- Learning about and seeing first-hand the Three Gorges Dam
- Fantastic scenery along the Yangtze
- Making new friends
We flew from Xi’an to Yichang to embark on the four night upstream cruise on the Yangze River aboard the Century Sun. Unfortunately our flight was slightly delayed. When we arrived at Yichang airport, we were met by our guide and driver who informed us that we are too late for the ship’s dinner, so asked if we would prefer a McDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken instead? These two establishments, I guess, are all the rage in China, at present, however we decided to take our chance with the ships kitchen!
We were able to relax and let the mighty Yangtze carry us away. We visited the Three Gorges Dam and learned about the largest ever water conservation project ever undertaken, before returning to the ship and sailing through the Three Gorges Shiplocks (five locks at over twenty metres each) and the Xiling Gorge. On the second day, we sailed through the Wu and Qutang Gorges, and took an excursion to the Lesser Gorge along the Danang River. We visited a mock ancient village that was so authentic, it showed us how the minorities in that area lived, worked and how they married. The girl would carry her flowers in a wicker basket and the man that offered the highest bid for her flowers would, if she liked him enough, become her husband. We also saw a staged wedding ceremony, it was so nice. On our third day we went on another shore excursion, this time a pagoda. On the morning of the fourth day, we arrived at our final destination, after having seen the charm, tranquillity and splendour of the mighty Yangtze, we sadly disembarked at the port in Chongqing.
We had an excellent River Guide, Jack Xiong, who told us about the Yangze River, including that it is the:
- Longest river in China and the third largest river in the World (6,380 Km)
- Third largest river by volume, fuelled by rainfall and glacial melt in the Summer
- Largest river system in the World with over seven hundred tributaries which usually contain clear green water, and it
- Flows though eight provinces, one autonomous region and two municipalities
- Valley is the home to one third of China population (one twelth of the World’s population)
- Washes a quarter of a million tons of silt away each year
We had been aware before our arrival that the Three Gorges Project was immensely controversial, both within China and in the World’s media. We learned from our River Guide that there were three primary reasons to build the Dam and two reasons not to build the Dam.
Reasons to Build the Dam
- Flood Control: will supposedly reduce the severity of flooding by 90%
- Energy: the dam gives 15% of China’s electricity, mostly in the Yangtze area.
- Navigation: allows the passage of 10,000 tons fleet to Chongqing instead of 3,000 ton ships
Reasons not to Build the Dam
- Potential Environmental Impacts:
- Landslides and Earthquakes
- Dam Safety
- Water Pollution
- Water Loss
- Water-borne diseases
- Fish and animals
- Potential Social, Economic and Cultural Impacts
- Population Resettlement
- Land Availability
- Loss of Cultural Heritage
- National Defence Concern
- Diversion of Funds
Overall, we still have slightly mixed views about the Dam or lingering doubts, including:
- The risk of potential flooding following a natural or human triggered disaster
- Impact on local people
- Buried towns and lost societies
The small sample of Chinese to whom we spoke seemed to favour the benefits case. Discussing the project with our fellow passengers, the consensus was that it would probably never have been approved in North America nor Europe. We remain undecided but there is no doubt about the enormous engineering success which, of course, China is proudly able to share with the World.
The cruise itself was operated by Century Cruises and we could not fault the excellent service, comfort or itinerary. The passengers were eighty percent Chinese, plus large groups from US, Australia & Germany, plus a few others – Marilyn and Alf were the only Brits. Our table in the restaurant included:
- Two American ladies who were both doctors tagging a short holiday on after a medical conference
- A Danish couple and their son, who were also tagging the trip on to another event – the Danish lady had a broken leg which was being treated by alternative Chinese Medicine, after she had her leg scanned in Chinese Army hospital.
- A retired German couple, and another German lady
We have many photos and video clips but they will have to wait for future publication….
For us the Yangtze River will always remain one of our great highlight memories of China.