THIS WAS MY first trip to China back in September 1996. I went with my parents (and their friends) and an aunt. I had just returned from my postgraduate studies in the UK and had a little time remaining on my sabbatical leave before I resumed my job at a TV station. This trip also took us to the Chinese cities of Shanghai, Wuhan and Jingzhou (a prefecture-level city in Hubei Province), Chongqing and Guangzhou.
After the trip, I diligently did up two albums of photos of this trip, complete with captions and details of the places we went to. However, a few years ago, some of my photo albums were damaged due to poor storage. Thankfully I was able to salvage some of them, including these from the Yangtze trip.
Our 9-day journey began on 31st August 1996 at the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, Subang. Our chartered place was however delayed and we finally took off at 1:30am on 1st September 1996. We arrived at the Shanghai International Airport, China, about 8:30am (there is no time difference between KL-Shanghai).
From Shanghai, we took a domestic flight to Wuhan, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, is the largest industrial and trading city in central China. We stayed the night in Holiday Inn, Wuhan.
Checked out of the hotel and headed to Jingzhou Museum, Jingzhou, 2 hours bus journey through villages and farms. The museum has a huge collection of cultural relics, many are national treasures, including the largest collection of ancient silk materials. The museum is also home to an almost perfectly preserved male corpse of a Han Dynasty official!
At lunch time, we boarded Princess Elaine at Yichang bound for Chongqing. Our journey on Asia’s longest river and third longest in the world at 6,418km, covered a distance of over 200km. Our upstream journey along Yangtze River – from Yichang to Chongqing – took four and a half days; compared to the downstream journey which takes three days. Princess Elaine is one of the three German-made ships of Regal China Cruises fleet built in 1993 (the other two were Princess Jeannie and Princess Sheena).
We were met on board by Kevin our river guide and a band made up by the ship crew. For the record, there were only 26 passengers on board the ship that could accommodate 258 passengers. Apart from our group of 18, there were three Canadian couples and an American couple. We were told that the ship crew totaled more than 100!
On our first night on the cruise, we stayed up past midnight to witness the ship lock at the Gezhouba Dam. The massive 70-m high dam arrested Yangtze’s flow and forced all shipping up and down the gorges to pass through one of its three ship locks. The water level in the dam rose 60 feet in just 12 minutes. It was the largest dam in China till the Three Gorges Dam was scheduled to be completed in 2009.
We cruised passed the Xiling Gorge which zigzags for 76km. It is the longest and said to be historically the most dangerous of the Yangtze Gorges.
Just before lunch, we anchored briefly at the entrance of Wu Xia Gorge @ Witches Gorge, the middle Yangtze Gorge that stretches 40km. Here we went on an excursion to the Lesser Three Gorges in Wushan – the Dragon Gate Gorge (3km), Misty Gorge (10km) and Emerald Gorge (20km) – voted as one of the top 40 tourist attractions in China in 1991.
An early start with the wake-up call at 6:30am. By 7am, the ship approached Qutang Gorge @ Wind Box Gorge, the last of the Three Gorges. At 8km, it is the shortest but grandest of them all. Significant sites along the 20-minute passage are Bellows Gorge, Hanging Monk Rock and Meng Liang Stairways.
At about 4pm, we passed Wanxian @ Gateway to East Sichuan. The city, apart from Yichang and Wuhan, was most affected by the building of the Three Gorges Dam. Two thirds of its 1.2 million populations were relocated.
We woke up to find Princess Elaine already anchored at Fengdu @ Ghost City since the break of dawn. A shuttle bus took us to Feng Du Ming Shan, the site of a temple rich with local folklore, history, legend and superstitions, and popular with tourists since it was declared the Three Gorges tour district in 1982. (However, despite being located on a hill, part of Fengdu is reportedly submerged in water when the Three Gorges Dam project was finally completed and fully functional in 2013).
We returned to the ship for lunch. Later in the afternoon, the group was given a tour of the Bridge, the workplace of the Ship Captain and his crew. In any normal circumstances, there would be at least five people on the Bridge. At 6pm, the Captain hosted a farewell party for passengers on the sun deck.
Princess Elaine anchored at Chongqing by 7am as we were having breakfast. We disembarked at 8:45am, and went on to visit Chongqing Museum and the Dinosaur Museum. Chongqing, located in eastern Sichuan, is surrounded by mountains.
Checked out of Holiday Inn Yangtze Chongqing, and took a domestic flight to Guangzhou; arrived late afternoon and checked into Garden Hotel.
Departed Guangzhou for home sweet home 🙂
Following this trip, I wrote an article entitled “Enchanting Yangtze River” (link) for a magazine a year later in 1997.