January 17, 2011

The Three Gorges

The greatest letdown about China is that the womenfolk no longer wear the traditional body-hugging qipao in their daily lives. The second biggest letdown was the Three Gorges. The 200 km stretch of waterway comprised of the Qutang, Wu, and Xiling Gorges is the stuff of legend, but what I saw was far from magnificent. From the Chongqing wharf, I took a bus to the city of Wanzhou. The bus arrived woefully late, so I had to dash to my hydrofoil with not a moment to spare. The small enclosed vessel swiftly jetted off as I hopped aboard. During the six hour journey it stopped at riverside towns to pick up and drop off passengers along the way.

After the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, water levels rose and many villages and historical sites were submerged. The world's largest hydro power project was completed in 2009 at a cost of 23 billion US dollars. The government provided the 1.3 million residents who had lost their homes with new accommodation, so the gorges are dotted with high rise apartment complexes that rise bizarrely from steep cliffs. The Yangtze is the longest river in China and the third longest in the world. The river is so polluted that even a private detective will have a hard time identifying some of the objects floating past.

The monumental Three Gorges Dam project serves multiple purposes, from providing massive amounts of energy to a wider passage for cargo ships to control over a river that has claimed over a million lives due to sudden flooding. The boat I was on did not cross the Three Gorges Dam using the ship lock system that raises and lowers vessels from one level to another. The transit time for going down the five tier ship lock is four hours. Instead it docked and all the passengers rushed to a shuttle bus that took us to the nearby city of Yichang. This portion of the trip was actually the best part, providing a faraway glimpse of the world's longest dam and some spectacular scenery of the canyons from up close.


“All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.”
- Samuel Johnson