about 100 giant panda; some less regarding the red panda.
We were told that they eat so much bamboo that it has to be imported from other places, because the bamboo in that park is not enough.
Very satisfied I returned to my hostel and the next day I continued my long journey around China to visit the whole of its 34 provinces. |
2004 Mar by Ted Cookson
"A Yangtze River Cruise," written for the expatriate community in Cairo, Egypt by Ted Cookson in May 2004 |
China's Yangtze River is the world's third longest river after the Nile and the Amazon. With a total length of 3,434 miles (5,526 km), the Yangtze rises in the highlands of Tibet and runs the width of China, flowing into the East China Sea near Shanghai. The Yangtze River Valley is famous for its landscapes which include spectacular gorges and steep mountains.
Traditionally Yangtze River cruise passengers were able to observe scenes of rural village life along the river's narrow cliff-lined course as well as some of China's cultural and natural treasures. While the recent construction of the 1.5-mile-long (2,395-kilometer-long) Three Gorges Dam has meant that many villages along the Yangtze are currently in the process of being inundated, travelers will still find it interesting to view the riverside inhabitants' transition to new housing. Too, the rising waters have actually served to ease navigation through the narrowest of the Yangtze River gorges; and the most important cultural relics and antiquities are being moved or otherwise protected.
Construction of the Three Gorges Dam, China's largest construction project since the building of the Great Wall, began at Sandouping along the Yangtze River in December 1993. Closure of two-thirds of the river was achieved in November 1997. Then in June 2003 total river closure was finally completed, so the reservoir finally began to fill and electricity generation also commenced.
The world's largest hydroelectric power plant with twenty-six 700-megawatt (MW) turbines, the Three Gorges Dam will have a total electrical generating capacity of 18,200 MW, equivalent to that of 18 nuclear reactors. The output of the Three Gorges Dam will be 44% greater than the output of Brazil's Itaipu Dam, which contains eighteen 700-MW turbines. Itaipu is the world's second largest dam. When it is completed in 2009, the Three Gorges Dam is slated to provide 84.8 billion kilowatt hours per year, or nearly 10% of China's energy requirements.
Additional reasons for dam construction include navigation, irrigation and flood control. Historically the Yangtze has flooded about once every decade, and more than a million people died in these devastating floods in the twentieth century alone.
The magnitude of the USD 30 billion Three Gorges Dam project is overwhelming. When completed, this dam will have required double the concrete used to construct Brazil's Itaipu Dam. It will also create a 5,000,000,000,000-gallon (18,927,000,000,000-liter) reservoir some 385 miles (620 km) long. The total rise in water level behind the dam will be 361 feet (110 meters) by 2009. This new lake will displace some 1.5 million people. While it lies near a fault zone, the Chinese claim that the Three Gorges Dam is being built to withstand an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude on the Richter Scale.
Yangtze River cruises operate between Chongqing (Chungking) in the west and either Yichang or Wuhan in the east.
During World War II Chongqing served as the capital of China. Then Chongqing also played host to the American volunteer air corps known as the Flying Tigers. Today the port city of Chongqing is China's largest inland metropolis and the most important industrial city in southwestern China. Chongqing is 1,490 miles (2,398 kilometers) upstream from Shanghai and 660 miles (1,062 kilometers) from Beijing.
East of Chongqing near Fengdu is the Snow Jade Cave formed from karst, a limestone which is easily eroded. Created 50,000 years ago but only recently discovered by local farmers, the cave was opened to the public in late 2003. The Snow Jade Cave has a total length of one mile (1.6 kilometers).
Further downstream near Zhongxian is the Shibaozhai ("Precious Stone Fortress") Temple. This 12-story architectural gem dating back to the eighteenth century was originally built atop a 721-foot (220-meter) cliff. A wooden pavilion with stair access was added in 1819 and a further three stories were completed in 1956. When the filling of the reservoir has been completed in 2009 this temple will be preserved on a small island of its own by a coffer dam.
For most travelers the highlights of a Yangtze River cruise are the famed three gorges which are situated in a 118-mile (189-kilometer) stretch between Chongqing and Yichang. The 5-mile-long (8-kilometer-long) Qutang Gorge, the shortest and narrowest of the three, is known for the mists which swirl around its limestone peaks. Prior to the recent rise of the waters, the 25-mile-long (40-kilometer-long) Qutang Gorge, hemmed in by high cliffs, was no more than 500 feet (152 meters) wide. The Wu Gorge, sometimes said to be the most beautiful, also offers scenes of green mist-shrouded mountains. So sheer are the cliffs that legend has it that the sun never penetrates. The 47-mile-long (75-kilometer-long) Xi Ling Gorge, longest and historically the most dangerous of the three, is noted for its caves and rock formations. This latter gorge is bisected by the Three Gorges Dam.
Aside from the three gorges on the Yangtze River itself, there are also three breathtaking lesser gorges on the Daning River, a Yangtze tributary. A day trip up the Daning in a sampan is perhaps the most romantic and beautiful of any of the excursions offered during a Yangtze River cruise. Steep mountains rise on both sides of the clear Daning River, and the gorges are separated by lush terraced fields. Two ancient hanging coffins may also be seen there high up on the cliffs.
Yangtze River cruises must now transit the Three Gorges Dam, which contains the world's largest ship locks. The double five-stage locks are each 256 yards (280 meters) long, 31 yards (34 meters) wide and 4.6 yards (5 meters) deep. Many boats can fit easily into each lock concurrently. After transiting the locks the river boats stop and a very interesting tour is given of the Three Gorges Dam project.
Some Yangtze River cruises end at Yichang. However, mine continued downstream for two additional days along the Yangtze plain. In Jingzhou (Jiangling) a very touching tour was organized to a primary school. Jingzhou was the capital of China some 2,500 years ago, and remains of the old city wall can still be seen today.
My cruise concluded in the metropolis of Wuhan, a major industrial center and transportation hub. Wuhan is roughly midway between Beijing in the north and Guangzhou (Canton) in the south. It is also midway between Chongqing in the west and Shanghai in the east.
In Wuhan I toured the Hubei Provincial Museum. Most of the museum's contents were unearthed in a single tomb in 1978. The tomb, dating to 433 B. C., contained the world's heaviest musical instrument, which is on display in the museum. Weighing 5,525 pounds (2,506 kilograms), that set of 65 bells covers 5 1/2 octaves.
Inevitably some aspects of a Yangtze River cruise experience have been altered by the Three Gorges Dam. But the gorges themselves with their impressive landscapes remain natural wonders which will continue to draw cruise visitors long after the dam's completion in 2009.
The absolute best time for a Yangtse River cruise is in the early spring. Heat, humidity and rainfall conspire to make travel less pleasant during the period from May through October. And fog can sometimes frustrate photographers from October through March.
Flying time from Cairo to Beijing is upwards of 19 hours. Singapore Airlines, for instance, provides an excellent and comfortable air service via Dubai and Singapore. Round trip basic airfares begin from EGP 4,264 plus taxes. Since the cheapest air seats are always limited, it is advisable to reserve early. Here in Egypt air reservations on most airlines may be booked up to 11 months in advance. Also, a tourist visa is required in order to visit China; and China tourist visa issuance in Cairo normally requires a minimum of one week.
First-time visitors to China should give consideration to combining a Yangtze River cruise with a visit to Beijing, Xian and/or Shanghai. Beijing offers world-class sightseeing in the Great Wall, the Ming Tombs, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven and Tian'anmen Square. Xian's incredible 7,000 terra cotta warriors are now world famous. Shanghai, China's largest city and the world's third largest container port, has long been open to Western influences. In particular, it is interesting to view the various architectural styles - Renaissance, Gothic and art nouveau - along the Bund, Shanghai's elegant corniche.
If you've enjoyed cruises on the Nile and on Lake Nasser in the past, why not try a Yangtze River cruise next?