We disembarked the President No. 7 on a very gloomy, wet morning - our worst day of weather so far but we have had some spectacular days up until now.
The disembarkation was not so much difficult for some of us but, well, DIFFICULT! We trekked over irregular metal decks with sabotages placed strategically en route, then up some very steep, wet concrete steps - only to find even steeper steps higher up but at least they were under cover. The local people know this is difficult terrain for tourists who have been accustomed to a certain level of ease and there are men on hand who, for a fee, will assist you up the steps with one on each side basically giving you an arm-lift. A couple of our people chose to avail themselves of this service.
From the dock a bus picked us up to take those of us who had paid for the side-trip to "The Panda House". Now, for some reason, I had thought this was going to be some sort of panda conservation-type of site - NOT A COMMON ZOO! But that's exactly what it was and I HATE ZOOS! It was still pouring when we were ejected from the nice, cosy bus at the entrance which is where I read on a board outside that this was a zoo with hundreds of different species. Hmph! We plodded through the sheets of rain and, luckily, the first compounds were the pandas, where we did get to see something I've never seen before (or knew existed) - brown pandas. We squelched along for a short while after seeing the pandas but the next displays we came to were of two very much stir-crazy big cats - a white tiger and a regular tiger. Both were obsessively pacing the fence line and this is exactly what I can't stand about zoos so I chose to do an about-face and return to the entrance. Unfortunately, the bus wasn't coming back for a while having taken the remaining passengers to a mall (where there were coffee shops!), so our group huddled under whatever shelters we could find trying to keep dry, awaiting our release. (I know now something of how the poor tigers must have felt!)
The bus then took us to Ciqikou Old Town, which would have been a wonderful place to browse and explore were it not absolutely pouring. Hundreds of tiny little shops in old buildings on narrow alleyways. As it was Bruce took one look at the idea of shopping and hot-footed it into the coffee shop we had been told to meet up at in an hour. I did go the length of one main street and back, but I was getting absolutely soaked and the coffee shop beckoned to me, too. Luckily it had an outside balcony under cover from the rain, so I sat there to watch and photograph all the action on the street. It seemed like there were a lot of people (all under gaily-colored umbrellas) but the coffee shop person said there were "not many" people out today because of the weather.
After everyone was rounded up we headed back to our bus and were taken directly to Chongking Airport for our flight to Beijing. It didn't leave until just after 9pm and we didn't arrive at Beijing until just after midnight. It's been a l-o-o-o-n-g day.