27 October – Shibaozhai Temple

This morning we tie up at dawn and after an early breakfast our shore excursion takes us to Shibaozhai Temple. Once again the dock facility is dreadful. We are tied up to a typically rusty barge. We step out onto that then cross a series of smaller barges tied side by side until we get to shore. There is a rickety series of metal plank walkways across all the barges so we don’t have to climb in and out of each one, its simply a matter of walking along the planks, but it seems so ramble sham. We are far from the only cruise boat. There are at least four others tied up here. All are disgorging numerous passengers. Once on shore there is a veritable gauntlet of venders selling the usual polyester silk, and other genuine made in China junk to wayward tourists. We’ve been warned. Buy a red shirt that fits, one wash it will be a pink shirt for a child, two washes and it will be a white shirt fit for a dog. 
Our tour escort dawdles so all the other groups get well ahead and then we run the gauntlet, pass through the entry gates, cross a very odd bouncy suspension bridge to an island. This of course is a very new island, created by the flooding river. There is a large cement dyke surrounding it. We walk along the dyke to the temple entrance which is below water level on the dry inland side of the dyke. Only seven of us ascend the nine story Pagoda entry up into the temple. The rest watch our progress as we wave out the little round windows at each successive level. I mentioned our tour escort dawdled. This is why – the crowds have surged ahead in throngs and we now have the place to ourselves. The Pagoda is a crazy structure which is actually only half a Pagoda built against the steep rock face. It is quite old – 500 years or so – and was built with no nails. Once at the top we continue through a temple which includes a funny little bridge which is supposed to be crossed in three steps. We take the challenge and all manage this feat before descending down the back side of the cliff. Most of us find a scenic riverside way to get back to our ship thus we avoid the horrors of the venders and their tacky wares.

I’ve added a picture of some workers trying to install a lighting rod on the Pagoda’s roof. It all seems pretty haphazard and quite dangerous!

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