As we had to check out at 07:00, the same time as when we were supposed to put the suitcases out for collection we got up at 06:00. As it turned out most people didn’t check out until 08:00, the disembarking time as they didn’t want to sit around waiting. It was 08:30 by the time we reached the coach in Maoping, and a further 20 minutes until the luggage joined us. When it did everyone stood around watching them trying desperately to fit the luggage underneath the coach. It was almost amusing, but at the same time I think most were paranoid that their luggage might get left behind.
It didn’t take long to drive to the Three Gorges project, and we made two stops there – both of which were far longer than required. On the way to the first stop we passed the five step lock gates that we would have passed though the night before had the access to them not been blocked for cruise ships. The first stop was close to the dam, but before getting there everyone had to get off the coach to go though a security check that was nowhere near as thorough as an airport check.
The first stop was at the same level as the dam which meant you could take close-up photographs of it. To be fair it is some impressive engineering, but as a sight it’s not as impressive as dams you can see in North America.
The second stop was at the top of “jar hill” where you can look down onto the lock gates. By this time the sun was out and very warm so having an excess of time meant standing around getting burnt, or standing around inside the excessively noisy visitor centre where they had a model of the completed dam project.
It was then a one hour drive to Yicheng where we changed coach and headed for lunch. Lunch was far better than the previous evenings meal as the meat dishes contained actual meat.
As the museum guide was having lunch we instead went to see a minority group that does embroidery. It was actually very good and one of a snow leopard was life like. The works there were phenomenally expensive for the good ones, but I think that is to be expected and they do deserve it.
From there we went back to the museum to look around. In this one they do not allow cameras, though surprisingly they are selling off some of their cultural relics. The majority are 80+ years old, though some are 200-300 years old which would cause issues with the custom authorities due to the laws on exporting cultural relics. Apparently they were doing this to raise money to expand the museum. It sounded a little bizarre though as if they sold enough of their relics to improve the building they probably wouldn’t have enough to fill it. It all seemed wrong to me and I couldn’t help but think that they were in fact copies despite their insistence to the contrary.
Another stop was at a bonsai garden, this was a very quick stop but allowed people to take a much needed walk. Whilst there I spotted a hornet to photograph. We then moved on to the posh Crowne Plaza hotel for afternoon tea. This consisted of some excellent cake of which I tried several different kinds, along with tea and biscuits. This was a nice break and gave us plenty of time to chat to other members of the group.
By the time we left the hotel, got to the airport and made it through security it was already 18:30 – so only 15 minutes before the scheduled boarding time. When we got to the gate we found our plane to Shanghai was still in Shanghai, and the previous flight to Shanghai from 15:30 was still at the gate. Not a good time to find out about a long delay ahead of us when we also found out we’d be out the hotel by 08:00 the next day.
We managed to find out that the delay was due to a joint military exercise between Russia and China that ended up grounding over 200 planes in Shanghai. By this point the chances of a tour the following day was looking less likely. At 20:00 the local guide for Shanghai called our Tour Manager and told her that the flight would be leaving Yicheng at 21:40. This seemed a little doubtful as the plane was still in Shanghai and it takes around 1hr30 to travel – emptying and filling the plane cannot be done in 10 minutes.
When it reached 21:00 we were then given some peculiar biscuits that were high in sugar and contained almond, and also a bottle of water. Considering the last thing we’d eaten were some cakes around 15:00 or 16:00 most of the group were starting to get quite hungry.
At 21:20 we had another update, the plane would be leaving Shanghai at 23:00, so with a 30 minute turnaround for boarding it’d be 01:00 before we could leave (so that would mean around 03:30 – 04:00 before reaching the hotel). Updates like this continued until an announcement was made our flight would be leaving at 23:15. We took off from Yichang at 23:45 and eventually we made it to the Bund Riverside Hotel at 02:30.