Sailing Down the Yangtze River in China

I felt like I was in some Siberian town trapped in the middle of a vast, foreign continent.  Although Wuhan, China sprawls along the Yangtze River in southern China, it feels so isolated and so not Westernized.  Ultimately we landed here after our flight in from Shanghai presumably to disembark on our week long cruise down the meandering Yangtze River.   Even though Wuhan seemed so foreign to me, I appreciated arriving in a place that doesn’t feel like everywhere else.

Sailing Down the Yangtze River in China

Sailing down the Yangtze River. The Shibaozhai Pagoda is 12-story, 18th century temple built in Zhongxian County on the northern bank of Yangtze River
Sailing down the Yangtze River. The Shibaozhai Pagoda is 12-story, 18th century temple built in Zhongxian County on the northern bank of Yangtze River

Initially we spent our first night docked in Wuhan in our 5-level white ship with 128 staterooms, and settled in for our cruise down the third largest river in the world.  Unfortunately outside Wuhan there’s really not a whole heck of a lot to see besides all the industrial ships and fishermen sailing by.  Considering the Yangtze feeds the Chinese economy with ships transporting immense quantity of goods across the country, there’s a wide variety of interesting vessels to observe.  In fact only after we reached the 3 gorges region, did the landscape turn more scenic.

Remarkably suspended 100 meters (328 feet) above the lower gorge, hanging coffins dangled from the cliff face at dizzying heights.  Presumably the Bo tribe placed them centuries ago to keep their dead closer to heaven and far from predators.  Without the benefits of modern technology one can only imagine how they were installed.  No doubt it required celestial feats of footwork to no only maneuver that high, but also to do so holding a coffin.

Sailing the Yangtze River in China. We are in the lower gorges, just before the Three Gorges Dam.
Sailing the Yangtze River in China. We are in the lower gorges, just before the Three Gorges Dam.

Unfortunately the 3 Gorges Dam built in 2012 displaced mostly of the Bo People.

Most notably the dam screams controversy for it’s social, cultural and environmental impact.  Incidentally many archeological sites flooded, destroying ancient artifacts. Regrettably in the face of economic profitability, culture and civilization become casualties.

Regardless it can’t be denied that the 3 Gorges Dam is an incredible feat of engineering.

With 5 locks it takes about 4 hours to pass through.  Actually we transversed at about midnight.  Therefore we stayed up for a few locks, and then went to bed in preparation for our next shore excursion. If you’ve never been through a ship lock it’s an amazing experience to pull into this enclosed box, watch it fill up with water and then sail out the other end.

The Yangtze River. On the way to the Shibaozshi Pagoda, China. These ladies measure 1/2 the size of Allan, and carried him uphill all the way to the pagoda.
The Yangtze River. On the way to the Shibaozshi Pagoda, China. These ladies measure 1/2 the size of Allan, and carried him uphill all the way to the pagoda.

The next morning we woke up as the vessel pulled aside the bank to see the Shibaozshi Pagoda.  Short, older local ladies on shore fought over who got carry Allan in their chair.  Two “lucky” ones won the honor of suspending Allan on their shoulders as he sat in their litter.  Unbelievably they transported him up hill for at least 15 minutes over to the pagoda while I walked gingerly.  Needless to say we tipped generously for carrying someone who weighed as much as they did combined.

The twelve story red Shibaozshi Pagoda rests atop a hill providing majestic views of the Yangtze River basin.

Ranked as one of the world’s top 8 strangely designed structures, this 18th century Buddhist temple embeds itself into the cliff face and contains not a single nail.  Also it contains unique construction elements like bricks from the Han Dynasty (206 BC).  Unquestionably I recommend a visit when you have the chance.

Shortly after the pagoda, our lovely river cruise ended in the massive city of Chongqing.  Most notably with a population of over 30 million, it measures three times the size of New York City.  We stopped briefly as we had to catch our flight to Lhasa, Tibet.  Sadly I can’t say it was all that memorable other than seeing some black and white pandas, along with a selection of red ones in small enclosures at the national zoo.

Certainly what I enjoyed most was sailing down the Yangtze River.  I would highly recommend this experience to anyone looking for a bit of adventure.  For me the ride forever holds a special spot in my memory bank.

On the Yangtze River at the Shibaozshi Pagoda, China. The river lies in the background. After this shot I returned to the boat and ran 4 miles on the treadmill.
On the Yangtze River at the Shibaozshi Pagoda, China. The river lies in the background. After this shot I returned to the boat and ran 4 miles on the treadmill.

Happy travels,

Matt Weatherbee

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Matt Weatherbee
Matt Weatherbee

Hi, I’m Matt.  In 2008 I quit my job, sold everything and drove from Boston to Mexico to start a business.  Now I live and work in the Carribean, and spend my free time traveling the globe.  Learn more.

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