I am writing this at 3 a.m. and we are sailing up? down? the Yangtze River. Yesterday was a very full day and I told Char at one point I was more in sympathy with the men who made the 6,000 mile march across China during the cultural revolution. But the day started at that fabulous breakfast buffet at the Ritz Carlton...
...after which we went out on the street to explore a bit and discovered several women exercising across the street. Some were doing a dance movement, two were playing badminton and another group were exercising with swords. Walking through a little park next to the hotel, we saw several men doing their own morning exercises as well. We sat and watched this woman (who has a sword in her hand, if you look closely) for quite awhile. Her movements were beautiful.
Around 9 a.m. we hopped on the bus again for a quick walk along the Bund, the area that parallels the river and gives you a wonderful view of Pudong, an area which was farmland 20 years ago!
Our next stop was at a place where they did intricate embroidery. "Intricate" doesn't begin to describe it.
This woman is working from a pattern with pieces of thread that are sometimes so fine you can barely see them.
I think this was my favorite piece...and you can't begin to appreciate the detail work in it. The fur seems like real fur and the lions' personalities seem to leap out of the frame. It cost about $18,000.
I loved each and every piece and if I were rich and had available walls, I could have brought home several of them. But I didn't buy any.
We had a dim sum lunch there, surrounded by these gorgeous works of art.
We dined with Brian and Sharon, who are from London and who have made 3 other Viking cruises, in France and Germany, previously. We had dinner with them too. Interestingly, our meals thus far all include "one free soft drink," a choice which includes beer!
After lunch, it was onto Pudong Airport for our two hour flight to Wuhan, where we were to board the ship. Wuhan, with only 7 million people, is much smaller than Shanghai (though still twice as large as San Francisco). There, too, is building everywhere, though not the explosion that you see in Shanghai. There are no true "skyscrapers" to match Shanghai's, but they are starting to build large apartment complexes and a few tall buildings downtown, yet there is still a feel of old China about it.
Before boarding the bus, we went to a bell concert at the Hubei Provincial Museum. In 1978, while preparing a building site, a grave was discovered. Nobody gave it much thought until more artifacts had been unearthed and then they began to excavate. It was the grave of Marquis Yi of Zeng, who died in 433 BC. He was not particularly famous, but he was buried with this huge collection of musical instruments, and the bodies of the concubines who were murdered so that they could play music for him in the afterlife. It was one of the most significant and best preserved graves of that era and the bells were in wonderful condition and are kept preserved in the museum.
Replicas of the bells and other instruments found at the site, however, are used for concerts and we were treated to a concert by several of the musicians.
After 3 Chinese numbers, one of which was a very haunting piece played on an instrument that sounded somewhat like an ocharina, the concert ended with a rousing rendition of "Ode to Joy," showing that the bells can also be used for more modern than ancient musical numbers!
Char and I left the tour of the museum at one point to look for a Happy Room and finally found an infamous squat toilet.
Fortunately there were also Western style toilets in the same place. But there was no toilet paper in the stalls. I had my trusty Kleenex package with me, so I was fine, but when I went to wash my hands and dry them on the "paper towels," I discovered that the towel holder actually held toilet paper and you were apparently supposed to take your paper before you entered a stall. Calculate carefully.
With the sun setting over Wuhan...
...we finally made our way to the river and boarded the Viking Emerald. We were met with drummers and a lion dancer, and a host of ship staff greeting us all the way down the gangplank and onto the ship.
We are very pleased with our room, which has its own private balcony where we will be able to sit and watch the world pass (and from which, I have been told, we will be able to reach out and touch the 3 Gorges Dam as we pass through the locks).
Dinner the first night did not disappoint (remembering all those amazing dinners in Russia) and we have requested the table served by Joly and Cherry for the rest of the time we are here--a nice window table.
We ended the night checking out the internet room, delighted to find it unoccupied, until I realized that was because there was no internet access at all. So I don't have a clue when this will be posted, but perhaps at this hour of the night (3:30 as I finish this), there is a chance of connecting.
Now to sneak upstairs in my stocking feet and try...