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Three Gorges

to Xi'an

· Travel

After perfect weather in Beijing to start our China exploration, we had gray and wet conditions for most of our 4-day river cruise on the Yangtze. It perhaps spoiled the sailing a little, but certainly added to the mystical elements of sailing through the outstanding beauty of the Three Gorges.

The whole river cruise industry on the Yangtze has been created by the building of the Three Gorges Dam, and although this is a project that would just never get approved in any other country in the world, the long term advantages of cleaner power, no more disastrous downstream flooding and increased shipping capacity are real.

TOP 5 - Three Gorges to Guilin

1. Xiling Gorge (above)

Before the flooding of the valley, Xiling Gorge used to cause numerous navigational accidents due to its rocky shoals and whirlpool currents. Trackers helped to literally pull boats up river on paths (all now submerged) that were carved into the sides of the gorge. The weather gave us an eerie look at the mountains that rise almost vertically from the Yangtze. At the end of the gorge heading west is yet another example of the extraordinary engineering projects that China continuously invests in, as we passed under a huge suspension bridge currently being constructed (below).

2. Shennong Stream
Between the Xiling and Wu Gorges the small Shennong Stream meets the Yangtze. Originally a roaring rapid, the stream has been calmed by the reservoir to create a peaceful, winding waterway that provides breathtaking scenery and a glimpse into the home of the Tu Jia people. The "trackers" behind us in the photo (above) are ancestors of the original trackers, and as I mention above, they used to literally drag boats upstream, jumping ashore with ropes to pull vessels when they got stuck on the shallow sandbars. Today, many have adapted to demonstrate their skills to visitors.

3. Fuling Farmers Market (above and below)
Well it wouldn't be a J5Travel trip report without the requisite local market visit! Locals here were as excited to see us, as we were to view the amazing produce and meat on display. Unlike the slightly touristy Wungfujing Snack Street in Beijing last week, everything here is definitely consumed by the locals, and they really don't like to waste any part of a pig, that's for sure.

4. Terra Cotta Army (above and below) 
Our cruise ended in Chongqing, a huge, modern metropolis which just missed out on the top 5. We flew north to Xi'an, home to the eight Wonder of the World, the Terra Cotta Army. It did not disappoint. 2,000 life-size warriors, over 2,000 years old and only about one-third excavated so far. Currently they are taking it extra slowly, and attempting to find a solution to the color-fading problem when unearthing new statue fragments. When first discovered the pottery figures you see in the photos were painted in bright blues and reds.

5. Xi'an City Wall (above and below)
Everyone visits Xi'an to view the Terra Cotta Army, but much like Cusco, Peru, back in the summer, this is a city we really wished we had more time in. In the middle of the city with full moat is the best preserved ancient wall in the whole of China. It's over 1,000 years old and has only needed to be 10% renovated to be in full commission still. It's 45 feet wide at the top, about 55 feet wide at the bottom and you can walk or rent a bicycle to navigate the entire 8 1/2 mile rectangular length, passing 98 turrets as you go.

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