Sunday, October 07, 2012

A Slow Boat To China: Yangtze River Avatar Part I

Dean Martin: On A Slow Boat To China. You Tube video from: dvvreeswijk.

Just came home from an exciting 10 day sojourn  in China's Hunan Province and feel I must write about it.  During the short holiday I had a song spinning in my head. It was Dean Martin's: "I'd love to get you on a slow boat to China, All to myself alone."

5 days on board the Victoria Anna.
My family members and I were in a tour group that went on a slow boat up the Yangtze River to witness the natural and rugged grandeur of the Three Gorges Dam.  We watched from our cabin balcony on the Victoria Anna the wild and meandering flow of the river that had for decades devastated more than a quarter million Chinese.  This particular cruise, which took 5 days, started upstream from Yichang and ended at Chongqing (Map below).
With family on a slow boat up the Three Gorges Dam.
This ship ride reminded me of the late 40s Chinese hit movie I watched as a child called Tears of Yangtze (The Spring River Flows East) that drew large crowds for weeks at the Jubilee Cinema in North Bridge Road where it was shown.  Can't imagine that I would be cruising down the same famous river today. But it was a totally different experience.

Sketch map of Yangtze River and trip is from Yichang to Chongqing.
Because our trip coincided with the Chinese Mooncake Festival and China's National Day the whole country was celebrating the occasion during the exceptionally crowded break from lst to 7th October.  "Well, out on the briny with a moon big and shiny, Melting your heart of stone, Well, I'd love to get you on a slow boat to China, All to myself alone."

A Moonlit Night On Spring River.
The same holiday took us on a land tour where we were mesmerised by the Zhangjiajie mountain range where director James Cameron conjured his idea as to how Pandora’s floating islands should look in his multi-million dollar hit movie Avatar.

Professor Zhu Qixin in his book, The Sights of China, best describes the area when he wrote, "The steep mountains, the dangerous rugged shoals and the turbulent waters are characteristic of the gorges. The perpendicular cliff and grotesque peaks with clouds wrapping them in a blanket of mist create one of nature's most majestic sights (page 106)."

Zhangjiajie Mountain Range with 'Avatar' imaginings.
Lyrics from a hit musical, Flower Drum Song  surfaced as we drove past the perilous peaks: "My father says the sun, Will keep rising over, The eastern hill, Rivers keep flowing too, In ev'ry single minute, So much is going on, Along the Yangtze Kiang... A hundred million miracles."

Fancy, although we saw the moon on our short river experience we missed the sun during our land tours when we visited the cities because of the smog, smog, smog.

Chongqing City Centre National Day October 2012.
But what fascinated me were both Western and Chinese music provided by buskers who could play whatever song you ask them to.  The image below shows the long haired bongo drummer who kept to the rhythm of his guitar strumming and singing friend.  It was magical indeed.

As our river boat drifted into Chongqing, Middle Kingdom's largest and most populated city I guess, "Moon river, wider than a mile, I'm crossing you in style some day" would be appropriate.
Anyway, if you have the time take Dean Martin's advice. Or Andy Williams'?  There's such a lot of world to see..."
There is music everywhere as we meet buskers on our land tour.
1. (I'd Like to Get You on a) Slow Boat to China sung by Dean Martin. Frank Loesser (1947).
2. Extracts from: A Hundred Million Miracles sung by Miyoshi Umeki. Richard Rodgers n Oscar     Hammerstein II (1958).
3. Extracts from: Moon River sung by Andy Williams. Henry Mancini n Johnny Mercer (1961).
4. Images/Map: from Google Images, You Tube and
5. Chongqing City and buskers images by Andy Lim.
6. You Tube: song by Dean Martin contributed by dvvreeswijk.
7. Professor Zhu Qixin, The Sights of China, China Travel Tourism Press (2004).

"When a cross cultural love for songs and travel meet and mix." Andy Lim.


 2ND JUNE 2015




Dear Andy,

I have been reading your blog regularly and was interested in the features on hair cream, radios, etc. They reminded me of adverts from the 1960s and here are a few:

Kao Wonderful washing powder.
Brand's Essence of Chicken.
Fraser & Neave ("F and N put the flavour where the fun is...!").
Time for a Tiger.

There must be many more.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks again Allan for the response. You still remember these familiar stuff we use and consume in Singapore 60s.

Singapore is truly dear to your heart.


The song is a well-known pop standard, recorded by many artists, including Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, Joni James, Jimmy Buffett, Fats Domino and Liza Minnelli.

Bette Midler and Barry Manilow recorded the song for Midler's album Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook (2003).

Miss Piggy performed the song with actor Roger Moore an episode of The Muppet Show.

Paul McCartney sang this song to honor Frank Loesser.


"I'd like to get you on a slow boat to China" was a well-known phrase among poker players, referring to a person who lost steadily and handsomely.

My father turned it into a romantic song, placing the title in the mainstream of catch-phrases in 1947.

The idea being that a "slow boat to China" was the longest trip one could imagine.

Loesser moved the phrase to a more romantic setting, yet it eventually entered general parlance to mean anything that takes an extremely long time.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Both quotes above are from Wikipedia.


My own meaning of "Slow Boat To China" is clear. It was a relaxed sea cruise along a once wild and untamed river.

The moon shone bright those four nights we were on the boat. And it was a splendour to behold. "Moon River" indeed!

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie, likes how cool to see the beloved name of our most beloved Dino lifted up in this cool way...glads you had such a great trip. Keeps lovin' our Dino Mr. Andy!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hey thanks DMP,

Long time no hear huh? How are you doing these days? I see your blog's still as fresh as the first day it was launched.

Thanks for responding. All hail to the Dynamic Dino.

CYL said...

Sounded like you enjoyed the trip thoroughly brought on by the nostalgic oldies of the '60s that wafted into your head.

I'd rather cruise down 'the Seine under the bridges of Paris' or 'Over the sea to Skye':-)

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Yes, I guess you are right. Nothing like the European attractions huh?

Thanks for response.

Victor said...

Looks like you really enjoyed yourself, Andy. The photos were very well-taken too.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Yes I did Victor although there are many people out there who are still bias and do not consider China a worthwhile place to visit.

Only the last two photographs are mine; the rest are from Google Images. I need to select quickly and post them soon.

Thank you for the visit and kind support. This blog is certainly losing its readership.

LL said...

Nice post.

wikipedia said...

"Moon River" was a hit single for Jerry Butler in late 1961, reaching number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in December,[6] two weeks before Mancini's recording reached the same spot.

Meanwhile across the Atlantic, South African singer Danny Williams had a hit version of the song that reached number one in the UK in the final week of 1961.[

Although Andy Williams never released the song as a single, his LP Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes, released in the spring of 1962, was certified Gold in October 1963 for sales grossing over $1 million. Williams passed away recently in October, 2012.

Other artists that have covered the song are Aretha Franklin, Ann-Margret in 1962, Lena Horne, Joni James (1963), Jay and the Americans (1962), Pat Boone (1963), Paul Anka.

Blake, Louis Armstrong, Vic Damone, Billy Stewart in 1965, Bobby Vinton in 1965, Mary Black, Sarah Brightman, Liz Callaway, Perry Como, Ben E. King, Ray Conniff.

Bobby Darin, Billy Eckstine, The Four Freshmen, Connie Francis, Judy Garland, PJ Harvey, Duane Eddy (instrumental in 1962), James Last, Trini Lopez, Lisa Ono, Joey McIntyre, Johnny Mathis.

The Three Tenors, Jane Monheit, Morrissey, Willie Nelson, Patsy Ann Noble, Jim Reeves, Eartha Kitt, Shirley Bassey, Frank Sinatra, The Killers, Rod Stewart.

Barbra Streisand for The Movie Album (2003), Westlife, scar Peterson (solo piano and many many others.

Mercer himself recorded the song in 1974 for his album "My Huckleberry Friend."

wikipedia said...

"Moon River" is a song composed by Henry Mancini with lyrics written by Johnny Mercer. It received an Academy Award for Best Original Song for its first performance by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany's.

It also won Mancini the 1962 Grammy Award for Record of the Year.
Since its original performance, the song has been covered by many other artists.

It became the theme song for Andy Williams, who first recorded it in 1961 and performed it at the Academy Awards ceremonies in 1962.

Panthers Jerseys said...

Today, I went to the beachfront with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said, "You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear." She put the shell to her ear and screamed.

There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back!

LoL I know this is completely off topic but I had to tell someone!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

You told it in the right place. Must have been my posting that discusses the river, the cruise and the boat.

Takes you back to the incident with your daughter and the hermit crab. The sea and water theme I guess. All it needed were some sea creatures.

The mind is fascinating.

Thanks for visiting.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

The theme of my blog remains intact and it is about Singapore 60s pop music and its influence.

There are some postings that go overboard and I think this could be one of them.

But my China boat trip made me recall Dino's song. And that's the truth.