Saturday May 28, 2016

Our Victoria Cruise ended almost a week ago. (Yes, I know. I’m behinder than ever with this blog – but I’m past caring. And don’t worry, I’ll get to the end eventually, without skipping anything important. I promise.)  We disembarked (with more trumpet blasts) after breakfast in Chongqing … watched skinny porters carry our bags (four at a time, on the end of bendy poles, balanced across their shoulders!) up a zillion dockside steps to our waiting coach … then followed ourselves. This huge 2000-year-old city (once a walled fortress, built on the hills above two rivers) boasts a population, in the Greater Chongqing area, of 30 million. Staggering eh?

Our focus, however, was not the city, but some famous rock carvings at Dazu – a couple of hours’ drive away. These superb Buddhist cave sculptures, dating from the Tang dynasty (9th century) to the Song dynasty (13th century), are scattered in their thousands along a meandering valley, protected from the weather under overhangs and in grottos. The remarkable carvings have won World Heritage protection “for the light that they shed on everyday life in China during this period”.

Next morning, we were off again – this time to the impressive, modern capital of the Sichuan Province. Chengdu, (pop 13 million) is also listed as a World Heritage Site, and is famous for its fabulous food (served in 37,000 restaurants), its laid-back locals, its relaxing tea-house culture, and its best-known residents: the pandas! (Chengdu’s the only place in the world where wild pandas live.)

We paused for an impromptu farm-stop on the way to Chengdu (and got chased back up the muddy track by some grumpy geese) … visited a museum of long-buried bronze artefacts once we got there … watched local practitioners de-waxing willing ears on the city streets … and took in a show featuring Chinese opera (plus other novel acts).

Needless to say, our tour of the Giant Panda Breeding Centre (they had red pandas as well as their big black-&-white cousins) was accompanied by lots of oohing and aahing and aren’t-they-cute-ing. As a result, grandkids all over New Zealand can expect to receive the required soft cuddly toys once their Mad Midlife grandparents arrive home!

STILL TO COME: We enjoy a couple of very busy days in Xi’an: long-time-ago Chinese capital … kick-off point for the ancient Silk Road during the Ming Era … and home of the astonishing 2000-year-old Terracotta Warriors! A knock-your-socks-off wonder, be warned …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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