Tom & Holly Travels
since 2004

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       Last night we were invited to dine with the captain, hotel manager, cruise director and business director because we have sailed with Viking Cruise Lines six times. We were the newbies at the table, however. The other two couples had been on eight cruises with Viking. Sitting with the captain was their way of thanking us for our business.  It was very neat. We learned that Viking tries to keep the food equal to their European cruises, so have one central organizer who arranges all of the food on the ship. It has been very good and safe. Safe, being the important word. I don’t think I will feel that way about the hotels from now on. We will go back to “if it isn’t cooked” don’t eat it. On the ship, we have been eating salads and anything else that looked good.  I learned that the fruit and vegetables come from a government farm and are washed before being loaded, then they are washed again with bottled water. The beef comes from Mongolia, the ice cream from New Zealand, the cheese from France. The pork does come from China, maybe not a good idea because there are 8,000 hogs floating in the Shanghai River. I wished I had asked about the poultry.

    The captain speaks only a few words of English, but you could tell had quite a sense of humor. The hotel manager said he is an excellent captain and very safe. That, after all, is his job. Get us from point A to B safely. I guess there are some very dangerous parts of the river and even though he has two mates to help him drive, he does it when things get tough. The river is so crowded it would be easy to get into an accident. I guess two years ago a cargo ship did run into this ship.

     We are now in the process of getting off of the ship and heading for the zoo to see the pandas. We arrived early and the panda had just been fed so they were very actively eating breakfast. The amount of energy put into their pandas is staggering. The pandas are fed three times a day and if they don’t completely finish breakfast it is tossed so that they only eat fresh bamboo. They only eat a certain type of bamboo so it must be brought in, then it is carefully washed, etc. Every morning they clean their poo, weigh it, and that tells them the condition of the pandas. We also saw red pandas, which was neat, as they have them in the Knoxville zoo. It was a beautiful zoo.

    We then flew to Xian and will see a Tang dynasty show tonight. We head off to the Terra Cotta Warriors tomorrow. Our local guide here is fantastic and has been to the warriors over 800 times and she told us she is always amazed. Remember this is the Emperor who built the Great Wall. He is the one who killed the scholars and burned the books. We learned that he really wanted to kill his entire army when he died, so they could protect him in the afterlife. That was explained as there would then be no one to protect the China that he had unified. So he had the Terra Cotta Warriors constructed instead of killing his army. However when the project was finished he killed all 700,000 workers because he didn’t want anyone to know where he was to be buried. He wasn’t very popular as you can tell so he worried about his afterlife.

   Last night, we went to the Tang Dynasty show and dinner. They actually fed us real food which is nice, and the show was beautiful. As always it was good to be king, and the Chinese dragons dancing on stage were quite something. Xian is a very beautiful small city about the size of New York City. The pollution yesterday was down to a dull roar, so it was very special. There is a spectacular city wall around the inner city about 800 years old that they have kept up. This is the first Chinese city we have visited where we all felt we could actually live. Interesting how this city dates back 3,000 years and looks new and the most of the relocation cities along the river, only 20 years old, were filthy. There is an interesting looking food market across from the hotel. Huang told us we should go take a look but we shouldn’t eat the food. He said it was very delicious, and he goes there all the time but our “made in America” stomachs wouldn’t think so.

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful.Ralph Waldo Emerson

Confucius say – The cautious seldom err.

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