When we are deciding where to go and what to do on our trip, we do not choose the safest options. I personally do not consider myself a seeker of risk and thrills, but I do not worry about the risks. Sometimes people talk about danger of lives in some developing country, be it safety of public transport or crime rate. The dangers are everywhere, if you really want to know. There is always a chance that a drunk driver may knock you off your bike on your way home; group of kids busy jumping around may push you off the platform into the path of incoming train without intending… There may be crazy people who punch you in public, just at random. Sure, we live in a safe world. So… when we go to places that may not be known for the safety standard or crime rate, we do not focus on that aspect. More often than not, what we may consider we know about a developing world with its issues, they are not a fair reflection of the reality there; instead it is merely a result of media spotlight that sensationalises accidents and crimes. We go traveling because that is where we want to go and see with our own eyes. If something bad happens, well, tough luck. We just take our precaution and common sense on top of our shoulders and live our lives.

When I went on a river cruise in China, through the Three Gorges (although it was after the big dam changed the scenary completely), I did not feel I was particularly at risk. Sure, it is not the most modern of boats, the one I was on (obviously, I was on one of the cheapest tours), but I did not worry much about it. I was the only person on the boat who did not speak Chinese, and nobody spoke English except one Singaporean girl. I remembered this trip vividly when I heard the report of the capsized boat in China. I wonder it was just like the one I took… I could have been the one that was trapped in it.

Sanxia cruise, China

Sanxia cruise, China

The boat I was on – it was one of the older, cheaper cruises. Lower deck, at the pier level, is the 3rd class cabins. I insisted on the 3rd class. The people at the booking office kept saying I was to be in the 2nd class. I think they said the 3rd class would be too basic, or something like that. I paid for the 3rd class, and somehow found myself in the 2nd class cabin. I kinda get that now… The 3rd class would have been appalling…

Sanxia cruise, China

Inside of the 2nd class cabin. It has 2x bank beds to house max of 4 passengers. Toilet/shower is pretty simple, hot water supply was very limited but even if you ended up getting only the cold, it is still better than no shower at all.

Sanxia cruise, China

Sanxia cruise, China

Some of the news report mentioned that the capsized boat had been through what is suspected to be an illegal modification to add more capacity and facility for comfort, at the cost of safety standard. Maybe it is true, maybe not. We will never know. It’s all media talk. The thing is, Japan would have been very similar only a generation or two ago. Just because we have had a lot of accidents and problems that forced the government to implement much tighter safety standard and enforcement does not mean that we are superior. We are just in different phases. Looking back at this last image now, though, I think I could relate to the reporter talking about the balance of the ship. Look at the number of air-con units on balconies…

Sanxia cruise, China

Now that I think about it, I don’t think I heard any safety briefing during the 3-day cruise… Where was the life vest? Was there any emergency raft on board?

Have you been on this or other boat cruise? Have you seen any accidents at the places you’ve been before yourself?

More stories and images from this trip, please see them here:
2013: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and China

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