Category Archives: Travel Tale

A walk in a park

I just came across these pictures from a couple of years ago. In Wiefang (Shandong Province) while visiting my son I made use of the time while he was working to wander around the city. In several spots they had parks between the streets that made a pleasant way to get around. A little longer but much quieter than walking along the busy streets.

Cee’s Which Way Challenge

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Ascending Mount Tai a.k.a. Taishan

Mount Tai, also known as Mount Taishan (it is called this on the UNESCO World Heritage website, even though it is redundant: Shan means Mountain) or Tai Shan, isn’t high by world mountain standards, at a mere 1545 meters above sea level (5,069 ft) but to ascend is to climb a whole lot of stone steps. Mount Tai is in the Shandong Province. In the fall of 2015 my son got a couple of days off work when I was visiting and we took a quick trip to check it out. In the photos he is the one with the pony tail and grey athletic pants.

The recorded number of steps varies, most sources put it fairly close to 7,000. Some sources attribute the differing numbers to how many of the temples and shrines one visits along the way. I personally believe that when one is ascending it is too easy to loose count, and honestly, how much does it really matter. It felt like a million to this slightly over the hill mama, and I didn’t even go the whole way afoot.

KSM-20151017-MountTai-10

Near the halfway point there is a cable car that takes you to a spot a bit above the famous entrance gate. You then follow a path that takes you down a bit and through the entrance gate.

I felt like it was cheating but my son was obviously relieved when I gave up the idea that I was going to make it all the way. He had been once before [he has also climbed both Mount Olympus (7.980 ft) and Mount Rainier (14,411 ft-although the climb starts at about 5,400 ft)]. He had been trying to figure out how he could carry both of our packs up the steepest part (known as Shiba which means eighteen, a nearly vertical stretch of eighteen steps) and stay behind me to keep me from an unbroken fall. Sometimes he can be very sweet! I am not the best balanced person in the world.

My decision was eased by two things: visibility was low so I wouldn’t get any views to compensate for the labor…and I learned that emperors didn’t climb the whole way themselves, they were carried up in litters to near the gate the walked through the gate themselves. Before that I was being very impressed by the level of fitness expected of an emperor!

Even taking the cable way there were plenty of steps to experience between the station and the top.

If you are interested in more details about our trip to Taishan see my series of posts called Sleeping Dragon Slowly Opens One Eye.

Three Gorges: Xiling Gorge

This is my last Gorge post, it finishes my little project of trying to organize my photos from two trips through the Three Gorges region in China. Xiling is the easternmost of the gorges and is downstream of the Three Gorges Dam, running from the outskirts of Yichang city up to the base of the dam.

Even with two trips I never got to see much of Xiling Gorge. Because it is downstream from the Three Gorges Dam, and the river cruise boats dock above the Three Gorges Dam at Maoping when they cannot go through the locks we were bused from Yichang in 2014 and to Yichang in 2017.

In 2014 we were able to see a little bit of the area by taking an optional excursion to a scenic area called “Three Gorges Tribe”. This is in the Xiling Gorge and to get to it they bused us to a local ferry that took us to the spot. Here are some pictures from that excursion:

Last spring, April of 2017, we had time between when the buses got us to the dock in Yichang and our flight. I had arranged a guide and we went to a couple of parks that included an overview of the eastern entrance to the Xiling Gorge. The statue overlooks the start of the Three Gorges area.

I learned from our guide that day that there is a tourist ferry from Yichang. It goes up through the concept dam and Xiling Gorge to the base of the Three Gorges dam, you take a tour of the dam from there then a bus back to Yichang.

If I decide to go again I will definitely arrange to spend an extra night in Yichang and take that outing, even though it’s an extra tour of the dam, to make sure I get to see Xiling Gorge. If I had known about it before the last trip we might have been able to do it. China has some lovely scenery, and many very interesting cultural sights, but it can be difficult to find out about things to do that are not specifically aimed at foreign visitors. I often feel like you have to go places at least twice to really get to know them.

Three-Gorges: lesser three gorges

This outing, commencing in Badong, is to an area where the streams drop directly into the reservoir formed by the Three Gorges Dam and is touted as an opportunity to see scenery reminiscent of how things were before the dam was built.

The area is very lovely. The outing consists of riding on a tourist ferry then embarking on a sampan to explore a stream that is tributary to the Yangtze.

A practical note, if you are planning to go: The sampan part was optional and cost a bit more, to stay on the ferry, which I believe travels farther on the more major tributary was included. If you are not fairly spry you might prefer to not go on the sampans.

Still working on the Daily Post Prompt:Gorge

Three Gorges-Wu Gorge

 

Wu is the middle gorge of the three gorges. It is between Wushan and Badong cities. You can see a larger version of any picture by clicking on it.

On the Yangtze River cruises there is an outing from Badong. I don’t know what the general rule is, or if there is one since we took different cruise lines different years, but going up the outing was to what they called the “lesser-three gorges” (hopefully my next post), going downstream last spring it was to Shennong Stream.

*If you read this post earlier: I made a mistake earlier and the actual name of the outing was “lesser three gorges”, sometimes called “mini-three gorges”, there is a similarly named “three gorges tribes” themed area in the Xiling Gorge.

Three Gorges-Qutang Gorge

Since I didn’t do a thorough job of assigning keywords to my pictures it is taking me some time to sort through my Gorge pictures.

Qutang Gorge

If you are heading down river the first gorge of the three gorges is Qutang Gorge. It starts at the White Emperor City (Baidicheng) and ends at Daxi. Here are some images from two trips through the Qutang gorge. In fall of 2014 my Dad and I went up river and in spring of this year, 2017, my son and I went downriver. The photos with brown water are from the fall of 2014, right after a flood, which washed a lot of soil and trash into the river. The ones from the spring of 2017 are, I’ve been told, the more normal water color.

Three Gorges Dam

Today’s prompt: Gorge got me armchair traveling back to the Three Gorges in China. I never really finished going through and organizing the pictures from two trips through the three gorges one in September of 2014, and in April of this year, 2017.

Both trips the five step locks were not operating at full capacity so the tour boats were not allowed through. In 2014 there was flooding in the upper Yangtze and this year they were doing the annual maintenance. So I still haven’t actually been able to go through the locks.

Third time lucky? I’d love to actually go through the locks but I still haven’t decided if I’ll try again, since I would have to travel at a different time of year than I usually do to avoid both flood season and annual maintenance.

Shennong Stream

I’m still working my way slowly down the Yangtze, photo-wise. The last “shore excursion” on our cruise didn’t include going ashore…or any steps.

They loaded us onto a passenger ferry in Badong, which took us to Shennong Stream, where they loaded us into sampans to go upstream. 


Before Dam the stream was too shallow to row and the boatmen would hop out and pull the boats…often in the nude. Our boatmen didn’t doff their clothes but they did demonstrate jumping off, pulling and jumping back on. 

The peak experience happened when our guide, Cherry, and one of the boat men started singing Chinese folk songs as we glided along through the mountainous landscape. It was as if we landed in a living Chinese painting.

Which way to wisdom?

I ducked into a side hall to avoid a large mass of “yellow necks”* at Kong Miao (Confucius Temple) yesterday. After noisy crowds outside, this long hall of what appear to be alters to sayings felt like the right path.

I was too frazzled by the crowds to find and read the description of what this hall actually is.

Response to Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge
*This was a coordinated mass of Chinese tour groups who wore yellow neck sashes. I played leap frog with them all day. The bonus is that they seemed to be putting on several reenactments for their benefit and I could slip in around the edges.

Even more steps

I was determined to not miss a single opportunity. My tenacity meant tired legs. But the offered sedan chairs were scarier to me than tired tootsies. The thought of two tiny Chinese kids hauling my well-rounded self up steep stone stairs made me feel a bit queezy. So up I went.

The third shore excursion on our Yangtze cruise was White Emperor City. Like the first two it was at the top of a hill accessed by lots of stone steps. All of the other English speaking folks on our cruise didn’t opt in so my son and I tagged along with a Chinese group. James speaks Chinese so we figured we could manage. But it turned out that the guide spoke excellent English and after each stop she took us aside and explained. So it was like having a private tour. She even translated famous poetry off the cuff.

The White Emperor City was different fundamentally from The other two: it was not a shrine or religious site. It was a memorial to the White Emperor, a man named Gongsun Shu. He was a local king who did well for his area and was considered loyal. He was moved to become emperor after a dream about a white dragon going upward to the sky.

This site had a good display and explanation about “hanging coffins” and a very good view of Kuiwen (the “gate” to the western-most of the Three Gorges) as well. More about that later.