Three Gorges trips - what they don't tell you
The Yangtze river is the biggest and most important river in China. Just upstream of the Three Gorges dam, the river has a very scenic section which can provide a worthwhile boat trip. But in signing up for such a trip, consider what the advertising doesn't tell you:
1.The main city for arranging a 3 Gorges boat trip is Chongquing. But it is primarily a businessman's city. Most hotels there are not set up to arrange boat trips. And working with Internet companies or local travel agencies to do this is not easy. One local hotel who's manager is good at arranging 3 Gorges trips is Tina's Hostel in downtown www.cqhostel.com This hotel has private singles from 110 Yuan and offers a relaxed scenic atmosphere with trees close to the center city action.
2.Be aware that 3 Gorges trips take place far from Chongquing (a 4 hour bus ride) or any other major Chinese city. It is a effort to get to and get back from the 3 Gorges area, but worth the effort.
3.Unless you are really into leisurely cruises, consider the alternative of a hydrofoil ride covering in one day what slower boats cover in three. It is much less expensive overall and allows you two extra days sightseeing in other parts of China. Contrary to the aruguments of most boat promoters, the hydrofoil ride does not speed by too fast to take in the scenery.
4.Weather in the 3 Gorges area is often overcast or foggy. Try to ride on a day with a sunny forecast in the Chongquing area.
5.On sunny days, heading downstream and sitting on the north side of the boat will provide you with the best views.
6.Except for the luxury cruises, most tourist boats on the Yangtze are old and offer few services. This also applies to the hydrofoils. Their quality is minimal, and a poor comparison to similar boats on the Hong Kong - Macau ferry runs. Consider upgrading above the minimum price to have the best chance to have a scenic seat near a north side window. In economy class, most of the travelers are commuters, more intersted in the TV movie than in the beautiful scenery surrounding them! Plan to bring your own food; the hydrofoil lunch is not a good value.
7.Lichang, the popular ending point of Yangtze trips near the new dam, is far away from other popular destinations in China. A bus trip back to Chongquing (there are no direct trains) take 10 hours and costs about haf of what the the Three Gorges one day trip costs. And getting to a hotel in Lichang takes a 40+ minute bus ride (free) from the dock. A hotel close to the bus and train station is a convenience for getting tickets – such as the JS Business hotel (rates from 90 yuan for a single.)
8.The ride back from Lichang to Chongquing is almost as interesting as the boat ride along the Three Gorges lakeshore. The road is dramatic, alternating between tunnels and high bridges over deep valleys.