It all started as a family trip to visit my uncle and brother, who were in Guangzhou and Chongqing, China respectively. The itinerary was left to my brother to ensure my two sisters, a friend and I had a fun-filled holiday with lots of good food. But this simple family trip turned out to be a treasured memory as besides sharing some precious bonding time, we also got to experience one of the world’s largest engineering projects.
My brother met up with us in Guangzhou for a reunion dinner with our uncle before we flew to Chongqing the next day. We had our first “culture shock” when an old man carried four of our huge and heavy bags in one go, using a pole. He brought everything up six flights of stairs! Apparently, these “bang-bang” (“helpers” in Mandarin) are common in Chongqing and they carry practically everything under the sun including whole refrigerators and washing machines.
The first touristy thing we did in Chongqing was to visit one of China’s natural treasures, the giant panda. It was the first time we had such close encounters with them. They were actually lazy, cheeky, loud and messy eaters but incredibly cute at the same time.
Next, we covered Ci Qi Old Town for some souvenir hunting session before going for a steamboat dinner. It is worth mentioning that when you are in Chongqing, expect to have lots of steamboat meals. But no complaints from us though because their fish slice steamboats are sumptuous.
The next morning we woke up to a freezing rainy morning. My brother informed us that we were lucky as we got to experience the changing of seasons. True enough, in the days ahead, it continued to rain and the sky was always grey. Hello Autumn!
That same night, we boarded the Victoria Cruise to sail the Yangtze River downstream from Chongqing to Yichang, with the highlight being The Three Gorges Dam.
Have you heard of ships taking the elevators? Well, our cruiser did exactly that and what an awesome experience it was. To do that, the cruiser had to go through five ship locks which can accommodate a total of six cruisers at one time. Each ship lock will bring the cruisers down a level on the Yangtze River. This is a highly recommended experience for all.
Besides the ship lock experience, the picturesque mountain views along the river were mesmerising. The cruise included a short offshore excursion to Fengdu Ghost City, where we saw the hanging coffins on the cliffs of the mountains. I regretted not bringing my good camera for a closer look at the coffins as I ended up just gawking at them from afar.
The cruise had entertainment shows for both evenings, though passengers were free to spend the evenings on the deck instead. My family and I decided to forego the show on the second night and spent our time on the deck during one of the ship lock sessions. It was so overwhelming standing on the deck seeing and hearing the loud grunting of the gigantic metallic gates of the ship lock opening in front and closing behind us.
It took around four hours to pass through all five ship locks and we made sure we were back on the deck for the last one. The final offshore stop for the cruise was a visit to the Three Gorges Project Model Room which detailed the whole magnificent project from its inception to what it is today.
We disembarked at Yichang and headed back to Chongqing the next day. My brother managed to squeeze another interesting place for us – the Dazu Rock Carvings (a Unesco World Heritage Site) before we visited our sister-in-law’s village house. It is not often we get to experience rural life; we walked along grassy paths and crossed over fish ponds to reach the main ancestral house. Along the way, we saw vegetation which we have never seen before. We got to play with old straw capes, picked guavas, saw a woman doing her washing by the canal (with pieces of clothing floating away) and used a toilet which was just a shed with a hole in the middle!
The final culture shock was walking about 2km to the terminal at the airport for our flight back, which my brother had insisted was “a short distance”.
The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.
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