Asia | China – heading down the Yangtze
April 10, 2003
Cab driver dropped me, Coral & Marian nowhere near the docks. As we were trying to make our way down we were told by local ‘porters’ we were going the wrong way. As we tried to follow their directions we were asked for a sidewalk toll. Juas as this was starting to go from amusing to nervewracking I spied Pam from afar.
As I mentioned in an earlier entry, our group (now only 9) got upgraded to a 4 start boat because so many tour groups have cancelled so the remaining ones have been put on this 4-star cruiser since they can’t downgrade those tourists. This boat holds 200 people. There are 38. We’re on a serious luxury liner replete with overpriced drinks, demands for tips and tour guides who tell use not to buy bottled water from docks due to the nearby construction (and the super low price – we obey and buy beer instead!) and dumbed down food. Ah yes, the luxuries of touring so it feels just like home.
The Yangtze (Chiang Jiang) is not particularly pretty. Traffic is low due to impending flooding in June as part of the dam project. Most of China is not pretty. The temples are drab compared to Thailand and Singapore even. What’s impressive is scale (Tianamen Square, Summer Palace) and the people themselves who are astonishing.
The dam project has been created a) to generate hydro-electric power b) to save lives from yearly flooding since the river will rise 175m by 2009 and 35m in June ’03, millions of people are being moved from lowlying cities to new and modern settlements usually on the opposite bank of where they are. A particular travel guide has problems with this. Like with the Hutongs. other side of the argument: The Chinese who’ve been living in dark stone buildings with no plumbing or electricity seem happy to comply.
We had a fascinating stop at Fengdu the Ghost City. Pagan Chinese belief is that when everyone dies their ghost will go for judgment by Yama before being reincarnated. But there are post-death tortures for those who were bad. Very colorful temple area. Also contains Tsoaist and Buddhist Temples. A lot of local mysticisum about walking over bridges in a certain number of steps, holding breath up staircases, balancing on stones, walking on certain bridges for health or wealth. Very good guide who we managed to mistakenly undertip.
I would’ve liked to walk around the torn down town itself (torn down by hand I might add) where people are still living. I’m always attracted to scenes of desolation. The people remaining are allegedly the work crews demolishing buildings but it still seems like an active albeit poverty stricken community with kids selling maps and very disabled people begging. So if there are construction crews still here before the flood they live in shitty conditions, get paid zilch and are invisible. A gruesome form of unnatural selection?
I like seeing the flatbed boats filled with like 50 trucks each. Crews will wave and blow kisses to women on deck. Not much other traffic. No fishing. The riverbanks smell of orange blossom away from Chongqing.
Big dinner, quite good. Slept poorly due to boat movement.