Author's Note: As China is becoming increasingly important internationally, with a rise in its economic and political power, in some foreign eyes China has also become synonymous with an ambiguous monolithic bloc. However, China’s rise consists of many different elements and behind each of these elements is a story. This series tries to narrate experiences in different, contrasting places along a single journey in China. It will start in Chongqing and follow the Yangtze River down to the coastal cities of Shanghai and Hangzhou.
I didn’t expect a very nice river cruiser and felt very much astonished when I looked at the picture wall showing all the former guests of this ship. A phone call by my travel agent interrupted my imagination. “What are you doing there!?” She asked. “Your ship is on two piers before this.” I nearly got on the wrong ship.
A distinct smell of gas and other unidentifiable objects welcomed me, when I entered the right ship and checked in. The four-people bedroom was packed with actually six people. I shared the cabin with three elderly Chinese and their two little grandchildren.
After I made clear that I’m not American, one of my roommates instantly started a conversation with me, which was essentially about the US antipathy toward China. It wasn’t my task to evaluate US-China relations, neither did I feel like taking any sides, but I didn’t like his tone very much. I wondered what he would have said, if he actually talked to an American.
Many Chinese tourists from China’s inland provinces took the boat trip. We all gathered on the deck and prepared our cameras to take pictures of Chongqing’s illuminated colorful skyline.