GO WITH THE FLOW
Leisure abounds aboard Yangtze cruises departing from Chongqing for Hubei’s Three Gorges locks. Yang Feiyue hops on deck for recreation, hops off for excursions and kicks back for relaxation.
Emerald mountains, rustic farmhouses and sparkling night views emerged from the Yangtze River’s banks as we drifted along.
We enjoyed four days of wining and dining among incredible views aboard the Yangtze Gold Cruise No 6. The ship departed from Chongqing and we disembarked for good in Hubei province’s Yichang.
Days on deck were spent playing mahjong with friends, and nighttime offered banquets and barbeques.
We also stopped to explore several destinations.
Yangtze Gold Cruise No 6 is acclaimed as the Yangtze River’s most luxurious liner. The six-story craft offers theater, spa, fitness, mini-golf, poker and shopping experiences.
Guests must often book ahead, says Wang Yi, vice-general manager of marketing of Chongqing Yangtze Gold Cruises Co. The company is the biggest operator along the route.
Cruises along the river are among China’s first travel attractions marketed to inbound tourists. About a third of guests hail from North America, Southeast Asia, Europe and Australia, Wang says. Most are older than 40. “We’ve found patrons like to spend time just reading and resting on board,” Wang says.
“They also enjoy arranged activities.”
They can practice tai chi, make jiaozi (dumplings) or listen to lectures on traditional Chinese culture. Explanations are bilingual. Our first stop was Fengdu Ghost City.
It did truly look spectral, as mist wafted atop the mountains and banks.
We trudged up a flight of stairs rising up a slope.
“You don’t have to walk up herein winter ,” a guide explained, pointing to a tide marker.
“The water rises in winter, so you can hop off the ship there.”
Levels are controlled by the massive flood-control and power-generation project, the Three Gorges in Yichang.
The settlement was cablecar accessible until the dam made it a separate island.
The 1,900-year-old Ghost City is perched on Minshan Mountain.
Legend says the city takes its name from Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220) necromancers Yin Changsheng and Wang Fangping, who made a pilgrimage to Minshan to practice Taoism and became immortals. The surnames Yin and Wang as a portmanteau sound like “King of Hell” in Chinese. So people began to call Fengdu Ghost City.
Beyond that coincidence, some temples and shrines depict people being tortured for this life’s sins in the underworld.
It’s a synopsis of the Chinese conception of karma.
The city bears Buddhist, Confucian, Taoist and even Hindu influences.
Our next port of call was Shibaozhai in Zhongxian county.
We tottered across a suspension bridge’s joggling wooden boards to the wooden building that stands in defiance of the steepness of its foundation’s slope.
The 12-story structure is said to be the largest of its kind in China.
We also visited Fengjie county’s Baidi City in Chongqing.
The “city of poets” was built inAD25. Many ancient literati left numerous literary inscriptions, including Tang Dynasty (618-907) luminaries Li Bai and Du Fu.
It today hosts live shows depicting scenes from the wartorn Three Kingdoms period (AD 220-280).
Most passengers stayed up late the last night as the ship passed the Gorges’ five-level lock.
Colossal concrete walls jut skyward on both sides. The passage we saw in the glaring lights cast against night was just wide enough for our massive vessel to squeeze through.
The lock system runs more than 6 kilometers and jumps over 100 meters from its lowest to highest points.
It typically takes three hours to navigate.
Wang’s company has signed deals with the Canada-based travel company Vacances Sinoroma, which has chartered a cruise ship over the past two years for North American guests. This has brought in about 35,000 international tourists, Wang says. The number is expected to hit 50,000 next year.
Both sides plan more cooperation and aspire to make inroads into the European and Australian markets.
Chongqing Yangtze Gold Cruises has also developed routes from Chongqing to Jiangsu province’s capital, Nanjing, and Hubei province’s capital, Wuhan.
A downside, perhaps, is that I for one felt like I’d gained weight after I disembarked the final day.
Indeed, it seems the perfect experience for those who want to get around and go far but also go slow and do so without too much legwork.
We’ve found patrons like to spend time just reading and resting on board. They also enjoy arranged activities.” Wang Yi, vice-general manager of marketing, Chongqing Yangtze Gold Cruises Co
Top: Visitors disembark from the YangtzeGoldCruiseNo6 for a sightseeing during the cruise. Above left: Visitors take a wooden boat around the Xiaoxiaosanxia in Wushan county, Chongqing. Above right: The Fengdu Ghost City is a port of call along the route.