May 3, 2013 – Impressions of the Viking River Cruise in China

First I am so glad we took this tour. We saw so many things and got such good information. As I read through my entries, I do remember, though, how exhausting a lot of it was. To take this tour, you need to be in pretty good shape. Our group was fairly young by tour group standards. The age span was 25 to 83. A lot of people in the 60-70 range. Especially on the land portion of the trip, there was very little down time. We were pretty much on the go from 8 in the morning until after dinner or later each day. There was a lot of walking, stairs and hauling oneself on and off the bus. The cruise section had a much slower pace.

Some of the more wonderful things that we saw were the amazing buildings in Shanghai just across the river from the 19th century Bund, the acrobat show the first night at the hotel, the bell performance in Wuhan, the Yichang locks and the Three Rivers Gorge, the pandas, the Terra Cotta Army, the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square. We also saw some pretty poor living standards and a lot of pollution. The country is an environmental disaster just coming to realize the problems that rapid industrialization has caused.

The one thing that really enhanced the whole trip was the people. From the children at the Yueyang school to the quiet, lovely people serving us on the boat, to the local guides, the program director and especially Jimmy, our guide the whole 12 days, everyone was helpful, pleasant and knowledgeable. I think I expected people to just toe the party line and spiel a lot of propaganda but although they are proud of their country, they acknowledge its problems. People this aware of their circumstances cannot help but aid in making a better future.

The accommodations were also great. Every hotel was 5 star and the cabin on the boat with a comfortable bed was fine. The internet on the boat was frustrating. The food was not as wonderful as I had hoped. Probably through experience, the cruise offered fewer Chinese dishes than I expected. Later we found out we could have requested authentic dishes. Breakfast at the hotels was always a great culinary adventure with dishes from around the world.

I think this will probably be the only trip we ever take to China. It is still hard to imagine doing a trip on our own. The language barrier seems too difficult and much of the country is definitely third world. Perhaps we are just too old now to contemplate such an adventure. But am I glad we did it? Yes, emphatically.

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