China's Yangtze River
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A Photographic Look Back at China’s Yangtze River

China's Yangtze River

China’s Yangtze River

The longest river in China (third longest in the world), the Yangtze River has been an important part of China since the Han Dynasty. For centuries small villages rested along the shores of the river, a source of food and transportation, however that all changed when China decided to build the Three Gorges Dam, which displaced more than a million Chinese living along the banks of the river. Even now, almost six years later, the water continues to rise slowly, swallowing up small wooden docks, huts, and so on.

Chongqing, China

Chongqing, China

My ‘cruise’ up the Yangtze River started in Chongquing, just after the completion of the Three Gorges Dam. Of course I knew nothing about that, I had made my decision to travel on the river after a conversation with an American girl who was helping run a very cool hostel in Xi’an.

I took a long distance bus from Chengdu to Chongqing, politely eating whatever random food the Chinese woman beside me was offering me. Most of the time I would put the food in my mouth, pretend to like it, then find a way to spit it into my hand and eventually transfer to a napkin. It was very covert. When I arrived in Chongqing I walked to the nearest boat tour operator, bought a ticket for a four day trip up the Yangtze River, then shopped for snacks.

A cabin with a view for Yangtze River cruise

A cabin with a view for Yangtze River cruise

The boat was scheduled to leave the following morning, but I was permitted onboard and into my cabin. The only passenger spending the night onboard I turned on a Chinese soap opera and relaxed for the night.

The following morning the boat left the docks and we were on our way up the Yangtze River. And I was the only English-speaking passenger onboard, which meant I had a staff member on following me around everywhere to make sure I was happy at all times. A little alarming for a girl who loves to explore on her own, but I appreciated the gesture.

A fancy-ish Chinese cruise ship

A fancy-ish Chinese cruise ship

For the next four days I sat on the deck of the ship, watching the changing landscapes, mesmerized by the sharp cliffs, small villages, and agile wooden boats helmed by local fishermen.

Cruising on the Yangtze River

Cruising on the Yangtze River

A village that may have been swallowed up by the river by now

A village that may have been swallowed up by the river by now

I loved the sails of these boats

I loved the sails of these boats

While I spent most of my time on the boat, we did have three shore excursions that were included in the trip. The first being Fengdu Ghost City, a tourist attraction with beautiful buildings, and a gauntlet of vendors selling everything from snacks to t-shirts.

A tourist market at Fengdu Ghost City

A tourist market at Fengdu Ghost City

Rooftops in Fengdu

Rooftops in Fengdu

Walking back to the boat after exploring Fengdu

Walking back to the boat after exploring Fengdu

I was mildly fascinated by Fengdu, and totally enthralled by a small boat trip we took along the Shennong River where we were polled and shown where the river had swallowed up wooden docks and huts. It was an afternoon filled with interesting locals, and insights into river life before and after the dam, and spotting coffins balancing on wooden polls high up in the cliffs.

Polling down the Shennong River in China

Polling down the Shennong River in China

In his eighties and still polling the Shennong River

In his eighties and still polling the Shennong River

Local man hanging out on the river

Local man hanging out on the river

My trip to China and up the Yangtze River was eye-opening. My first trip in a country where I didn’t speak the language. It was challenging at times, but I fell in love with the history and the culture. And I also cursed the entire country whenever a taxi driver would refuse to drive me somewhere. China is complex, and full of history and culture. I just wish I had the time and money to explore China extensively. And the patience!!

A ferry-like boat on the Yangtze

A ferry-like boat on the Yangtze

Serenity along the Yangtze River

Serenity along the Yangtze River

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I'm a travel writer and photographer who specializes in bespoke travel experiences. I write about boutique, savvy and cultural travel. My writing has been featured in Outpost Magazine, Travel + Escape, and UP! Magazine.

1 comment

  1. One of the world’s great rivers … it’s a shame what is happening with the ppl that live along the river, but the pictures were beautiful nonetheless!

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