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Sunday, March 26, 2006

"That costs extra"

Our home for the next two days, the Min Shan, is a four-level Chinese tourist boat that holds about 300 sightseers. It was tied up on the other side of a ship undergoing refurbishment and we walked up a small, wooden slat across the water to gain access to the first boat, walked through that ship and gained entry to ours. Entering the first level of the Min Shan my head had about 2.5" inches to spare from the ceiling. Topping out at 5' 9" I can't imagine what befalls tall Westerners.

Our "first class" accommodations were on the fourth level and we followed Michael as he took to the stairs. Arriving at #405 we entered to a small, yet functional room which featured two small, Chinese beds, a Western toilet/shower area and a large window that ran the entire length of the outer wall. Hum...this seems okay. As we started to settle in, we learned the room's nuances.

It seems both Marilyn and I had been psychic. We both brought different items that apparently aren't included: I brought toilet paper (left over from my African safari) and she brought a hand towel. In examining the shower, we decided to suspend the need of looking for bath towels. And we quickly learned our toilet had a mind of its own. It took hours to complete one flush and on our last 24 hours aboard it decided to take a vacation from its strenuous work.

With our things properly stowed we sat on our beds and talked with Michael about our trip. He drew a small map of our destination and the stops along the way. Nearly an hour had passed before he obtained a key to our room—he handed it to me saying he had put 50 RMB down as a deposit, so don't lose it. We suggested going on the 4th level deck to check out the sights. It's then we learned another item that 'costs extra.'

Access to the first class deck wasn't included. Dumbfounded, Michael told us we were expected to pay 60 RMB each to walk on the deck of our "first class" luxury accommodations. We balked. Thinking we'd discuss over dinner we asked when it was. Hum, oh, that's extra too! After many questions and answers that needed more questions from us to get closer to answers we learned we could order 'a la carte' off of a Chinese menu that Michael read parts of it to us, adding his suggestions. Settling on dinner we learned we would eat at 6:00. Our meal was ready at 7:00 and we walked to the 2nd floor to dine.

Along the way we passed the other accommodations. Each room had three sets of two bunk beds each; the Eastern toilet was down the hall. I gathered as a two-some, we would have shared our experience with other tourists. Not exactly what I would have wanted, so comparatively speaking, we were in "first class." Perspective does wonders.

After our meal of rice, spicy eggplant, tofu/fermented egg and a pork/vegetable dish we decided not having access to the deck wasn't the way to go, so Marilyn decided to negotiate. She got Michael to agree for 100 RMB total we would do this. After enjoying the deck he asked for the money and gave us some sort of hand written receipt. Throughout the trip Marilyn kept saying it just didn't make any sense and surely the other non-Western passengers didn't have that added fee. But, who knows...another item lost in translation.

We retired to our room and prepared for rest. Settled into our beds our boat began its first passage through the single lock just 30 km upriver from Yichang. It was too dark to enjoy the experience so we decided to look at it on our return trip.

Sometime around 2:00 a.m. we awoke to the creaking and grinding of our passage through the five locks at the 3 Gorges Dam. We burrowed into our beds under a single blanket. By now we learned the heater didn't work. Luckily, I had packed my Cocoon sleeping bag insert, so I had a bit more heat retained throughout the night. We awoke to the loud speaker playing Chinese music the next morning, announcing the next step in our adventure.


At 9:07 AM, Skip said...

Kind of makes you nostalgic for Rustic Cabins in Eagle, Alaska... Skip and Yukon Ike


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