Suzhou to Shanghai

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…the observation deck on the 88th floor. The views of the city are wonderful.

In transforming backward agricultural China into an advanced industrialized country, we are confronted with arduous tasks and our experience is far from adequate. So we must be good at learning. Mao Zedong’s opening address at the eighth National Congress of the Communist Party of China. (September 15, 1956).

25 October Pan Pacific Hotel

We awake around 8.00. There’s genteel start today, breakfast lasts till ten.

Made out of large granite blocks, the Pan Pacific hotel has an inclined ramp up to the top, third, floor giving it the feel of a Mayan temple. But inside, it has the complexity of a pharaoh’s pyramid with false passages and little straightforward. We did find our bedroom eventually after visiting a boiler room and confronting a ‘No Entry, Staff’ sign.

However, the hotel does have some elegance and it fits well with low housing all around. Its downfall is the staff who seem at best indolent and at worst downright unhelpful. The evening pianist played more on her mobile phone than the piano during our brief stay, and at breakfast, Amy, our waitress stared into spaced ignoring her guests.

Francis is very quiet this morning, Chris said the hotel had been rather snooty and refused him a room. Finally, they found him a store cupboard at about three in the morning, apparently. Although he looks weary, he is with us doing his duty.

We have round-faced, black-haired Selina (Liu Yu Jia) to lead us to the canal. The red-lipped former schoolteacher in the clearest English tells us the famous Chinese general Sun Tzu, beloved of management consultants and military strategists, was born here two and half thousand years ago. Some things endure. Continue reading “Suzhou to Shanghai”

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River Cruise to the Three Gorges Dam

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The gorge becomes more and more spectacular with mountains soaring up on either side.

When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills. Chinese Proverb

Chongqing is now a skyscraper city with the feel of Manhattan. In the centre of the city is People’s Liberation Monument, locally called Jiefangbei. It commemorates China’s s victory in the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Francis says it was the highest building the city, which had been heavily bombed in the war. It was built in 1946. Now, it is only a child coming up to the knees of all the adult buildings surrounding it.

Marjorie likes central Chongqing especially the diamond jewellers, CRD, where the diamonds look so cheap, but we don’t purchase any, it is so easy to get carried away.

We board the MV Century Diamond after a quick visit to an old riverside temple-cum-house complex in painted in yellow emulsion and a rushed and disappointing Lazy Susan dinner on the eighth floor of a city centre restaurant. However, our cabin is a delight with red bedsheets and two swans made from towels. Our 42nd wedding anniversary will occur on this boat. Continue reading “River Cruise to the Three Gorges Dam”

Beijing to Chongqing

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Francis’ Family in Tianamen Square

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Lao Tzu.

Our journey nearly faltered at the first step. In the comfortable Titan chauffeur-driven Mercedes beside Ioan and Anita, we sat in a motorway jam. We were going to miss our flight. However, thanks to the mobile phone and the responsive Titan employee, Jo Kavanagh, we were re-booked on an Emirates flight via Dubai and we would arrive only a few hours later than originally planned.

During the trip, I was about to experience so many new superlatives, greatest, biggest, longest and the door to door journey time of 32.5 hours was the longest I had ever undertaken. We arrived in the Landmark hotel at 00.30 on Saturday 13 October in the company of the most helpful guide, Yang Zhen Xiong, who preferred his “English” name of Francis. Continue reading “Beijing to Chongqing”