You will fly to Chongqing in Sichuan province, arriving in the evening where you will board Viking River Cruises' new ship, the "Century Sky". (Yangzi Explorer) (D)
Sailing downstream, you will soon arrive at Shibaozhai, a red, multi-storied temple built during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1736-96). The addition of a wooden staircase has made a substantial improvement on the original means of ascending this cliff-face temple – a few hundred years ago, pilgrims only had an iron chain to help them proceed up the sheer rock-face.
In the afternoon, the boat will dock by the town of Wanxian. Depending on the water level and the allotted time for the boat's passage through the Three Gorges, you may have the opportunity to visit this town. You will be struck by the architectural influence of the West in the form of two local European-style churches, one Catholic, the other Protestant. These hark back to the first Jesuit visitors to Wanxian and to this port town's controversial incorporation within the foreign Treaty Port system in 1902. As dusk settles, the town's rattan and cane market comes alive as buyers and sellers noisily negotiate the sale of handmade summer beds, hats, fans, straw shoes, furniture and basketry. (B, L, D)
The first of the famous three gorges requires an early morning start. Take a coat and hat with you up on deck, since the wind speeds through the gorge's narrow channel, its rocky banks looming either side in the early morning mist. After breakfast, you will be transferred to smaller boats for an excursion up the gorge at Danning Stream.
In the afternoon, you will ass through the third of the gorges, Wuxia or Shaman's Gorge. High up on its banking cliff-faces, you will observe another of the Yangzi River's curiosities. The local Ba people, one of China's ethnic minorities, centuries ago buried their dead in long wooden coffins pegged to the gorges' sheer rock-faces. Though many have now been removed to local museums, seeing one or two coffins precariously pinned to the rock, you may well wonder how the coffins were pegged there in the first place. To this day art historians are perplexed by this issue.
This evening the boat will reach the Three Gorges Dam. The reason your cruise boat will pass through the first straight into the second of the five stage dual locks is that until 2009 the river level will only have been raised by 40 meters (120 feet) from its original level to 135 meters above sea level (as measured at the dam). After 2009 the water level will be raised an additional 40 meters to 175 m above sea level, at which time all five locks will need to be employed to raise and lower ships between the lower and higher water levels on either side of the dam. (B, L, D)
The day begins with a tour of the Gorges Dam, one of the largest and most controversial dam projects in the world. You will disembark from your boat at Yichang to take a three hour car ride to Wuhan airport, whence you will fly to Beijing. (St. Regis Hotel or Peninsula Palace Hotel) (B, L, D)
There is a little time for last minute purchases before your flight home from Beijing international airport. (B)
Please note that B, L, D denotes Breakfast, Lunch Dinner.
Yangzi River tours are done on a private basis only. Visitors interested in a group tour of China, should view our frequent Imperial Touritinerary.