It was a 06:15 start, and we were on the road by 08:00. After two hours on the expressway we did make a brief stop at the services for the group to use the facilities and buy food if they wanted. Whilst there I tried the Chinese equivalent of a Cornetto ice cream cone – it didn’t really taste any different to what we’d get in the UK so it was nice to taste something familiar.
At 11:10 we left the expressway behind us and started going down country roads. There was a brief stop to photograph a water buffalo that was being used to plough paddy fields. Up and down a mountain later we crossed into the county of Dazu.
When we reached the stop for the Dazu Buddhist Carvings we also stopped at the restaurant for lunch. Outside the restaurant there are some impressive carvings of peacocks that look like they were carved directly out of tree trunks – roots included. To get to the Dazu rock carvings it is a short ride in a golf caddy.
The weather was incredibly warm with the sun beating down on us, so we didn’t hang around listening to the Buddhist explanations of the carvings and moved at our own pace. However the guide went slower than he was supposed to so we were an hour late leaving anyway; it did go to show how knowledgeable our guide was about this area though.
The Dazu rock carvings are from the Tang, Ming and Qing dynasties starting from around 650 AD. These carvings also cover various religious beliefs: Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. The place we saw was actually just one of around 75 different sites that vary in age and dedication, but between them all there are over 50,000 carvings. Even in the one we saw they varied greatly in complexity and size.
These carvings were started by Zhao Zhifeng during the Song Dynasty and he spent 70 years of his life working on them. Fortunately their remoteness (until recently) meant that they were mostly protected from the destruction that took place during the Chinese cultural revolution that saw much of China’s heritage damaged or destroyed.
We hit a traffic jam at 18:00 on the way into Chongqing. It took quite a while to get through the city and we boarded the MV Century Sky boat at 18:55 for the start of our Yangtze river cruise that would last the next few days. The boat was amazing, and their description of a floating hotel wasn’t far off – the cabins weren’t that much smaller than some hotel rooms. Each cabin also has it’s own private balcony. In the main lobby they even had a glass elevator and a chandelier.
Upon boarding the boat we had to wait in the dining room for everyone to arrive and group by group we were given key cards for our quarters aboard the ship. For ship-wide announcements there are speakers in every room, but you can turn the volume down. They also provide an itinerary for the current day so you know what the activities will be (such as the health and safety briefing that we missed).
The evening meal was a typical set meal served at the table; some dishes were actually hotter than the ones we’d had when we were in the Sichuan province, an area known for it’s spices. On a positive note though the meal ended with a bowl of strawberry and chocolate ice cream, much nicer than the typical watermelon that most other meals on the trip had included.
The boat started to turn around just after 21:35 so it could start it’s journey down the Yangtze river.