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Yangtze River Cruise
May 25, 2017 - May 28, 2017

The flight from Xi'an to Chongqinq on Xiamen Air was a quick 1.5 hours. I had never heard of Chongqing yet it is home to 33 million people. Our 3-night river cruise on the Yangtze River would embark from there at 9:30 PM. Since our flight arrived around 12:30 PM, we had a full day of touring ahead of us.

Just as in other cities we visited during this China trip, a local guide met our group at the airport. We were a group of 24 people. Two Marathon Tours representatives traveled with us. Both could speak Chinese. We loaded our luggage into the awaiting motorcoach and away we went to tour Chongqinq.

Chongqing is an industrial city. It is the location of China's automobile industry. This was the smoggiest city we visited. Like other cities we visited, we saw many beige high-rise apartment buildings; however, there were many more commercial skyscrapers. The city exists on both sides of the Yangtze River and is connected by an enormous suspension bridge. Our tour took place on both sides of the river. We were driven across the bridge and then followed our guide on foot through shaded park (Eling Park) where we got a view of the skyline. The guide told us that the sun would eventually burn off the “fog”. Um. I don’t think that was fog. It had a pale yellow tint like the smog we saw in Beijing.

Chongqing

 

 

 

 

The Huguang Huiguan Guild Hall was our next destination. It is such a photogenic building. It used to be a meeting place for immigrants. Opera performances also took place there. During our visit, there was a young couple taking advantage of the beautiful building to have their wedding photos taken. Our guide told us that couples often have their wedding photos taken several days before the wedding. At one point we came to an altar where there was a large statue. I immediately assumed it was a Buddha statue because someone was praying in front of it. However, our guide told us it was not Buddha. It was a statue of Emperor Yu who lived around 2200 B.C.. He was known for flood control techniques. Even today, people honor him.

Huguang Huiguan Guild Hall

 

 

Our last stop before dinner was the Three Gorges Museum. We literally had to run to get to the entrance before the 4 PM closing time. They were closing the gates as we arrived. Our guide did an outstanding job of getting us through the large museum in a short amount of time. He pointed out the highlights instead of turning us loose to wander on our own. The museum was a great introduction to what we would see and experience during our cruise on the Yangtze River. That said, I'll save the details of what we learned about the river for later when I discuss our cruise. Before leaving, we took a group photo outside the museum and some photos with Chinese people who were delighted to see us foreigners.

Our dinner was family-style again but this time it took place at a hot pot restaurant where you cook your own food. It is similar to the Melting Pot restaurants in the States except instead of cooking your food in a pot of cheese, you cook it in a pot of broth. Each person had their own pot but the ingredients were shared. Traci and I actually shared my pot because hers would not heat properly. We cooked noodles, dumplings, pork, chicken, and vegetables. I added spices to make it spicy hot. The meal was pretty good. It just seemed like it took so long for each ingredient to cook.

We had a little free time after dinner before we needed to be back on the bus; therefore, Traci and I went up the street to check out Walmart. We were hoping to get some Chinese snacks to bring back for our co-workers. Also, we just wanted to find out if there were any differences between Walmart in China and in the States. Everything seemed basically the same. The main difference was that everything was in Chinese. However, a lot of people stared at Traci and me as if we had come from outer space.

 

Finally, it was time to head to the ship for our river cruise. Because of construction near the pier, our bus had to drop us off a long way from the boat. We carried our own carry-on. There were plenty of opportunists in the area who offered to carry our bags for a fee but Traci and I were able to manage on our own. Our heavier luggage would be delivered to the ship later.

finally made it to the pier after a looong walk

 

There were a lot of boats at the port. There were so many that some boats were moored together. Such was the case for our ship, the Yangzi Explorer. Passengers from the ship beside ours had to walk through the lobby of our ship to get to theirs.

We were warmly greeted as we stepped aboard the Yangzi Explorer. We were given a cool, damp face cloth and a cold drink. This would be the ritual anytime we re-boarded the boat for the next few days.

The Yangzi Explorer was the first river cruise for Traci and me. Traci and I have done plenty of cruises on large ships that cruise the Caribbean such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Princess, and Norwegian. These ships normally have more than 2,000 passengers and more activities than you could ever do during the week or so you are aboard. A river cruise, however, is a different experience. For one, the boat is much smaller than the sea/ocean cruiser. The Yangzi Explorer has a passenger capacity of just 124. Everything except the cabins is smaller than ocean ships. There are only 6 decks. Traci and I saw all the public areas in about 5 minutes. There is a small fitness room, a spa, a shop, a doctor’s office, a children’s playroom (no kids on our trip), and a conference room. There is a two-story theater for shows, movies, and presentations. There was a dining room where meals were served at set times. Deck 6 contains an indoor bar and a small outdoor deck containing tables and a few lounge chairs but no pool. We did not spend as much time there as I would have liked because some passengers would go up there to smoke.

Our cabin (208) was a nice size. It was located just off the lobby. All the cabins on the Yangzi Explorer have a balcony. We were warned not to leave the balcony door open. Otherwise, you risk letting in flies and other insects that make their home on the river. We had a TV that got local and international channels similar to what was available in the hotels. The boat had free Wi-Fi but it was very slow.

Aboard the Yangzi Explorer

 

 

 

 

 

There were activities onboard to keep us entertained – exercise class, calligraphy class, movie, karaoke, etc... A list could be found in the publication left in our cabin by our cabin steward each day. Additionally, the two Marathon Tours representatives that were traveling with our group would brief us on the activities during mealtimes.

There were other passengers onboard other than our group. I met people from the U.S. and the U.K.. I also thought I heard some Italian. There were Chinese aboard as well. Our group had gained a little onboard popularity. It seems everyone had heard about 'the people that ran the marathon on the Great Wall'.

After the mandatory safety briefing in the theater, Traci and I went to Deck 6 for the sail-away. Wow! It seems that the Chinese really like to light up their cities. Chongqing on both sides of the river was lit up like Las Vegas! Lights lined the skyscrapers and a pagoda. Lights flashed on and off. There were animated light displays.There were marquees and digital displays. The entire surface of the opera house that was shaped like an extra credit problem on a geometry test displayed digital animation such as a large butterfly that seemed to glide along the surfaces. Even the other boats on the river were lit up. We were awestruck. We tried to capture the scene with the camera phone but the photos did not come close to representing how amazing the skyline looked. We continued to admire the scenery for a while as our boat embarked on its smooth journey down the river. There was no rocking throughout our entire cruise.

Chongqing Sailaway

 

 

Chongqing Opera House

 

 

There was a movie being shown in the theater but Traci and I thought we would be too sleepy to sit through it. However, we went there several times to get the free cups of sweet & salty popcorn. Delicious!

Unfortunately, that evening both Traci and I started to develop scratchy throats. Traci also had watery eyes and clogged ears. I thought maybe it was from the air pollution in Chongqing. I had been taking Claritin since Beijing so I was a little concerned that my symptoms might be something other than irritation from the air quality. During the cruise, I noticed a few other passengers were coughing and sneezing. In Traci's case, I think she was allergic to something. Her symptoms were gone within two days. As for me, I had caught a very mild cold that had me phlegmy for the next two weeks. It never progressed to coughing and sneezing but I did have about 1.5 days of a runny/stuffy nose while we were in Shanghai a few days later. Continue...

 

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