The first half of my trip to China: Singapore, Beijing, and the Yangtze River

I decided to hop on the bandwagon and blog about my travel rather than try to send everyone short and probably incomplete email updates. Read all about the beginning of my trip here!

I’m right now a little past the midway point in my impromptu trip to Asia. It’s been such a blast so far! While the pictures will do all of this way more justice than any writing (or at least my writing), I’ll do my best to describe the trip. Here’s an overview of the trip:

June 3-6: Singapore
June 7-10: Beijing
June 10-13: Yangtze River
June 13-15: Xi’an
June 15-18: Hangzhou
June 19-21: Shanghai

After about 48 hours of planning (gasp! atypical? not really…), I started the trip last weekend in Singapore visiting Alwyn, my friend from Wash. U.. He and his brother gave me an excellent feel for the small country and took me to try all the incredible foods that the country has to offer. We all took tons of photos and I had a great time. The weather there is more extreme than almost any climite I’ve been in, with nearly 100 degree heat and extreme humidity, but I welcomed the warm air and the blue skies (little did I realize how rare these would be going forward).

Monday morning I flew from Singapore to Beijing and met up with Remus, my friend from Choate, for a few days in the historical city. We went to all the main sights: The Forbidden City and Tian’anmen Square, the 798 Art District, the Great Wall (the Juyongguan section – slightly off the beaten path but still filled with tourists), the Summer Palace, hutong (pluralization?), and finally the Temple of Heaven. We ate Peking duck two nights in a row and had tons of dumplings and buns – food rivaling Singapore (albeit very different).

I then left Beijing for Chongqing where my Yangtze River cruise was to depart. Little did I know that Chongqing is a massive city – more massive than Beijing itself (yes, I didn’t believe that either at first, but Wikipedia confirmed). The municipality has a population of more than 31 million! I met up with Becca (a friend from Wash. U.)  and her best friend from high school, Sally, had a quick dinner, and navigated we set off to navigate our way to the cruise docks. Eventually we found our way – Sally speaking Chinese might have helped just a bit. We embarked on our cruise, filled with 9 foreigners and probably about 100 Chinese people. We thought it was a foreigner cruise, but frankly it was great and probably much more authetntic having all the “locals” aboard, even if that meant that Sally had to translate often.

The cruise went through the gorgeous Three Gorges and finally the incredible Three Gorges Dam just this morning. We saw lots of temples, delighted in a cultural show or two on board, and enjoyed all our meals with a South African couple and two couples from Holland (demonym for Holland? Hollanders?).

Perhaps as a sign that this cruise wasn’t quite geared toward college kids, each morning began with breakfast at 7am; we often were exhausted by about 8pm. Apart from maybe two kids on board, we were the youngest there and stuck out like a sore thumb. Everyone loved us, particularly when we took to the dance floor for the YMCA. Throughout the journey, many made requests to take photos with Becca and me (more Becca than me) – white people are like a wonder to many of the Chinese.

The Three Gorges (and the lesser Three Gorges) were probably one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Cavernous cliffs tower over the boat hundreds of feet into the air and lush greenery is everywhere. Almost as stark of a contrast as could be possible, the dam was one of the most incredible man-made sights I have ever seen. We arrived at the dam at 10pm last night and spent 4 hours slowly making our way through the five locks slowly descending from 146m above sea level to 65 meters above sea level. It was so enthralling I stayed up the entire time watching the process as our ship, as well as three others trapped in with us, made it from one side of the dam to the other. When the dam is fully completed, the start will be 175m above sea level, 29 meters higher than it currently is.

I could go on and on about the history of the dam and its creation, including the more than 1 million locals that were “relocated” (a euphemism at best)  as the dam was built and their homes were flooded, but Wikipedia would do far more justice than I.

After a tour of the dam site this morning, we finished our cruise at the dock in Yichang. Right now I’m sitting at the airport in Yichang waiting for my flight to Xi’an where I’ll explore the terracotta warriors tomorrow.

That’s all for now; I certainly left out tons of detail for the sake of brevity, but leave a comment here and I will happily be sure to include more in my next post!

9 thoughts on “The first half of my trip to China: Singapore, Beijing, and the Yangtze River

  1. katie

    couples from holland = dutch couples

    “A demonym, also referred to as a gentilic, is a name for a resident of a locality and is derived from the name of the particular locality. The word demonym comes from the Greek word for “populace” (δῆμος demos) with the suffix for “name” (-nym). In English, the demonym is often the same as the name of the people’s native language: the people of Italy are called Italian, which is also the name of their language.”

  2. Barbara

    Wow – I’m exhausted just reading about it. You must nap well to be able to keep up a schedule like that – or maybe it’s just your youth. Anyway, sounds so exhilarating – thanks for sharing!!

  3. Brandon Smith

    This all sounds awesome, but one small correction :-)

    Chongqing is China’s biggest municipality, but that includes surrounding farmlands, and Chongqing geographically is about the size of a small province. Beijing’s still a (much much) bigger city, urban population wise.

    1. Scott Bressler Post author

      Ah, thanks for the correction. I was skeptical of my Wikipedia findings (and interpretation)!

  4. Jane

    In 2002, I was just able to see the plans and watch construction of the Three Gorges Dam. When I recommended that you go, I had no idea that you actually travel through the dam itself. What amazing progress since my river cruise 8 years ago. It must have been awesome. Sounds like you are having a great time.


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