The next stop on our journey through China was an unexpected one. We looked at continuing to take trains to more destinations through southern China, but then we noticed our hostel in Chengdu advertised a “Yangtze River Cruise” for three nights. The Yangtze river is the third longest river in the world. Dana and I figured this would be an interesting way to make our way east through China, so we signed up for it. One interesting thing about these cruises is that they are tailored for Chinese tourists, not international ones. This made the initial four hour bus ride to where the boat was located a bit hectic, as the tour organizers and I could speak about three words or each others’ language. All we cared about initially was getting on the correct boat, which we did get to, only after one more bus transfer. Even though we got to the riverboat later than we expected, our transportation was all set for us for two more days and nights.
Just to be clear, please don’t confuse this type of cruise with one that you might go on in the Caribbean. No, to be more accurate with those kinds of standards this would have to be called the “Yangtze River Floating Tenement”. We expected this going into it, but it is important to mention so you, the reader, don’t go off and start imagining us at five-star buffets and on-board entertainment. We shared a second class room with two really nice Aussie girls named Caitlyn and Erin, which was a relief to be able to communicate with someone else on the boat. Our room resembled a closet, but it was clean enough adnd didn’t smell as bad as other parts of the boat so we didn’t complain.
The following morning we woke up right before our passage through the first of the three gorges. The cliffs we very beautiful, seemingly rising straight up into the sky. This, combined with the chalky green water made this part of the cruise kind of eerie-looking. Later on in the afternoon we opted for another smaller boat down to see the little three gorges. Dana and I enjoyed our trip down this area of the river even more because it was smaller and easier to get lost in the massive cliffs that towered above us.
When we got back to our room after this little excursion, one of our Chinese neighbors on the boat stopped by and offered me a small dixie cup’s worth of tea. The only problem was, it wasn’t tea. It was definitely a shot of some sort of alcoholic substance that I can only describe as “Tequila Syrup”. It totally took me off guard and my new friend got quite a kick out my surprised reaction. He then called his mom and dad over, who proceeded to force on me some kind of jerky ( at least I think it was jerky) and more tequila syrup. Now, these people could speak one word of English: hello. That’s it. I kindly asked Caitlyn for her Chinese phrasebook and attempted to stitch together my best broken Mandarin Chinese. We traded the phrasebook back and forth all while the old man kept pouring shots for the myself, himself, and his son, yelling “Ganbei!!!” (Cheers!) before each one. Dana found this whole exchange very funny. I managed to pull myself away and get some sleep before it got too late, since we had an early start the next morning.
We woke up to the sounds of very loud Chinese drums the following day. This was the day they threw the kitchen sink at us in terms of entertainment. We got on yet another small boat, this one with a dragon head on the front of it. The tour makes the experience “interactive” as they implore the riders on the boat to help paddle, all while a guy piloting an outboard motor in the back moved us along. Then they brought out the big guns when we disembarked. A full-blown Chinese musical in addition to daredevils going across a tightrope on a bicycle were going on at the same time, in what seemed to the middle of nowhere on the banks of the river. It seemed very random, but was definitely entertaining.
A couple hours later we finished our Yangtze river cruise experience by visiting the largest hydroelectric power station in the world, the Three Gorges Dam. China ticked off a lot of environmentalists by creating this dam. It displaced over a million people’s homes, and flooded thousands of ancient Chinese artifacts along the banks of the river. The Chinese tourists on our trip seemed to be quite proud, lining up for pictures in front of it every chance they had. At this point, both Dana and I were exhausted by the pace of Chinese tourism. Our trip concluded with one final bus ride to the city of Yichang, where we got ready to board our final overnight train to Hong Kong.