The Yangtze river is a popular route for cruise boats and ferries to travel along, serving tourists who wish to experience the Three Gorges. We took a cruise on the the Victoria Yangtze Cruise ship, this is our review and experience of our trip.
So, when we first arrived arrived at the Chongqing dock, we did struggle to figure out which boat was ours. As worried travellers we wouldn’t allow the bag-carrying men to take our luggage and instead, heaved our own luggage up and down the many steps to 2 different boats that were the wrong boats; there are a few different types of Victoria Cruises; ours was the CH Victoria Cruise ship. Once we did find the correct boat however, we were warmly greeted with a welcome drink and a friendly staff member who sat us in the lounge reception area of the cruise ship and talked us through the itinerary. We were also told that the other people on the cruise were either part of a large Chinese tour group or part of a slightly smaller German tour group; meaning we would be the only two English speaking guests onboard. This turned out to be ideal! We were sat with the tour guides during meal times so could ask lots of questions about China and the river and for every attraction we had our own private English speaking guide; meaning we could explore the attractions at our own pace.
We hadn’t yet had dinner and the cruise didn’t include dinner for the first night but the chef was incredibly accommodating and cooked us a sweet and sour pork dish with rice; very nice! We then spent some time exploring the cruise ship; which had a massive chandelier hanging from the first floor and hovering over the ground floor, with an impressive spiral wooden staircase leading you through the levels of the ship. The restaurant area is spacious with a golden and red colour theme and most meals were served buffet style.
Our room was simple but clean and comfy. We paid $349 per person so were happy with the value for money we got. The room had a private bathroom, a small wardrobe and a nice balcony with two chairs and table; perfect for relaxing whilst cruising through the Gorges.
We headed to the roof top terrace just before 9pm, the time our ship was scheduled to depart Chongqing. We enjoyed seeing the city lit up and met some other guests; with limited conversation but lots of smiles and nods! The 4th floor had a sundeck at the back of the boat along with a bar and dance floor area. We enjoyed a few drinks here most evenings with a selection of beers, wines and fancy cocktails available. The third floor had more guest rooms and a massage centre that I am not sure was ever used by any of the guests.
Fengdu – ‘Ghost City’
We woke up bright and early for our 8am breakfast which was made up of Western and Chinese food – the noodles and chicken sausages were an interesting mix. We headed out to explore the Fengdu Ghost City, the place where Chinese legend tells us is where the devil lives. It is known in China as purgatory where spirits go to heaven but evil goes to Fengdu.
This knowledge accompanied with the eerie, abandoned feel of the place, did give the visit an unusual atmosphere. For this trip we had a German and English speaking tour guide but; because it was two English with 40 German speaking tourists, we didn’t get much English explanation. Which, to be honest, was fine by us, as we were able to walk on ahead and explore the city ourselves without the crowd of our tour group.
At the ‘City’, you make your way up various steps and hills, moving through temples and among unusual (and slightly disturbing) statues. Although it was obvious that little restoration had been done to the city for many years, the faded colours still made interesting exploring and pictures. We took our time wandering around the area, looking at the pagoda’s and temples along with the nature that was growing around the buildings and statues, following the pathway that leads to ‘hell’.
We crossed the Modoribashi; which translates to the Bridge to Hell and apparently connects the real world with the nether world. It was a foggy day during our visit but we managed to catch a glimpse and get a slightly murky picture of the Devil Hotel; a hotel that was being built in Fengdu to attract tourists but was only half completed due to several freak suicides during construction.
We then headed back to the boat for a Chinese lunch – buffet style in the dining room. The company did offer additional excursions but there was not enough people wanting to do the afternoon trip so it did not run. Instead, the ship played a film about the history of the Yichang River, which was interesting. We also learnt and had a go at Chinese glassware painting; where you dip an inked brush and paint a vase from the inside.
That evening we enjoyed a Welcome Reception from the captain and crew, including a Chinese fashion show; showcasing the fashions throughout the eras.
Baidicheng – ‘White Emperor City’
We were up again for a 8am breakfast and then headed to the White Emperor City for an optional excursion. This time we had our own private tour guide who was a lovely lady with lots of knowledge of the local area and history.
Our tour guide took us the reverse way around the City, meaning we avoided the 9am tour bus crowds as well as the steep 1000 step climb upwards; instead we could casually walk down at our own pace at the end of the tour.
The mini city is well known with the Chinese people because of the famous poetry written about the area. The city is home to various pagodas, temples, gates, gardens and breathtaking views of the Gorges; as the White Emperor City is placed just at the entrance of the Gorges.
Once we had returned to the ship, we freshened up, had lunch and headed to the observation sundeck on the fourth floor to experience the Gorges.
We were then transferred to a smaller boat to explore the ‘Lesser Gorges’, where we sat on a long tail boat that was rowed along by a delightful singing man.
Moving through the Lesser Gorges, we were told the history of the river and learnt that by building the Dam, river levels rose and flooded entire towns. In fact, our tour guide explained to us how we were currently cruising over his old town that he grew up in.
A hanging cliff coffin I spotted on our journey. We saw one of these close up earlier in White Emperor City. Hover over the image below to see a close up.
That evening, we enjoyed a Captains Buffet – a lovely traditional meal with champagne. We then headed to our balcony to enjoy the sun set whilst having a natter and enjoying some chocolate we managed to buy from a market stall in White Emperor City – I am slightly addicted to chocolate!
Three Gorges Dam
For our last day, we were taken to visit the Three Gorges Dam, with a Museum documenting the history using a miniature model of the dam. We learnt a lot about how and why the Dam was built and enjoyed the slightly random statues and sculptures surrounding the Museum.
Once we had finished our time at the Dam, a coach drove us into the centre of Yichang where our tour guide flagged us a 10 CNY (£1) taxi to take us to our hotel; the Ramada Yichang Hotel, where we were spending a night before our flight to Shanghai the next morning.
Various cruise ships as well as this cruise ‘4 Day Victoria Yangtze River Cruise’ is available to book on Viator.
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