can compare our Yangtzee river cruise to downtown Las Vegas. I'm not
talking the strip with the pretty hotels and even prettier people. I'm
talking downtown with Casinos like the Golden Nugget where there are
decaying patrons planted on slot machine stools and a guy named Tex
drinking out of a football shape beer mug with a straw. It sounds
awful, and absolutely would be if I had to stay for too long, but I
like to experience these things in moderation.
This is what kind of experience our cruise on the Yangtze river was like. Not exactly what you would picture a cruise to be like, but for whatever reason, we were really into it. Like much of downtown
Vegas, our Yangtzee boat had not been updated since it was built.
Everything was dated, but dated enough to be… I guess you could call
it tacky chic. Pretty much every vertical surface was covered in wood
paneling, smoked mirrors were abundant, the upholstery was printed in
swirly patterns and an outside deck surface was kryptonite colored
The scenery was not what we were expecting. I think we were
envisioning a winding river framed by the limestone cliffs and
mountains shooting straight up out of the water. It turns out those
views are in southern China and other parts of Indochina. We were
floating down the very controversial 3 gorges dam project. What we
were seeing was brown water and only the tops of the hills, mountains and cliffs.
The quaint villages, temples, little water inlets surrounded by
towering cliffs are now submerged under hundreds of meters of brown
murky water. This project displaced 1.24 Million people. The Chinese
government literally built new cities on the mountaintops to replace
the ones deep below the water. It was a strange feeling seeing smoke
stacks, office buildings and high-rise apartments filled with people,
none of which were there just 10 years ago. More on the Three Gorges
Dam project in our next post.
95% of the boat passengers were vacationing Chinese. Usually we're the
tourists amongst locals living their everyday life. On the boat we
were surrounded by locals to China, but tourists none the less. We
were able to observe the Chinese culture at play, or at least for this
group of Chinese. In general, it seemed to be a relaxed group. They
would lounge on the deck and take photos, pretty standard for a
cruise. They were really friendly to us, as well as curious to know
more about us. Many of the Chinese would play Mahjong for hours on
end. This is a game similar to gin, but played with tiles. Gambling
is very illegal in China, but apparently these guys were playing for
very high stakes and settling their money in the privacy of their
rooms. The high rollers had rented the Mijang tables for all 4 days
which costs more than the price of the cruise. One man we met is
what we like to call, the ultimate bad ass.
This guy would chain smoke the entire time while gambling. His break
from gambling would consist of smoking another few cigarettes out on
the deck, followed by push-ups. If the push-ups weren't impressive
enough, he started to do more push-ups with his thumbs and leg
stretches on the deck railing. Chuck Norris, we have met your maker.
We did stop a few times to see a few points of interest that were
luckily high enough to still be above water. This temple near Fengdu was really
fun to photograph. We loved the colors on the walls, paintings and
statues. These statues were some of the strangest, creepiest we've
seen in our travels.
When Looking at these, I can't help to think of this ceramic clown
piggy bank that I had as a kid, the one that would cast a crazy shadow
against the wall above my bed. I swear that thing came to life at night.
Along the banks, it appears that the Chinese are in the process of
building new monuments and points of interest which will hopefully add
back some of the culture lost under water.
Visit us tomorrow to see photos from our day excursion up one of the gorges as well as the 3 Gorges Dam locks.