Neither my husband or I have ever been on a cruise before, the closest comparison we had would have been an over night ferry. So our three day cruise down the Yangtze river was a first.
It started out with a surprise as we found out that the river is not actually called the Yangtze, that name came about when a westerner was asking what the name was, the locals misunderstood and thought he meant the town which he was in, which was in fact called Yangtze. The Chinese name for the river is Chang Jiang which translates to “long river” which is a name it deserves as the third longest river in the world.
As we boarded the ship I was surprised as I had been expecting to be roughing it for three nights, the way the cruise had been described in the itinerary I was expecting shared sleeping and bathroom facilities (and most probably not of the western variety). However we were extremely pleasantly surprised. We were two to a cabin with en-suite western bathrooms rivaling some of the hotel rooms we had so far and including a balcony!
We were further surprised by the food available which was excessively plentiful and took the form for the most part of buffet style meals with the exception of the first and the last night which were table service. The last night was the captains “fair well banquet” which seemed slightly ridiculous for a three day cruise and had so much food that by the time we had finished it didn’t look as though we had started.
For most of the three days I used the time to recuperate from such a busy schedule and a great deal of it sitting either sitting on the balcony writing my blog or sleeping. There were a few excursions available but they were relatively expensive and none of them particularly appealed to us. My husband also decided he wanted to learn how to play Mahjong and got our guide to teach him. The most exciting thing about this lesson in my opinion was the table which you could push all your tiles into a hole that opened up in the middle, it would shuffle them and present you with a new set of tiles.
There was also a talent show on the second night which featured acts from the embarrassing dance performances of crew members who were clearly forced into it; a talented singer from the audience, a crew powered comedy act which was actually quite funny and broke the language barrier; to one member of the crew who was actually a very good breakdancer.
Just when we thought it was all over there was a competition requiring a man and woman from each group (English speaking, German and Chinese). The competition was the first to drink all the beer from a baby bottle fed to the man by the woman. We instantly thought the Germans would win hands down, but surprisingly it was us. Following from the contest there was the obligatory YMCA (which had already played 4 times during the captains welcome ceremony) followed by the birdy song and the twist which had a few members of our group booging away to it.
We passed through two of the three gorges giving us an incredibly dramatic backdrop as we cruised down the river, we were given some information as we passed through them including the names of some of the mountains which were meant to resemble things such as the sitting buddha mountain. A bit of imagination was required to see these resemblances however.
We were also told of how the three gorges dam has effected the river level as well as the lives of the local people many of whom were relocated higher up the mountains surrounding their valley. Apparently the younger generation were quite happy to move to the cities while the older generation were the ones relocated up the vally however we saw some of those who had moved first hand when they tried to act as porters for us grabbing our bags straight out of the cab without asking us first, they were obviously desperate to try to make a living. Many of those who didn’t migrate to the cities have to walk down the mountain to get a ferry to the city in order to get supplies.
The one excursion we did go on was the Goddess Stream which flowed down from the Goddess Mountain which was in the second gorge. The local guide spoke english very well as we were told they had only learned it in the last year as a way to supplement their income after the coming of the damn. As we traveled up the stream on a boat there was no lack of photo opportunity as the views became more and more beautiful.
Eventually we got to a point where we were dropped off for more photos and view a little performance put on by all the guides for the smaller boats. They played some local instruments and sang some songs in the local language which we were instructed on how to join in and encouraged to do so.
We returned to the ship much more slowly while the guide tried to peddle their wares to us, or more specifically to the Chinese tourists on our boat. There was ginseng and green tea, which I am assured are both good for longevity.
As we left the ship for our onward journey we caught a glimpse of the notorious three gorges damn. I think at this point we were all realising that our time in China was coming to an end as we headed to our last destination prior to Hong Kong.