Welcome to the Yangtze!
Early-riser tea, coffee, juice and pastries were available from 6am, but we're not convinced anyone was up in time. Tai Chi was available from 7am - but we're also not convinced many were up in time! Breakfast, however, was popular. An embarkation briefing followed, where we met the ship's programme director, Jin, who was an immediate hit. Jin has perfect English and great humour. We're in good hands. He follows the briefing with an informative lecture about the Yangtze River. Somehow it is then time for lunch.
This afternoon we disembark in the new town of Fengdu. Some guests head off to the Snow Jade Cave while others head into town. Fengdu is located on the north bank of the river in Chongqing municipality and there is evidence here of human occupation as much as 100,000 years ago. During the Zhou Dynasty (1100-256 BC) Fengdu was the capital of the BA Kingdom, later it evolved into a cultural centre for Confucianism and Taoism.
A few miles upstream from Fengdu lies the Snow Jade Cave, an intricate and unique karst formation in limestone. Discovered in the mid-1990s, it's named for the stalactites, snow white and as pure as jade, that grow around an inch every 100 years. Limestone caves are common in the Three Gorges region, but the Snow Jade Cave is the only white!
The alternative visit today was to Fengdu new town. Local guides joined us and we took a short bus ride to a community park where a local seniors group entertained us with singing and dancing - and we were encouraged to join in. From here we took another short drive (basically across a main road!) to a modern shopping centre. Nearby, the town's grandest hotel kindly provided western style facilities while others visited the shops and met local folk. The local youngsters seemed particularly fascinated in taking our photos on their smart phones and discovering where we were from. After this we visited a colourful food market. Fengdu and the area is well known for its spicy food, so there were plenty of spices and hot peppers for sale. So many, in fact, that you could almost taste spices in the air. Arriving back at the quayside, a group of local keep fit seniors were in the plaza working on their latest routines. Given their likely senior age, their teacher seemed pretty grumpy with them, so we watched a couple of dances and then made a speedy retreat.
This evening we were invited to a Welcome Cocktail with our Captain, Huang Xin Bin. Programme director Jin introduced the key members of the ship team and a welcome toast followed. Richard was then invited to say a couple of words by way of introducing our big group to the other ship guests. He confirmed that our guests were all well trained and safe to mix with, and encouraged everyone to mingle and enjoy meals with lots of different people during the voyage. The suggestion seemed to work, because at dinner most guests sat with someone they hadn't previously met. Hopefully it helps international relations!