Thursday, October 18, 2007

Yangzi River Cruise

It was an early morning for the start of the Yangzi River cruise leaving Chengdu at 6:30 and getting to Chongqing about 12:30. When we arrived in Chongqing we were taken to the tour office where they tried to sell us different excursions on the cruise and possibly an upgrade on the cabin. I signed up for a city tour of Chongqing a couple of the temple tours and booked a hotel for the night at the end of the tour in Yichang.

I do not really like all this selling me stuff when I don’t have time to do research or get the complete facts before paying out my money. I had read the brochure about the cruise and I had the impression that a number of things where included but as the cruise went on I found out that nothing but the room on the boat was included. They tried to get me to pay 300 Yuan to get a room alone but I said I was fine sharing a room with one other person. I ended up getting a room alone anyway. I did not really want to book a hotel in Yichang with them but they told me the boat would not arrive in Yichang until 1AM. I did not want to look for a hotel room in Yichang at 1 in the morning so I went ahead and booked a hotel. It turned out I had an option to leave the boat at about 11AM and take a bus to Yichang and arrive there at about 2 in the afternoon so could have loads of time to look for a room or catch a train to Louyang. The money I paid for all of this was not really a big deal but I hate the feeling I am being hustled.

I had signed up for the Chongqing city tour in hopes that I would see most of the sites in Chongqing prior to getting on the boat. I should know by now to make sure what is included in the tours and what places they are going to take you too to sell you stuff but I don’t seem to learn. The tour only went to one site that was in my guide book and it was one of the sites I would not have picked to visit. We also got taken to a place to buy knives. I sort of enjoyed this shopping site. It was all in Chinese but I seemed to understand every word because of all the infomercials on US TV. “It slices it dices it is the amazing new magical blade but that’s not all if you buy now we will include this fantastic cleaver at no extra charge and wait there is still more, etc, etc”

We did visit some sort of guild house that had something to do with immigrations into Chongqing from other parts of China. I had meet a Korean guy that had been on the bus from Chengdu and he spoke a little bit of Chinese and was a great help in telling me what the place was about that we were seeing. We also had lunch together and shared a few beers prior to getting on the boat. It was a shame we where on different boat because he was a really nice and interesting guy.

Picture of the Guild Hall

After the guild hall we visited a government building that reminded me a lot of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing and then onto the Red Cliff Village. I guess I should study more about Chinese history. I did not know much about Japan attacking China and being really ruthless or anything about the Chinese civil war. The Red Cliff Village was used for prisoners in both of these periods.

Picture of the Government Building in Chongqing

After the city tour I boarded the boat that would be my home for the next few days. It was not the nicest of boats and I was glad that it was not in the open sea but rather on a river where I felt a little safer. I should not complain since I got one of the best cabins on the boat. I had paid for first class and thought I would be sharing a cabin with one other person but I got a single cabin. My cabin was at the front of the boat with a number of windows so I had a great view at least when people where not crowed on the deck in front of my cabin. The only really down sides to the cabin was the floor seemed to stay wet all the time with the water coming up through the floor and is seemed there was no hot water on the boat. Cold showers are one way to wake up but not really something I enjoy. The boat was sort of strange with some people sleeping in open areas of the boat. I knew there were 3 classes but I thought the 3rd class was a 6 person room but there may have also been a 4th class where you did not get a room at all. I did not think to ask one of the 5 people on the boat that spoke English. All of these people were Asian. I was the only western on the boat.

I thought that the cruise would be a nice relaxing trip but I was wrong. There was an excursion or something to see each morning at 6AM and 2 of the 3 nights something was going on at 11PM and if I would have went to the free show it would have been all 3 nights. We left to start the cruise the first night at 11PM and arrived the next morning shortly after 6AM at the Temples of Ghosts. I went through the “Gate to Hell” but it may have been to early for me because I was not overly impressed with the temples at this site but did enjoy some of the facial expression on the figures.

In the afternoon there was an excursion to the Qinglong Waterfall. I was told by one of the guys from Singapore that it is the widest waterfall in China. I was most impressed with being able to walk behind the waterfall. I have seen a number of movies and TV shows where people can go behind a waterfall but I think this is the first time I have been behind one.

Qinglong Waterfall

Behind the falls

The last stop of the day was at about 10:30 PM at a temple that the guide told me was not really worth seeing but that I could get off the boat and just walk around the area. I walked around some and bought a few beers and some food for eating on the boat. The food on the boat was not bad but I really never figured out how to order. I pointed at other people’s food one time and that worked out well but the 2nd time I tried that what I picked was all gone so just picked other things from the menu that were the same price. The food was a lot higher price then I had been paying in other places but still cheap for Europe or America.

The next morning it was up at 6AM to get on a smaller boat to go to the White Emperor’s Temple. I have been seeing to many temples and they seem to blend together for me. I was not that impressed with this temple but it did have a great view of the 1st of the 3 large gorges “Qutang Gorge”.

The temple set way up on a hill and it was a bit of a hike to get up to see it. There are these guys that you can pay and they will carry you up to the temple or down from it. This is one of many jobs in China I have seen that I don’t want. The guys doing this job seemed to be about 1/3 my size and I thought about paying them just to see how far they could get me before it killed them.

After we returned to the boat it sailed through the Qutang Gorge. It has sharp cliffs on both side but is not really very long only running about 8K so we were in the gorge for only a short time.

After going through the gorge one guy tried to say something to me and it took me a while before I realized he wanted a picture with me. After the first picture it seemed to start a bit of a mob scene with all kinds of people wanting their picture with me.

About noon we changed to smaller boat to go into the 3 small gorges. I really enjoyed the 6 hours on the smaller boats going through some really pretty scenery.

I talked some to Michael from Singapore and he told me some of what the guide was saying. He told me the water level will be at 175 meters when the dam is completed and there where signs at a number of places with the 175 marked on it. You may be able to see the 175 meter sign in the following picture and see that this piece of land will just about disappear along with the farmers fields. I was told the government is moving the people to places above the water but I am sure the farmers are not happy about losing the land their families have been working for many generations.

At one point we changed boats again to smaller boat to go in the 3 mini gorges. The scenery here was also great but the boat was really full and most Chinese don’t need the leg room that I like to have so did not enjoy my time on the smaller boat as well. People were getting their pictures taken on the front of this small boat with a hat and stick. One of the Chinese guys wanted a picture with me in the front of the boat so when I got up and had my picture taken the whole boat cheered and lots of them took pictures of the 2 of us.

The last day on the boat started again at 6AM when we went into the 2nd of the large gorges. I wish it would have started much later because it was still dark and I could not really enjoy the scenery for the first 30 to 45 minutes.

Wu Gorge

We stopped at another temple that I don’t know the name of and at some point went through the 3rd gorge but was not told we were entering it so I did not get any picture of it. I think I was having lunch during the 3rd gorge but I still enjoyed the view at the back of the boat.

The boat went through a sires of locks when we reached the dam. I found the number of locks impressing and the height change from that took place from top to the bottom of the dam. The boat got to Yichang at about 9PM a few hours earlier than I had been told and was standing around watching other people get off the boat when the guide told me we are here and you need to leave. I packed quickly and left the boat. Since I was early there was no one to meet me to take me to the hotel so I had to call a number I had and after convincing the guy I was in Yichang he sent someone to take me to the hotel. I enjoyed the river cruise with the high light for me being the day in the 3 small gorges.

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