Thursday, we finally disembarked from the Yangzi Explorer. We did boat-to-funicular-to-bus-to-plane-to-bus-to-boat-to-bus--starting in the city of
The people at the zoo were just as fascinating--groups dancing to music (men and women couples and same sex couples), tai chi, or playing cards. Our guide explained that all of these in some way encourage socializing, a big part of Chinese culture (he also attributed the loud talking to this need to socialize).
Then on to
After about an hour it was time to get off, but, since the river was already approaching flood stage, the normal dock was unusable. So we had to find a clear (but muddy) spot on the bank and kind of run aground there and walk over the water on the gang plank. Then up the embankment and we were in a tiny town (yes! Less than 1 million people!!! Probably about 100). We saw how a small village really looks.
An unrelated aside. Our guide told us today that 92-5% of Chinese are of Han ethnic roots, there are 55 other ethnicities (you will recall that the one child rule does not apply to families among these minority ethnicities). The many decoratively dressed dolls in the gift shops represent these different ethnicities. The area surrounding
Friday morning we were off to the airport for Xian. There is a beautiful new 8 lane highway that travels the last 10 km to the airport. Our guide explained that this is how they make a good first impression when dignitaries come here. It shows how prosperous and productive and happy the people are. It was somewhat pride and somewhat party line). We arrived in
After landing we were taken to the (Buddhist) Wild Goose Pagoda, which was built 1,300 years ago! In front of this is a compound which was built "only" 300 years ago. This used to be the heart of the old city which was surrounded by a wall (now it is surrounded by a Papa John's, a Dairy Queen, a Starbuck's, and other examples of a booming "socialist market economy"). In the compound are several large temples with golden Buddhas inside. There are also two smaller buildings: the
Note, as we were heading down to the business center prior to dinner, we ran into a group of well-dressed Chinese gentlemen coming out of an adjoining conference room. One of them we recognized as Chinese President Hu!!!!! We asked the business center personnel "Who were those people" and she replied "Our government"! Earlier this week (was it just this week!) our
Now, a dinner synopsis. We had a choice of restaurants in the hotel this evening (all of which are excellent (and one of which was Chinese). Ironically, we were the only ones in our group to choose the Chinese restaurant as most members of our group claim they will never eat Chinese food again (and we have another week of touring and eating left!). Anyone, we dined at Tian Jiang Ge which is an upscale elegant restaurant in the Shangri-La Xian. Based on our guides' talks, the Chinese use every possible part of every possible animal and this was apparent on our menu (though not with our choices). So, for the record, we did NOT order: durian puff pastry, sliced pig stomach with leek and vinegar, roast pigeon with head and beak, abalone and sea cucumber combination plates (over two pages in the menu dedicated to these dishes alone), stir-fried pork knuckle with peanuts, tossed jellyfish with garlic, chicken feet marinated with rock salt, sliced fish skin with vinegar sauce, mashed garlic with pig ear terrine, or braised goose feet with abalone sauce. Our selections were rather conservative, but still very delicious. We started with wild mushrooms with minced garlic. This dish was not described as being hot but we almost needed to call in the fire department for way-way. Next, we feasted on stir-fried French green beans with minced pork, sauteed prawns and scallops with black bean sauce, and fried vermicelli
More observations and learnings since our last posting. Per the latest census, the population is now almost evenly split between urban and rural. Almost all farms are managed (the government owns the land) by individual farmer families. Their plots are about 1 or 2 acres. Nearly all of the farm work is done by hand. Many young people are leaving the farms for the city. They estimate that about 40 million people are on the move. This is reflected in the tremendous amount of building going on across the country. At one point a few years ago, 50% of all the heavy cranes in the world were in
Off to the Terra-cotta warriors early tomorrow!
wen-wen and way-way