China's long been on our travel list and we finally made it happen in September of 2019. This post is the fifth and final of a five-part series for China and Tibet. Previous blogs can be found here: I. Beijing and the Great Wall, II. Xi'an and the Terracotta Warriors, III. Tibet, and IV: Cheng Du and Guilin.
In Chongqing, one of the ten largest cities in the world, we boarded our cruise of the Yangtze River. The river is famous as China's major waterway, shaping the country's history and renowned for its scenic beauty. The cruise passes through the steeply mountainous and dramatic section of the river and ends just before the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric project in Yichang. The dam was completed in 2006 and is one of the most controversial public works projects in the world as it set the record for the number of people displaced at more than 1.2 million; and flooded 13 cities, 140 towns, and 1,350 villages.
People on the Streets of Chongquig
Did you know? (I didn't) Chongquig is one of the largest cities in the world with over 30 million people! I'd never heard of it before.
You never know what you'll find in the alleyways
Loved the Lights!
China "trips the light fantastic' with lights everywhere!
Yangtze River Cruise to the Three Gorges Dam
World's largest hydroelectric project
In Chongqing, we boarded our cruise of the Yangtze River. The river has shaped country's history and is renowned for its scenic beauty. The cruise passes through a steeply mountainous section of the river and ends just before the Three Gorges Dam in Yichang. The dam is one of the most controversial public works projects in the world as it set the record for the number of people displaced at more t.2 million.
Excursion to Shibaozhai Pagoda
Excursion to Lesser Three Gorges
Tributary of the Yangtze
Highlight was our guide, Betty, a vivacious young woman born and raised in these impossibly steep hills above the river. It was impossible for me to imagine but she brightly remarked, "it only took me an hour [walking] to get here today!"
Note holes in the walls way up high on a couple of images. Those are burial sites.
We exited the cruise ship in Yichang and caught a flight to Shanghai, last stop on our trip. We had a brief but fascinating conversation with our transfer guide, David. He desperately wanted to know if we had guns back home and if we feared for lives due to mass shootings. Made for a quite a taxi ride! We assured that a) we did not and b) no we weren't.
It's hard to capture the contradictory nature of this impressive and modern city. It is China's financial hub and largest port, with a spectacular waterfront promenade known as the Bund. The picturesque city has international sectors (known as "concessions") built by the French, American, Japanese, and U.K where you could be strolling the streets of Paris. Yet, until recently, over 4 million residents were still using chamber pots as they had no toilet facilities in their apartments.
"Shanghai is heaven for the rich, hell for the poor."
—Old Chinese Saying
Longhua Temple & Pagoda
Old Shanghai, dating back the 12th century
We got lucky and happened to be there during the Fall Festival. Traditional pastries, called Mooncakes, were everywhere. They're filled with red bean paste and slightly sweet. Delicious!
Shanghai is glorious any time of the day
In closing, this was a fascinating trip to a dynamic land of contrast and contradictions. China is a proud nation, but it's also a civilization. It's the most populous country in the world (1.4+ billion) and maintains many of its centuries old traditions. And yet, more modern in some aspects than the US. Areas of showy and jaw dropping wealth sit adjacent to dire poverty.
Communism is its political foundation, yet it serves as the "workshop" of the world with capitalism on sweeping display in Shanghai and Beijing. It's a thought provoking country as well, as it challenged my democratic ideal of self determination.
"China is in its own category - too big to ignore, too repressive to embrace, difficult to influence, and very, very proud."