Thursday, January 17, 2008

Trip Day 4 - Explore Chungqing and start our three gorges trip

Dec 29

We beakfasted in the hotel then John went out to change money. The boys and I went for a walk.

John called me about an hour later. He had only been able to get 200 RMB (about AUD65) changed at the bank. He could only get 2000 RMB at the ATM. As we had to pay for our trip and all expenses until we reached Shanghai, this was not enough. So I had to return to the hotel to get my cards and hit the ATM also.

We returned to the hotel to use the internet, and I got a chance to charge my iPod while we did.

We checked out, left our bags at the desk and had lunch at the hotel (again). Jack had liked the beef dish he had last night and was happy to have it again.

As the tour company was picking us up at 2:00, we were limited in exploring this city. From what we saw as well as read, Chongqiing is a city which has undergone most of its growth in the last 50 years and there was very little sign of older settlement.

We did venture out on foot again, and came across a new hotel building in what I think of as the 'modern pagoda' style - all red, blue and gold with lots of curved roofs and big pillars. Other than that the architecture was pretty much basic concrete block style. A few of the most modern building did exhibit some architectural independence - curved glass wall and the like but these could belong in any city in the world.

Our driver picked us up at 1:45 and took us to the tour company office where we sorted out payment and tickets for the cruise.

It was about 2:15 and we were told to return at 4:00. As the office was attached to a hotel at a huge road fly-over intersection there was not much to do. We managed to find our way down and under one road to a park which ran along the riverbank between two roads but had a view of the river. We wandered back to the hotel coffee shop and had a drink while we waited.

We were herded back onto the minibus that had picked us up earlier at 3:45 and driven to a major bus depot, with a stop on the way at a grocery store. Given how much the other passengers were buying we assumed we would be arriving too late for dinner. Stock in the shop consisted of dried and packaged foods. John came out with a selection which included yak jerky - he insists the tour guide on the minibus insisted he buy it - then we returned to the minibus.

We, our luggage, and the other passengers we deposited at the road-side. We were told 'five'. We optimistically assumed this meant 5 minutes. Unfortunately not.

I had been trying to get Tom to say a couple of Chinese phrases: Hello - 'Ni hao' and Thank You - 'Shieh Shieh'. This was the first place that hawkers and peddlers bothered us and Tom picked up his first spontaneous Chinese phrase: Bu yaou (don't want).

The other passengers started looking at their watches when no bus arrived by 5pm. At 5:15 a bus finally arrived and loaded everyone. It then drove around the block and stopped again while tickets where checked and much arguing ensued. I think we had more passengers than seats.

We finally got underway around 5:30 only to get stuck in rush hour traffic followed by endless roadworks.

The motorway we were on plowed straight through the countryside. Endless road cuttings restricted the view (think of the scene in the Cars movie which shows the interstate cutting arrow-straight through the terrain) but the falling dusk ended any hope of seeing anything. Apart from being hilly I could tell very little.

So what had supposed to be a 3 hour ride departing at 3:pm finally got us to our boat at 10. We were shown our cabin, and as hinted we didn't have to share so Tom would get his own bed. We sorted out the key deposit and were given little paper tickets for 'the temple' which was at 11:30. I assumed this was next morning so we all climbed into bed.

The boat was very noisy, lots of talking, card games an mahjhong so I put in some ear plugs.

At about 11:45 the tour guide knocked on all the doors - it turns out the temple tour was that night, so we gave it a miss. This explained why no-one else had gone to bed.

End of another day.

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