Thursday, April 10, 2008


When we entered the first of the Three Gorges, I cried. I actually stood, open-mouthed, as our boat glided past the vibrant green mountains rising out of water (occasionally dotted here and there by pagodas and ramshackle apartments), and then put my head in my hands and sobbed. It was that beautiful and that monumental.

And the amazement never wore off. After 4 days on the boat and similar peaks (for the life of me it sounded like the guide called them "Pigs." What? There are pigs here? Where are they? Are they wild?! That one is 'pig gazing at the moon?' Where in the blazes is he seeing these creatures?! Ohhhh...), I never got used to the stunning beauty of the area, and I kept right on crying. Good tears.

Along the way, from Wushen (?) to Chongquin, we stopped at the damn dam (wow. that sucker's big - but has remarkably pretty landscaping) and Fengdu, the Ghost City. Fengdu was actually taken apart and rebuilt - brick by brick - on higher ground; the original location is now entirely underwater. According to Chinese Buddhist (?) lore, all souls must make a stop in Fengdu where they are judged according to their life's merit and treated accordingly. While we were there, we got to make several interesting decisions about our next lives. I'll let everyone know how that all plays out. Fengdu's pretty grim, which makes it totally awesome! There are murals and statues and paintings and carvings of all kinds of gory business all over the place. Several in particular made me wonder if Hieronymus Bosch and Hellraiser were Chinese...

We departed the ship in Chongquin, the world's largest, most populated city, boasting a record 30 million residents. And a panda breeding center. We got to see a little baby panda! (awww) Zach was more interested in the little baby monkey hanging out in the cage next door. Both were cute - it's not a contest, folks. The best part of the city - in my opinion, of course - was the old section, where crowds of people were shopping for the day's meals. Frogs and eels and fish, chickens and pigeons and ducks. There were people cooking soup and those "oil stick" churro things. Merchants had large bins of rice and grains on display. Several people were killing and scaling sea creatures. Fruit stands, raw and roasted meats - the colors and smells were wonderful. So was the architecture. Every once-in-awhile we'd pass a door, cracked open just enough to allow us the smallest glimpse of tiny stairwells disappearing down dark corridors. Passageways lead between and behind buildings. Chongquin was occupied by the Japanese during WWII and I think I remember someone saying that the Chinese did their darndest to staunch the bloodletting from these secret streets. Or maybe I'm making that up. It was a long day.

Our guide informed us that Chongquin is known for it's spicy food and "spicy girls." Kevin (our guide) told us that the city has a reputation for producing the prettiest girls in China, and that a lot of his friends (also guides), like to suggest that their tours hang out in the center of town and, you know, just relax for awhile. Just 'cuz.

Chongquin was also the location of our second airport, which led to our third, in Shanghai.

I [heart] Shanghai. I'd happily return for a month. In a lot of ways it's very similar to NYC, although all of the brand new (and spectacular) skyscrapers have been built within the past 20 years or so. Development is continuing at a breakneck pace. I probably must return in the next few years, in order to see how much things have changed, right? We had some fun shopping excursions in both the "knock-off" market and the bizarre. Zach enthusiastically practiced his Mandarin. "Boo yao" means "I don't want any." This is especially helpful when trying to fend off aggressive vendors, but that poor baby was also shouting it at the hoards of regular folk who tried to lean in to touch his hair or quickly pose with him for a picture. "Boo YAO! Boo YAO!" Unfortunately, for some reason he began to say "doo yao" in the market in Suzhou which both amused the vendors and engaged them: "Doo yao," apparently, means "I want everything." That was awkward.

China was the trip of a lifetime. I hope you enjoyed my updates - thank you for sharing in our experience!

Ai -