Chongqing Pandas & Yangtze Cruise.

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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Yangtze Pearl Cruise Boat

Flag of China  , Chongqing,
Saturday, March 13, 2010

This story should be called...

How Avan & Heather, 18 Chinese, and 125 Germans cruised the Yangtze.

"Morgan" said each person arriving to our round table for 10. This was our first morning to breakfast on our cruise. Awkward smiles and a few single words between us (given the German's spoke little English and we can’t go much further  than “Morgan” and “Danke ”) set the scene for the next three days of meals. We are on the “Yangtze Pearl” an 87 metre river cruise boat cruising downstream between Chongqing and Yichang on China’s famous Yangtze River.

All our travel in China was booked over the Internet using a Government approved China based travel provider “Absolute China Tours” and all arrangements have been superb with English speaking guides at all stops. This was no exception. The little sting in the tail for this section was though ,out of the 145 passengers we were the only English speaking ones! Not an Aussie, Englishman or Yank in sight or sound for three days. We found this little gem of information out on arrival when we were greeted by the ever enthusiastic guide Susan. “Hello Avan and Heather I am your interpreter and tour guide.  You are the only English speaking people on the cruise so I will give you your own briefing personally”.  She went on to explain how things would happen on the ship. All announcements would be made by her in Chinese for the 18 Chinese passengers, by a German speaking interpreter for the 125 Germans and finally by her to us personally in English.

Before boarding the ship we had flown in from Xian and had a whirlwind tour of the largest city in China, Chongqing (pronounced ChongChing) which included a visit to the zoo to see the laid back and endearing China Pandas. And now here we are on our much awaited Yangtze Cruise ready to socialize and have fun but wondering how it is going to happen when no one speaks English!  

We had a little cabin to ourselves with our own bathroom and the boat had a dining room, bar and plenty of deck space to watch the scenery go by. Each day we were woken up early by Chinese music coming through loudspeakers and an announcement that it was time for breakfast before the morning shore excursion. We had kind of thought our three days on the river would include sleeping in, not have boot camp regimentation!

What was amazing was absorbing the enormity of the three gorges project and the task the government set of moving out 1.3 million people out of their homes and farms and flooding the valley to a depth of 195 metres. Whole new cities have been built to house displaced people and topsoil was moved before the flooding up the mountains so some displaced farmers could begin farming anew. The full project is almost complete now and includes a huge five step lock. An innovative ship elevator is now being built for smaller ships, which will cut the time back from four hours in the ship locks against 40 minutes using the ship elevator. 

The Three Gorges scenery is amazing, but we couldn't help thinking how different the view would have been prior to the flooding, with another 195 metres on the mountains on view!

Our cruise ended abruptly and a little earlier than scheduled, when a thick blanket of fog settled in on the last day. After negotiating the five locks the captain decided visibility was too poor. We were bussed out to see the dam and could not see a thing. Finally we were all put on buses for the final leg to Yichan, of about two hours. Susan our guide and interpreter contacted our tour company and sorted out our pick up from the bus stop instead of the terminal and so it really was no hassle at all.  

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