The Three Gorges Dam along China’s Yangtze is a marvel of engineering — it’s the world’s largest power station ranked by energy generation, providing hydroelectric power for millions of people — and a disaster for the 1.4 million Chinese who had to be relocated when the dam flooded the Yangtze in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
Some 1,500 villages, towns and cities were flooded and now lie beneath or partially beneath the river, as the water levels rose some 300 feet along the scenic Three Gorges, where steep mountains line both sides of the Yangtze.
Most former residents, many of them farmers, have been relocated to cities like Chongqing — which now has a startling population of 33 million — or to special “relocation cities,” where the river dwellers have been moved into new apartment buildings that stand… Continue reading
There are a number of iconic river cruises in the world — the Rhine, the Danube, the Amazon, and the Nile among them — and China’s Yangtze must be added to the group.
It’s China’s longest river and third longest in the world after the Nile and Amazon. “Yangtze,” in fact, means “long river” in Chinese. Also known as the “Golden Highway,” the Yangtze is the busiest river in the world and more than one-third of China’s 1.4 billion population live along it.
The Yangtze is actually divided into seven separate sections, but the part that most people cruise — and certainly the most scenic — is the 400-mile-long “Three Gorges” section between the cities of Yichang and Chongqing, a sprawling metropolis in southwest China.
My wife, Catharine, and I recently sailed this… Continue reading
To cruise the Yangtze, first you have to find the ship. In our case, it was the Victoria Katarina, one of a fleet of excellent ships that U.S.-based Victoria Cruises runs on China’s longest river.
Finding the ship sounds elementary, but when you’re traveling independently in China and don’t speak Chinese, it adds an extra element to the equation.
First, some background: It seems most people take the three-night, four-day cruise down the Yangtze to see the famous Three Gorges and the Three Gorges Dam, which flooded this region of the river when it was finished in 2003, displacing 1.4 million people and making the Three Gorges somewhat less steep and scenic than previously. Note: they’re still very scenic.
That downriver cruise embarks in the city of Chongqing and disembarks in the city of Yichang. My… Continue reading
I suppose the title “City of the Past, Present and Future” could apply to many cities — but few, if any, as much as Shanghai, China.
Within the course of a few blocks — or just across the street in some cases — you can go from narrow alleyways lined with shacks that have no kitchens or indoor plumbing, to magnificent old temple and garden complexes, to stately colonial-era houses sequestered behind shady sycamore-lined streets, to a pedestrian walkway lined with super-modern clothing and electronics stores that light up like Times Square at night, to a waterfront lined with more colonial-era buildings and a river walk that has to be the selfie-taking capital of the world.
And across the river (providing a background for the selfies) lies the region known as Pudong, which… Continue reading
Having just returned from a 12-day trip to China, in which my wife, Catharine, and I traveled independently for much of the time, I wanted to pass along some tips, cautionary information, and interesting factoids for anyone planning to visit that fascinating country in the reasonably near future — especially if you’re planning to do some independent travel.
(China is changing so fast that I can’t guarantee some things won’t be completely different a year from now.)
Our goal for the trip was to take a five-day, four-night Yangtze River cruise via Victoria Cruises, the only American-owned cruise line on the Yangtze — I’ll have an account of that in a later post. But first we wanted to stay several days in Shanghai — which I’ll be detailing later as well — and… Continue reading
Everyone has heard of the Amazon, but how many are familiar with another great Brazilian natural wonder, the Pantanal wetlands? Or the spectacular Bolivian salt flats known as Salar de Uyuni or Chile’s Atacama desert? South America is filled with natural wonders that don’t always get the press they deserve. Here are seven of our favorites, including both the famous and not-so-famous — but all remarkable.
Lying more than 600 miles in the Pacific off mainland Ecuador, the remote Galapagos Islands possess perhaps the best preserved ecosystem in the world. This is where Charles Darwin got his inspiration for his Theory of Evolution, after observing the unique birdlife here during his 19th-century voyage aboard the Beagle. The islands are a true natural laboratory, each with distinct species of birds, reptiles and other creatures.… Continue reading
It was news to me, but National Grandparents Day is on Sunday, September 13th.
According to Family Travel Association:
- 50 million U.S. households are now led by grandparents, forecasting a continued travel boom by this large group of baby boomers.
- Today’s grandparents are far more active than their parents were, spending lots of time planning trips around specific activities.
- As a result, multi-generational adventure travel is up 30% year after year. (Multi-generational travel is the fastest growing segment of the travel industry and tops the list of travel trends, according to the Virtuoso Luxe Report.)
- More grandparents are traveling with just the grandchildren, leaving the greandkids’ parents’ behind.
- 22% of all grandparents traveled with just their grandchildren in the past year.
Here are a few suggestions for multi-generational travel, whether it’s… Continue reading
I recently read of the death of Yvonne Craig, an actress best known for her role as “Batgirl” in the campy late 1960s “Batman” TV series.
While Yvonne wasn’t a baby boomer — she was 78 when she died after a two-year battle with breast cancer, weakened by a long regimen of chemotherapy — she was an icon of sorts for many boomers. She was a role model for young women — the first woman superhero, predating “Wonder Woman” and the rest — and an object of desire for many young men of the era.
I’m writing about Yvonne not because of this but because my wife, Catharine, and I briefly knew her while we were on a small ship cruise together down the Croatian coast of the Adriatic Sea eight years ago.
It wasn’t her role as “Batgirl” that impressed me so much as… Continue reading
River cruising has exploded in popularity over the past decade. River cruise lines are rapidly expanding from their strongholds in Europe into North America, Asia, Africa, and South America, adding new ships and innovations such as all-weather “indoor balconies” – sitting rooms facing floor-to-ceiling windows — every year.
It’s recently become the hottest segment of the cruise industry, with no signs of slowing down. Here are some reasons why:
- River cruising is more intimate than ocean cruising. Rather than the multi-thousand-passenger megaships that resemble floating cities — with built-in malls, casinos, and giant waterslides – the long, sleek river cruise ships typically hold from 120-200 passengers. And most won’t be getting any larger, due to the constraints posed by passing through locks and canals and under bridges. With fewer passengers, you won’t have to fight… Continue reading
What city in the U.S. can claim the first American:
- Public school (1698)
- Residential street (1702)
- Library (1731)
- Independent hospital (1731)
- Fire-fighting company (1736)
- Meetings of the U.S. Congress (1774)
- First university (1779)
- Public Bank (1780)
- Daily Newspaper (1784)
- Stock exchange (1790)
- Circus (1793)
- Manned air flight (1793)
- Art museum and school (1805)
- Carbonated water (1807)
- Theater (1809)
- Natural history museum (1812)
- African American university (1837)
- Advertising agency (1869)
- Zoo (1874)
- Merry-go-round (1867)
- Ice cream soda (1876)
- Cafeteria-style restaurant (1902)
- Funeral home (built as such) (1905)
- Thanksgiving Day parade (1919)
- Totally air conditioned building (1932)
- Cheesesteak (1932)
- Girl Scout cookie sale (1932)
- Fully electronic computer invented (1946)
- Slinky (1948)
- Polio vaccine (1960)
Not to mention (though I’m mentioning them anyway): the first U.S. Mint, the first department store, the first botanical garden, the first opera… Continue reading