Bursting with long history, splendid culture and colorful activities, Yangtze River will never let you down. Cruising on Yangtze is the experience of a lifetime. You could discover a lot of Chinese culture and witness the astounding changes of today’s China.
This is the travel blog we collected from our guest who took a Yangtze Cruise with us. Hopefully this report will give you some idea about Yangtze Cruises, no matter which cruise you are on, Victoria Cruises, Century Cruises, President Cruises or Yangtze Explorer.
Exploring Yangtze River on Victoria Sophia from Shanghai to Chongqing
May 4th – Rebecca our Shanghai guide took us to the Holiday Inn and saw us onto the bus that would transport us to Nanjing and the Cruise Ship Victoria Sophia. Normally we would have boarded in Shanghai but due to a bad storm on May 3rd the Navigational Authority required all river passenger ships to tie up. Thus the Victoria Sophia stayed at the dock in Nanjing and bused the disembarking passengers from there to Shanghai. The bus ride to Nanjing took 4 hours; however, boarding the Victoria Sophia was a case of just walking down the gangplank and onto the ship.
We checked in and obtained our room key as if it was a hotel by simply walking up to the desk giving them my name and being welcomed. The lobby on the main deck held the Purser’s Desk – where all ship related business was conducted and money exchanged – the gift shop plus a crafts corner, where artists worked on their crafts which were for sale. The dining room where we enjoyed buffet style breakfasts and lunches with family style served dinners was at the front of the ship with wrap around windows. There was a single seating for each meal and we sat at round tables. We enjoyed our tablemates a couple from Australia and a couple from San Francisco. The food was good and plentiful but other than breakfast mainly Chinese and came with your choice of nonalcoholic beverages.
Up on deck 4 we found the lounge at the front of the ship where we enjoyed all the shows/lectures put on by the staff, the bar and the internet stations. Also on deck 4 there was a beauty salon, a library at the rear of the ship, and a card/games room as well as the Dr.’s office. The top deck was open with chairs and lounges. Our cabin was small with twin beds either side of the patio door to our balcony. We had a small closet but only 2 drawers so storage space was at a premium. The bathroom on the other hand was large for a cruise ship with a shower tub combination. Each deck had a desk at the head of the stairs which was manned seemingly 24 hours a day so that all passengers’ needs could be quickly attended to.
The staff put on entertainment most evenings in the lounge. My favorite was a fashion show of various ethnic costumes. In the mornings and afternoons that we were aboard ship lectures on China, the Yangtze, the Three Gorges Dam Project and Chinese Medicine were conducted.
I felt that the staff and Victoria Sophia looked after us very well and would definitely recommend this river cruise. In fact on Mother’s Day a large cake decorated with “Happy Mother’s Day” was served in the lounge at Tea Time then as we entered the Dining Room that evening each lady was presented with a flower. There was of course the Captain’s Welcome Party one evening where a lovely buffet of hors d’oeuvres was set up in the lounge and cocktails were served. The Captain came around to welcome us all individually. At the Captain’s Farewell Dinner the Captain again visited each table to thank us for sailing on Victoria Sophia and to wish us all a safe journey home.
I am very happy that I insisted on the full river cruise all the way from Shanghai to Chongqing rather than the abbreviated 3 or 4 night version that only travels through the Three Gorges. The time on the Yangtze was not only relaxing but interesting and entertaining.
May 5th – Nanjing Our morning tour was to visit the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum. Led by Dr. Sun the Chinese people brought down the corrupt rule of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 to end 2000 years of the feudal monarchy system. The majestic Mausoleum which is regarded as the most outstanding in Chinese modern architectural history was completed in 1929.
Following this gradual sloping walkway we arrive at the stairs which lead upward to the tomb of Dr Sun.
We returned to the ship for lunch and then headed out again to the Confucius Temple and time to wander the market stalls which surround this temple. In front of the temple was this golden tree which is revered for good fortune/wealth. Across from the temple is a canal. With of course houses lining both sides of the canals and plenty of bridges to provide easy crossing.
That evening the Victoria Sophia sailed from Nanjing to Huangshan a distance of some 240km. It always amazed me how fast the Victoria Sophia was at casting off and being under way the minute the last passenger boarded the ship. Not even time enough for the final person to finish climbing the 1 flight of steps up to the Main Deck.
May 6th – Full Day excursion to Huangshan (“Yellow Mountian”) Yellow Mountain is undoubtedly China’s most celebrated mountain for all its grandeur and beauty. In 1990 it was declared a World Natural and Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. Within an area of 154 square kilometers, the mountain offers a crowd of peaks. The mountains are a body of granite, often with vertical joints. When it is cloudy the pinnacles loom in mists as if they were illusionary. When the sun shines, they unfold in all their majesty and splendor. We were lucky to have a sunny day.
There are more than 1500 species of plants, of which trees comprise one third. Here you will find century-old pines, firs, ginkgoes, Chinese torreyas, Chinese sweet gums, nanmus, camphor woods and the precious Magua trees, remnants of the glacial era.
This day at the Yellow Mountain was definitely a highlight of the trip. After our long bus ride to the foot of the gondola car we rode to the top of the mountain on the longest cable car in Asia the ride taking 15 minutes. Once at the top we walked down the stairs to a hotel for lunch. Of course what goes down must also go us. So after our lunch it was back up the stairs to return to the gondola station the only way down. Everything needed at the top comes up the gondola cars and is then carried by hand to its destination.
May 7th – Enjoyed a relaxing day cruising on the Yangtze River. This was a rainy day; one of the few days of rain and poor weather we had. We travelled some 493km to reach Wuhan our next port of call. We arrived in a little late at about 8pm. Guides and buses were waiting for us to whisk us off to visit the stone museum.
May 8th – Cruising the Yangtze River with time for a manicure and a body massage. In the afternoon we played cards while we watched the Yangtze River Life unfold. Every time you find a flat bit of river bank it is utilized as a ship building yard. Ships loaded with a special type of straw grown by the farmers for use in the pulp & paper industry generally carried a load that was stacked higher than the wheel house thus the Captain is sitting on top of the wheel house on a chair steering with a rope attached to the wheel.
At all times there were dozens of ships sailing the river right along with us; coal ships, cargo container ships, several barges tied together to be pushed by 1 ship. And of course everywhere were the small sampan’s used by the locals for everything.
Along the shore we saw the coal bins where the mines deposit the coal ready for pick up by the ships. The coal loads by gravity feed down an open trough and then falling onto the ship. Not much pollution here!
Fishing by the locals; catching their dinner or just enjoying themselves is constant. Wash day for people living close to the Yangtze means a rock and a scrub brush.
May 9th – Arrived Yichang at around 11am for our passage thru the Gezhou Dam locks. Built as the experimental dam of the Three Gorges Dam Project Gezhouba Water Conservancy Project is located 38 kilometers away from the TGP. When the Yangtze River goes through the Nanjin Pass, the river suddenly becomes a lot broader, widening from 300 meters to 2,200 meters. This project was finished in 1988. It consists of two hydroelectric power stations, three navigation locks, and several sluice-gates.
Later in the afternoon we arrived at Sandouping and it was time to visit the Three Gorges Dam site. We were bused from the dock to a Visitors Centre where we could look down on the 5 locks which we would later pass through and on the other side the largest dam in the world. Here they have a model of the Three Gorges Dam Project.
The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River has been a dream for generations and is one of the largest construction projects ever undertaken by mankind. This great dam, the largest of its kind in the world, will provide China with tremendous power generation and flood control services. The water has already risen 40 meters and has 40 more meters to go. At very frequent intervals we would see markers showing the height the Yangtze will rise to.
May 10th – This morning it was rise and shine as we started our trip through the Three Gorges – we started with Xiling Gorge at 7am. Although it was foggy out it promised to be a clear warm day. This is the longest Gorge at 47 miles long and the TGP Dam is actually built at the mid-point of this gorge.
Soon we were into the Wu Gorge which is 24 miles long. Here we find the 12 peaks of Wushan with the most notable; Fairy Peak which holds up the Goddess.
Here we saw evidence of the old “Trackers” path used by the men of old that pulled the boats through the Three Gorges using ropes. At the western end of the Wu Gorge is where the Daning River joins the Yangtze.
Here the Victoria Sophia docked and we transferred to a smaller boat which took us up the Daning River some 33km thru the Lesser Three Gorges. . The first and most dramatic Lesser Gorges is known as Dragon Gate Gorge. In this gorge, the river ranges from only ten to thirty meters wide while the cliffs on either bank soar to an average of 800 to 1000 meters. Mysterious plants and fungus of longevity are said to grow high up on the cliff face. Two rows of square holes extending the entire length of the gorges are all that remain of an ancient plank walkway. The walkway allowed easier access to salt mines far up the river. The existence of the walkway was first recorded in 246 BC and was finally destroyed by the imperial Ming army during the 17th century after a peasant uprising.
In the Misty Gorge, a 2000 year old “hanging” coffin can be seen suspended on a precipice high up on the cliff face. The coffin is a relic left over from the Ba people who inhabited the gorges region 3,500 to 1,800 years ago. At one time hundreds of these coffins could be seen throughout the Three Gorges and the Daning River, suspended from seemingly inaccessible areas on the cliff-sides. Emerald Gorge with its lush green vegetation and clear green waters was very beautiful. Last but not least was the Mini-Three Gorge where we had to transfer to an even smaller boat – a sampan We had a fun boatman who gave us all a turn at poling even allowing us to wear the traditional rain wear We enjoyed our trip thru the small gorges where waterfalls, lush vegetation, weird rock formations and even the occasional monkey captured our attention.
On shore we passed by friendly villagers who would wave to us and saw their fishing nets drying in the sun ready for the nights fishing. They lure the fish into the nets with lights.
After leaving the Lesser Gorges we continued westward up the Yangtze and through the last of the Three Gorges, the Qutang Gorge which although the shortest is considered the most scenic. The Qutang is only 5 miles long but the narrowest and with the steepest sides. We entered Qutang thru Kuimen Gate
May 11th – We docked at Fengdu only 107 miles east of Chongqing. Having a history of nearly 2,000 years, Fengdu County has formed a special culture of ghosts and the afterlife. Well known as the resting place of the spirit of the dead, Fengdu is now the most characteristic and reputed historic and cultural town in China. Our tour took us up Mt. Ming; a mountain combining the religion of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Sculptures, paintings, and architecture are unique characteristic of the mountain. This was an interesting mountain top and at the bottom was the usual line of stalls and vendors hawking souvenirs.
May 12th – A day to long be remembered by millions of people; however, it started off innocently enough with our disembarkation at Chongqing. Our guide Kenvin Wu came aboard to greet us and escort us ashore. It was a long hike over pontoon floats to the shore and then up 70 steps to the van by walking along the shore to the next set of steps we shortened the stair climb from approximately 70 steps to about 20. Kevin had the wheelchair brought to the top of these steps for Dad and a man pushed Dad up the steep hill to where our van was parked. Another man carried our luggage ashore on his shoulders all for a cost of 200RMB or about $30. This was the end of our Yangtze River Cruise trip, but not the end of our China journey.
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