"" Writer's Wanderings: Chonging -- The Yangtze River

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Chonging -- The Yangtze River

We arrive in Chonging about 11 p.m. It is very dark as we drive through the city to our river boat. Silhouettes of apartment buildings, most of which seem to be under construction, rise against the dark cloudy skies. Some very old-looking wooden structures appear interesting but our local guide has given up trying to narrate to a bus load of sleeping bodies.
Our bus stops at a light and a truckload of ducks pulls up next to us. There must be a couple hundred ducks piled on top of each other. Some are still moving. That wouldn’t fly in the U.S. with all the animal control groups.

To get to our river boat, we navigate 100 very steep, very narrow stone steps down to river level, all the while shading our eyes from the spotlights that are trained on us from the river boat. I can’t imagine how they will get our luggage down. The “dock” is a series of floating pontoons made out of oil drums and interlocking steel walkways. Along the way, the crew is lined up and greets us every 5-10 feet with “hello” and “welcome.” I hate to be rude but I’m afraid to look at them and get blinded by the light. I nod and mumble my hellos.

We are led to the dining room for dinner. All we truly want is to go to our rooms and go to bed. It is now midnight. As we nibble some food out of politeness to our hosts, I catch a glimpse out the window of shadowy figures gingerly making their way over the pontoon walkway. Across each shoulder is a wooden pole and suitcases dangle on each end. Our luggage! I excuse myself and try to get a picture as the porters enter the lobby of the boat. One of the “porters” was engaged by a guest who had a large carry-on with her. As soon as he deposits the luggage onto the boat, he follows her into the dining room with his hand out to be sure he gets paid. He, like the others, is dressed in a dirty business suit and looks grubby. He checks the money to be sure it isn’t counterfeit Chinese yuan—a very common problem it seems.

Finally, we make our way to our room, only to open the door to a foul cleaning fluid smell and a room full of buckets, vacuums, and mops. Quickly the error is corrected and we find ourselves in a small room with two single beds and a little bathroom—a bit smaller than the smallest rooms onboard a cruise ship but workable. The Western toilet is actually a flush model and the shower is hot. Life is almost good again.

Bob sits down and immediately warns me not to flop on the bed. I sit down and realize the mattress is maybe 2” thick and set on a wooden board. I’m so tired I don’t think I’ll notice. The smell of disinfectant (Lysol, I think) is heavy in the bedding. That bothers me more than the hard bed but I eventually drift off listening to someone snore in the room next to me.

Other China posts:
The Forbidden City
Tiananmen Square
The Great Wall
The Summer Palace
Wuhan to Beijing
Chinese Farmhouse
Three Gorges Dam
Three Gorges and Lesser Gorges
Fengdu—The Ghost City
Cruising the Yangtze
The Big Goose Pagoda
Evening in Xian
Beijing to Xian
Timid Tourist in China-Travel Day
China-The Trip of a Lifetime

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