Wednesday, November 28, 2007

China Odyssey, Day 14 - Xian to Yichang

Day 14 - Xian-Wuhan-Yichang
Wednesday November 28
Travel Day Xian - Wuhan - Yichang

On Wednesday morning we drove from Dong Ha village to Xian Airport . The flight from Xian to Wuhan was run like a well-oiled machine. We flew on Xianmen Airlines. During the 50 minute on time flight we were served two drinks and dinner. The Chinese food was quite good.

When we went to baggage claim to retrieve our luggage, we were surprised to discover one of our suitcases had been damaged. The plastic stand on the bottom had been broken off. No problem! In a matter of ten minutes after filling out forms we had a new suitcase thanks to George, our tour guide. This was a stroke of good luck as far as Kathy was concerned, because it gives her more room to bring back more souvenirs without going over the weight limit. Her favorite souvenir so far is the pashima scarf.

It was a 4 hour bus ride from Wuhan Airport to Yichang. The highway passes through the western portion of the Yangtze River Plain. This alluvial plain stretches from the Three Gorges to the China Sea at Shanghai. With a relatively small area of about 7,000 square miles (slightly smaller than Massachusetts) the plain is home to about 440 million people (one-third of the total Chinese population). For comparison, the population of Massachusetts is about 6.4 million, with roughly similar area. Being built on alluvial soil, contributed by the Zangtze River over millions of years of flood cycles, the Yangtze River Plain is rich farm country,. While nourishing to the soil, these floods have been devastating to the population and infrastructure. Over 30 million people died in a devastating 1954 flood. Control of this devastating flooding was the primary motivation for construction of the Three Gorges Dam.

The bus ride was in some respects one of the most interesting of our tour experiences, because it gave us an excellent view of the heavily populated Chinese countryside. The highway was comparable to a US Interstate. Along the way, we saw many local farmers plowing their fields with water buffaloes. We also passed may fish ponds. We stopped at a modern looking Travel Plaza, which included a restaurant and travel store. There was little stock in the store, and less service. Sanitary facilities were tolerable. There were many trucks in the plaza, and many more lined up along the side of the highway to enter.

Typical Chinese Countryside in the Yangtze River Plain

Travel Plaza

The Truck Zone

Once we were in the city of Yichang it was slow going with heavy traffic. An interesting note; there are no seat belt laws in China restricting children. A lot of children we see in cars are riding in the front seat.

Yichang is riverside city is on the north bank of the Yangtze River, just downstream of the three gorges. Yichang is known as Electricity City, presumably because of the electrical generating capacity of the nearby Gezhouba and Three Gorges Dams.

We had a pretty good Chinese dinner at the Shangri-La Hotel in Yichang. In fact a couple of new additions were fried lotus root sandwiches and a soup likened to borsch. Both were excellent!

Tonight we board our riverboat for a cruise through the Three Gorges, including a tour of the Three Gorges Dam. Keith is anticipating this cruise with great expectations (excitement even, which is unusual for jaded Keith).

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