Yangtze Cruise

October 29

 

Our cabins on the China Regal Cruises' Princess Sheena were adequate.  Each had a large window looking over the deck to the water, two cot-sized beds a shelf/table, other wall shelving, a fridge, tv, closet and small bathroom which also served as a shower.  Our room was not 5 star, but we were comfortable.

Three diverse, fresh and filling buffets were served daily in the dining room.  Lovely pleasant ladies took good care of us.  Their English allowed us to carry on simple but pleasant conversations.

The boat had stayed tied up to its Chongqing pier overnight.  During breakfast it pulled away and began our cruise down the Yangtze. 

A meeting was held to go over the ship's itinerary and safety features (signs below in room) and a tai chi class was offered on the upper deck.

A hundred and seventy kilometres down river from Chongqing our first port of call was to see the Ghost City of Fengdu.    Fengdu became known as the Ghost City, a resting place of the spirit of the dead, after two officials moved from the imperial court to live at Fengdu.  When combined together their names Wang and Yin sound like "King of Hell" in Chinese.  To Chinese the social structure of hell is like that of this world.  The statues and paintings in Fengdu reflect how the Chinese imagination hell.

From the top of the dock's stairs we were divided into small groups and introduced to our Fengdu guide who then led us to a golf-cart-style bus, which took us to the base of a chairlift.  Once through a row of peddler shops and ticket stand we had a choice whether to walk up or take a chairlift.  Sherrie chose the chairlift while Terry, Angela and Stephen hoofed it up. 

At the lower portion of Fengdu the guide gathered our group and told us of the three arched bridges.   "If you cross this one," she said, "you will have good health.  If you cross the middle one, you will have wealth.  If you cross the last one with the person you love and take only nine steps, you will confirm your love will last forever, even into the next world."

Near the bridges, Stephen volunteered for an experiment.  They asked him if he could put a round bottomed rock on top of a round topped pillar.   It was very heavy and impossible to lift.  At one point in the trying, we worried that Stephen would crush his hand.   After Stephen was excused with a round of applause for his attempt, a small lean man came in to show how it could be done.   He rocked the loose form back and forth and around the forms indentation.  Once the momentum was right, he used balance and centrifugal force to move the object to the top.

We climbed more steps up to a temple / monastery which featured a stature of the Emperor of Heaven.   A carved stone slab at the side of the entrance translates to "kindness brings peace".

More steps (this time lined with statues which depicted what the after world could hold if you didn't behave correctly in this one) led us up to the highest Fengdu temple and the pagoda.  

We all made our way back down the stairs and the pathways to the bottom where the group gathered to be bussed back to the boat.

Back on board at the Captain's Welcome Party they introduced the head members of the crew and the captain with a "champagne" toast.  

There was a "no card playing" sign in the library/lounge, but, after dinner we asked if we might play cards there as it was vacant and there was really no other place on board to play except in one's cabin.   They said it would be okay after seven o'clock but we were to be very quiet as not to disturb the people in the cabins adjoining the library.   We assured them that the people in those cabins would not mind since those people were us.  They smiled with relief.

It had been a good day.  We looked forward to tomorrow.

October 30

Just like our first morning aboard the Princess Sheena, we woke to the music of "Butterfly Lovers Concerto" wafting from the cabin speakers.

The rising sun coloured the partly cloudy skies with a rosy glow as we entered the Qutang Gorge.  So many reports of fog-blinded cruises made us appreciate the views before us. 

Our window-side breakfast table allowed us to drink in sun rich views while sipping our coffees.

     

Later in the day English speaking passengers gathered on the forward deck as we sailed through long elegant Wu Gorge.  Jackie, our bubbly "river guide" sat amid the awed tourists and clicking camera's to give commentary.

 

 Jackie pointed out peaks, recited legends, told of life on the river and how it was changing due to the rising dammed waters.  She pointed our how "V" bottomed inlet's were getting wider and reaching farther as water levels rose and how new inlets were being formed (like the one Ted looks down). 

 

It was a little shocking how, going through the steep cliff gorges, we could feel so out in the wilderness (except for the barge traffic), yet around another bend in the river the boat would come upon a city populated by a 100,000 plus people.  

We were given lunch packages and transferred to a ferry with local guides which took us far up one of the Yangtze tributaries,  the Shen Nong Stream and through the Shen Nong Gorge.  We passed wooden coffins, some of which are suspended on poles between the crevices and others tucked into grottos on the sheer limestone cliff.   These coffins, carved from a single piece of wood, date between 200 BC and 500 AD. 

 

The Three Gorges Dam has impacted people, wildlife, soil stability and numerous archaeological sites.   The rising waters (more than 150 metres) of the Shen Nong Stream have caused and will cause many of these coffins to be lost or destroyed.  Some have been retrieved for preservation museums and study. 

We passed a monastery tucked on a hillside ledge whose stairway now steps into the rising waters.  It too will be lost.

 
 
 
 
 

Having reached our ferry destination we were guided off in groups and directed to pea pod boats. 

The crew consisted of three front rowers, the first mate with the fourth oar in the back, the captain on the rudder and our guide.  The day was pleasant, the ride smooth and the scenery gorgeous.

At one point all four oarsmen jumped from the boat with a long twine rope with four loops on the end for them to place around their torsos.   With the swollen waters this was not necessary, it is part of tradition, as it was only a couple of years ago when this section of the stream was very shallow and the men, in nothing but a loin cloths, would drag the boatloads over barely covered rocks. 

On our way back the guide had us join the crew in traditional rowing songs. 

      

 

The weather had held to make our excursion up Shen Nong Stream a most pleasant one but as soon as we were back on board the Princess Sheena the skies filled with rain releasing clouds and the wind began to blow.

Jackie and the sensible English speaking passengers gathered in the bar and viewed the last of the three gorges, Xiling Gorge, through windows.  

By nightfall we had reached the Three Gorges Dam and waited in line to go through the locks.  There are two lock channels one going down river and the other up.  Through the night we passed through 4 locks.  Upon completion of the dam there will be one more lock.

 

October 31

Getting up in the morning, as Stephen, Angela and Sherrie did, to see the Three Gorges Dam was anti-climatic.   A bus drove us up to a lookout point then to a quasi security area and on to a centre which houses a big relief map of the project with places to buy souvenirs.  Outside the centre was a park and another lookout point which looks more towards the locks than the dam.  At no time were we on the dam.  Our view from the boat was better. 

For dam enthusiastic perhaps the "being there" is worth it but the three who went were envious of the sleep Terry was getting.

 
 
 
 

In the afternoon interested passengers were invited to the bridge. 

The rest of the day was spent resting and preparing to disembark immediately after tomorrow's breakfast.  

   

November 1

When we awoke to "Butterfly Lovers Concerto" we were already in dock at Jingzhou.  

It had been a good trip with China Regal Cruises and even if we were somewhat critical, we have great accolades for our river guide, Jackie, and for the wait staff in the restaurant who were now going to get one well deserved night off before boarding again and taking another trip up the Yangtze.

Most of the passengers were herded off the boat and into large buses to continue their package tours.  Their faces showed curiosity as we hailed a taxi and asked to go to the bus station where we caught a bus to Yichang.

 

 
       

click here to continue November 1 and to Kaili ...

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