Yangtze River Cruise

Yangtze River Boat Cruise

Our cruise boat was nicer and roomier than I expected. It was not a luxury yacht but a reasonable cruise boat. The very young Chinese crew outnumbered the guests. About 50% of the guests seemed to be Chinese nationals, with the remaining being Russian, 3 Germans, 2 Brits and 5 Americans. Everyone was polite to each other and language didn’t seem to get in the way of communication. The cruise guides spoke in Chinese, Russian, and English. The food was ‘westernized” to a point but was very tasty and plentiful. Since our cruise was during the 3 days of national mourning for the victims of the Sichuan earthquake, all forms of entertainment was suspended, including our nightly on-board entertainment. While I’m sure this would have been enjoyable, we certainly understood the need for national mourning.

A gorge is like Norwegian fiord or a waterway lined with steep cliffs. The scenery along the cruise was very beautiful and dramatic in many places. The greenery of summer foliage, contrasted against the grays, browns, and reds of the hills and mountains. Many of the natural formations of the mountains, trees, etc. seem to resemble noticeable figures-a sitting Buddha, a rabbit, a goddess, etc.

The Yangtze River has been transformed due to rising water from the Three Gorges Dam project. Before, the river at many times of the year was only a stream, hard to navigate and treacherous. The dam project has caused the river to rise about 300 feet from its previous level. So we saw the Yangtze as a wide and deep river.

Many small farms and homes have survived the rising waters but over 2.3 million people have been relocated. Numerous towns and medium and large cities have been demolished with the people moved to newly built cities above the flood zone. In fact, we understood that our boat was floating above where many cities existed.

We also saw many factories, belching pollution. Some were modern but many seemed very crude. In addition, we saw numerous large bridges under construction. The rising water made almost all existing bridges obsolete.

The cruise did include scheduled stops along the way to see historic and scenic sights. The first stop was a side trip to the Fengdu Ghost City. The city below this religious site had already been abandoned, demolished and the people living in a nearby communities. Since it was located in the hills, it was safe from the rising water. It is a complex of structures dedicated to various gods, with the main temple dedicated to the god of the underworld. Visitors were able to take various “tests” along the visit to see if they would enter heaven or hell upon death. All of us seemed to have passed.

The main temple featured statues of demons and scenes of torture to those who entered the underworld-a gory collection. There were also temples dedicated to various Buddhas and a temple to fertility. However, we were told the fertility temple had been "decommissioned" due to China’s one child policy.

Another trip was on a smaller boat to a very beautiful lesser gorge lined with breathtaking nature and small farms and small villages—above the flood line. A main feature of this trip was the burial caves situated about 100 feet up a vertical cliff. In one, the caves could be seen what was called a hanging coffin. The people using these burial caves hung the wooden coffin from the top of the cave roof. Why, nobody knows and also unknown is how and why they used these caves for burial.

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