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Today I am going to provide some odd photographs taken from some of my trips to YiChang in Hubei Province. Yi Chang is where you set off up river to the 3 Gorge Dam and beyond. Interspersed between the photographs will be text from a story I wrote about my trip to YiChang in the Summer of 2006.
This article first appeared and was accompanied by larger and different photographs.
YiChang - Summer 2006
In December of 2004 I wrote two photographic Articles on YiChang and the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei Province China. I recently returned to YiChang this time taking a bus trip to the three gorges dam.
After my classes ended this semester, I planned to spend a week or so catching up on some work at King's Calendar, and then wanted to go to YiChang for a little rest, before my friend Zhang Mingxing arrived from ChengDu where he is studying. It was my plan to travel with MX on his way back home to Hong Hu, for I had some things I wanted to do there.
|Upper reaches in the third and smallest boat in our progressive wanderings|
Unfortunately many things interfered with my planned escape to YiChang, and so when MX arrived, it was decided that we would both go to YiChang, for he longed to visit his sister whose plans for the summer did not include returning to Hong Hu. So Off we went.
The last couple of times I went to YiChang, I traveled by bus, but MX decided that it would be cheaper and more comfortable to travel by train, and I must say that I was impressed with both the journey and the trains' facilities. The first thing that hit me when I stepped off the train was the heat. As hot as Wuhan was, it could not compare to the overbearing muggy heat of YiChang, which, apart from 2 days of rain, remained with us for the 7 days we were there.
MX's sister met us at the train station, and we took a taxi down to the Yangtze Hotel on the waterfront. The journey was a little perplexing for the taxi driver, as I, the foreigner, was the only one who knew exactly where it was. I had stayed there before.
Checking into the hotel was a strange experience, because while I was the one who spoke to the receptionist, it was MX whose identification was used for the check in. In China, foreign tourists are only allowed to stay in designated tourist hotels, but as I have a residence permit, I am entitled to stay anywhere. I never even got the chance to point out that I was permitted to stay in the hotel. We booked in under MingXing's name.
This may not be significant to you the reader, but it effectively meant that I had slipped under the security police radar. All foreigners are required to 'report in' to local police stations so that the authorities can keep track of them. Hotels automatically do this for you. By not checking me in, the hotel had allowed me to 'disappear'. I did not object!
The hotel faces the water front, and is but a hundred metres or so from the Yi Ling Da Qiao (Yiling Big Bridge). The waterfront is lined with a succession of public parks.
Because I was already suffering from an ear infection, picked up in my first and only visit to a public swimming pool (swimming in the river never made me ill), I spent most of the week either hiding in my room away from the heat outside, or laid up in bed with headaches and stuffed sinuses.
I did nevertheless make a point of taking a long walk along the riverfront every day, which, combined with illness and a lack of eating copious amounts of chocolate biscuits and bread, allowed me to lose at least a kilo or so.
One day MX and I took a walk over the Yiling bridge, crossed under it, and walked back. It was an interesting outing which provide me with some previously unseen views of YiChang. From the farmers on the river bank and the little Temple halfway up the mountain, to the new bridge being constructed downstream, to the view of the YiChang waterfront from the opposite side of the river, everything I saw was not only new, but once again inspired within me a sense of awe at the vastness of China. And at such times, I always find myself wondering what life must have been like a hundred years ago.
As I have already said, we did not do much that week in YiChang, but we did make the effort to take a tourist bus up to the dam. On my boat trip in 2004 I had passed through the dam and had seen the tourist lookout, and I had been told then that one could take a bus up there.
|Inside the lock|
|Overlooking the Dam|
When I mentioned the idea to Mingxing and his sister, she told us that we could take the number three bus. I knew that this could not be correct, but agreed to take the trip to find out. That did not produce favourable results. It actually took us to a place beside the single lock on the lower dam, that lacked any type of view that would interest a tourist.
On our way back to the hotel, we called in at the tourist office I visited in 2004. It was around midday when we got there. They gave us all the necessary information, including that they only sold tickets a half a day in advance. As I was not feeling up to the 2 pm trip, we returned about 11 am next day; our last full day in YiChang. After purchasing our tour tickets, we went off to the Bus Depot to buy our Tickets for our homeward trip the next day.
|A total of 5 locks here.|
|In the Middle reaches these boys were swimming between the boats.|
After a leisurely lunch in the international trade center, we reported back to the tour office at 1:30 pm as instructed, and sat around until our scheduled departure time at 2 pm. The trip cost us 125 RMB each (although the tourist office next to our hotel quoted 140), and it turned out to be far more interesting than I had expected.
From town to the 'High Dam' where the lookout above the 5 locks is located, the trip took 50 minutes, and snaked over and through several mountains. I remember that one tunnel was around 3000 metres long.
|On the riverbank in YiChang|
|Wuhou Ci if I remember correctly. Seen at night.|
What was incredible about travelling through these tunnels, was that at several points, there would be a break into sunlight of no more than 2 bus lengths of roadway, before entering a new tunnel. One the return trip I was shocked at how high up we were from the valley floor, given the short distance between mountains. It certainly gave my imagination something to ponder in thinking about how deep the dam must be in some places.
Our first port of call was the lookout itself. From the boat I traveled on last time, all one could see was a rounded cement lookout that belied the fact that behind it was a whole complex of buildings, fountains and views of other parts of the river not visible from the boat cruise. The lookout itself sits at the highest level of this tourist destination. Below it is a wonderful fountain, a huge sculpture of a book in both Chinese and English that tells the story of the place, a combined tourist information center and souvenir shop, and public facilities.
Whilst the public facilities were clean and free, the normally priced at 1.5RMB bottled waters, were selling for 5 RMB in the information center. After a 30 minute look around, our bus traveled back down to the dam itself, where, unbeknownst to myself, we were to be privileged to be allowed to walk out onto the wall. As we were pulling up in the bus the tour guide was giving instructions.
Now at this point I must point out, that I was doing the 'Chinese Tour'. The guide did not speak English. I picked up on the fact that we were allowed to take our cameras etc, but we were not allowed to take our hats, cigarettes and cigarette lighters. As we joined the queue at the entrance, I realised that I had a cigarette lighter in my pocket and so ran back to the bus to give it to the driver. MingXing did not bother to enlighten me about anything else I might be carrying which ought to have been left in the bus.
And so it was as I went through the metal detector, that I was pulled aside and asked to empty my pockets. They took my sweets, my extra camera batteries, a small pack of tissues and my handkerchief. Having finally divested myself of absolutely everything in my trousers, (and without being facetious), I honestly expected that I was next going to be asked to drop my trousers. It was worse than any airport security I have ever encountered. Finally passing inspection, I was allowed to board the bus which took us onto the dam.
It was later explained to me that all the disposed of items were a potential threat to the operational capability of the dam, were they to have been dropped. I guess the paper and coin money that I was handed back to carry, my sunglasses, and my camera posed no threat at all.
|Banks of the River at YiChang - taken from the Yiling Bridge|
After our little trip, we headed back to the bus and set off for the other side of the river to visit a little park, from which we were given a different perspective of the three gorge dam project.
In all the trip lasted about four and a half hours and well worth the money we paid, and I would recommend it to everyone. Of course, you might want to arrange to go on a tour with an English guide.
I hope you have enjoyed this story.
R.P.BenDedek is the pseudonym of the Author of 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran' (www.kingscalendar.com), and is a guest columnist at Magic City Morning Star News. An Australian, he currently teaches Conversational English in China.
Photographic Stories from China: http://www.kingscalendar.com/cgi-bin/index.cgi?action=viewnews&id=128
"The King's Calendar" is a chronological study of the historical books of the Bible (Kings and Chronicles), Josephus, Seder Olam Rabbah, and the (Essene) Damascus Document of The Dead Sea Scrolls.