August 12, 2012
As we get ready to disembark from the Li River (cruise highway of 10,000 tourists), we see more civilization, bigger villages, and more activity.
Close to the village, we notice bamboo boats with cormorants and while Vicki describes the treasures of the Li, a 1500 year old banyan tree, a Phoenix Tail Bamboo, (an evergreen), and a blind mandarin fish that lives inside of a rock cave, I’m excited about seeing a cormorant fisherman in action.
The port is busy with many boats docking at the same place.
From our boat, we can see the fishermen on shore with their birds.
The fishermen have a daytime occupation, getting paid to have their picture taken. They fish at night. Vicky angrily tells us, “do not pay them”. I get a good picture of this fellow because another tourist has paid him and he is posing for her.
If you try to photograph them without paying, they turn their backs to you.
I managed to sneak another shot. At this village, where many tour boats disembark, vendors of all types swarmed us and Vicki asks us to wait until we get to the Yangtze Market in Shanghai . We plow through the throng to our waiting bus.
The next morning, we bus to the airport for our next stop at Shanghai. On the way, we see farmers working the fields. They harvest two crops per year, one in March and another from July to November. They still hand cut rice with a sickle. We ask to see a rice paddy. Vicki stops the bus. It is harvest time, but you can see new plants growing in the right hand corner of the picture.
In America, it would all me mechanized. Here people work with rudimentary equipment, hand threshing hulls from the rice.
Rice plants look like grass; how the people farm is more interesting than the plant itself, and we move on.
Shanghai looks like a futuristic city. It is regarded as a baby city since it is only 200 years old. This is the place where able-bodied men were kidnapped and brought down to the river and put to sea. They were forced to work on an ocean-going vessel. What was once an opium shipping port in the 1840′s to the 1930′s, with only 100,000 population, and a wild and tawdry reputation, has become the biggest container shipping port in the world. Now 21,000,000 people live here in an extremely modern city where the Hang Po river and the Yangtze flow through the city of huge ships and sprightly boats sporting lighted billboards facing the city at night.
We take a city tour by bus. Michele, our city guide, points out the biggest skyscraper in the world, yet in 1964, no Shanghai building was over ten stories high. They have more skyscrapers than New York City and Hong Kong. Chinese people want to be the biggest, the tallest, the fastest and the best, yet we see business people riding what seems like a million bikes. Some people are licensed to drive cars on Mondays and Wednesdays, others on Tuesday and Thursdays. We see one man carrying a full sized bed on just an ordinary bike. The loads people carry here are legendary. My disk is full and I have no more pictures until I can buy another disk. So many photo ops of Shanghai I missed. The Wedding Cake building, a Soviet building from 1952, looks like a wedding cake.
Michele takes us to the BUND, Shanghai’s financial district with multiple banks and financial institutions with a sprinkling of old buildings mixed in. China’s Wall Street. She explains that Shanghai is the business center of China, like New York is the business center of America. One member of our group visited Shanghai twenty years ago. She said they found one hotel that would take foreigners and no restaurants. People were still wearing black sack cloth peasant clothing and you had to eat from a stand. In China, people over 80 and children under 20 speak English.
Vendors swarm the tourist spots wherever we stop. They sell rip off watches, hand bags, shoes, you name it. Michelle warned us not to buy from them but one member of our group bought a Mickey Mouse watch and before the bus pulled away, it fell apart. She laughed the hardest at her own folly. The universities here are considered excellent. Michele sang a folk song for us before departing.
I finally get to a photo shop after lunch to buy a disk, but the city tour is over. The food is bland compared to the marvelous spicy and different tasting specialties we tasted on the road.
And, I finally got a picture of a mother with her child in the split pants, defying the governments directives. Not many years ago, this woman would have had no choice but to obey.