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Published: October 8th 2013
Breakfast is set for 6:45am for those on the ‘White Emperor City’ shore visit (an extra at ¥260 each). I think in Lonely Planet it’s called White King City. Liam sleeps in, while Ky and I share breakfast with Rose. She talks about their recent trip to Kamchatka with bears and volcanoes (I know the name of the region well from a board game I played thirty years ago – strange how little things come back to you). In the background disturbing music plays quietly: Instrumental versions of ‘Memories’, ‘Hello’, and ‘Sound of Silence’. They don’t play the Titanic theme song. I wonder why? It is a puzzle to Ky and I as to why the boat would play western theme music on a Chinese built boat, on a Chinese river, surrounded by Chinese decorations, to 400 Chinese people.
After breakfast, Kylie and I wander along the top deck, skirting piles of peanut shells and various leftovers from what looks like a busy night up top. We look out to the river banks to the scattered apartment blocks, roads and bridges, and hear the occasional staccato of firecrackers: the Chinese are on holiday. Many of the sections of the river
are like this: a few smaller houses interspersed with apartment blocks, and every now and then a large grouping of apartments like another downtown Perth. The boat has moored for the day tour, so again we are sandwiched between boats.
Ky and I skip the tour, but instead get a shore pass. This time the boat mooring level is well below the top of the river wall, but to aide ascent are a series of escalators. Each escalator is a self-contained unit that can be moved up and down, and connected to others depending on the height of the river. Very clever. The disembarkation point involves running the gauntlet of souvenir shops, before we are free to escape and go our own way up the street. We walk past a few small eateries to the west, then up the hill to a junction of two roads and a bridge, with a little park. Nice enough, but not very interesting so we go back.
The boat embarks, and takes us through Qutang Gorge. Cathy gives a talk about various features of the gorge to the few English speakers on the boat. Then its lunch, with mashed potatoes and more
little cakes. Excellent.
This afternoon’s excursion is supposed to be the highlight of the trip: a separate smaller boat ride into the Three Little Gorges. All the westerners are on time! But the boat hasn’t even arrived at its stop so maybe the Chinese are smarter than we think. The lobby gradually fills up as everyone finds their name group and waits for a guide. The fifteen English speakers and 16 Chinese are guided by Mike onto a smaller boat that holds 200 people.
After around half an hour, the boat has made it into the first of the gorges and we join Mike on the starboard side, away from the loud Chinese intercom. The gorges are spectacular, even in the hazy air. In some sections the walls extend straight up 100s of meters from the lake level. The soft limestone has eroded and created stalactites that hang off the sides of the cliffs. In between the gorges are more gradually sloping sides with some plantations and houses. All the way from Chongqing (we learn later), the boat has been travelling on the dammed part of the Yangzi, from the Three Gorges Dam. It was completed and filled
in 2003. At the Three Little Gorges the water depth is 80m, but the thick green colour prevents seeing at any depth. These gorges must have been even more spectacular before the dam was completed.
The return cruise is pleasant, apart from a woman talking very loudly non-stop on the intercom in Chinese. Back on the boat, and we have a rest before dinner.
We get to dinner at 6:30 to find 6 plates already on the lazy susan. So we start tucking in, and a little later the Paiges arrive to help us count the dishes. This time the boat does a good job, and provides a total of 21 dishes with good flavours and variety. The dishes include: smoked duck, dried fish, green beans (in Buddha mix?), cucumber, cabbage, noodles with beef, pizza, fish schnitzel, fish in a soup, soup with chicken, kung bao chicken, baked potato pieces , watermelon and rockmelon, rolled sponge cake, fungus, pork dumpling swirls, dried/smoked chewy beef, chicken with mushrooms, meatballs with pieces of turnip, bamboo shoots with bacon, and sweet deep fried honeyed beans.
During dinner the Captain and his first team greet us and give us a toast,
and we engage in friendly talk with the Paiges. After dinner as we are leaving we are treated to background music with a lady singing “Happy Birthday”. Bizarre.
This evening there is a Dynasty Show, put on by the crew. The boys retire to their room to do god knows what, and Ky and I head over to the bar for the show and possibly some more cocktails. We have a Black Russian and Manhattan – special two for ¥55. Excellent! Already some pop music is playing, and some instinct makes the music controller turn up the volume, so Ky and I hit the dance floor. In between songs, Ky and I sample a Baileys and a Kamikaze, while an elderly Chinese lady does a strange shuffle on the dancefloor to loud pop music. Then she retires, and Ky and I get back on. More people are coming in now, and little kids run amok on the dance floor before eventually the show starts.
First there is a kind of dance with fans, three men in yellow silk and six women in red silk costumes. Next is a form of charades. Ky and I are picked on to
do this. She has to mimic some animals and I have to guess them. She does a marvellous monkey. Then our competition has a go: some kids are given some Chinese proverbs to act out, but they struggle with it, so we get given cocktails for our troubles. I think they are grasshoppers.
The third act is The Girls from Chongqing, dressed up in saucy outfits and dancing to a Britney number. Then the kids are welcomed back on the stage for a type of musical chairs with numbers. The fifth act is a dynasty dance. The ladies have fine dresses on and mince around on the wooden sandals like clogs. The sixth act is a slapstick style comedy, ‘Statue with Boyfriend and Girlfriend’, which is mimed and funny in any language. The final act is a catwalk fashion show, with the crew showing off polo shirts.
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