How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE


Yangshuo to River Li

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

After breakfast, the bus driver headed through the Yangshuo countryside to the Li River.

Quick Facts

  • Yangshuo is known for pomelo and persimmon trees
  • Smoking and drinking the hardest vices to control
  • Cigarettes very cheap: as low as $1:00 per pack
  • 90% of men smoke
  • Restaurants have ‘No Smoking’ signs but cannot enforce (afraid to lose customers)
  • Cigarettes bring in taxes (so no smoking not yet imposed)
  • Phoenix Tail Bamboo is used to make clothes and underwear, softer than cotton

More Quick Facts

  • Chinese people are never quiet; always talking about everything around them
  • They cook and eat dog here, using lots of spices to flavor the meat (i.e. orange peel)
  • People in the country don’t like their pictures taken because you are stealing their spirit (shorten their lives)
  • Don’t like pictures taken of babies, especially, but sometimes, they will charge money (?)
  • Because of tourists, the locals make a good life
  • Vegetable stands everywhere tourists pass
  • Homegrown vegetables + rice, fruit
  • Countryside littered with paper and garbage until you reach the city

Tidbits

At the concert the previous night, no-one clapped, no-one shut-up; everyone had a camera taking pictures and videos. A sea of cameras lit up the dark like candles throughout the audience. What a sight.

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All land is owned by the government. If you want to build a house, you must apply to the Village Committee (like a village government) and apply to lease the land for 70 years. Sometimes, you can renew the lease and pass your house, apartment, condo or especially farms, until the government has other plans for the land your family has lived on for hundreds of years.

We stopped at an old farmhouse along the way to the River Li for our cruise. Here a Caucasian tourist tries out the old-fashioned broom.

© 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

                                 © 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

Down a country road, lined with stands of food and trinkets for sale, we followed Lily, our guide. The people stared at us and we tried not to stare back. Our cruise boat was old and rusty, run by locals and not what I’d call clean. No health and safety issues here. The gangplank had wood rot (holes in it) and I stepped carefully. We sat topside instead of inside on old wooden chairs (and a couple new benches) as the weather was co-operative. The locals must earn a living any way they can. Of course, there were trinkets inside for tourists as well as soft drinks.

We were about 25 tourists onboard. One woman with her son and daughter and another mother with her daughter (all in early teens) and a couple families of flip-flop-clad Australians with six youngsters between six and 14 were all onboard. I felt in good company in my flip-flops. No way could I have worn runners. My feet at this point felt broken.

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We passed water buffalo on the shore and for the first time, noticed countryside litter: plastic bags and empty cigarette packages. Electrical towers were seen in the weirdest places, in the middle of nowhere, but most farmers still live in the old ways. They have a well, but no plumbing.

Winter (January / February) is not good for tourists. It is too cold and there is no heating system here. One must sleep in a coat. On the other hand, summer is hot and humid and the opposite around July. Another drawback, the water level is high on the River Li and not good for water travel because it is too fast and dangerous.

~ * ~

River Cruise Additional Links:

http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/guangxi/guilin/li_river.htm

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Next on October 6th: More Yangshuo on to Guilin

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014

* * * 

I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical. Please bear with me. I hope to return but when is the question. Thank you for reading. I DO appreciate your kind and continued support more than I can express.

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On the Yangtze, Part 6

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

We woke at 6:25, dressed without showering and headed for early breakfast. After the cancelled excursions the past two days, I noticed passengers appeared antsy to go on the Shibaozhai trip, scheduled for 7:45 a.m., weather permitting. No cancellation was announced at breakfast. By the time we arrived in our rooms, a reminder blared over the PA for anyone leaving the ship to pick up a ship’s pass. The tour was on.

Sue proceeded to take a shower after breakfast as I plopped into the chair at the desk. The outing hadn’t interested me because of the damp drizzle with or without an umbrella.

My heart stopped. I glanced out the balcony doors and gulped. A ship coasted towards us and I knew we were going to crash. I leaped to my feet. I don’t know why. Not unlike a pillar of cement, I froze poker straight expecting the inevitable crash. We were going to die and I was  powerless to do anything about it.

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

The drifting stopped mere inches away. How did the captain(s) do that? Everything trickled rain: the balcony floor, the railings and chairs. I read the name on the side: President Cruise. The ship was smaller than ours, old, and rusty. Curtains hung haphazardly missing hooks on rods. Clothes lines strung with laundry crisscrossed inside the rooms so close I could have reached across and pulled them off—maybe not quite—but too close for comfort. The Chinese passengers who came out on the back deck (the poop deck, I think) to see what was happening didn’t appear well-off.

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

A third ship moved alongside the second one, bigger than both of us: the Century Emerald. It drew closer and closer. The curtains pulled back, windows on the main deck revealed a fancy dining-room featuring round tables draped with milk-white cloths and bright yellow chair covers featuring bows on the back. The third ship floated towards the one between us. I waited for the crunch. It didn’t come. I watched a female cleaner (maid?) wipe down the railings on one of the balconies. What a hard worker, but why bother with this useless task in the continued drizzle?

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

The fumes were suffocating and the engines noisy even through the closed balcony door.

The rusty, middle ship moved away in the opposite direction. Once again I held my breath as the Century Emerald inched towards us so close I could almost touch their balcony railings if I stepped out and leaned forward. A few curious international passengers on the Emerald watched us for a while. We were watchers watching the watchers. Soon, they returned to their rooms and closed the curtains. Maybe we weren’t that interesting.

The temperature in our room reached a high of 24, the highest since we boarded. I opened our curtains and doors again for fresh air, but not for long. The noisy engines were deafening and the air fuel-stinky. Why run the engines? Weren’t we anchored? The ships remained side-by side like strangers on a first date.

Sue lay on the bed reading with her swollen feet up on the headboard (actually the mirror above it). She’d suspected the moving bubble above her toes might be a pocket of blood. If she’d had a needle, she’d have drawn out the liquid. I suggested she see the ship’s doctor, but she refused.

Twice in ten minutes, Housekeeping came to make up our room. We said we’d do it ourselves, but that wasn’t allowed. I have become lazy since we boarded, but I can manage making a bed. Anyway, what’s wrong with some down time after all the running around we’ve done since our arrival in China?

A Captain’s Bridge Tour was announced over the PA, but I felt too lazy to move. Maybe I was still feeling the effects of our near crash. A different language presentation was scheduled and announced every quarter hour from 10:00 to 11:15: in French, English, Chinese, Spanish, and German—not in that order. The interruptions soon became a nuisance.

~ * ~

Next on September 1st: On the Yangtze, Part 7

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014

~ * ~

I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical. Please bear with me. I hope to return soon. 
Thank you for reading. I DO appreciate your kind and continued support more than I can express.

 


On the Yangtze, Part 4

 Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

The Wu Gorge had been scheduled for 4:30 p.m. with dinner following our return at 8:30. However, the day turned wet with light rain and mist by midday. A PA announcement advised dinner time change to 5:30 with departure at 6:00. Hello, heartburn.  I wondered if this was worth the both due to the spraying drizzle and low ceiling clouds. I thought maybe an adventure awaited and against my better judgment, rushed to catch the bus with our group.

Robert, our first guide in Beijing, had another group onboard. When we left for the Three Gorges Dam, (the world’s largest hydro-electricity project) he took 0ur English Group 8 under his wing. A local man, Max, was our bus excursion guide. I don’t believe he knew how to do anything but smile and appear happy. Even over the loud speaker, his soft voice and thick accent were difficult to understand and he wasn’t informative. At one point, Robert pitched in to help.

                      © All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Rain pelted the bus as we continued. After traveling over scary, wet and curving roads, we arrived an hour or so later. Too dark to see anything, we were hustled into the Visitor Center, the surroundings shrouded in fog and shadows. The women visited the Happy House as the first order of business. We lined up for tickets to see the indoor model of the gorge. It was stunning. I took pictures but replicas are not the same as the real thing.

My hands shook with excitement, grateful we’d arrived safely. I was happy to see the reproduction but disappointed we would not see the real gorge.

The real deal wasn’t in the cards. Whose idea was it to go ahead with this tour so late (in rain, fog, and dark)? Might anyone be anything but dissatisfied? I was, wouldn’t you be?

All manner of souvenirs we’d seen everywhere were displayed in the gift shop: pearls, various colors of jade, tee shirts, as well as books about the Gorges. Ten minutes for shopping and then outside into the drizzle with the local guide (Max) to the observation area, which I couldn’t make out (dark and rain mist). The pillars he pointed out were swathed in mystery like in a bad Sci-Fi movie, similar to Mount Olympus in the clouds, all mist, and vapor with an inky black void below.

Robert announced our urgent return by 9:30 because the ship had been scheduled to go through the locks by 1:00 a.m. I had doubts about the bus tires in the rain as we rushed back. What a waste of another hour plus the cost of gasoline. Rush. Rush. Rush.

Rain and dark proved to be bad companions for an enjoyable tour. I decided to disregard negative feelings, but in truth, I should have paid attention to my gut. The trip was a waste of three-and-a half-hours, driving in rain and biting my nails to stubs.

Upon our return, crew members with flashlights lit our way back from the bus to the ship because of the dark and slippery conditions.

“Watch your step.”

“Welcome back.”

“Watch your step; be careful.”

“We missed you.”

Cheesy, I know, but I was miserable, and couldn’t help half-believing the words after I’d heard them a half-dozen times. Joking, I said, “I missed you too.”

Weird what wet weather and misery will force me to do. I almost believed their words. Not.

Three Gorges Quick Facts:

  • Prevalent here are rice, tea, tobacco, sweet potato, corn and canola oil
  • Common trees: camphor (fragrant) almost no mosquitoes; magnolia, pine, and cypress look similar (cypress trees look like an umbrella or tower); poplar
  • Local birds: sparrows, swallows, Magpies
  • Work hours: work until 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. (peak time), school, factories
  • Motor bikes popular but bicycles more because of low pollution (also solar panels on roofs)
  • Private car ownership increasing as well as traffic jams and air pollution
  • China Policy since 1927: only 1 child, now changed to two. If 3rd one, you’ll be fined just as you once were for more than one. Preference is a boy, especially in the countryside.

Education:

  • Costs 6,000 to 7,000 Yuan per year for baby age 3, 4, or 5 in Kindergarten (morning drop-off, lunch, short time sleep. Grandparents or parents pickup). Costs more than primary school from age 6 (learn music, politics, English from grade 3 or 5).
  • Middle school: junior 3 years and senior 3 years
  • University: 3, 4, 5 or 7 years, must pay depending on profession studied. Must pass a college entrance exam before being accepted into college or university of choice.

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Next on August 18th: On the Yangtze, Part 5

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014

~ * ~

I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical. Please bear with me. I hope to return soon. 
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your kind and continued support more than I can express.


Cruising the Yangtze, Part 3

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

I awoke before six again too lazy to rise until seven. Sue and I moseyed down to breakfast and were the first arrivals at The English 8 table.

              © All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8 (Morning)

I liked our waiter, who was young and sweet—maybe 17—cute too. I hated the thought he was endearing only with hopes of a tip at the end of our trip. Tips have already been paid according to our travel agent, but some of our group still tipped our guides at the end of their turn with us.

       © All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8.  (Yangtze Bridge.)

The room for a 9:45 scarf ‘class’ was packed. Every female on board must have been in attendance with a few husbands in tow. The demonstration was great, but I wasn’t. Sue did well with the scarf creations, but I struggled and sucked at it. I did learn a couple of new ways to wear a shawl, but all the new scarf strategy escapes me now. I succeeded in not buying a scarf as I have too many at home already.

Later, we watched a PowerPoint presentation about the Yangtze and its interesting points. I couldn’t bring myself to scratch any more notes. Later in the presentation, I found myself nodding. My chin dropped to my chest and I sat up with a start. It was warm in the room; I hadn’t done anything physical since we boarded the ship. I didn’t fault the presenter (Ivy), yet on the other hand, I did. She wasn’t animated during this informational dump and sounded like she was reading a boring article, or maybe she was bored.

Two movies were suggested we look up on the internet: Still Life and Up the Yangtze. I haven’t come across good links for either of these yet.

Afterward, Sue took 40 winks while I typed up notes. We’d decided against an early lunch because we weren’t hungry. Big surprise. Our goal was to go for 12:30 and have salads only, and of course, I had wine. Three glasses. Tsk. Task. The cruising life is not for me. I need to walk, explore. Move.

Salads

Thai Flavor Beef Salad with Fish Sauce; Fruit Salad; Garbanzo Bean Salad (with leftover sausage from breakfast, I’m sure); Pig ear with vegetables (no thanks); bean curd with shallot; mixed five-bean salad (just cold vegetables: corn, peas, beans etc.).

Romaine; large purple cabbage leaves; sliced purple cabbage; grape tomatoes; carrot sticks; raisins; crumbled real bacon; sliced black olives; three dressings: Italian, Thousand Island and French.

Watermelon slices; peeled, sliced orange rounds; pineapple; Longan

Main

Rice balls; steamed chicken and straw mushrooms with soy sauce; baked purple potato; braised squid; pasta with tomato sauce; steamed egg; Litchi meat with sweet and sour sauce; fried fish with garlic; stir fry vegetables; steamed white rice; beef and carrot soup; stewed spare rib soup with wax gourd (is this yesterday’s leftovers?); buns.

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

At 3:00 p.m., I noticed the Yangtze River was green, like real water, not the yellow soup I mentioned earlier. Imagine that. It was foggy and it had rained in the morning. Our ship kept sounding its horn. At lunch an announcement was made: because of the fog, river traffic was one-way. The possibility of making the 4:30 time-slot for visiting the Gorge was uncertain. What did this mean? If we were moving forward and in the traffic lane, what was slowing us down except for the fog? It wasn’t that thick. What did one-way traffic have to do with anything? All this was confusing, with no answers offered.

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

                                          © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

Departure time for the Three Gorges kept changing. The fog continued, as well as the rain and it was dark and after six o’clock. I didn’t care if we made it to the Gorge even if they had night lights there. What would be the point? Despite the wet and overcast weather, we were finally on our way. I entertained thoughts of a cozy bed and a good read instead.

~ * ~

 Chinese Saying:

            What kind of jam cannot be eaten? A traffic jam.

~ * ~

Next on August 11th, Cruising the Yangtze River, Part 4

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014

~ * ~

I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical. Please bear with me. I hope to return soon. 
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your kind and continued support more than I can express.


Cruising the Yangtze, Part 2

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

(Photo shortage. Nothing to take pictures of and I forgot to ‘preserve’ the buffet. Pictures next post.)

Chinese Saying:

  “If you run out of oil for the hot pot just pour in some wine.”

~ * ~

Sue returned livid from the morning’s excursion to the Red Cliffs. It had been awful, she told me. The group had started with 26 people and ended up with six. Why did some say it had been a wonderful tour when Sue thought it was a waste of time? Why didn’t people tell the truth? There had been nothing to see except fake building fronts.

Lunch Offerings

Cold salads: pasta; orange broccoli; apple and celery; dry bean curd with sour sauce; chicken in herb sauce and red beans with vegetables

Salad Bar

Romaine; red cabbage (chunks and sliced); cucumber slices; grape tomatoes; sliced black olives; real bacon bits; Parmesan; cubed melon; adorable baby oranges and watermelon slices

Dressings

Italian, Thousand Island, and French

Hot lunch

Dumplings; roasted chicken wings; dry-fried string beans; roasted pork with bamboo shoots; roasted potatoes; braised fish with tomato and sesame; stir fried mixed vegetable with a sauce; French Fries; seasonal green vegetables; steamed white rice; creamed vegetable soup; mushroom and chicken soup.

White bread, sliced, rolls, and butter

Desserts

Lemon Jello; tarts; strawberry cheese cake; caramel custard; green tea mousse and chocolate cake

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

                                                        © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

Onboard Activities 

The onboard doctor and his assistant gave a Chinese Medicine lecture, primarily about acupuncture. I found the presentation interesting, but I’m sure the purpose was to drum up business. A line of people signed up for a consultation afterward. I believe a fee figured in there, but I don’t remember clearly.

Later, an hour-long old documentary was shown about the Three Gorges Dam and the evacuation of the people.

We dressed up for the Captain’s cocktail party (6:00 – 7:00 p.m.). I wore a long sundress and my favorite four-inch heels (hard to put on over bare feet, but no way was I wearing hose). Sue dressed in a skirt and top and her new shoes, but her feet and ankles were still too swollen. She felt self-conscious showing them off and changed into pants.

Up the stairs, we toddled in our finery. The crew was lined up in the foyer, on Deck 5. Flutes of cheap champagne were handed out and the crew stood in a receiving line outside the entrance to the bar and restaurant. I was startled that the captain was the shortest male in attendance. He had nice teeth and his smile made me think of a certain Russian leader–a shorter version. Why had this crossed my mind? I can’t make this stuff up. Honest.

Four females partnered with male crew members started the dancing. Not all danced ballroom well but the long gowns were interesting as were their efforts. Next, the dancers each picked members of the audience and one fellow from our English Group 8 was chosen.He obligated, grinning. I’m glad it wasn’t me.

Brave couples joined the dancers for the Chicken Dance, the Macarena, the Twist, a line dance and a jive. I noticed two young guys (late thirties?) appeared to share the same girl for dancing. I’m always surprised when any male gets up to dance without a gun to his head. I guess the spirit really moved these two to shake their booties.

Robert, our first tour guide in China, was on board with a new group of tourists. We the English Group 8 had no one while on the ship, unlike all the other groups.

Cocktails over, the crew lined up across the dance floor, toasts were made and drunk. The captain schmoozed and moved around the room, but it appeared to me his heart wasn’t in it. A camera guy followed him as close as print on paper. Pictures would be on sale soon after dinner. Monitors with screen shows were available to view and choose photos for purchase. Nothing happens here without a chance of making an extra buck I guess.

Supper

Cold salads: Romaine; red cabbage; sliced red cabbage; toothpick-sliced raw carrots; chickpeas; Logan (lychee fruit); cubed melon; sliced watermelon and cubed pineapple.

Quartered tomatoes sprinkled with Parmesan; corn and tuna salad, cauliflower salad with (thin) white cheese slices; squid with local style broccoli with Natto and mixed cow peas with pickles

Main

Roasted shoulder butt (what? That’s what the card said.); mushroom sauce; black pepper sauce; fried pork with peppers; roast Taro; stir fried pork and mushroom; chicken with potatoes; steamed fish fillet with spiced cabbage; grilled eggplant; boiled pork with mixed mushrooms; pizza squares; white rice; white cream potato soup and stewed spare ribs soup with wax gourd

Desserts

Chocolate brownies; peach pie (cake); strawberry mousse; jelly roll and cake with icing.

I don’t eat dessert. When I asked how they were, the ladies who tried them stated they were tasteless and it was impossible to tell one from the other.

After dinner, I sweet talked our young waiter to top up my wine glass, which I then took back to the cabin. Another lady in our group asked for a filled glass as well and gave it to me. I kept Sue talking till around 11:00 p.m. because I didn’t want the lights out yet, and wanted to type up some of my notes from the day.

~ * ~

Next on August 4th, Cruising the Yangtze River, Part 3

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014

~ * ~

I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical. Please bear with me. I hope to return soon. 
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your kind and continued support more than I can express.


Cruising the Yangtze, Part 1

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

My apologies for the scarcity of photos in this post.

I awoke at 5:50 A.M. Outside, the weather appeared dull and overcast with a veil of hazy fog—not smog—I hoped.   I called it misty because we were on the water after all. The previous night, we’d set sail around 10:00 p.m. but were stationary when Sue and I set off to breakfast.

Image Courtesy of RJ, Early morning mist

Sue had played with the alarm clock the night before, not sure how it worked. To her relief, it buzzed at 6:20 exactly as she’d set it. but we hadn’t needed it. I have no idea why we woke so early. Might it have been the low hum of engines stopping?

The shower tiny, but efficient and shoved into the corner of the small space, had a rounded, two-door closure, which met each other in the center for a snug fit. I’m pleased to report the water was hot and stayed inside the enclosure though I had sparse elbow room to move around.

Breakfast

We made it to the Early Bird breakfast (7:00 – 7:30) for the free coffee and arrived at 6:55. It was pleasant to linger over three coffees and sweet rolls. Why were we told the coffee was free? All buffets were inclusive as part of the complete tour package.

I didn’t take inventory at our later breakfast (8:30 – 9:00 A.M.) but had a hard-boiled egg, buns covered in sunflower seeds, strawberry jam, yogurt (plain and watery, but sweet—maybe too sweet), white cheese slices. No need to rush to the Early Bird the next day as the coffee was free at the regular breakfast as well.  I had a giggle over this. What was Ivy, our presenter the previous night, thinking when she advised it was only free at 7:00 A.M.? Maybe it was the way she said it that we’d misunderstood. I had the feeling she was quite proud of her English and I confess it was quite good and 1000 percent better than my Chinese. Maybe she meant coffee was available for early risers?

Click HERE to read about the Battle_of_Red_Cliffs

I chose to pass on the morning excursion to the Red Cliffs (9:00 – 11:00), not because I had a need to be alone, but because I wanted some free time, and to wash out a few things and relax. Sue, however, looked forward to this tour.

Click HERE for images of red+cliffs ruins in Chibi

While I enjoyed my afternoon lazying in a deck chair on the balcony, the maid came in to make up the room. I told her she didn’t need to; we would. No. She had to. Throughout this trip, I noticed rules were written in stone and never changed in any way. No adjustments nor skipping or replacing items or details. After making the beds, the maid made her way into the bathroom and came right out again. “One towel and one face cloth missing,” she said. Eyes wide, her hands and voice trembled. I almost laughed aloud.

“I washed some tee shirts and wrapped one in the towel to draw out the water faster.” I pointed to the second deck chair.

“You can give to Laundry.” She pulled herself together and reached for the pricing brochure on the desk.

“Maybe next time,” I said even as I had no intention of following through with my lie. I unrolled my Tees and handed her the towel and face cloth. Her body relaxed from head to toes.

The Yangtze is a true yellow and dirty, harboring floating junk here and there. All the junk was small with a few branches, not large chunks of anything. I couldn’t help picturing someone emptying a bucketful of cigarette butts as I saw those as well. In spots I noticed large and small ripples as if there were a sandbar underneath—I hoped not. I knew the ripples weren’t from the ship stirring the water because we weren’t moving. I waited for the excursion group to return.

Image courtesy of RJ. This boat is a mystery.

Rusting barges and tugboats transported coal, sand, and gravel alongside and then past our ship. I couldn’t imagine anyone fishing in this river. Would they? A blue ship with three white decks cruised by. Automobiles took up every square inch of deck space. I don’t recall their makes or models. and remember wondering if any every slid off.

After Sue left on the Chibi tour, an alarm sounded over the intercom. A loud announcement in several languages advised this was a fire drill but to stay in our cabins. The drill was for the ship’s crew. Soon after, we were given permission to leave our cabins. I decided to go to Reception to use the Internet.

The second floor presented a throng of crew members in life-jackets over smart blue uniforms. My guess is a health and safety meeting was in progress. A handsome, thirtysomething male in a navy uniform (the only one with gold braiding on the cuffs and outfitted with a life-jacket as well), stood aside to allow me past. Shoot, Don’t you just love a man in uniform? Each and every one replicated a super handsome male or was that just me? Face burning, I plodded through the testosterone-filled lobby to the front desk. On the way back, I stumbled along again, as they all appeared to watch though their meeting continued. For once, I found myself the only female in a room filled wall-to-wall (maybe not quite) with smiling, receptive (maybe distracted) men. Sigh.

~ * ~

Next on July 28th: On the Yangtze River, Part 2

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014

~ * ~

I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical. Please bear with me. I hope to return soon. 
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your kind and continued support more than I can express.


Wuhan, Part 2: Cruise Ship

Image Courtesy of Sally Cronin

Harry, our new soft-spoken Chinese tour guide (30-ish) met us at the airport. We walked for miles and miles to reach our awaiting bus, which smelled bad: between burned electrical wiring and forgotten musty rags.

We asked him to use the microphone as he choked off facts about Wuhan during the drive, but still, he didn’t project enough. In fact, speaking louder did not help his English. He sounded as if he had a hot potato in his mouth and was the least confident guide to date. The bus trip took forever before we reached our destination.

Dark had been gathering before we arrived at the docked cruise ship. As we exited the bus, Harry waved goodbye and vanished. The ship sparkled like a mirage, outlined with tiny white lights as if it was Christmas. We dragged our luggage down long, rickety planks of wood and clanging sheets of steel. Slam. Bang. Clatter. The ship’s welcoming crew members shone flashlights at intervals along the way and cautioned we watch our step. At long last, we boarded and were handed heated hand towels and tea or apple juice. I wondered if cruise ships here always received holidayers in the dark to give them a glowing first impression.

Quick Facts:

  • Population Wuhan: 12 million
  • It takes 2-1/2 hours to drive from East to West Wuhan
  • Three towns joined into one in 1927 and called Wuhan
  • This is an educational standard next to Beijing: 87 universities; Wuhan has 69 universities
  • Smallest college in Wuhan has 8,000 students and the largest has 50,000
  • A total of 1.5 million students in the city of Wuhan
  • So far, our bus drivers have made U-turns as a matter of course

The three main industries are:

  1. Steel and iron (10 square kilometers)
  2. Automobile factories: Citron (since 1993 venture with France), also with Honda and Toyota
  3. Tobacco is main industry and state-owned factory. Produces cigarettes. Pays the second most tax next to Citron manufacturing.

Cigarettes:

  • 1-pack = 10 cigarettes
  • $3.50 USD for cheapest ones and locals smoke these
  • Special cigarettes are exported: sold by carton of 10 packages: 3,000 Yuan or $500.00 USD
  • Factory located 80 kilometers outside Wuhan

Nightlife:

  • Most important social skills in China: smoking and drinking
  • Legal drinking age is 16, same as eligibility for a driver’s license
  • China white wine very strong: 35 to 43% (sounds closer to white lightning than wine)
  • In northern China, one famous brand 70 to 75% (rice wine) high alcohol content. Only the people in northern China drink this because the temperatures are cold there.
  • Chinese saying, “If you run out of oil for the hot pot, just pour in some wine.”
  • Traffic is terrible after 9:00 p.m. as the bars open
  • The bars are loud and packed with young people (9:00 till midnight); the older generation can’t stand the noise
  • Life isn’t much different for the young people in the east from the west.
  • Square dancing is popular with Seniors, who enjoy it mornings and evenings in the parks
  • Young people don’t like the sound of the loud dance music on weekends because they like to sleep late.

This is square dancing? I wonder why they call it that?

Weather:

June is the beginning of summer. The average temperature is 30 degrees Celsius. There are three ‘ovens’ (also called furnaces) in this area:

  1. Wuhan
  2. Chongchin
  3. Nanking

Six-and-a-half to seven months of the year, everyone wears Tee shirts in Wuhan because of the heat and humidity. A historical record high of 48 degrees Celsius occurred in 2006. Usual temperature is 44 or 45 degrees. When it gets this hot, school and work are canceled, a policy made ten years ago. Everyone now has air conditioning to combat the heat.

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

© All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

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Something extra for you:

http://herschelian.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/bodysnatchers-in-china/

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Next on July 21 –  On the Yangtze River, Part 1

© 2017 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

FYI: This is a re-blog of the best parts of my trip in 2014

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I am currently on an unplanned sabbatical. Please bear with me. I hope to return soon. 
Thank you for reading and for your kind and continued support.


52 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 11

Rachael Ritchey is the originator of this challenge

The prompt this week: …news…

To join in click:  http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

News

Susan hadn’t been away since her honeymoon twelve years before. Her excitement about the cruise roiled inside her like a pressure cooker ready to blow. There were so many details, concentrating wore her out.

“Harry, you printed the tickets, right?”

“Yes, I said I did.”

“And our passports?” She fumbled in their suitcase rechecking the contents yet again. “I made a list, but can’t find it. Have you seen it anywhere?”

“You worry too much. Come. I think you need a drink. “

“I’ll check on the twins first.  Scotch. Neat. See you in the living-room.”

Long-legged Harry reached her in one step and squeezed her elbow. Dark velvet eyes searched hers, luminous and gentle. Soot black curls hung over his forehead. “Two more days.”

She leaned into his lanky frame and breathed him in, then sighed. Dear Harry. What would I ever do without you?

He found her chin, lifted it with a finger, and caressed her mouth with a feathery kiss. Her face glowed pink. Before she found her voice, he patted her bottom and veered away. “Downstairs.”

Susan closed the twins’ bedroom door. A cell chimed downstairs. Who can that be? She massaged her neck and drifted down the steps, her husband’s side of the conversation muffled at first.

“Right. Yes. Of course. See you then.” He tossed the phone on the sofa.

“Who was that?” She stared wide-eyed at his now furled forehead, curls pushed back. “What’s wrong?”

“That was your dad. They missed their connection.”

“You’re doing that pulling-on-your-lip-thing. What else?” She rubbed her neck again.

Harry shifted his gaze to the tray of liquor bottles on the buffet. “Sit,” he said, “How about that drink?”

“What else?”

“They have an hour’s wait, but may turn back home. Your mother’s feeling unwell.”

“What’s the matter with her?” Hands crossed on her chest the words came out dry and hoarse as if she’d swallowed sand.

“Sounds like flu—they think. A nurse on their flight couldn’t confirm.” He handed her a drink and studied her face.

“But their connection is less than two hours away. They’re almost here.” Tucking wayward blonde hair behind an ear, she stared deep into her glass, as if unsure what to do with it. The errant wisps sprang back.

“Your dad will call when it’s sorted.” He threw an arm around her shoulder. “Take a drink. It’ll calm your nerves.”

Susan raised her glass. Half-way to her lips, the cell chimed. In a couple strides Harry seized the phone and set down his glass. His wife wiped her chin and patted her blouse where it had spilled. She pulled a shirt tail out of her jeans and dabbed at the wet spots.

“Good idea. If you’re sure, Peter… I’ll get a pen.”

She banged down her drink and raced to the kitchen for a pad and pen. Harry whipped them out of her grasp. Phone tucked against his shoulder, he nodded as he wrote. “Fine, I’ll see you before nine. Which terminal? Fine. Fine.”

“Tell me.”

“Where’s your drink? Tut-tut. First take a swallow.” She threw her head back. Harry grabbed the hand with the glass. “Not too fast.” Still she sputtered afterwards and he whacked her between the shoulder blades.

“Your Mom and Dad took a room at the airport hotel and will fly out in the morning. I’ll pick them up myself and cancel their limo for tonight.”

“So, Mom’s better?” Susan rubbed a temple and closed her eyes. “Now that we aren’t waiting up for them, maybe we should call it an early night.”

“My thoughts, exactly. Off you go, I’ll make that call and shut off the lights. Be up in a jiffy.

* * *

Susan crawled out of bed, mouth dry as cotton balls. Bleh. Cheerful birds chirped and tweeted outside the window. She padded to the bathroom to brush her teeth though she had done so the night before.

“Want pancakes for breakfast?” asked Harry, face buried in his pillow. No answer offered, he sat up and surveyed the room. The sheets and blankets were twisted and half on the floor. He checked his cell on the night table. No messages. Good.

Susan gargled and the water in the sink gurgled. She stuck her head around the open door. “You’re awake? Want pancakes? After I shower?”

“Go ahead. I’ll start in the kitchen. No texts. No news, which is good, right?”

* * *

Morning rush hour traffic brutal as usual, Harry arrived in plenty of time. The slip of paper wasn’t in his pocket. He pulled into the first parking lot and punched the number for home.

“Everything, okay? The school bus will be here in a minute.” Susan’s voice squeaked.

“Forgot the paper and can’t remember which terminal, one or three?”

“Where’s the paper? Boys don’t move. I mean it.”

“Living-room or night table.”

“Living-room— It’s two. See you soon.”

* * *

By ten o’clock, she’d paced and length of the living-room half a dozen times, peering out the window every few steps. Where is everyone? I’ll give them five more minutes.

Before Susan snatched the phone, it sprang to life. She blinked, startled. “Harry, where are you guys?”

“This is the drugstore. Your prescription is ready for pickup.”

“Oh! Thanks.”

The phone dropped on the coffee table, she continued to pace. A cruiser crept up the driveway. She was struck stock-still.

The End

 © 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.


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Yangshuo: Day 18, Part 1 – River Li

After breakfast the bus drove through the Yangshuo countryside on the way to the River Li.

Quick Facts

  • Yangshuo is known for pomelo and persimmon trees
  • Smoking and drinking the hardest vices to control
  • Cigarettes very cheap: as low as $1:00 per pack
  • 90% of men smoke
  • Restaurants have ‘No Smoking’ signs but cannot enforce (afraid to lose customers)
  • Cigarettes bring in taxes (so no smoking not yet imposed)
  • Phoenix Tail Bamboo is used to make clothes and underwear, softer than cotton
  • Chinese people are never quiet; always talking about everything around them
  • They cook and eat dog here, using lots of spices to flavor the meat (i.e. orange peel)
  • People in the country don’t like their pictures taken because you are stealing their spirit (shorten their lives)
  • Don’t like pictures taken of babies, especially, but sometimes, they will charge money (?)
  • Because of tourists, the locals make a good life
  • Vegetable stands everywhere tourists pass
  • Homegrown vegetables + rice, fruit
  • Countryside littered with paper and garbage until you reach the city

Tidbits

At the concert the previous night, no-one clapped, no-one shut-up; everyone had a camera taking pictures and videos. In the dark a sea of cameras lit up the dark like candle throughout the audience.

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All land is owned by the government. If you want to build a house, you must apply to the Village Committee (like a village government) and apply to lease the land for 70 years. Sometimes, you can renew the lease and pass your house, apartment, condo or especially farms until the government has other plans for the land your family has lived on for hundreds of years.

We stopped at an old farmhouse along the way to the River Li for our cruise. Here a Caucasian tourist tries out the old-fashioned broom.

© 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

Down a country road, lined with stands of food and trinkets for sale, we followed Lily, our guide. The people stared at us and we tried not to stare at them. Our cruise boat was old, rusty, not what I’d call clean and run by locals. The gangplank appeared to have wood rot (holes in it) and I stepped carefully. We sat topside instead of inside on old wooden chairs and new benches as the weather was co-operative. Of course, there were trinkets inside for tourists as well as soft drinks.

We were about 25 tourists onboard. One woman with her son and daughter and another mother with her daughter (all in early teens) and a couple families of flip-flop-clad Australians with six youngsters between six and 14 were all onboard. I felt in good company. No way could I have worn runners. My feet at this point of our trip felt broken.

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We passed water buffalo on the shore and for the first time, noticed countryside litter: plastic bags and empty cigarette packages. Electrical towers were seen in the weirdest places, in the middle of nowhere, but farmers still live in the old ways. They have a well, but no plumbing.

Winter (January / February) are not good for tourists. It is too cold and there is no heating system here. One must sleep in a coat. On the other hand, summer is hot and humid and the opposite around July. Another drawback, the water level is high on the River Li and not good for water travel because it is too fast and dangerous.

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River Cruise Additional Links:

http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/guangxi/guilin/li_river.htm

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Next on February 27: Day 18, Part 2 –More Yangshuo 

For more related posts, click on China tab at the top of the page

© 2015 All Rights Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


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On the Yangtze, Day 16, Part 6 (Shibaczhai Pagoda)

We woke at 6:25, dressed without showering and headed for early breakfast. After the cancelled excursions the past two days, I noticed passengers appeared antsy to go on the Shibaozhai trip, scheduled for 7:45 a.m., weather permitting. No cancellation was announced at breakfast. By the time we arrived in our rooms, a reminder blared over the PA to anyone leaving the ship to pick up a ship’s pass. The tour was on.

or

Shibaozhai Pagoda Images

Sue proceeded to take a shower after breakfast as I plopped into the chair at the desk. The outing hadn’t interested me because of the damp drizzle with or without an umbrella.

My heart stopped. I glanced out the balcony doors and gulped. A ship coasted towards us and I knew we were going to crash. I leaped to my feet. I don’t know why. Not unlike a pillar of cement, I froze poker straight expecting the inevitable crash. We were going to die and there was nothing to do about it.

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

The drifting stopped mere inches away. How did they do that? Everything trickled rain: the balcony floor, the railings and chairs. I read the name on the side: President Cruise. It was smaller than ours, old and rusty. Curtains hung haphazardly missing hooks on rods. Clothes lines strung with laundry crisscrossed inside the rooms so close I could have reached across and pulled them off—maybe not quite—but too close for comfort. The Chinese passengers who came out on the back deck (the poop deck, I think) to see what was happening didn’t appear well-off.

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

A third ship moved alongside the second one, bigger than both of us: the Century Emerald. It drew closer and closer. The curtains pulled back, windows on the main deck revealed a fancy dining-room featuring round tables draped with milk-white cloths and bright yellow chair covers featuring bows on the back. The third ship floated towards the one between us. I waited for the crunch. It didn’t come. I watched a female cleaner (maid?) wipe down the railings on one of the balconies. What a hard worker, but why bother with this useless task?

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

The fumes were suffocating and the engines noisy even through the closed door.

The Chinese boat moved away in the opposite direction. Once again I held my breath as the Century Emerald inched towards us so close I could almost touch their balcony railings if I stepped out and leaned forward. A few curious international passengers on the Emerald watched us for a while. I wondered which of us were watchers watching the watchers. Soon, they returned to their rooms and closed the curtains. Maybe we weren’t that interesting.

The temperature in our room reached a high of 24, the highest since we boarded. I opened our curtains and doors again for fresh air, but not for long. The noisy engines were deafening. Why run them? Weren’t we anchored? The ships remained side-by side like strangers on a first date.

Sue lay on the bed reading with her swollen feet up on the headboard (actually the mirror above it). She’d suspected the moveable bubble above her toes might be blood. If she’d had a needle, she’d have drawn out the liquid. I suggested she see the ship’s doctor, but she refused.

Twice in ten minutes, Housekeeping came to make up our room. We offered to do it ourselves, but that wasn’t allowed. I noticed I’d become lazy since we boarded. What’s wrong with some down time after all the running around we did the first eight or nine days after our arrival in China?

A Captain’s Bridge Tour was announced over the PA, but I felt too lazy to move. Maybe I was still feeling the effects of our near crash. A different language presentation was scheduled every quarter hour from 10:00 to 11:15 in French, English, Chinese, Spanish and German—not specifically in that order. The interruptions soon became a nuisance.

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Next on January 23rd: On the Yangtze Day 16, Part 7 (Ghost City and Stairway to Hell) + More

For more related posts, click on China tab at the top of the page

© 2015 All Right Reserved Tess @ How the Cookie