We Headed To The Yangtze River
We started our month long visit to China with a week in Shanghai. It was a great introduction to the dichotomy of modern and ancient China. The next part of our trip was to cruise the Yangtze River with Viking Cruises in China. We boarded the ship in Wuhan for our first Viking river cruise experience. The cruise up the Yangtze River had stops to see Jingzhou, the three Gorges dam and the Shibaozhai Temple. We found it to be a very different experience than much of the city touring we did on our long visit to China.
The Yangtze River Cruise Started in Wuhan
From Shanghai we flew to Wuhan. A short stop at the Hubei Provincial Museum provided us a chance to see the ancient bronze work from the tomb of Marquis Yi. We saw an interesting collection of bronze cooking dishes, wine vessels and even what might be the first refrigerator.
The most famous relic at the museum were the 64 bianzhong (bell chimes). The 64 bells are bronze and in different sizes and shapes (from 8 inches and 5 pounds to over 5 feet high and 448 pounds). They cover five octaves.
We attended a live performance by musicians dressed in traditional garb. They played on a replica of the bell chimes and several other traditional Chinese instruments. It was amazing that an instrument designed over 2,000 years ago could so beautifully play both traditional Chinese music and more modern tunes as well.
Visiting the museum and attending a musical show was a great start to cruise the Yangtze River in China.
A Great Send Off From Wuhan
We boarded the ship in Wuhan to cruise the Yangtze River in China with Viking Cruises. Both sides of the river were lined with massive skyscrapers.
The night light show in Wuhan did not disappoint. Neon lights changed colour and created colourful shapes on virtually all buildings along the shore. This would not be the last night light show on our great trip to China.
The night light show in Wuhan was a great sight to send us on our trip to cruise the Yangtze River in China.
Our First Day Cruising The Yangtze
The top part of the Yangtze River was broad and very busy. It was muddy coloured and we were never tempted to turn on the tv to watch the view from the bridge. But we were fascinated by the variety of water craft on the waterways.
When we arrived to dock in Jingzhou, there were boats going in all directions. Some boats were so close we could have hopped boats. The pile up of boats reminded me very much of when we arrived at the mouth of the Panama Canal or our trip down the Suez Canal.
Cruise the Yangtze River in China from Wuhan. But the river experience at the top end may not be the same as other Viking Cruises river trips.
A Visit To The Viking School In Jingzhou
The first stop on our trip to cruise the Yangtze River in China was in the city of Jingzhou. We docked and the ramp was rolled out. To leave the ship we got a boarding card which we needed to return when we came back on board.
The morning excursion was to visit the Viking school. The Viking groups were greeted at the gate by the children and then a short show was put on.
When the show was finished, groups went into the school. Each group went to a different school room. There was time to interact with the children. David had fun being one of the kids.
It was good to see a bit of what Viking Cruises was giving back to the country on a trip to cruise the Yangtze River in China.
Walk The City Walls In Jingzhou
In the afternoon, we again boarded the bus and went to the old city wall in Jingzhou. We parked in the parking lot and walked along the river to get to the staging area for the wall.
At the staging area we got in a large golf cart. It was quite a long ride as we were whisked to the bottom of the wall. On the top of the gate there was a temple with a series of displays inside.
It was an easy stroll along the top of the wall. It was quite wide and generally the brick top was quite even. Not at all like when we walked single file along the top of the wall in Obidos, Portugal. At several spots we stopped to look back at the wall. We stopped at the turnaround point and looked at the river and a large statue on the bank .
At several points along the wall there were warrior statues. Of course we all had to pose with the statues.
When we returned to the ship, we got hot chocolate to warm up. Not a bad way to end an interesting day on our trip to cruise the Yangtze River in China.
The Three Gorges Dam
The first lock we went through on our trip through the Three Gorges area was at the Gerzhouba Dam. This dam had 3 channels but just one lock in each channel. It was built as a test before the Three Gorges Dam was built.
One of the most important stops when you cruise the Yangtze River in China is at the Three Gorges Dam. During the day we did an excursion to see the dam and locks. We went up several levels to the visitor’s centre at the top and had great views down over the massive site.
Later that night, we got to see the dam and the locks all lit up. It was a great set of changing colours up the five levels of the dam. It took well over four hours to transit through the five steps.
When you cruise the Yangtze River through the Three Gorges area, going through the locks in the Three Gorges area was a fascinating way to understand the history of this area. And the engineering marvels this country has built.
The Three Gorges
Some of the most lovely scenery we passed was in the Three Gorges. The first Xiling Gorge we travelled was the biggest. It was nearly 50 miles long and much wider than the other gorges. The Wu Gorge is also know as the “Witches” Gorge had trees and rock faces up the sides of the river banks. And in the early part of the day we got views of towering peaks and flitting mist. The smallest and narrowest was the Qutang Gorge (or the Kui Gorge).
One day we had a lovely excursion on a sampan boat along the Goddess Gorge. This narrow gorge provided us with fascinating views.
We loved our trip along the Three Gorges. It was a leisurely two days of magnificent scenery. It may be the best part when you cruise the Yangtze River in China.
Yunyang Night Light Bridge
After dinner one night, we headed out on board to see the next night light display. The Yunyang Bridge has two large suspension towers. And the suspension wires were used as a canvas to paint a moving show of action and colour. As we moved closer, we could see more and more of the detailed light show.
The show kept us engaged as we cruised up and then moved away from the bridge. If you cruise the Yangtze River in China, don’t miss the night that you cruise under the Yunyang Bridge.
Climb To The Top Of The Shibaozhai Pagoda
It was an early start on our last day to cruise the Yangtze River in China. We pulled up with 6 other ships and rafted at the dock. We saw the Shibaozhai Pagoda off in the clouds. It was pouring rain when we left the ship so a fleet of red Viking Cruises umbrellas headed ashore. It was a long walk up a muddy path through a series of vendor stalls.
The path leading up to the pagoda provided some educational posters before it ended at the Jiangshangmingzhu memorial gate. A swinging bridge provided access to the small island where the Shibaozhai Pagoda stood.
Our group swung hard left to start the visit at the pagoda. The bright red pagoda originally stood 9 storeys high before 3 additional floors were added to the top. It is an interesting example of the Qing Dynasty architecture. The inside steep wooden stairs continued up to the top. At every floor up the tower there were interesting things to see.
The view from the top was grey all around. We could see our river cruise boat off in the distance.
Walk Around The Emperors Palace
When we exited the tower on the 9th level, we found the Emperors Palace. We got the chance to explore inside and walk around the inner courtyard.
Beside the Emperors Palace was the Duck Well. It is said that if you drop a duck in the hole, it will show up on the Yangtze. We also saw the Rice Flowing Well. This well was said to once have a small trickle of rice flowing from it. After a greedy monk expanded the hole, the rice stopped flowing. It is always interesting to hear the local folk stories.
It was still raining as we headed back to the ship. The outside stone stairs that took you back up the pagoda or down to the bridge level were a bit slippery in the rain. It would have been much better to see the Shibaozhai Padoda site in the bright sunlight. But it was still an interesting stop when you cruise the Yangtze River in China.
Exploring the Viking Emerald Ship
The land portion of our visit to China were busy days. While we were onboard the Viking Emerald ship to cruise the Yangtze River in China, we had some half day tours. But we also got to have a little downtime onboard the ship.
During the day there were a series of informative talks to give us more information on our excursions. But we also got some general education to learn a bit about making dumplings, tea ceremonies, Chinese history and Chinese culture. There were Chinese lessons to give us some basic vocabulary. We tried to practice whenever we could.
There was no pool or hot tub on the deck. But the lounge chairs on the top deck were available if you wanted to watch the transit along the river. There were numerous spots inside to relax or find someone to chat with. Of course, the two bar locations were often lively spots on the ship.
Internet was generally very poor throughout the trip. But there was an internet room for people who didn’t bring devices with them to connect to wifi. The ship’s computers had no VPN so were limited in what you could access. On the few occasions when we had some internet connectivity, people sat behind their VPNs and tried to connect to mail, Facebook and other social media.
People who were used to bigger ships went looking for a walking track. The small deck area quickly caused me to feel queasy walking in small circles. There was a small gym area with machines if you needed more exercise. The early morning Tai Chi classes never really gained popularity. A small spa and beauty salon was available if you really wanted a little pampering. There was a great supply of souvenirs available on board. And even custom tailoring for hand-made clothing!
The time on the Viking Emerald went by quickly. There was always something to do on the ship. We used the time to relax and catch up on pictures and blogging. Once we hit land, the trip would be much busier.
We Ate Well While We Cruised
On most cruise ships, you can eat pretty much all day long if you want. Afternoon Tea was often a great way to get a snack late in the afternoon. We often seek opportunities to have Afternoon Tea when we travel. The Viking Afternoon tea provided a good selection of teas and a serving tray with a small mix of sweet and savoury. There was a duo for entertainment while we snacked.
The one dining room was massive and was generally the only option for eating. A small area in the lounge offered continental breakfast. Breakfast in the dining room was buffet style with a great variety of options. One day David even got treated with chocolate yogurt after he talked with the chef about his chocolate obsession! Lunch included a buffet and a few menu items.
Dinner was all open seating. You could sit wherever there was an open spot. While they took your orders almost as soon as you were seated, they often held delivering food until the table was full. We learned the lesson early on to pick a table that was almost full if we were hungry and wanted a quicker meal. The fixed menu offered several selections for each course and we generally had no problem finding food we could eat. We found lots of chocolate for dessert. So most meals ended with a smile! It was not the gourmet foodie experience we were used to with Oceania Cruises. But it was just fine.
One night we had a comprehensive Chinese menu. For most meals, the lazy Susan turntable in the centre of the table was used to move around things like bread, butter, salt and pepper. For the Chinese dinner, the turntable was filled with traditional Chinese dishes and we ate true Chinese family style. There was enough selection in the dishes that we could pass on the two spicy ones. Not many people tried the chicken feet, pig ears or pig tails!
When you book to cruise the Yangtze River in China, you can be as boring or as experimental as you want with food. You will never miss a meal!
Cruise The Yangtze River To See Another Facet Of China
After 6 days we arrived in the port in Chongqing. It was a very early morning departure for most people. Our bags and passports headed to the airport ahead of us. We struggled up the large stone steps at the old port with our carry-on bags in hand. Porters were available to help carry bags. If they were not already engaged as they carried the supplies to re-stock the boat.
The bus ride was smooth and we again had our passports returned to us at the airport. It was a quick flight to Lijiang to continue the land portion of our exploration of China with Viking Cruises. We got to explore this city a little more when we returned to Chongqing in 2 days.
We enjoyed a chance to cruise the Yangtze River in China with Viking Cruises. It was our first Viking Cruises experience. But it was likely not a totally representative example of river cruising with Viking. But it gave us a chance to see life along the mighty Yangtze River.
Did you cruise the Yangtze River in China? Was your experience the same or different?
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