Badong Xian, China, Asia
I was woken up this morning at 6am by the annoying woman on the intercom. There was an optional excursion that you had to pay another 220 yuan ($37) for, so Jessica, Staffan and I decided not to go. We’d spent enough money on this trip and didn’t want to open ourselves up to more disappointment. Of course, because this boat is crap, they still only have one breakfast time, even though half of the people on the boat are not going on the excursion. So we had to go to breakfast at 6:30am, and then we had nothing to do until we set sail down the river again to view the first of three gorges.
At 10:45am we left the small town of Baidi and saw the first gorge, Qutang Gorge. It was very impressive, but unfortunately the weather was pretty hazy. I haven’t seen a clear day since I left Guilin. I think it’s partly due to the weather, but mostly due to smog. You just can’t get away from it in this country. I imagine the scenery would have been amazing if it was perfectly clear, but no. This gorge was only 8km long, so it didn’t take too long to get through.
While we were waiting for another scenic view, we decided to go sit in the Observation Lounge on the third deck. They’ve set up a small tea shop in there, and there were four tables set up, and no one else was in there. We sat at a table for three against the window, and about five minutes later we were approached by a worker. She didn’t speak English very well, but she did manage to tell us that if we weren’t going to buy tea, then we had to pay $50 for the table, for an hour! We couldn’t believe it. She must have been joking. But she wasn’t. She was deadly serious. So we left and sat in our rooms. It was absolutely ridiculous that we weren’t allowed to sit in the Observation Lounge without paying an extra charge. We couldn’t go sit anywhere else because all the “non-smoking” bars and lounges were full of smoke. The sun deck didn’t have any chairs, so unless we wanted to sit on the Astroturf and get some astro-chaffing, we had to go sit in our rooms. Not cool at all.
We went down to the restaurant for another disappointing lunch, and then got to see the Wu Gorge. It wasn’t all that impressive, so we took a few pictures and then were content to wait for our next excursion. We got off the boat at 3:30pm and got onto a ferry boat. This ferry brought us one hour down a side stream called Shengnong Stream. We got to the touristy bit at the river where we got off the ferry boat and boarded smaller little peapod boats that they’ve been using for hundreds of years. Four guys paddled us downstream for about 15 minutes, and the scenery was pretty nice. The different boats were racing each other, and they didn’t care if we got pretty wet in the process so water was splashing everywhere. When we got down the river, a couple of the guys jumped out of the boat and went on shore with a piece of bamboo rope that was attached to the boat. They pulled us down the river another hundred yards to show us how they used to do it back in the day. We’re not really sure why they used to do this, but they did. They got back in the boat, paddled us back upstream to the ferry, and then in another hour we were back on the big boat. Not the most exciting excursion, but it got us off the big boat for a little while.
We had our last disappointing dinner on the boat, and then headed up to the sundeck after dark. We had bought some beers when we got off the boat today, so we had those to drink. The boat sucks so bad that they didn’t even have lights on the deck at night, so we sat there in the dark, except for one little light bulb that was near the outdoor showers on the deck. We can’t even figure out why there are showers on the deck because there’s no swimming pool or hot tub. Why would you need to shower up there??
Anyway, we are all heading to bed early tonight because we’re going to get a wakeup call at about 1am to see the shiplock at the Three Gorges Dam. Should be really exciting!