Blogger: Fiona & Glenn
To say the least, China can be hectic. If you fancy hitting a more leisurely pace, a 3 day cruise along the Yangtze River from Chongqing to Yichang, a distance of 660km including a visit to The Three Gorges Dam is highly recommended.
The Three Gorges Project is the largest hydroelectric scheme in the world. It generates 85 billion kWh of energy a year while improving navigation and flood control along the world’s 3rd longest river. The height differential between the water above and below the dam is anything up to 113 metres depending on the time of year and the scheme has essentially created a manmade lake which stretches most of the way back upstream to Chongqing. The deep lake provides a navigable channel with little current, and consequently reduction in fuel usage, for vessels heading upstream. A series of ship locks in the dam can allow vessels pass through in 3 hours.
Despite its benefits this project is unsurprisingly controversial, particularly amongst the 1.3 million people displaced when their homes and farmlands were submerged in anything up to 100 metres of water. Along the cruise you have the opportunity to visit Feng Du Ghost City, Shibaozhai, and White Emperor City which provide opportunities to witness the positives and negatives of the scheme.
Located on the northern bank of the Yangtze, the Ghost City of Fengdu is a collection of temples from China’s most popular religions; Buddhism and Taoism. Legend suggested that the King of Hell is to be found here, hence the name Ghost City. The old city of Feng Du is now submerged under the river but the view of the new relocated city can be seen on the southern bank. A visit to the Ghost City is full of legends surrounding the three tests prior to final judgement by the King of Hell. This stop is a wonderful opportunity to experience the beliefs of the Chinese people as well as witnessing firsthand the dramatic impact of the Three Gorges Project on the homes and livelihoods of the everyday people.
Shibaozhai is an architectural gem along the river. A temple built on a hilltop; it is now protected from the river by its own dam. The 12 storey wooden pagoda has plenty legends of its own including the Duck Hole and Rice Flowing Hole. However whilst great efforts were made to protect the pagoda during the rising water, the effect on villagers lives is most striking. Once a farming village, it is now a soulless seller of trinkets. The vacant stares of those left behind must be seen to be believed.
White Emperor City is an ancient temple complex overlooking the entrance of the Qutang Gorge, the first of the Three Gorges. Whilst the White Emperor City is most known in China as the place where the hero King if Shu, Liu Bei died, it is the stunning view of the Qutang Gorge for which I found it most memorable. When cruising the Yangtze this is a must see!
Cruising 600km through the heart of China is a fantastic opportunity to see a country which is developing at a phenomenal rate from the luxury of your deckchair, highly recommended!