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Riding a Dragon down the Huangpu River

Strolling along the Bund and taking in the unique buildings, the skyline around the Lujiazui area, and the shuttling of boats of all types and sizes, you are likely to have an impulse to jump into a boat in order to get closer to the water.

The Shanghai Huangpu River Cruise Company can satisfy that desire as you are transported on the water through picturesque scenery. We walked down the Bund to Shiliupu Ferry and boarded "Huangpu Tourism," which claimed to be the country's biggest luxury dragon boat.

We departed on time at 7:00pm after hearing the loud sound of a big horn. I saw the banks of the river recede in the distance with no sense of rocking or shaking from the boat.

Two dragons with their heads held high decorate the front of this huge boat, which makes passengers feel as if they are riding on their backs.

Built in Shanghai and put into operation in 1979, the boat is 55.6 meters long and 17 meters wide, providing 2,800 square meters of space to accommodate as many as 800 people.

Last May, the boat was renovated at a cost of 8 million yuan (US$964,000). The cabins on all four floors and the stairs, where red lanterns rise high, are all brand new - but strongly feature traditional characteristics.

We chose the first-class cabin at the head of the boat because of its excellent view from hard mahogany chairs decorated with carved dragons.

Waiters served hot green tea, which made me feel a little warmer in the air-conditioned cabin, where scores of international tourists choose to experience cruises on the Huangpu River.

Music from a band on the fourth floor caught my attention. Surprisingly, they were playing popular English songs. A deaf young man sitting nearby invited passengers to try stamp carving.

Visitors quickly scrambled into the most ideal areas for shooting photos.

The boat headed to the mouth of the Yangtze River as the guide explained in Chinese what we were seeing on the one-hour cruise. Because of the larger passenger loads at night, it was not easy to catch her conversation.

It didn't matter much, as my attention was easily diverted by the passing of many big and small boats.

It was nice to feel the breeze brushing against my face, but I was struck most by the mesmerizing view of the Bund from afar.

Back on land, I thought the cruise was well worth the price - 100 yuan (US$12). But it might be better to experience a longer, daytime cruise in order to see more, especially the place where the river joins the sea.

(Shanghai Star 09/11/2001)

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