Yangtze River Cruise
Yichang Travel Blog› entry 4 of 12 › view all entries
The train was great as our destination was the only stop. The only downfall was that we were on the half of the train that went backwards. As soon as we got off the train, Phil, our city guide, was there to pick us up. We talked about Chongqing and he asked us if we had any hot pot experiences. We told him about our failed attempt the night before so he called and arranged a very nice one for us. It was all you could eat and drink. He showed us how to properly prepare our food in the hot pot and then let us eat. We had plates with egg, fish, lamb, pork, chicken, lotus root, two kinds of mushrooms, bean curd, sausage, bok choy, and noodles- just to start! He kept asking if we wanted more, but it was definitely more than enough for both of us. It was so much better than the night before, but that wasn’t really hard to do. Phil had a lot of information about the city too. We found out that Chongqing is the most populated city in the world with 30 million people, about twice as big as Beijing! Before arriving to the boat, Phil also had the driver stop at a stop so we could get reasonably priced water instead of paying 5 star hotel prices on the boat. We finally go to the boat, Century Star and Phil checked us in and made sure we were all set so we said our good byes.
One of the river cruise guides came over to tell us a little about the boat and showed us to our room. The room was pretty small, but we weren’t planning on spending much time in it anyway. It did have a little deck with two chairs so we could sit outside and watch the views.
The first morning we go woken up at 6:45 by the maid to give us a schedule of the day in German- thank you for that! At 7 am music started playing in the room because that’s when breakfast started. It made me really grumpy and grouchy all day. The breakfast buffet was okay and it would have been nice to know about the chefs cooking eggs, omelets, and pancakes before we got the food off the buffet, but we did have two more mornings to sample their cooking. After breakfast we got off the boat and headed to the Snowy Jade Caves. It was an hour bus ride on a rough road, but with amazing scenery of the mountainside and a small river. The caves were really pretty with stalagmites and stalactites, but it was a different excursion than I was expecting. It was still very enjoyable and beautiful. We got back to the boat in time for buffet lunch. After lunch Mom and I both seemed drugged since we both took a two hour nap- it definitely didn’t have anything to do with the going nonstop for a week prior I’m sure!
We set sail again around 6pm, just before the Captain’s Welcome Party with snacks and sparking red champagne. From there we had a Chinese style family dinner. Later in the evening the cruise staff put on a cabaret/variety show. It started out really good and really impressive, but then the last few “acts” took it downhill with a modeling show and few others. They did have some traditional dances from different parts of China which was interesting to watch.
There was also some amazing art on board the ship. There was a guy making snuff bottles where they paint on the inside of the bottle. It was quite amazing to watch. After a lot of contemplation, Mom finally bought one in purples with cranes inside. It is gorgeous and my picture doesn’t even do justice to it. The other art we really liked and each ended up with a piece of is traditional Chinese silk embroidery, with the entire picture being made from silk thread. Again the pictures don’t do them justice and Mom bought mine as a keepsake of our trip together!
We requested for the music to be turned off in our room for the next morning, but at 7am, oh there it was again! After a few attempts, we finally got it shut off. I don’t understand why they think people would want that in their room and there was music at other meals that wasn’t played in the rooms so it wasn’t like it had to be playing. Oh well…breakfast on the second day was pretty good. Later in the morning we sailed through the first of the three gorges- Qutang Gorge. Just before lunch we went through the second gorge- Wu Gorge where we docked for lunch and our second excursion of the lesser three gorges, which was awesome. We sailed for about an hour up the Shen Nong Stream going through the Dragon and Parrot Gorges. We also saw three hanging coffins along the way. Then we transferred to smaller boats called Sam Pens which hold about 18 people. These are rowed by local village men through the Bamboo Gorge. While going through the third gorge there were men on the side of the hill cutting down trees for firewood. At the end of the gorge, the water is so shallow that the rowers have to get out and pull the boat through. They go through all that hard work to turn us around and head back. Then we sailed an hour back to our main cruise ship where we had dinner and the crew put on another variety show.
Around 10:30pm we started going through the 5-stage ship lock system of the three gorges dam project. It was a little eerie to watch these two massive gates close behind us. Then as we started to go down (like on a ginormous elevator) you can see the water from the gate pour out like a huge sheet waterfall. It was very weird. It takes about three and a half hours to go through the entire ship lock system. In 2014, the ship lift will be completed and takes about 45 minutes to go through.
The next morning we did a bus tour of the three gorges dam project. 1.3 million people had to be relocated because of this project, but in the long run it should save a lot of heartache with being able to control the flooding. Everything besides the ship lift will be completed this year. The dam splits the third gorge into two parts now. After the tour of the dam, we got back on the cruise boat and went through the East part of Xiling Gorge and ended the cruise in Yichang. While on the boat two different people gave us views for the eclipse, which was really nice since we didn’t have anything!)
(Mom and I booked the cruise while I was still in California. We used a company called China Highlights (www.chinahighlights.com) and Rebecca He was our agent. She was phenomenal to work with. Anytime I had a question she answered my e-mails right away weather it was about the cruise or other travels within China. When there were changes in our arrangements she attempted to phone me and send e-mails to make sure we got all the information needed. I would HIGHLY recommend working with China Highlights and Rebecca. Mom and I would both use them again if we ever end up in China again. To reach Rebecca directly, you can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Once in Yichang, our local
guide came on the boat to get us. He got
us to the bus station, got our tickets, helped us get McDonalds (the only thing
to eat in the station!), and even made sure we were in the right seats! Of to Wuhan we were…