Suitcase and World: A dam and a park.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A dam and a park.

oday we would be leaving the boat. I got up, packed my bags and headed down for breakfast. It was going to be a long day so I wanted to make sure I had enough energy to keep me going. Jenny got us checked out and we were off the boat by about 8:30a. There was a van waiting for us in the parking lot of the ferry dock. We piled ourselves and luggage into it.

It was another hot, hazy, humid day along the Yangtze River. In the distance, I could see the hills shrouded in mist.

Our first destination of the day would be the Yangtze River Project aka the controversial Yangtze River dam. It was about a half hour ride to get to the dam. Along the way, Jenny informed us of the history behind the dam and though she did give us her personal opinion of the dam (she’s all for it), she was careful to deliver her opinion without any strong political overtones. According to Jenny, the dam has been successful in preventing flooding and that it supplies electric power to about 10 percent of the country. At the same time, it has displaced tens of thousands of farmers and villagers and destroyed much of the beautiful landscape surrounding the Yangtze River in the wake of its construction. Hard really to say if this is a good thing or not but that’s something that only time will tell and I’m sure that both world and Chinese history will record.

The Chinese have actually made the dam area into a *park* of sorts and there were plenty of local Chinese visiting. Our van deposited us at the parking lot and Jenny got us our tickets. We then had to pass a Security Check where the guards were pretty thorough in making sure nothing dangerous was allowed in - would make sense to do that given the controversy surrounding the dam. Bernd had his backpack checked and Trevor had a couple of bottles of beer confiscated which he did get back at the end of the visit. Don’t ask why he was carrying beer in his daypack. :-)

Once passed Security Check, we boarded tour buses for the ride to our first destination point. All transportation within the park is provided by these buses. I must say they are very modern and comfortable. Each bus has a guide on board. Unfortunately, the guide only spoke in Mandarin so I had no clue what she was saying. Luckily, we had Jenny there to provide explanation.

The first destination point was a sort of *tourist information* area where there was a model of the dam project so you could see how it was all laid out. There are actually 3 parts to the dam – the dam itself, the ship locks and a bridge which is known as the “Golden Bridge”.

There was a small observation deck nearby where we could get more of a *bird’s eye* view of the dam and its five ship locks. According to Jenny, the level of the water rises a 150+ meters between the first and fifth ship locks and it takes about 4 hours for a boat to clear all five locks. A few minutes for photos and a toilet break and we were back on a bus for a short ride to the next destination. It turned out to be more views of the dam but from a lower elevation. A few more photos and then back on the bus for the short ride back to the entrance where we piled back into our van.

Our next stop was the Yangtze River Closure Memorial Park that the Chinese built to commemorate the *closure* of the river that was needed in order to erect the dam. Inside the park, the actual construction vehicles used are on display. There are also sculptures that show the materials required and human labor involved in the dam building effort. Aside from these elements, it was in fact a pretty little park though I have to say that it’s a bit weird to have a park dedicated to shutting down part of a river.

After the park visit, we headed back to Yichang for a late lunch. It was an uneventful hour and a half long ride. I ate as much as I could for lunch as I knew there would be no dinner on the overnight, 17 hour, train ride to Xi’an. After lunch, it was a short ride to the train station.

It was an interesting day today but I can't wait to get to Xi'an!!