The Yangtze River cruise had not been on my radar when I was booking my trip to China. However, given this was my first international trip to Asia, I decided to book with an agency and it happened to be on the itinerary.
In this particular case, I’d found an irresistible deal on Groupon, which included a four day cruise along the Yangtze River. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect on this cruise and my only “cruising” experience up until that point had been with Carnival Cruise lines to the Bahamas and many other Caribbean locations. Those ships are self-contained and equipped to entertain passengers for weeks on end. I figured this experience would pale in compression as far as the accommodations and food were concerned. However, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised to find I was quite wrong.
The boat was equipped with gorgeous rooms, which included a full Jacuzzi, giant beautiful windows that allowed for easy viewing of the gorges from your bed and lots of room to move around. I was thankful for the large viewing windows, as it was the middle of December and quite brisk. However, the weather allowed for spectacular clear views of the beautiful gorges. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “the food was probably terrible”, but I’m here to tell you would be wrong too. There were full service dinners each night, which included starters, main courses and dessert. You were given a pre-arranged menu, which typically held three different choices of main courses.
I would describe the dishes as geared more towards westerner tastes. However, it did not take away from the authenticity of the experience. Speaking of authenticity, along the river, you will make several stops at small towns. These towns are primarily self-contained as many are essentially cut off from the larger surrounding cities. Leaving the locals to depend largely on home grown food and tourist for survival. At each stop, and sometimes even while moving, small long boats filled with bags of various home grown food would pull alongside our ship. They wave widely holding long sticks with a basket on one end, while they shouted and motioned prices with their free hand. Just throw in the exact amount requested and a bag of oranges would be hoisted up to you. I don’t even particularly care for oranges, but how could I resist the experience?
Walking through some of the smaller towns, you’ll become very aware of how different your world is. From the hole in the ground serving as the toilet, to the homemade mop used to clean it, nothing goes to waste here. I walked through the small homes and listened to the women singing while they hung their clothes on lines outside. I felt completely at one with them, even though we had never met. I felt I knew their songs and their voices filled me with delight. The women meekly smiled at me as I passed and watched in curiosity while I eagerly snapped photos of everything in sight. I felt like an alien from outer space, experiencing humanity for the first time and if we did have visitors from another planet, I sure hope this is how they too would experience our species. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, a simpler exhistance. A life I felt I could happily lead in that moment, as the children ran past me and circled around laughing happily. What a childhood it would be.
So, if you’re asking yourself if the Yangtze River Cruise is worth adding to your itinerary, the answer is positively yes! You simply cannot experience China and miss the sheer beauty, awe and perspective this experience will enrich you with. While I realize this can take up valuable time in your schedule, I urge you to consider this as an alternative to opting for a longer in stay in some of the larger cities. After all, you’re in China to experience something all new. This will give you that experience. The summer months will prove to be more comfortable weather wise, but winter months will bring deep discounts, less crowds and crisper views.
What do you think about tourist visiting these small villages?
Assisting in the economy or poisoning the society?