After a good sleep in the gently rocking boat, we had a nice buffet breakfast, but nothing like the spreads we’ve been used to. Very foggy/smoggy again today. Can’t see much – only the very near hills . I went for a massage. Got cheated out of 10 minutes – supposed to be 80 minutes long but I only got 70 minutes. OK massage – a lot of brisk rubbing over the same areas; guess this is for circulation – no deep tissue. They expose your breasts to massage your abdomen, which I was a little uncomfortable with. Interestingly, they didn’t do my hands or feet.
In the meantime, DH went to the lecture on the Yangtze River, also known as the Yangzi, also known as the Chang Jiang in China. His notes:
Qutang Gorge 0715 (Kei Gate), on 10y bank note; 0900 Wu Gorge (all gorges had trackers’ paths) goddess peak on port side; ferry ride on lesser three gorges – tributary – hanging coffins – then wooden sampans ride. Xi-ling Gorge the following morning. Was the most dangerous part of river – now 100m higher water level. 1994 – 2009 Three Gorges Dam building (2nd dam on Yangtze River). Will arrive at first lock at 2100 tomorrow night. 170 to 65 meter drop (5 chambers up and 5 chambers down – hold 4 Victoria Anna’s each). Got that? Make sense? Aren’t you glad he’s not the one writing this blog?
Even though I was so relaxed after my massage, I managed to drag myself on deck to take a few pictures of the river, but not much to see at this point – and still very smoggy. Fairly heavily industrialized and populated. Lots of big shipping. Chinese floating channel markers are interesting. At first I thought they were funny little blue sail boats with tiny red sails – imagine my surprise when we got close to one and I saw it was only a channel marker.
After lunch we went on our shore excursion to the Fengdu “City of Ghosts”. The old city of Fengdu is now completely submerged and they relocated all the inhabitants up the hillside on the other side of the river. Actually a fairly good-sized modern city.
We were joyfully the first ones off the boat – love this “luxury’ thing! Another little golf cart ride (12 passengers) to the entrance of the City of Ghosts before the climb. The climb is supposed to be 700 steps up on stairs and a 15-degree incline on cement ramps that are more than a quarter mile long. DH is not sure he’ll tackle this – neither am I, but we’ll see how far we get. The steps and ramps lead to the three Buddhist and Taoist temples. Quite a hike – particularly the first 200 steps, as there was no break in the climb. We were huffing and puffing by the time we got to the first temple. After that it got a bit easier as there were the 3 temples, which broke things up a bit and let us catch our breath. Still quite arduous for us, but we made it! The others (Pam, Howard, and Sandra ) of course had no trouble at all – hardly out of breath. Only Phil with his bad knees lagged behind with us. Our local guide, Mary, says there are only 400 steps to top but also a good deal of uphill climbing on cement road. Total height looks to be about 100 meters (if each step is 1/7th of a meter there could be 700 steps up in all).
The Ghost City consists of three temples (lower two were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution – rebuilt in 1984). The upper one survived the Mao zealots and was built more than a thousand years ago during the Ming Dynasty.
The one in the picture above was the first one we came to – the Hengha Temple, built in honor of two Generals (Heng and Ha) who guard the Underworld. After the hike up the first 200 steps, we were certainly glad to see them!
Supposedly, every soul had to come to these temples to get judged before passing on to the afterlife (heaven, hell or reincarnation). Dante’s Inferno, Chinese style. The second Temple is where the soul must pass through a series of “tests.” DH and I made it over the “testing bridge”, or “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” But I’m not sure we did it in the required exact 9 steps.
We failed miserably on the 3-minutes balancing stone – DH could barely do 3 seconds and I couldn’t even get on one foot without holding onto DH. My balance really sucks!
The oldest temple on the very top was the most interesting, but also the most drab. The lower temples that had been reconstructed were more colorful. There were lots of interesting roof lines on all of them, old or new. In the Temple of Hell there were lots of grotesque gruesome statues, but this is supposed to be Hell after all. They believe all souls must descend to Hell to be judged, and then either stay there and be punished for their evil deeds (little figures portray the punishment for each sin), or get reincarnated into a higher being (if you’re Buddhist). Sort of like the Catholic concept of Purgatory without the reincarnation bit. Buddhists don’t eat meat because the cow, pig or chicken could be a dead relative whose been reincarnated. Taoists however, don’t believe in reincarnation – for them it’s Heaven, Hell or Purgatory. All quite fascinating.
Along with this highest temple were a picturesque Bell Tower and a Pagoda. We couldn’t go up in either as they were too unstable, but very pretty.
Back down the way we came, all 700 steps. I found it hard on my knees and particularly my ankles – DH found it hardest on his toes.
Dinner on board the Victoria Anna was nothing special. In bed by 9:15. Decided to skip the “traditional dress” show that started at 9:00 – just too exhausted. Sandra saw it and told us it was fantastic and the costumes were fabulous. Oh well… (I must say I admire this lady’s stamina!)