What a beautiful poster. Blue skies, purple mountains, green pastures.
I took this same Yangzi River cruise shortly after my first wedding 15 years ago. I kind of wish Butterfield & Swire had arranged it, though.
My parents, uncle, then-husband, and I boarded the boat in Chongqing (Chungking) in Sichuan province after indulging in mala (numb and spicy) hotpot in the days leading up to the cruise.
Named the Tian Fu, the boat wasn’t a luxurious pleasure ship for tourists. Instead, it was full of hundreds of Chinese nationals, most of whom stayed in their sleeping clothes all day long. Chongqing is one of the three ‘furnaces’ in China, meaning that it gets really hot there in the summer. Our boat took off sometime in the beginning of August. Like the mala hotpot, the temperatures were numbingly hot.
I remember the beautiful mountains and gorges we saw from the Tian Fu and from a smaller boat we boarded so as to navigate the tight spaces in some of the gorges.
At night, rats scurried along the floor, helping themselves to the plump tomatoes I thought I were safely tucked away in plastic bags. Silly me.
Sometimes while we sat on deck, watching the scenery, a luxurious tourist boat would pass by. Decorated with colorful lights strung around red and gold pillars, these boats were probably on par with the ones arranged by Butterfield and Swire back in the day.
I secretly wished I was on one of those boats, not the Tian Fu. But my family from the US enjoyed and appreciated seeing China from the Chinese point of view. At that time in my life, I tried to do everything the Chinese way and for once wanted a reprieve.
But looking back now, I’m glad I had a chance to see the Three Gorges before the new damn changed the scenery forever. And that I saw them from Tian Fu.