Yangste River Cruise

Our trip was trouble free and we passed many other cruise ships along the way, travelling both upstream and downstream, and so when we heard the recent news of a cruise ship capsizing on the Yangste, leaving hundreds dead or missing, we were incredibly shocked as well as saddened. This post was drafted before the disaster, but I really wanted to take this opportunity to add – may those who died rest in peace, and may those who survived and the relatives of all victims find solace with time.

Day 30 / Day 14 ACEC

So on the night of day 29 we just retired to our beds to sleep after our disastrous evening. We were aware that the ship had started moving, though, and we could see evidence of this through our cabin window. Our cabin was essentially a twin bed hotel room, very comfortable.

The next morning, a buffet breakfast (both Chinese and Western options) was included as part of an all-meals-included optional package we’d all opted in for (it wasn’t very much) but it was very early – this was to allow early morning sightseeing straight after. We just ate and then I went back to sleep. We had a set room for meals throughout the cruise, which we six shared with four cheerful Chinese tourists (a married couple and an aunt and uncle) who spoke good English.

Now, a word about the Yangste river cruise we did – the set up is a bit weird. We were the only Western tourists (or, I should say even more broadly, ‘foreign people’) on board the cruise ship, all the others were Chinese tourists. Actually, they all seemed to be part of the same tour group. Jakkie explained to us that only a few boats are actually licensed to carry foreigners!

There was a schedule for each day, with optional disembarkation points to various sightseeing spots that you could pay for (and one included – see later), but none were of any special significance to us, and they were all geared towards the locals anyway, so we didn’t opt to do any. We did disembark anyway at one of the little towns to explore the local market and purchase some fruit, however.

The lunch was an extravagant affair, with far more dishes than we could manage, and it was quite delicious.

Lunch buffet on cruise!
Lunch buffet on cruise!

In the evening, there was something dubbed ‘captain’s welcome party’. Jakkie told us that in theory it was a formal affair but the locals never dressed up, but that if we fancied it then that would be fine. I put on contacts and the only dress I had brought on the trip and a tiny bit of makeup, purely because I hadn’t dressed up in ages.

Jakkie was right, and we were the only ones dressed up, and got stared at a lot, but we didn’t care. The dinner was as awesome as lunch and we all got a free wine each. We also got our photo taken with the captain, which I think they’ll use on their promo board (which is next to the dining room entrance).

There was a disco of sorts afterwards but we quickly realised that this particular cruise ship was playing host to an older crowd and Dave and I were possibly the youngest people onboard. As such, not many locals seemed keen to partake in the disco, although of the few that did, there was one lady (who looked to be in her forties) who was particularly enthusiastic!

The crowds dispersed by about 9pm (!!!) leaving just us six and then Jakkie suggested we have a go at the karaoke, because there was a set up for karaoke and obviously now it was completely free. There were some English songs, some popular and well known (such as Whitney’s ‘I will always love you’), and some utterly bizarre, with Chinese lyrics thrown in. And that was how Dave and I found ourselves singing/giggling along to a Chinese-i-fied version of Jingle Bells (‘ding-ding-dong!’) at night on the Yangste in the middle of April…

It was awesome.

Day 31 / Day 15 ACEC

We repeated the pattern of getting up at the crack of dawn for breakfast and then retiring back to bed again whilst the locals made another excursion, and then spent the late part of the morning ambling round the deck taking photos and admiring the view.

After lunch, we ascended to the top deck once more in order to view the passing of our boat through two of the mighty three gorges that the Yangste is famous for, Qtang and Wu. Initially, we went to the front of the boat, but though the view was spectacular, there were far too many people crowded around to get decent photographs. So, we headed to the back of the boat to get just as gorgeous photos of mountains looming majestically on either side of the narrowing river instead.

A gorge, once we'd passed through
A gorge, once we’d passed through

It had been quite cloudy earlier in the day, but the sun came out in the afternoon and we spent some time sitting on the deck just reading.

Later in the afternoon, we embarked on an included excursion – a (smaller) boat trip down a tributary, the Shennong stream. This was amazing. I mean, the gorges were amazing too, but there’s something different about being on a small boat going past all these sheer cliff faces that loom straight up above you to a brilliant blue sky. I took a ridiculous number of photographs.

Shennong stream
Shennong stream

We got off the boat at Louping, in order to look around a little museum detailing what traditional river village life entailed, and to watch a performance. Jakkie told us it was supposedly a ‘traditional’ performance but looked a bit sceptical as she said it, choosing not to watch, and we soon realised why. The speakers were far too loud in the hall and the glitzy-outfitted dancers looked like they were taking part in a Bollywood number for most of the dances. Ha, I loved it, even if it wasn’t strictly ‘traditional’! They also did a little number outside, during which last night’s Dancing Queen (the forty-something year old dance floor enthusiast) decided to join in (!).

The little museum we looked around also showcased something called a ‘hanging coffin’, though clearly it wasn’t ‘hanging’ but on display in a glass case in the museum. On the trip down to Louping via the Shennong stream, I hadn’t spotted any of these bizarre objects (how did they get so high into the cliff crevices? Nobody knows apparently, and they’re thousands of years old), though Dave had, but on the way back I did – see the photo to see what it entails. Weird, right? Weird but cool.

Hanging coffin
Hanging coffin

In the evening, back on our main cruise boat, there was a little performance on board that too. Jakkie was more complimentary about this one and explained it was put on as a bit of fun by the staff on the boat, so all five of us decided to go and watch (before the farewell dinner! As it was the last night on the cruise…).

Audience participation was encouraged, including a game of musical chairs between five random people chosen from the audience. Dave also got pulled up by the performers, handed a yellow jacket akin to the one the guys performing were wearing, and ended up taking part in one or two of the slower dances! It was pretty clear to us that he got pulled up as the only foreign man in the audience and that the slower dances were deliberately so, giving the victim, er, volunteer time to follow the steps…I couldn’t stop laughing, but Dave is actually quite good at picking up steps and so didn’t at all make an actual fool of himself, and at one stage a local lady turned around to me, pointed at Dave and gave me a huge thumbs up. This was, I am sure, an indication of how impressed she was…

Dave taking part in the cruise performance
Dave taking part in the cruise performance – he is the one in the middle

And thus ended two surprisingly good days on our Yangste river cruise.

The next post is about our time in the picturesque Yanghsuo, during which I unfortunately fell quite unwell with a very hacking cough and sore throat, meaning I kept to my bed a lot – a shame as Yangshuo was beautiful!! Ah well, c’est la vie, and I recovered by the time we crossed into Hong Kong 🙂

Yes, in a few posts time we will be crossing into Hong Kong 😀

Thanks for stopping by.

Ro x

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