April 14, 2013 Suzhou to Shanghai by coach, Shanghai to Yichang by air

Today is a travel day, by bus, plane and boat. We left Suzhou early in the morning by bus.  We travelled out of town on our way to the Shanghai airport.

Single family homes on the outskirts of Shanghai

Single family homes on the outskirts of Shanghai

It’s interesting to see the contrast between city and rural, although their rural isn’t the same as home where you can travel for miles and not see a building.  Here you see a cluster of 30 high rise buildings rising out of the landscape in what appears the middle of nowhere. As we approach Shanghai we see more single family homes which are obviously very expensive,
Gated community complete with golf course

Gated community complete with golf course

as well see a private golf course with  a gated community of expansive homes.  However on the drive we have also seen signs of poverty with people living in nothing more than a shack.

We arrive at the very busy Shanghai airport and go through the check in process.  It’s a very busy airport and we experience the usual delays at check in and security.  Some members have had their checked luggage screened and have to go with security while their bags are examined.  None of our group was found to have contraband but apparently some fluids looked interesting.  This is the first real taste of using one of China’s busy airports and we eventually found out they are keen for everyone to get their exercise before boarding. 

substandard rural housing

substandard rural housing

Check In and Security are often at opposite ends of the airport.  Once passing through security Michael thought we may enjoy a taste of western food, so off we went to find the Burger King which was strategically based on the opposite end of the airport, from our boarding gate. The staff at Burger King were ill prepared for an order of 27 and it took a long time to get the food and some orders never did arrive.  Following our lunch we walked a great distance to our boarding gate where we found our flight delayed.  ( I don’t think any of our flights actually ever left on time.)   This delay did allow some of our group the opportunity to scout out “Coke Zero.”  I think I mentioned before Pepsi products can easily be found, but locating a coke product can be a challenge and after awhile our members got very good at scoping them out.
Our " Coke Zero" queen and bargaining guru

Our ” Coke Zero” queen and bargaining guru

Pat E was particularly challenged by the food situation and could often be found scouting the local areas for a convenience store where she could stock up on western goodies and “Coke Zero.”  By the end of the tour she had us trained to let her know whenever we found goodies.

We arrived in Yichang and was met by our local guide Christine.  We were to be a short distance away( one hour)  from our cruise ship however the ship was on the far side of the dam, so we had an extra long (2 1/2 hr.)  but very scenic bus drive to the ship. As a result we arrived later than planned.  In order to board the ship, we have to board a small tram to take us down the slope to the ship. 

Stunning vista taken from the bus on our way to the cruise ship

Stunning vista taken from the bus on our way to the cruise ship

Our ship is the MS Yangtse 2. Built in 2011 she carried 42 passengers and has 160 crew.One could take the stairs, but the tram was more of an adventure.

We were quickly given our room keys and advised our luggage would be along shortly. I was very impressed with how they brought our luggage on board. I’ll let the photo do the explaining.

Bringing the luggage onboard!

Bringing the luggage onboard!

Our room was very small and when our luggage arrived there literally was no where to put it.  We didn’t have time to unpack as it was time to eat.  Instead of the “ lazy susan” service, the meals were buffet style which we really enjoyed.  With the lazy susan style, each dish contained just enough for a portion for each of the people at the table.  If you didn’t like something, you ate less.  The buffet was enjoyable as when you found something to suit your taste, you just filled up.

We had an orientation session following our dinner and were offered a room upgrade for half the price.  About 4 couples in our group ( us included) agreed to pay for a much larger room.  All the room have a veranda but at least the upgrade room had two chairs on the veranda, instead of the one.  Given the ship is relatively new, it has not been kept up and looks tired an worn.  Our group all agreed the beds were the hardest beds we encountered on our tour.

Cruise ship ( not ours) docked by the dam

Cruise ship ( not ours) docked by the dam

I was disappointed to learn we were not leaving the dock until 5 p.m. the following day.  I later found out we should have caught the ship down river from the dam.  The area had high winds and rain in previous days and the result was a traffic jam at the locks.  Freight takes priority over people, so the ship was not allowed through the locks the previous day.   The area is beautiful but marred with the ever present air pollution.