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Cruising the Yangtze

semi-overcast 16 °C

We began our cruise in Chongqing – a dirty, smoky hell-hole some 30 years ago when Sheila last visited – but now it's a booming city of smart highrises and ritzy shopping malls. We arrived from Chengdu in just 90 minutes on a 300 kilometre an hour bullet train and stepped out into a station as polished as any airport terminal. But we hit a bump in the road when the taxi taking us from the station to the Yangtze River port sideswiped a motorcyclist. Fortunately there was no great injury and we caught our cruise ship, The Yangtze Gold 7, on time...
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And then our frenetic world of planes, trains, taxis, and tuk-tuks suddenly ground to a halt. Instead of rushing around the world, changing hotels, cities and even countries, every few days, we simply sat back on our balcony and watched the world pass us by...
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When Sheila first cruised this same river in 1983 this is where people lived along its banks...
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She recalls idyllic scenes of Sampans drifting through verdant canyons and curious locals staring in amazement at strange looking foreigners. Nowadays whole shiploads of foreigners are common here but we deliberately avoided a western cruise ship and western food. Was that a good plan?

The Yangtze River basin is renowned for its fog so views along the way were not always the best. But when we took side trips into narrow gorges we got close ups of the enormous cliffs...
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High in the cliff faces are caves that were used as burial sites for thousands of years. We were informed that this coffin and the others inside this cave are two thousand years old...
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Our cruise ended at the Three Gorges Dam near the city of Yichang. Much has been said of the Three Gorges Dam and the disruption and devastation that the flooding of the Yangtze waterway has caused to the local communities. The seemingly idyllic agrarian lifestyle has been swept away on a tide of modernization and industrialization and huge concrete cities now scar the steeply wooded hillsides alongside the Yangtze River. However our enthusiastic young guides explained that living conditions today are a vast improvement over those endured by their forefathers. Everyone displaced was given a brand new property of equal size to their old home and the ability to upgrade at 50% of market cost for any additional space. Judging by the size of the buildings many people took up the offer...
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Every development has winners and losers. The Three Gorges Dam Project took 22 years to complete and employed huge numbers of workers. It is the biggest hydro electric dam in the world and it generates sufficient clean power to service every city for a thousand kilometres in each direction.
And when all 14 million residents of Chongqing turn on the lights it's nice to know that not an ounce of coal or oil is being burned...
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Before the dam, the downstream flood plain would be inundated every rainy season. But now that the flow is controlled a vast area of fertile agricultural land is under cultivation. So it seems that all clouds have a silver lining – including the ones that followed us all the way down the Yangtze...
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Posted by Hawkson 06:07 Archived in China

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Comments

Looks like that was a great cruise!

by Pippa

And nice, placid waters for your vessel. Even I might enjoy that trip. Trust that the on board meals were delicious Chinese fare.

by R and B

Would love to take that trip. A perfect way to chill out. I remember the tremendous upheaval to the families that had to move. There was a documentary that was made on the big changes. Good to see that coal and oil are not used to power electricity. Less pollution.

by Sue Fitzwilson

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