We’ve been backpacking for almost two months now, and while we’re enjoying the lifestyle (most of the time, anyway), we felt that it was time to pamper ourselves for…just a little bit.
According to our copy of Lonely Planet, one of the quintessential China experiences is a river cruise down the Yangtze River (长江).
Some background: most Chang Jiang cruises transit between two points – going upstream from Yichang (宜昌) or cruising downstream from Chongqing (重庆). An upstream cruise typically takes four nights and downstream cruise, three. There are many cruise operators at the two terminal cities offering transportation as varied as a 200 RMB catamaran ride to a 1800 RMB cruise on a internationally-run cruise liner (read: they actually give a shit about minor details such as “standing space” for all “passengers”).
Seeing that we’ve been pretty frugal so far, and that our decision will highly likely affect our mental health for the next five days, we chose the most expensive option.
On hindsight, I can only say…
The first thing that greeted us as we approached the Queen Victoria 2 was, I kid you not, a fully costumed marching band playing us a musical fanfare.
We were then shown our room. I’ll be honest, having had a taste of first class transport accommodation during our train ride to Lhasa, we did not really have very high expectations. So, we were quite surprised (actually I think “shocked” would be a more accurate word) when we were shown a VERY clean room with the most comfortable bedding we’ve had in a while. We also had our own (rather large) attached shower, a plasma TV and, most awesome of all, a river view balcony with deck chairs from which we could sip the bottle of Kahlua we’d smuggled onboard (we were on a SHIP! It’s only right that we do at least one pirate-y thing)
Over the next couple of days, we engaged in many traditional Yangtze cruise ship activities such as having morning teas, eating buffet breakfasts, going for short (non-climbing) shore excursions, stuffing our faces at the buffet lunch, gobbling down afternoon tea, afternoon napping, devouring buffet dinners and passing out right after we ran out of verbs to describe the process of putting food in the body.
To be fair, the cruise director actually included activities like Introduction to Taiji in the program. The only problems: the lesson was at 6am in the morning and also it was physically demanding (do you know that even a little force applied on the correct spot with the correct circular motion can cause you to sweat… a lot?).
The cruise was exactly what we needed to recharge our batteries. (We have food with cleanliness that we did not really have to worry about) (lots of food)
Throughout our five days on the Queen Victoria, the only time we felt kind of stressed was right after dinner when we walked by the reception area. You see, international cruise laws dictate that on every cruise ship, there needs to be at least ten photographers with BRIGHT FLASHES camouflage themselves throughout the ship and in bushes during shore excursions to catch you at your most “candid” moments. And at night, right after dinner, the photos will be displayed on a HUGE ASS plasma screen in the grand foyer just outside the restaurant in the hope that some passengers will find these photos nice enough to purchase as “souvenirs”. And because cruise ship etiquette requires all passengers to behave like, for lack of a better word, Lemmings, we would invariably join the hoard of tourists standing in front of the plasma screen, trying to find a non non-flattering shot of ourselves. Then suddenly, flashed on the giant screen in front of all the guests, two misshapen blobs made pasty by too much time away from the sun – Mr and Mrs Marshmallow Man.
I blame flash photography.
Sidenote: hee hee hee