If you do not have the stomach ( literally!) or sea legs for an ocean cruise, then a River Cruise is a great option. In this article we feature a Yangtse River Cruise, in China.
The Yangtse or The Ten Thousand Li River, the largest in China flows 6,300 Km from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau to the East China Sea, north of Shanghai. The Chinese know it as Chang Jiang – The Longest River. According to the Chinese, If you have not traveled up Chiang Jiang, you have not traveled anywhere.
The cruise we describe, lasts for 7-9 days and will travel from Chongqing, via Yichang to Wuhan with a possible extension to the metropolis of Shanghai. We will highlight some of the magnificent sights and attractions provided by the Yangtse River.
CHONGQING, at the start of the cruise, is the fastest growing urban centre in the world. With 31 million inhabitants. Its population is larger than Peru, Malaysia or Iraq. Before leaving, visit the old military HQ of General Chiang Kai Shek dating from when Chongqing was the capital during WW2. In Red Rock Village is the former residence of General W Stilwell (VinegarJoe) who headed US operations against the Japanese. The Zha Zi Dong is one of two prisons where 300 communist political prisoners were massacred at the end of the Civil War in 1949.
FENGDU, located on the north bank, is known as The Ghost City. According to legend, the dead come to Fengdu and the devils go to hell.
WANXIAN is 327 Km from Chongqing and has been known as The Gateway to Eastern Sichuan. Cruise ships aim to arrive at night in order to enter The Three Gorgesat dawn. The Open Market sells seasonal delicacies such as Mountain Mushrooms and live eels. Shengli Lu is a night market selling Wanxian cane and rattan products. You can also purchase painted and varnished river stones.
After YUNGYANG, FENGJIE and BADONG is ZIGUI at the junction of the Yangtse and Xiangxi rivers. It is the birthplace of Qu Wuhan, a poet and politician who threw himself into the river as a protest in The Warring States Period. Locals drop zongzi (sticky rice) into the waters hoping the fish will eat the rice rather than Qu.
Sandwiched between the mountains in the mid part of the Yangtse, The Three Gorges cut across the Fengjie and Wushan Mountain in Sichuan and Badong and Zigui and Yichang in Hubei Province. With its towering cliffs, 1000 metres high, overhanging rocks and waterfalls it is a unique spectacle.
QUTANG GORGE, running east to west, is 8 Km long and only dozens of metres wide. WU GORGEextends 40 Km from the mouth of the Daning River to Badong in the east. The Peak of the Goddess is one of the 12 peaks flanking the gorge. XILINGXIA GORGE is 75 Km long with dangerous shoals and hidden reefs.
THREE GORGES DAM PROJECT
In Xilingxia Gorge is the Three Gorges Dam Project. It is the largest hydroelectric project in the world with a power plant, dam and a series of locks. It will generate the equivalent of 15 nuclear power stations, will control the centuries-old problem of devastating floods and permit navigation into the interior.
After MAOPING, at YINCHANG, it is possible to continue the trip to WUHAN. YINCHANG, The Gateway to the Three Gorges, is a busy port where the middle and upper reaches of the Yangtse divide.
Continuing to WUHAN, YUEYANG is on the south bank at the mouth of Dongting Lake which is the second largest freshwater lake in China. Its most famous attraction is The Yueyang Tower built 1000 years ago on the east shore of the lake.
WUHAN, with a population of over 7 million, is the capital of Hubei Province. Here the Yangtse meets its biggest tributary, the Han River. WUHAN is known as The Thoroughfare to Nine Provinces. It has many scenic and historical sites. These include The Yellow Crane Tower, 1700 years old and one of three famous towers in South China, East Lake and the ancient Guiyuan Temple. Its TV Tower on Tortoise Hill is claimed to be the tallest mast in Asia.
From WUHAN, one can continue to SHANGHAI, whose attractions are so very many that they will need a separate article!
In previous times, ships were pulled by hand,through dangerous reaches by TRACKERS. Men working from narrow paths cut into the steep cliffs. Today, there are modern cruise ships with 5 star, hotel-like facilities. A typical vessel is 90m long and accommodates around 200 passengers. There are suites, deluxe staterooms and standard rooms, many with private balconies and bathrooms. Facilities include restaurants, bars and coffee shops, observation areas, beauty salons, live entertainment and usually a clinic.
In this instance the old phrase – A Slow Boat to China – is very apt. The mighty Yangtse provides access to spectacular scenery, cultural treasures, religious and historical sites and the awesome Three Gorges Dam. A special holiday well worth considering.
We would recommend the best time to travel on a Yangtse River Cruise would be in April and May or September and October.