Chongqing to Wuhan on the Yangzi (second time round)
Day 1: Evening departure from Chongqing.
Day 2: We wake up in Fengdu, sail past Shibaozhai and Wanzhou, and make an evening stop at the Zhang Fei temple.
Day 3: We wake up in Fengjie, sail through the Qutang Gorge, stop at Wushan for the excursion to the three Little Gorges, then go through the Wu Gorge and finally the Xiling Gorge during the night.
Day 4: Visit to the Great Dam and early afternoon arrival in Yichang.
(For comparison with our first Yangzi trip in 1990, Shanghai to Chongqing: click here)
Friday 28/8 – Day 1.
Chongqing to Wuhan on the Yangzi : Although departure is at 9, we have been told that we can board the boat any time after 6. Driven by curiosity, we get there early. Together with a motley crew of Chinese, loaded down with boxes and plastic bags, we are transported to our boat by cable car. And there it is, our ‘cruise ship’: an ageing rust bucket, covered in nasty, stained carpets. Its sheet metal floors creak and undulate underfoot, causing the carpets to form lumps, dents and creases.
W T F
Our hearts skip a beat when a member of the crew opens the door to our ‘first class cabin’: what a dive! The cabin, sparsely furnished with two narrow bunks, a small desk and one chair, is tiny and claustrophobic. We have no idea where we might put our backpacks, let alone ourselves! The bathroom is even tinier: a cupboard-sized cubicle in which we spy a brownish, squat toilet with a shower head right above it. There is one miniscule window, no terrace, balcony or anywhere nice to sit. Is this really it? Our cruise ship?
As disappointment sets in
As disappointment sets in, our crafty companion suggests that he can show us a better room; the ‘suite’ at the far end of the corridor. It has the same crummy bathroom, perhaps marginally cleaner, the same insalubrious carpets, but at least it’s spacious: there is a sitting room with windows all around and a separate bedroom with a double bed. For a mere additional 900 Yuan it can be ours.
Paying a Bribe
Our first reaction is one of indignant refusal, but the thought of our claustrophobic cabin soon makes us change our mind and we start haggling. By now, it has become clear to us that what we are doing here is not so much ‘upgrading’ as ‘bribing’ our way into the suite. We eventually settle on 700 Yuan and quickly move in, before anybody can change their mind. We are quite right to be worried, because in the next half hour there is a constant stream of people, knocking on our door with one excuse after another.
We have no ‘ Daoyu’
Apparently, there is some disagreement among the staff, presumably about how much and who we have paid! ‘Our man’ comes back one final time and demands an extra 100 Yuan, claiming that he has had to sacrifice his share to keep the rest of the staff happy. We give in, just to avoid further hassle. Before leaving, he urges us to feign ignorance if our ‘daoyou’ (tour guide) should ask us how we ended up in the suite. Of course, as independent travellers, we have no ‘daoyou’, but just try and explain that to a Chinese person! Anyway, eventually we are given a chit and a key for our room, so we can relax a bit.Continue reading “Chongqing to Wuhan on the Yangzi River”