This day should have been an afternoon in Fengdu, though the Century Cruises staff changed this to be the Shibaozhai Pagoda (meaning precious stone fortress) in the Zhongxian county. I found this particularly annoying as the itinerary described the Snow Jade caves as “one of China’s most beautiful, and at present, youngest caves discovered in China”. It also goes on to say it is a truly unique scenic spot on the Yangtze river.
So what should have been the highlight of the cruise never took place, and we didn’t even get an explanation as to why the itinerary was changed for this day.
There was optional morning exercise (in the form of Tai Chi for beginners) on board the boat before breakfast but I decided to pass on that in favour of catching up on some sleep. When I did get up I found it had rained over night and was now very foggy. Apparently it’s very common to have rain and cloud throughout the three gorges.
After the buffet breakfast there was then the option of watching a Tai Chi demonstration. Instead I watched “Universal Soldier: The Return” on HBO. By the time this had finished it was still incredibly foggy out. We wandered around the boat to see what was there and then booked a place on the optional excursion to the White Emperor city, Baidi Cheng, for the following morning.
The buffet lunch at 12:00 was actually really good and contained a good selection of vegetables and salad common in the Western world. This was then followed by a selection of sponge cakes, such as Swiss roll, and fruit. This was probably one of the more refreshing meals on the trip, and it still had the Chinese aspect to it – i.e. rice, and other Chinese dishes.
At 13:15 we gathered in reception for the only excursion of the day. Before you leave the ship you are given a boarding pass which is required for re-boarding the ship afterwards. It is then a short walk to the Shibaozhai pagoda though this took a while due to the pace set by the local guide.
The path leads through many market stalls that opened not long after the boat arrived. The entrance then leads on to a suspension bridge that bounces and sways as much as, if not more than the Millennium Bridge in London originally did.
The suspension bridge is the only way over to the pagoda since the building of the Three Gorges Dam project which raised the water levels to the point where they had to build a wall around the pagoda to protect it. There are ten levels to the pagoda until you reach a series of temple buildings, though there are a further two you can climb up to. The steps inside of the pagoda are a little steep and rickety but they are safe to climb.
The pagoda was originally built as a way of climbing the mountain safely and to ensure some stability one wall of the pagoda is actually the mountain face.
Each of the temples have statues of Chinese Gods from before they were introduced to Buddhism. One of the courtyards also had a “pond” with a salamander in, though it was difficult to get a photograph of it.
When we were done we went down the steps on the otherside as it began spitting with rain. The back way down was far quicker than coming up and I’d guess these steps were probably buily much later than the pagoda (as the pagoda wouldn’t have been needed as an entrance). This time the bridge didn’t sway as much, probably as there were fewer people crossing it in one go.
From the market I bought a Chinese opera mask for 170 yuan. Shortly after this the rain began to speed up until it changed to very heavy rain. At that point we ran the rest of the way back to the boat. Apparently along the Yangtze river it is normally either too hot or pouring with rain, and we just happened to have a day where it was going to rain a lot.
On board the boat there was a brief gathering on deck 5 in the lounge for tea and cookies, and then we returned to the rooms. I watched “The Rainmaker” and this made us late to the Captain’s greeting. This was followed by the evening meal which was again buffet style.
Later that evening there was a cabaret; it wasn’t that bad but I was a little bored. I would say the low point for this is when the crew decided they’d sing YMCA; I got up and left to get some sleep.