When we set off to Dragon Gorge this morning (also known as Longqing), little did we know we were also going to get to experience another of Beijing’s wonders – a 4 hour traffic jam. It seems insane considering that some of the roads are up to 12 lanes wide, but I had heard that there have been traffic jams that last up to 2 days here. I can believe it now. By the time we arrived, our supposedly 2 hour journey had lasted 5 hours and it was time for lunch!
Once we’d scoffed that down (so far the food here has been as you’d expect – what you’d get in a Chinese takeaway, but a bit nicer) we walked into what looked like a 1970s fairground at the opening to a huge gorge, with cliffs towering above us. A short way up the gorge was a large dam, and snaking up the side of it – an escalator that looked like a dragon.
It’s actually 6 escalators. You enter through the mouth and work your way up through the inside of the dragon’s body. It was built in 1998 by the Chinese state as one of their many was of trying to promote tourism within the country and it seems to be doing a good job. Lots of Chinese holiday makers thronged about and we got in their way as we made our way up the escalators, doing our very best to think of funny things to say about… well, escalators.
Once at the top you emerge into a limestone tunnel and then the gorge at the top of the dam opens up to you in all its majesty. It was just the sort of thing I’ve seen on footage of China, with huge stacks of rocks with caves in them looming above you. A multi coloured cable car could take you to the very top of the mountains, but our mission was to film the 40 minute boat ride through the gorge and we just managed to catch the last boat. It was the most beautiful boat ride I’ve ever been on, even if the natural landscape has been tampered with slightly by the habit of carving the names of the mountains on the side of the cliffs in giant red letters!
We all felt very lucky to have seen such a wonder of nature by the time we returned to the dock. A nice birthday present for our director Mark, who got to celebrate with us in the evening in a deserted airport hotel restaurant, before we all popped off to bed early, girding ourselves for our 3am start tomorrow when we fly to Xiangyang!