John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Wednesday 18 June 2014

[Tuesday 17 June 2014]

Yangtze River cruise
Day 7, Yangtze River Cruise (B/L/D)
On the final day of the cruise you’ll sail to the Fengdu Ghost City, thought to have been the place where souls must go to pass three tests to enter the afterlife.

Day 169 1 Kings 17; 1 Corinthians 15
Janet was snoring away on the couple of times I woke up, so that was good because her feeling ill yesterday was deemed to be connected with lack of sleep. I woke a little before 6am from a dream in which I realised I was dreaming and was trying to force myself awake by pulling my eyelids open to escape the “green lightning” that was attacking and tormenting people.… Showered, shaved, and went down for breakfast while Janet was still in bed. It was now ca.7.15am. They were still putting things out; I didn’t realise till after I returned to the cabin and looked at the daily sheet that breakfast was supposed to start today at 7.30am. I had corn flakes and a bread roll with strawberry jam, because I didn’t like the look of the hot food on offer. (Other days, acceptable items were bacon and baked beans — labelled in one location this holiday “sweet and sour beans”.) I hate the wake-up and meal-time intrusive pentatonic flute and small string band music, etc., that comes over the loudspeaker; one can reduce it but not completely eliminate it, and what’s more the setting that reduced it today was different from the one which worked yesterday. Janet was still not feeling fully fit and decided to remain in bed and not go on this morning’s excursion. Took Janet’s camera with me. It was easier than I expected to chat to people. As we waited in the deck-2 dining room, Max went round spraying people’s arms with mosquito repellent. My arms were covered, so I didn’t proffer them. Think we went through only one other ship before turning left into a walkway parallel to the moored ships. We passed between the inevitable counters of beckoning vendors, then turning right were led along narrow metal walkways over the cracked mud-bank, and finally up many permanent stone or concrete steps to the promenade. The notion “these probably don’t count towards the 300 steps to the Ghost City” was stated by me, and echoed independently more than once by others.



Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:14:52
Going ashore for the “Fengdu Ghost City” tour

We boarded open-sided electric minibuses to the site.…


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:16:24
Aboard an open-sided vehicle to the Fengdu Ghost City site

We congregated in the shade of the awning of the first of the vendors’ booths lining both sides of the walkway, while our excursion guide spoke about the visit we were making.


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:19:34
Our guide tells us about the Fengdu Ghost City

As we entered the site, I thought the pagoda and the great sculpted yellow head next to it on the hill ahead were where we were going, but it was the adjacent hill to the right of that up which we commenced to mount steps: “350” of them, the guide told us — 50 more than we were first led to believe! I didn’t find the steps challenging — one or two did — and what’s more they were mostly overhung with trees giving shade from the hazy but very hot sun.


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:23:04
The entrance to the Fengdu Ghost City site


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:23:52
Structures on the adjacent hill to the Fengdu Ghost City


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:28:54
Ascending to the Fengdu Ghost City


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:29:58
Ascending to the Fengdu Ghost City

We reached the first of several temples. In the outer court were — yes, vendors’ stalls! In the inner court was a smoking altar before the sanctuary area with grotesque figures within.


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:35:10
Intermediate marketplace and temple complex


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:36:46
Smoking altar and shrine


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:37:48
One of the shrine images


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:38:22
Another of the shrine images


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:39:26
Entrance to another temple

Then there was a road with a gentle incline up which we walked, before turning right up further steps. On the way back, the guide said, we’d walk the bit of the road we turned off and avoid these latter steps.


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:47:20
Continuing our ascent to the Fengdu Ghost City


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:51:18
Altar and shrine


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:52:04
Shrine images


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:53:38
Altar and shrine opposite the one of “09:51:08”


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:54:12
Shrine images


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:54:30
Gateway…


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:55:04
…and corridor


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:56:38
Three symbolic bridges


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:56:58


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:57:52
“Bridge of Troubled Water”


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 09:59:08

As we approached the bridge signed Bridge of Troubled Water I said to the Australian guy we’d met on the optional trip yesterday, “I feel a song coming on!”[i]

[i] i.e. Bridge Over Troubled Water, the song written by Paul Simon, recorded by Simon and Garfunkel, and issued as a single and on an album of the same name in 1970.


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:00:24
Crossing the “Bridge of Troubled Water”


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:02:16
Buddhist temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:03:06
Buddhist temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:04:00
Buddhist temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:04:42
Buddhist temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:05:06
Buddhist temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:06:06
Buddhist temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:06:20
Buddhist temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:06:48
Buddhist temple


Wednesday 18 J
une 2014 — 10:07:32
Buddhist temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:12:28
The higher you jump to touch the character the more happiness you gain


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:12:34
The higher you jump to touch the character the more happiness you gain


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:14:42
Another attraction:…


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:15:08
Another attraction: roll the very heavy half-round weight in a circle, then lift it atop the central peak


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:20:50
Up steps to another temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:22:36
Up steps to another temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:23:48
Up steps to another temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:24:40
Taoist temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:24:54
Taoist temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:25:46
Taoist temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:26:44
Taoist temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:27:34
Taoist temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:28:06
Taoist temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:29:14
Up more steps…


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:29:46
…to more temples


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:30:42
…to more temples


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:31:02
…to more temples


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:32:26
Temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:32:34
Temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:34:52
Temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:35:40
Temple

A Magnum (chocolate-covered ice-cream on a stick), bought at a stall in the temple, was most welcome in the heat of the day.


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:43:28
Up a causeway lined with strange statues…


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:44:22
Up a causeway lined with strange statues…


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:45:04
Up a causeway lined with strange statues…


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:45:48
…on the way to another temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:46:16
…on the way to another temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:50:14
Confucian commandments


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:50:42
…on the way to another temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:51:18
…on the way to another temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:52:16
…on the way to another temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:54:14
…another temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:54:58
…another temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:55:24
…another temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:56:16
…another temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:56:28
…another temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:57:00
…another temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:57:22
…another temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:57:42
…another temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:58:16
…another temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:58:30
…another temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:58:40
…another temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 10:59:40
…another temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 11:02:30
Out through a narrow passage


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 11:03:14
View through one of the windows


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 11:05:14
Pagoda on the summit of the hill


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 11:06:02
View left to the adjacent hill


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 11:09:18
View back the way we came


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 11:09:52
Pagoda on the summit of the hill

Our descent from the summit, indeed, as promised earlier, was initially along the gradual road which avoided the steps. I saw the guide struggling to hold the flag while attempting to compose a text message on his phone, and carried the flag for him till he sent it.


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 11:11:46
Road gently descending


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 11:20:14
Intermediate temple


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 11:20:30
Continuing our descent

As we passed through the line of vendors’ stalls, one guy was selling maps of China, and I bought one from him for ¥10. (Later, I saw on the back “Price: RMB 8”. No matter: it was only the difference between £1 and 80p!) We gathered at the vendor’s stall of “09:19:34”, where I asked for a Tsing Tao but got a can of “Tsing” something else. Most of the beer sold in such places and poured at meal-times was under-strength; I think this was 2.5% a.b.v. Even the Tsing Tao, designated “Draft” on the bottle-label, was only 3.3% a.b.v.


Wednesday 18 June 2014 — 11:37:36
Open-sided vehicle back

As we walked back along the metal walkways between the steps and the ships’ moorings a man of Indian sub-continent origin asked me whether I knew if it had rained back home in England. As I supposed, he was concerned for his garden — specifically potted plants, which he had watered well before leaving. (I realised later that he was not the man I previously “gave the finger” to in the dining room; he was one of the “Coach B” people.) As we passed by the vendors before reaching the ship, I saw a very “traditional Chinese” sight: a woman carrying a bamboo yoke across her shoulders with a basket suspended at each end. We had to wait long minutes before we were allowed on board. People were leaving the boat in dribs and drabs. Just after I boarded — before I got to the towels and tea — Janet was there; she was about to disembark, accompanied by a crew member, to look for diet cola. (They’d run out of it on the ship.) I returned to the cabin to rinse off sweat and await her. She returned not long after, having had a vain search. It had been 12 o’clock when we were waiting to board, the start of lunch-time, so Janet and I went up to lunch more or less straight away.… Rejecting the hens’ feet in one serving vessel, I found two or three items that were appetising. I passed by the hens’ feet after lifting the lid and glimpsing them briefly; I decided that they were about as likely to be edible — i.e. hardly at all — as the pigs’ trotters I tried yesterday. In the central space which housed the staircase, near the corridor to our cabin, was a shop whose occupant Mr. Han (Han Huantao) sold the very high quality works of art he produced. He was a slightly strange-looking man — emaciated, with long, lank, black hair, and he used black eye-liner.






Images from the internet

His speciality was painting tiny snuff bottles — on the inside, through the neck. We like to take home a small keepsake from each of our foreign trips and thought that one of these would be ideal. I chose one, and he painted our names on the inside; and Janet decided she also liked another, so had her name painted in that. Realised that I’d taken a surprising number of photos — 86! — when I transferred them from the camera to the WD Elements HDD (13:11–13:14). Ca.3pm we went to the forward-facing observation lounge. I had a couple of Tsing Tao from the adjacent bar. Janet had some of the bottled Coke Zero that she was trying to eke out. Back in the cabin, Janet did the packing. Edited 62 of today’s photos (16:43–22:59), with breaks, e.g. for dinner. “Frank just never shut up,” Janet wrote. “He really got on my bloody nerves.” Being without earshot of him, though, was rarely possible, but by the end of the holiday Janet had mellowed somewhat in her attitude towards him. Everywhere we’d been on the cruise, there’d been someone popping up with a camera, and Janet and I had tried to avoid him or avert our eyes. However, the DVD of the cruise, which featured both the recently-filmed and stock footage, was being played on a nearby TV as we had dinner, and I decided I wanted one. So before returning to the cabin we went to where the DVDs were being sold and ordered a copy (£20). We went back to the cabin and ½-hour later I went out and picked it up. I also got the final reckoning from reception. It was unaccountably ¥24 less than Janet calculated, though — “unaccountably”, because back in the cabin I went through all the copies of bar tabs and the laundry bill (which agreed with Janet’s reckoning) and nowhere was there anything costing ¥24 that they could have missed. (¥24 was only ca.£2.40, but Janet is conscientious.) It was only when I went back that the receptionist told me that there was a laundry discount for people in upgraded accommodation. (Janet later remembered that Max had mentioned this.) I paid up then. Janet finished packing the cases and I put them outside in the corridor at 9.50pm. Janet got ready for bed shortly afterwards, but I continued on the computer till ca.11pm.

[Thursday 19 June 2014]



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