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Three Gorges site scores a hit with tourists


The Three Gorges Dam has become one of China's top travel destinations, with Shanghai tourists flocking to catch a glimpse of the world's largest dam as it nears completion. In the first five months of the year, sales of Yangtze River cruises operated by the Shanghai Youth Travel Agency were up by more than 40 percent compared to last year, said Liu Xiajun, manager of domestic tours at the agency. Liu said cruise sales offered by his agency were expected to increase further this summer because the period from June to September is regarded as the best time to sail the river. A popular draw to the dam is the viewing platform at the top that offers tourists a grand view of the construction site. To avoid crowds, only 1,000 tourists are allowed each day on to the platform. A 500-square-meter area on the left side of the platform is now open. Tourists can stay on the platform for 20 minutes, and cameras are not allowed, said Liu. Cruise ships run regularly in both directions between Chongqing Municipality and Yichang in Hubei Province, with some services arriving and departing from Shanghai. The viewing platform is a day's sailing from Yichang and a four-day trip from Chongqing. Tourists wanting to visit the dam can do so in style, Liu said. "Our cruise boats are graded five-stars," said Liu. "They have a bar lounge, pool tables and also karaoke." High-end cruises costs around 4,000 yuan (US$498) each for Chinese tourists, flight fare to Chongqing or Yichang included. Tourists who want an English-speaking guide must pay extra fee, with some companies charging a 600-yuan surcharge. Other famous attractions en route include the cities of Baidi and Fengdu where tourists can visit ancient temples and shrines. The dam is situated in the middle of the Yangtze River near the famous gorges from which the dam takes its name. The Three Gorges - Qutang, Wuxia and Xiling gorges - are world-class tourist destinations noted for their natural beauty and large number of historical and cultural relics. An ancient legend claims the Three Gorges were cut by legendary hero Dayu to battle rising waters.

(Source:Shanghai Daily, 2006-05-23)