John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Thursday 19 June 2014

[Wednesday 18 June 2014]

Yangtze River cruise
5* Tibet Hotel, Chengdu
Day 8, Yangtze River Cruise & Chengdu (B/L/D)
Disembarking the ship at Chongqing you will travel to the capital of the Sichuan Province, Chengdu. Your guide will show you around the People’s Park, where locals relax, mingle and exercise, then enjoy a stroll through the ancient streets of the Wide and Narrow Alley which have been renovated to their former architectural glory.
[i] We visited the Wide and Narrow Alley and People’s Park, in that order, in the afternoon of 20 June 2014.
[ii] In the evening we had the “hot pot” meal, originally scheduled for 20 June 2014.

Day 170 1 Kings 18-19; 1 Corinthians 16
Janet slept well, so we hoped she’d be OK from now on. We were about to go for breakfast, but one of our fellow travellers told us that it wasn’t open yet. We went a little later, perhaps 6.45am, and some of our people were already there. Just before we vacated the cabin for the last time I went out on the balcony and took a couple of photos.

Thursday 19 June 2014 — 07:19:52
View of Chongqing from the cabin balcony

Thursday 19 June 2014 — 07:23:54
“The Tourism Dock of Chong Qing Port”

Thursday 19 June 2014 — 07:23:54
Detail showing terminal building and funicular cars

Thursday 19 June 2014 — 07:23:54
Detail showing an aeroplane just after takeoff from Chongqing airport

I handed the key-cards back at reception to check out, and the whole group of us waited in that area to disembark. Meanwhile, porters were carrying cases off slung either end of a bamboo pole across the shoulders, sometimes two cases on each end — so perhaps 80kg! We carried our own hand luggage, but were importuned on the way up quite a lot of steps to the waiting coaches by other would-be porters. (The funiculars and terminal building were not used.) There were others trying to sell gliders in the shape of flying birds. We were still divided into “Coach A” and “Coach B”. Janet was the first to board the coach and occupied the rear seat. Max boarded our coach, and a young woman the other. It took a long time to crawl our way out of the congested dock area, but even after that we were stop-start-stop-start in nose-to-tail traffic on the highway till we got out of the city. On the way through the city we passed many high-rise dwellings.

Thursday 19 June 2014 — 07:48:52
On “Coach A” with Max

Thursday 19 June 2014 — 08:51:02
A slow crawl in very heavy traffic

Thursday 19 June 2014 — 08:52:50
View of the city outskirts from the coach

Thursday 19 June 2014 — 08:54:42
View of the city outskirts from the coach

Having claimed the rear row of seats, Janet was able to lie down for the first part of the journey, using the pillow that Max again lent her. We went through a longish tunnel, and after that started to make speedy progress. I noted the construction of new multistorey buildings. Got out the “little feller”, connected the WD Elements HDD, and started Day 162’s Bible reading (09:35). I recognised it, though, so realised I must have done it already. (I did it on the train on 12 June 2014.) Day 163’s was also familiar, so I did Day 164’s (to 09:58). At 9.43am I noticed it was raining. This didn’t last long. Did Day 165’s Bible reading (to 10:12). Max told us that our guide in Chengdu was called Jonathan, but that he jokingly called him “Jennifer” and encouraged us to do the same. We stopped at an expressway service area, to use loos and purchase refreshments. “Clean loos,” Janet commented: “hole-in-the-ground, of course.” It didn’t occur to me to observe the kind of toilets that were in the cubicles, being “one that pisseth against the wall”. “I managed to get 5 x 500ml bottles Pepsi Max for £2.50,” Janet added, with an exclamation mark indicating how inexpensive such items were. I had a Magnum chocolate-covered ice-cream on a stick, and sat at a table with an awning providing shade from the very hot day. I think at this point Max boarded the other coach and the young woman got on ours. We went through wooded hilly terrain. I saw forest houses that reminded me of the “dacha” houses we saw in Russia on the way from Moscow to the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius (→10 September 2012). The hills were interspersed by a few rice paddies in any flat or flattenable space between them. We passed conical hills with old terraces cut into them, now with trees encroaching. The terraces weren’t constructed for rice cultivation, for they were inclined. We went through toll booths (10:43). We passed a city, where there was much construction with civil engineering works. Red soil was evident, both there, and on little farms that we passed. A sign indicated 148km to Chengdu (ca.10:55). The majority of signs were in Chinese characters with Latin ones underneath. As well as direction- and destination-signs there were warning signs, in Chinese characters with an English translation underneath, some quite comical in their rendering. Not sure when it was, but I remember seeing one with an incorrect word, indicating an accident “black sport”. Given that China is a Communist country, it was ironic that the roadside had an abundance of capitalist advertisement hoardings. One that we passed (11:20) depicted a little boy peeing from a great distance in an arc into a toilet-pan.

My rough sketch, made in a little notepad

A sign indicated 114km to Chengdu (11:26). I dozed off (to 12:05). We crossed over a wide river (12:12).… A sign indicated 24km to Chengdu (12:25). I changed the dressing on my thumb so that it would not look so unsightly for others at lunch, just before the final toll-bar (12:40). There were toilets there, but the guide didn’t recommend using them. Nevertheless, some did, including Janet. I decided I could wait some 14km further till we arrived, which judging from Janet’s comments was fortuitous: “The ‘hole’ pan was filthy, cracked, and surrounded by pee; and there was ‘periods’ blood on the side and turds in the pan.” I think the stench of the place was mentioned by one or two people at the time as well. As we proceeded into the city, we passed some dilapidated multi-storeys. There were many bicycles and scooters on the roads. We reached the very posh Tibet Hotel ca.1.15pm. We left our cases and hand-luggage in the lobby, and followed “Jennifer” out and along the street to a nearby posh hotel for lunch in a private room upstairs.… “I had an inkling that Max might go out and try to get me some,” Janet wrote. “After a marvellous spread… we left ca.2.15pm and I collared Max and apologised for being such a ‘pain’ and thanked him for putting up with my strange ways. He then told me he had gone out to try to get me Coke Zero… He is such a kind and thoughtful man.” We checked in at the hotel and went up to the large suite. There was a refrigerator in the room, but the door wouldn’t stay shut. The TV remote-controller, though, came in a little leather wallet that was just the right size to wedge under the fridge door to keep it shut. There was wired and wireless internet in the room, and I tried both, but neither way could I get access to Google applications (Gmail, the Google search engine, Google Drive, and my Blogger pages). I could display my Virgin Media-provided web-pages. Actually, when I tried to get into Janet’s e-mail account on the Google Chrome browser, I got a Google login page — this happened the last time I tried to do this back at home as well, and I had to use the Windows e-mail client instead on that occasion — and today while I was trying to circumvent this problem, unexpectedly my Gmail account came up (15:08). There were various Facebook e-mails, but I couldn’t get access to the linked Facebook material either. And when I later tried to get back into Gmail I again couldn’t, and I didn’t know how to recreate the fluke that gave me access to it. Meanwhile, Janet decided to go out to look for a convenience store. After a while she came back in a somewhat distressed state. “I put ¥50 in my purse in a carrier bag,” she wrote, “and headed out to search for drinks… I found the supermarket that had been pointed out across the road, and was delighted to find a chilled cabinet with some 500ml bottles of Coke Zero. I grabbed six. At the checkout I was going to buy a couple of chocolate bars for Max — and then couldn’t find my ¥50! I was confused. I must have put it on the counter when I was sorting out the chocolate and someone nicked it. I left the shop in ‘a bit of a state’ and returned to the hotel — very busy roads and several to cross… I got another ¥50 and returned to the shop, and was amazed that the assistants had kept back what I had wanted to buy.… £3.30 for 6 x 500ml Coke Zero and two chocolate bars!”

Thursday 19 June 2014 — 16:52:20
Map of the environs of the Tibet Hotel, Chengdu

Janet and I went for a walk, turning right out of the hotel and proceeding till we got to the river. We walked along this for a short distance, but Janet wanted to find a place for a drink, so we retraced our steps a short way, then crossed the road. We went in one place that appeared to be open, and where a few people were sitting at tables. It was a “hotpot” restaurant, though, and our request for drinks only seemed a bit strange to them. They didn’t have diet cola, so Janet had nothing, but I had a bottle of beer, the usual under-strength sort one finds in China; they didn’t have Tsing Tao, this was “Snow” brand: 500ml, 2.5% a.b.v. Back at the hotel, copied seven photos, taken today, from my camera to the WD Elements HDD (16:55). Processing these few with Photoshop (17:17–17:53), taking my time, making a pot of jasmine tea meanwhile and sipping it out of the little cup, felt so much more doable than the onerous task of editing many tens of them [i.e. the ones still left unedited from previous days]. “At 6.20pm we saw Max on the way to the lifts and I gave him the chocolate bars. He was touched.” It was raining when we walked in company with Max and “Jennifer” to the coaches to set off for the “hot pot” restaurant. “At the hot pot restaurant,” Janet wrote, “I was rather dismayed to find a ‘hole in the ground’, albeit posh… but discovered I’ve become very adept at using them.” As usual there was a free drink, but no diet cola — till Max went out and got Janet a chilled can of Coke Zero. At the restaurant which Janet and I visited earlier, the tables had a hole in the middle to accommodate a “hot pot” to be shared by the people seated around it; but at this restaurant, each person on the tables for four had his own halogen hob and bowl of broth in which to dip the strips of various kinds of meat and vegetables provided in bowls shared by the four. Before we started cooking, though, we filed into a nearby room with many bowls of oils, sauces, condiments, herbs and spices arranged round a table, to make our own sauce in which to dip the hot-pot cooked items. My only regret was that I’d never again be able to reproduce the delicious combination that I by sheer chance concocted! It was still raining when we returned to the hotel. We went across the road to an ATM but the card was returned before any withdrawing-cash option came up on the screen. Janet asked Max, who was still in the hotel lobby, to help (all the text on the screen was in Chinese), but the card was still not accepted. We returned to our room, but Janet was anxious to obtain money so we went out again, down the road we’d walked along in the afternoon and on which we’d earlier observed a bank. This time there was an option to choose instructions in English, which we took as a hopeful sign — and indeed we got the money we wanted. Made a PowerPoint presentation of the photos (22:46–23:37), breaking off to make a pot of green tea at one point, and to take medication and brush teeth at another…. Janet had already gone to bed an hour since, and I did the same after shutting down the computer (ca.11.50pm).

[Friday 20 June 2014]

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