Tuesday, December 16, 2008

12.12.08: Chonqing/Yangtze River

Every trip has its low points, and after many highlights, I think we've hit ours. On the insane chicken/duck bus ride I mentioned a few entries ago, we were told that the five-star cruise that we were supposed to take down the Yangtze River (usually a highlight of this itinerary) stopped running in winter, and we would be taking a "regular" Chinese boat. That also meant that we would be spending the first night in Chonqing rather than on board. We arrived in Chonqing to discover that it is a filthy, putrid, stinkhole of a city, with brown smog so thick that it makes L.A. look like a Fresh Air Fund destination.

We wasted a day there, only to be sorely disappointed in thinking that we might find some relief once we got on our boat, another 3.5 hour bus ride away.

The boat literally looked like a giant, floating tin can. Our "first class" cabin smelled like a mixture of piss and cigarettes, due in part to the fact that the toilet in our room is just a porcelain hole in the ground akin to a really bad port-a-potty with no seat. By the way, you have to stand over said hole to shower. The sheets were filthy and the drawers below our bed (which is a series of wooden slats covered by a 1/2 inch piece of foam) were filled with RAT TURDS. By the way, the heater didn't work. Did I mention it's winter?

(Our floating home away from home)

Upon arrival, our local guide told us to keep the windows locked at night because if we docked, people from local villages might try to sneak in. GREAT. I spent the first night shivering, shifting from side to side, trying not to breathe through my nose, holding in my pee, and worrying that rats would crawl out from under my bed or a Chinese pirate would swoop in through the window.

You'd think at least we could escape our rooms for a more pleasant, public area of the boat. Yeah, not so much. Our highly unappetizing dinner the first night was served in a dining room that we shared with a large table of rowdy Chinese men playing a drinking game with some crazy, 60% alcohol rice wine. Our food was nothing short of revolting, with one dish resembling a cess pool. Seth swore a hand of the undead was going to rise out of it. To make matters worse, the men frequently made big productions out of clearing their throats and hocking big lugies right onto the carpet. It's one thing to spit on the street, which the Chinese do constantly, but nothing will curb my appetite like a green wad of phlegm landing next to my foot while I'm trying to eat dinner. Ewwwwwwwwwwww!

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