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THE GORGEOUS SIDE TO CHINA’S MIGHTY YANGTZE

30-05-2013 | Mike Smith

Much has been said and written about the mighty Yangtze, Asia’s longest river. But it’s not until you explore its waters on one of Victoria Cruises’ award-winning five-star vessels that you truly appreciate the area’s immense appeal.

Much has been said and written about the mighty Yangtze, Asia’s longest river. But it’s not until you explore its waters on one of Victoria Cruises’ award-winning five-star vessels that you truly appreciate the area’s immense appeal.


Such is the river’s holidaying magnetism through the spectacular Three Gorges that leading China specialist Helen Wong’s Tours has constantly added more cruises to its group and independent tour programs.
And 2013 is no exception.


Glance through the new glossy brochure and you will spot the Yangtze cruise in a number of itineraries, the 15-day Yangtze Wonders also highlighted by visits to Shanghai, Xian (home of the historic Terracotta Warriors) and capital Beijing, priced from $4790 per person, twin share from Australia.


One of the three newly-introduced itineraries in the 2013 program, the 20-day Incredible China, also features the cruise, the tour priced from $5780 per person, twin share from Australia.


The venture along the Yangtze River on a holiday is more than a mere river cruise . . . it’s an experience, a trip of a lifetime, calling on a series of fascinating towns and including a mini cruise along one of the breathtakingly beautiful tributaries.
Whether you begin the journey from cosmopolitan Chongqing or near much smaller Yichang in Hubei province, prepare for a trip filled with treasured moments, where the giant Three Gorges Dam commands almost as much tourist interest as the Three Gorges themselves.


The cruise meanders along a picturesque 660-km section of China’s most famous river, passing three majestic gorges and cliff-side temples, stopping at the world’s largest dam and cruising under a series of contemporary road bridges which are in contrast to the traditional farming villages and towns they connect.
For differing reasons, The Three Gorges – Xiling, Qutang and Wu – are as magical as they are portrayed on the postcards. At 8km long, Qutang is the shortest, yet its narrow passage makes for a dramatic pass.
In contrast, Xiling is the longest at around 65kms (it actually comprises seven gorges), its features varied and spectacular, while Wu is known for its overall beauty – forest covered peaks and sheer cliffs included.
Like the Great Wall of China, the Three Gorges Dam is representative of what the Chinese people can achieve. It’s billing as the largest “conservancy project undertaken” only tells part of the story.
Now fully operational, the dam – it measures a massive 2335 metres long and 185 metres high - was completed in 2006 after 12 years’ hard toil and a bill totalling US$70 billion. Its construction as a 600km long “reservoir” was criticised in some areas for the flooding which led to the relocation of 1.5 million people (13 cities, 140 towns and 1352 villages were swallowed up by a 110-metre rise in water level).


However, the positives were many – flood control for lower or easterly reaches of the 6300km river, the generation of clean hydro-electricity (replacing archaic coal-generated power), the improvement of navigation for barge and cruise ship fleets and expansion of irrigation to significant farmlands. And modern housing was found for those relocated.
Locals will tell you that more than 1.4 million visitors converge on the giant dam project each year, such is its appeal.
Helen Wong’s Tours has helped to make the cruise more enjoyable by including a personal level of service and comfort, from the welcome basket to the complimentary shoe shine, regular laundry service and nightly turn down service.


Importantly, those who book the cruise have a taste of what extra value to receive from “Helen’s Choice” list of inclusions.
For starters, you can choose from two dining venues – Dynasty Dining Room or the ala carte restaurant – for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and enjoy complimentary wine and beer at dinner.


And all cabins are guaranteed on the executive deck of the ship in the Helen Wong’s Tours program.
It’s not until we board a coach for the drive to a lookout on a hill above the dam do we realise how large the scale of this project.


Details: Helen Wong’s Tours, phone 1300 788328, www.helenwongstours.com