May 04
River Journey's End

We arrived at Chongqing some time around 2 AM this morning. Yesterday was starting to get warm and muggy. This morning it was far hotter and far more humid. I had broken a sweat before I ever left my room, and the only respite was the glorious air conditioning in the dining hall and ballroom.

Though the journey was at an end, we had one more little adventure. It seems that yesterday, the province had its first SARS case, and the local government was reacting with stringent checks at all the borders. A doctor, complete in smock and mask, was shore-side ready to inspect the new passengers' paperwork (China lives and dies on little pieces of paper.) It was also raining profusely, and the warm air was clearly in excess of 90% humidity, so toting all my gear I was breaking a bit of a sweat again, not a good sign.

As a result of my earlier "sauna workout," my temperature was ever so slightly elevated: 37.5C instead of the 36.8C recorded when I came aboard.

After three forays off the ship (we were moored alongside the President 1, which was moored to the shore) we still were not able to meet the shore doctor's procedural requirements. Originally, we were supposed to provide a record of my temperatures each day, so the crew hastened to create a document which listed them. This, however, did not satisfy the shore-side doctor (despite the ship's doctor's signature on the slip,) since the temperatures were printed and not written in by hand. After that was corrected, he required on another temperature reading, which turned out to be an acceptable 36.5C. I suspect he was suspicious at the sudden temperature change, and required a standard form (one I had filled out numerous times at airports) but none were to be found aboard, so one of the crew had to go ashore and get a filled out copy and white-out the used portions. My hat goes off to the crew of the President 4 for enduring such a procedural nightmare on my behalf!

Anyway, the shore-side doctor finally seemed mollified and I was able to leave the ship... an hour and a half late.

Considering I had a 1:55PM flight to Shanghai, and was supposed to see Erling park and the Pandas in the zoo, this delay pretty much threw the original schedule out the window.

Panda Sighting

Well, in spite of the rush I was able to see a panda or two. Here's one that's munching away on bamboo and sugarcane. Unfortunately, we were in such a rush and the local guide needed to hurry me to the next venue, then lunch, then the airport, so I don't remember this guy's name... Oh well. That's it for Chongqing.

Traffic in Suzhou

After the calm of the Yangtze river, Chongqing and Suzhou's traffic seemed as frenetic as any I've seen

Wedding Day

It seems that the Suzhou hotel is a quite popular wedding spot, and there were two wedding parties situated at the steps of the hotel (two more were still inside!)

Our driver, undaunted by anything smaller than the minibus we were in, simply whipped right up, forcing the crowd to part on his (and my) behalf. Stepping out, I somewhat sheepishly said dui bu qi ("excuse me") with a courtesy nod to the one bride almost immediately in front of me. She in turn gave me the warmest smile -- with that radiant glow reserved only for women on their wedding day. It seems that things like this happen all the time, but my apology was sincerely appreciated.