Interesting, entertaining, and fascinating; tiring, frustrating and dramatic - every one of those adjectives could be used to describe parts of today! it turned out to be a pretty long day, what with activities, a drive and boarding our vessel for our Yangtze River cruise. Also, the end of today marked the halfway point for our Odyssey to China and an end to our long coach adventure tour across China. From here, it’s Trains and Boats and Planes - just not in that order!
Jingzhou is one of the most historic cities in a country steeped in history. It was home to, but not birthplace of, Qu Yuan, a famous poet and politician who was a significant person in this city during his lifetime, around 2,300 years ago, and whose importance lives on in his writings. Jingzhou itself has been a critical transportation and military hub for more than 6000 years and its ancient walls have been incredibly well-preserved. It was to these walls that we travelled for our first activity of the day.
As we walked to the walls we passed an immense statue of Qu Yuan, then entered the city through one of the main tower gates. Between the outer and inner gates is a courtyard that was set up for a cultural show, due to begin shortly after our arrival. There was plenty of time to check out the tower and shops, before seeking out a vantage point for the show. We managed to find a spot on the tower walls and enjoyed good views of traditional dances and stylised battle scenes dating from the dynastic eras. The performances were very entertaining and, even though we only vaguely understood the context, we really enjoyed the spectacle.
Because we are still in National Holiday week, a funfair was set up outside the walls with rides and treats any kid in the world would recognise, such as pony rides, dodg’ems and fairy floss. The two boys in our party took advantage of a couple of sideshows, while the adults enjoyed the festival atmosphere and frenetic shopping.
There are several advantages to being on an organised tour, especially in a country with a significant cultural difference, but one of the downsides is having limited exposure to some experiences. We understand the need to balance competing interests of the tour participants and a desire to experience a wide range of activities, but occasionally we feel frustrated at not being able to spend as much time as we would like in a given place. Visiting the Jingzhou walls during festival time was one such occasion. That said, we have really loved the trip, to date.
After another Chinese banquet lunch (of course!), we paid an all too brief visit to the Jingzhou Museum. This is not in the same class for glitz as the Shanghai Museum, but I reckon it wins hands down in the fascination stakes. Because of the very long history of settlement in the Jingzhou region and its strategic importance to successive dynasties, it has a wealth of local archeological treasures to draw upon, with hundreds of excavation sites nearby. Perhaps the most famous treasure is the incredibly well-preserved body of a man, buried more than 2,000 years ago. The body was discovered in 1975 with all body parts intact and pliable, unlike the dried mummies found elsewhere. The museum also houses ancient pottery, embroidery, lacquer work and paintings, some of which date back more than 6,000 years and demonstrate the rich history of this part of Hubei Province. A brief, but fascinating, visit.
Then back to the bus for our final coach ride (or so we thought!). We drove for a couple of hours to Yichang, shopped for water and drinks to take aboard our boat, then into a restaurant for dinner before transferring to the Victoria Katarina. By the time we got to dinner, everyone was pretty much over all the coach rides and quite tired. Your author was no exception and fatigue led to clumsiness, which led to spilt beer... enough said! To compound our tiredness, was the realisation that Yichang was not our boarding point; we had another 90 minute drive to Maoping, where our vessel was waiting. By the time we got there, we were all ready for bed, not more drama.
When we booked this tour, we had all been drawn by the included 10 day Yangtze River cruise, as described much earlier in this journal, so it was a big disappointment to have that reduced to four days, especially for the six in our group that are on a 15 day tour (the rest of us are on a 20 day tour). Frustration was added to disappointment for several in the group when they discovered that the cabin upgrades they had paid for, for our previous ship, would not be honoured by this ship - understandably, because they had not been paid. To cap it all off, I discovered yesterday that Sinorama NZ has just gone into receivership, so there will be no one in the office to complain to on Monday morning. To put it mildly, there were a few unhappy campers, this evening.
Eventually, we made it to our accommodation and, in comparison to our recent superb hotel rooms, the cabin falls well short. It is also considerably below the standard we have experienced on other ships. We debated whether to participate in any of the optional excursions as there is an excursion included for each of our three full days aboard. In the end we decided to do the two optional available for tomorrow, and none on the other days. We think that a few hours break here and there, after the long journey from Shanghai (almost 1500 kms, seven days, five cities) would set us up nicely for our last week in China.
On every trip we do, one day has to be the worst. We hope it is today because, despite the fatigue and frustration that attended the end of an otherwise fine day, we do still have an excellent and ongoing visit to China. Additionally, we received a significant refund from Luxury Escapes to compensate us for the lost cruise time, unlike those 1000 people unlucky enough to have lost their trips altogether as Sinorama failed. We have lost out in similar circumstances before - and very nearly did this time - so can only hope those affected will get some recompense.
Anyway, here we are, finally. Our Yangtze River adventure is about to begin! Tomorrow will be a new and brighter day!