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4-Day River Cruise on the Yangtze River

Travels in China, part 10

By Armando F Sanchez
Published on LatinoLA: November 22, 2013

4-Day River Cruise on the Yangtze River

We started the day by visiting the world famous Three Forges Dam. It's quite impressive in size and we can see immediately that it is a modern and well maintained facility. The relatively new dam made it possible to significant raise the level of the river and making it able to navigate large barges to transport year round. River boat traffic was heavy in both directions. It seemed like the high shipping activity on the Mississippi River.

Each day on the river cruise we would stop at a town or village and visit ancient temples. We visited Buddha, Tao, and other religious temples remembering the dead and the afterlife. One particular stop we made was the Ghost town of Fengdu (the term "ghost" refers to the dead and the concept of the afterlife). There are 75 Buddha and Tao Temples in the town.

As we were traveling upriver many times we would suddenly see a small location were there were many new condo towers all crowded together. We learned that these condos were for persons who had been displaced by the raised water levels of the river caused by the dam. Town and villages that were once their homes for many generations were now permanently under water. I wonder what it must feel for these persons to find themselves almost overnight living in a 300 square foot room on the 40th floor instead of on their multiple generation farm cottages. The psychological impact on them must be enormous and will have social adaptation consequences into the future. What is currently planned is to continue moving 250 million people from farmlands throughout the country into city residences in just a few years.

I realized why they call this the Three Gorges Dam. In three distinct areas, along the river route, there are natural areas where the limestone mountains are very high and seem to go straight up out of the river. They narrow the shipping lanes along the river. They are impressive and it's a beautiful scenic mountain area. They are commonly seen on travel brochures. We passed practically one gorge per day.

Here in the interior of the country very few persons spoke English. The street vendors knew a few phrases but had no ability to converse. Trini would buy different items to take home from the merchants. How she managed to haggle with them the price despite the language was very interesting. Here the
street vendor merchandise prices are negotiable and are almost expected to be haggled. Trini must have done well given seeing how each day we put more purchased items into our luggage. I think many of our family members will be receiving and wearing Chinese items this Christmas.

Somewhere during the cruise I realized that I had not seen anything, even remotely, that tied to remind me that Christmas was next month. It seemed odd, to me, to think that practically a great percentage of Christmas promotional item that we see in California come from this country and yet we don't see any of it on display here. I left Los Angeles in mid-October and it was already being bombarded and publicizing the Season on the television. It's more apparent to me that the merchants in the US are very deep worried that we may somehow forget when it is Christmas and that we need extensive and continual daily reminders to max out our credit cards and shop till we drop.

The majority of the people in China are Buddhist. The rest believes in Tao, Confucianism, and are Muslim. It's estimated that there are 30 million Chinese Christians. It is believed that Buddhism traveled from India into China approximately 1,000 BC. Over the last few years, I have gone back to read the literature on Buddhism from my college years and I find their teachings very insightful. I have learned a great deal with their explanation of the origins of human "suffering"and how one deals with it and its different manifestations. I have found Buddhism to be very practical and can be applied to everyday life experience.

The weather on the river was pleasantly warm. Part of it may be because the mountains all around us cut off the wind and it gets warm with the sun warming the canyons we are passing through. The river water is warm to the touch.

Throughout the river trip the air around us continued to be very "hazy". They say it's from the evaporation of the river. I am now coughing more regularly and I can now hear my peers also coughing more frequently. The haze seemed to be getting more concentrated as we traveled further inland.

I think most of us traveling together found it very surreal that one moment we would be in areas that seem desolate and then all of a sudden a city that seemed like Manhattan would be on the next bend. Take for example when we docked in Wushan. The population here, we were informed, is 10 million. There we stopped to take a small boat excursion trip up a small Daning River.

The population in Manhattan Island in New York is 1.6 million! I use to think that Manhattan had many tall buildings and was very crowded. Boy, was I dead wrong and now I think that Manhattan is a "small" large city.

As we kept traveling, I lost count how many cities we saw that are concentrated with many very tall buildings. These cities have been built in the last 25-years. Cities were built here to accommodate 5, 10, 15 or more million people. There is of course open spaces throughout the countryside but wherever they decided to build a city, it was obviously built with a large population in mind. I recall being informed that there we some "small" cities in the area. Apparently some cities only have a small population of one-million.

One thought that came to mind was to consider if all their multiple floor buildings are built to sustain a measurable earthquake. As we kept traveling westward we were headed in the direction toward the Himalayas. The Tibetan mountain range is commonly known for producing major catastrophic earthquakes. I did see some of the new construction using steel frames but they were also using brick. Only time will tell if the buildings will take the impact.

I began to notice that many of the river barges that were passing us carried sand or coal. Sand I understand was needed for mixing with cement and coal can basically only be used for heating large furnaces. I can only consider that if they keep burning their huge supply of coal to produce energy then they will continue to have a serious problem with the health of future generations. The other unfortunate problem is that the pollutants is causing a problem with global warming.

Over the 4-days we visited the regional sites that highlighted the local and historical sites. I believe that much of it may be gone in a few years. The dam water levels were raised and their historical sites disappeared. Now that the focus of the central government is to relocate the farmers into cities, that will have a major impact on making minority ethnic groups disperse and begin to vanish. It's quite unfortunate for them to be displaced and to eventually destroy their roots. The central government has decided to continue the momentum to modernize the country, and it's people, and it's doubtful that it will slow down anytime soon.

We disembarked in the mountain city of Chongqing (population of 29 million) which has a history of 3,000 years. After a brief city visit we flew to Guilin. We visited the Reed Flute Cave. We did a half-day cruise excursion on the Li River. Time to shop in the market place of Yangshou. We were invited to try their snake wine for its medicinal benefits. You guessed it, instead of mescal worms at the bottom of the bottle, this one had several snakes at the bottom. They say it tastes like tequila. Well, I am never going to find out if it's true.

Our trip was quickly coming to the end. We would start traveling early tomorrow morning to our destination which was Hong Kong.

About Armando F Sanchez:
Armando F Sanchez is the CEO of Armando F Sanchez Productions. His organization produces global new media programming.
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