Four of us will be traveling to China in March, 2013 via Viking River Cruises’ Imperial Jewels of China tour. In just twelve days, we’ll experience a slice of China that will take in the ultra-modern cities of Shanghai and Beijing, as well as the more provincial areas of China like Yueyang (formerly Baling), with some 2500 years of history to its credit.
We’ll marvel at the high speed rail system, the world’s longest, that China has been systematically building, which more than halves the time required to travel from the country’s capital in the north, Beijing, to Guangzhou, in southern China. The trip will be cut from 20 hours to 8 hours with the new high speed system that can go 250 mph. It would take the American Amtrak system some 30 hours to make the same trip.
Train travel is important to China’s transportation system. The Chinese government plans to build a grid of high-speed railways running both east and west lines north and south by 2020.
The opening of the new line brings the total distance covered by China’s high-speed railway system to more than 5,800 miles — about half its 2015 target of 18,000 km.
We’ll also visit the famous Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze (or Yangzi) River,the longest river in China. The Yangzi Basin drains bout 695 thousand miles of territory, and supports some 40% of the country’s economic base. The Yangzi has only been navigable for about half of its length, allowing an important port, Chongqing, to receive shipping vessels only during wet seasons. With the building of the dam, the water level at Chongqing is raised 145 feet, allowing ships to access the port, which is the basis for the economics of southern China. Coal, manufactured goods and oil can now be transported on the river.
But there is something more enchanting and curious about China that we travelers will be looking for: along the Yangtze, where we will travel by river boat, we will witness some of the history of some 23 centuries that has played itself out along the river’s banks. We’ll see the hanging coffins of the Ba people, dating back to the 8th century. These coffins demonstrate a unique Chinese funerary custom where families would place the deceased into wooden coffins and hang them on the side of cliffs. The custom was quite widespread throughout southwestern China (as well as in Indonesia and the Phillipines), and then disappeared. Yet the coffins remain. Hanging rather than burying the coffins is believed to have to do with placing the body closer to heaven. Hanging coffins were considered auspicious for both the deceased and living.
We will also visit the visit Shibaozhai Temple, a 12-story pavilion built in 1650, without nails. Its red wooden 12 story pagoda rises stunningly against a 100 foot high rock outcropping along the banks of the Yangtze River.
What trip to China would be complete without visiting the famous Terra Cotta Soldiers, as well as Beijing’s Forbidden City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
All this and more awaits us this March, 2013. Viking River Cruises is making all the arrangements for us, including flights from the U.S., flights within China, hotels in three cities, sightseeing, and meals. We received a 2 for 1 price, as well as reduced air fare. Prices start at $2842pp. These deals are still available for China, and other Viking venues in Europe and Russia.
Contact Geri Wagner, at her website, http://geristravelclub.agentstudio.com, or visit her very own Viking River Cruises website at http://www.vikingrivercruises.com/myagent/geristravelclub/.