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Day 1 ? En Route San Francisco to Bangkok
The trip started out on a high note by there being barely any traffic over the Altamont, putting us into BART well before 10. We caught the 9:55 train, which dropped us at the International terminal at 11:15. We walked just a few feet to the United desk ? the very first one in line and got checked in. Didn?t have enough points to upgrade, but that was okay. We had some lunch, then walked over to MOMA. After that, we decided it was time to go to our gate, which was the first one and we boarded easily. We were seated the a small business class section (the larger one was behind us) and we met the people behind us ? come to find out, they are from Stockton (Walt and Jenny Yourchek) and he?s a dermatologist ? he immediately picked up on the mole on Chris?s forehead and called his office, so that Chris could make an appointment to meet with him upon our return (I?m so glad ? I?ve wanted him to have that thing looked at for ever). They are exceptionally nice people and we had a great time visiting with them. They were also headed to Bangkok ? we had hoped on a Princess cruise, but they were going on to Bali. We made plans to meet after the vacations to trade pictures and stories
The plane trip was smooth and the food very good ? I had a Bento box and Chris had Fillet. We also were served Breakfast ? a fruit platter for me and an omelet for Chris. We were both surprised and delighted with the Narita Airport ? the lounge was huge and beautifully done. Jenny and I headed off to shop while the guys talked. We had just sat down when it was time to climb onto the next plane. Thankfully, this second leg was all in the dark and both of us slept most of the way. We did, of course, stay awake for the meal ? Chris had lamb shank and I had a great (but spicy) chicken curry.
The Bangkok airport was all the Narita was not. We had to go down a stairway and were bussed past two miles worth of cargo storage to the airport. We went through passport and customs with no problems, bid our new friends goodbye and went looking for Princess. After a wrong turn, we found them and got to the hotel at about 1 a.m. We both went right to sleep, only to be awoken at 5:50 by a wrong phone number (grrr).
Day 2 - Bangkok
We decided to get up and I had a lovely bath (brown water, yucka) and we went up to the Executive room for a yummy breakfast. We started with mark melon/orange/banana juice, followed by papaya and dragon fruit (it?s red and green on the outside, you peel it like and apple and it?s white with black seeds (like a kiwi). It had the same texture as a kiwi, but little favor. I tried the Bircher muesli (slimy, but yummy) and then we explored more new tastes. There was a roast Roma tomato topped with fresh garlic and herbs, chicken sausage, thyme saut?ed mushrooms, muffins with lychee and pear (these were like popovers in that the fruit was in the middle and the muffin puffed up over the top of them). Chris also had some bitter orange marmalade.
We called John and Irene to say hello and then Chris headed out to take photos, while I stayed around to start on this. After a little while, we went down to the Princess desk and asked about the gem shop. We ended up and S & J Gems, a locally owned operation. They had an incredible display of all gems, but we were met and asked about sapphires. To make a long story short, we picked three stones, a loose one for about $350, a small one ($60) to replace the darker sapphire in my engagement ring and then, a knuckle buster at (gulp) $4,000. It really is a beautiful ring and I can?t believe that I actually own something like this. After that, we headed back to the room. I was feeling a little motion sick because of the crazed ride back, so we rested for a while. After a couple of hours, Chris decided that we had to ride the sky train, which wasn?t much of anything, but it did show us some of the city. After that, we came back to the room and relaxed until it was dinnertime. We went to the Madison and had obscene amounts of beef. Chris had a brand of Kobe beef (they shipped several head to Australia, so they are called something else, but it?s still Kobe beef). I had prime rib that could have fed a small army. I felt so badly that I couldn?t eat more, but I just wasn?t feeling up to par. I decided to head back to the room and get some rest. Chris sat by the pool for a while and then followed me. I never even heard him come in.
Day 3 - Bangkok
We had a nice breakfast, nothing really wild today ? some cereal and toast. Chris had sweet rolls, sausage and fruit. We then headed down stairs for our first tour. We met all sort of folk, including a couple from New York (George and Marion), a younger couple named Michael and () and some others. Today we headed for Nong Nooch gardens and elephant show. The cultural part of the show was okay, but they really needed a choreographer. The elephant show was too fun. They danced, played football, basketball and bowled. The young ones were especially sweet. I got my picture taken with a leopard. It was great to be that close to a big cat, but I was aghast to see that her teeth had been filed off. She was purring like mad, so she must have been okay overall. The gardens were beautiful, but we didn?t stay for very long. Then we went to a hotel in Pataya for lunch (it was okay) and then went to another gem store. It was HUGE, bigger than HUGE, but we got out of there without buying anything. After a very long bus ride back, we decided to stay in and have room service. Chris built his own sandwich and had a great mushroom soup and a lime soda ? it came with its own simple syrup and he mixed it as he went. I had a club and some minestrone. Both were very good. I was still exhausted, so I went to bed, but Chris went to the pool. We got packed and sent the bags off. It was a tiring day, but fun.
Day 4 - Bangkok
Today it the Highlights of Bangkok, with a visit to the Golden Buddha, the Royal palace and a boat ride to lunch. Again, very hot and humid and worse, we had to be fully dressed because of the temples. The Golden Buddha was originally encased in case to save it from being melted down by foreign invaders and everyone forgot about it. When it fell in an accident in 1953, people were amazed that it was solid gold underneath. We saw several kitties at the temple and Christ got a picture of a monk holding a kitten. The Royal Palace is still used for some ceremonies and it was really incredible. The inlay of mosaic tile and jewels and gold leaf was just unbelievable. The temples were ornate and beautiful, but it was so hot, it was hard to enjoy them.
After a walk through a bazaar, in which the smell of food just about made me crazy, we got to the river. It was really rough and hard to get on the boat, but we managed. All I can say is thank goodness that the Meclazine is working as well as it is. I didn?t have any trouble, although Chris got a little rocky at first. We had lunch at another hotel, it was better than the day before, but I was disturbed at how much food people took and left. We chatted with Darlene and Julie, her daughter. They are very funny and have a fun sense of humor. We also met Burr and his wife. It was so nice to just chat with people and get to know them better.
Then it was off to the ship! The ride to the ship was long, but not because it was so long, but because we were in a hurry to see her. We arrived and were ushered in with no wait at all. Our luggage (sans one bag) was at the room when we arrived and we were a little dismayed that the room wasn?t as clean as we?d hoped, including a dirty towel left hanging on the bathroom door. The assistant room manager came down and was very apologetic. We then met Michael; our steward who had just come on board, between the two, the room was ship shape before muster. Chris?s suitcase arrived and we had time to unpack before heading to the dining room. We sat with Burr and his wife, and then stopped off at the bar for a drink to wait out the crowd, only to have Marion and George join us. I came back to the room to work on this and Chris went up to help the captain get the ship out. He came back and we were standing on the balcony when we looked up and saw more people we knew. This is what I like about the smaller ships. So far, this trip has been all I?d hoped for. I would like to come back to Bangkok ? I feel we only scratched the surface of a very old and diverse city.
Our tablemates are very nice: Jim and Edie are from Atlanta, Roy is from Queensland and SJ and Sherri are from Canada. I thought to start off right with some spring rolls, beef broth and Fettuccini Alfredo. Chris has the Shrimp cocktail, mushroom soup and Beef tenderloin. Long day, early night. We had a good chat and went to see the show with Roy.
Day 5 ? At Sea
We intended to spend a very quiet day and we did. Walked around a little and got to know the ship. We went to a ports talk by Sammy and got to hear the in?s and out?s of each port. We napped and just generally kicked back. Chris offered to get lunch and when he returned, he sat in the other deck chair and it collapse beneath him. This resulted in a bottle of wine, two hors d'oeuvre platters and boutonnieres for us. We started to get ready for our first formal night and that?s when disaster struck. Chris had not remembered a dress shirt! Thankfully, the purser was able to help and, although we missed the captain cocktail party, we were to dinner on time. It was very good. I had a salad and Rock Cornish game hen. Chris had a seafood turnover. We were both pleased with our choices, but Edie, suffering from a cold, was not been as complimentary. Every night she has gotten something that she hasn?t liked, wasn?t what she wanted, etc. Oh well, no pleasing everyone It was supposed to be a production show, but one of the singers got sick, so we had an Aussie singer. It was okay, just not what we were expecting.
Day 6 - Kuantan, Malaysia
We had been warned that this port was small, dirty, isolated, etc. We were delighted to discover while it was indeed small, it was clean and very well run. I was startled by how many jellyfish were in the water and visible from the ship ? should tell you how clean the water was.
We had been warned that our tour would be awful and we found it delightful. We went on a boat ride up to some mangrove swamps and wandered around the mangroves for a while. The birds and cicadas were deafening. Then we went to a Hindu temple and a Mosque. I stayed on the bus because my back wasn?t happy about the mangrove walk. A couple pills and some quiet time and it was ready to go again, just in time for the batik factory. I got a great shirt, a tablecloth, two scarves and a wall hanging. Chris got two shirts, one of which will have to be altered when we get back home ? he didn?t realize it was long sleeve. We got back around 1:30 and had a bit of a lay down. I did go off the ship to buy some earrings for Ginny and came back to find that my card didn?t work. It was fixed in no time, but it was an annoyance. We rested up and then went to dinner. It was Thai night and the food was yummy! I had a cucumber salad with peanuts and chili peppers, chicken and galangal soup, and ?Khai Yang? ? bbq chicken garnished with vegetables and fries. It was very good and Rocky Road for dessert. Chris had seafood cakes, chilled yogurt and tamarind soup and saut?ed prawns. For dessert he had a meringue tiered chocolate filled tower. It looked deadly. I went to back to the cabin and just relaxed (watched part of Memoirs of a Geisha). Chris walked about the ship and then came back to watch some TV himself. It was a good day and I loved this port.
Day 7 ? Singapore
Okay, early start this morning for some reason. We both woke up about 6 or so to watch the ship pull into the dock. We have been in a holding pattern for about half an hour now as we wait for something. It?s unclear if it?s for a berth or to turn the ship. It isn?t quite certain what the hold up was. We had to clear customs today, but our tour isn?t until this afternoon, so it was a big deal. We went ashore just to check things out and to go through Customs before the mad rush. We walked around a little and changed some money and I bought some postcards. Nothing much else was opened. Heading back to the ship, we could see all the masses of people going off for tours. It felt good to be heading in the opposite direction. I wasn?t feeling really great due to my period, so we just hung around the cabin until it was time for lunch. I wrote my postcards and Chris read a little. We had a fast lunch at the buffet and then headed down to meet our tour.
Alas, everyone we knew was on Bus 2 and we were on Bus 1. We were doing the Chinatown, Pewter demo, Raffles trip. We headed first for the pewter demo, which was very brief. We saw one person pouring and another person shaping pewter and then it was time for us to try our hand at making a bowl. We each got a sheet of pewter, a couple of hammers and some punches to put whatever we wanted on the bottom of it. Chris put Bangkok to Beijing and I put Pacific Princess ? got my initials messed up though, but that?s okay. It was fun and we had a couple of bowls to take home. We also bought a vase and a wine corker.
Then it was on to Chinatown. Our guide gave us some insight into what it was like to grow up in Chinatown during the Japanese occupation. It was not pretty and the Chinese felt the Japanese deserved the bombs we dropped on them, calling them payback. The museum was tiny and very hard for Chris to maneuver around in, but it was very informative and a little scary to think of people living like that as recently as the 1960?s. We also had a little time to shop at the bazaar in Mosque St. I got two beautiful cashmere scarves. Then it was on to Raffles for some liquid refreshment.
The hotel was very elegant and looked wonderfully decadent. We walked past people having high tea, all dressed to the nines, and served by waiters wearing white gloves. The Long Bar, where we were bound, was far more casual. We had our drink, Chris had two, in fact, with the younger couple we had met from New Jersey. Then it was on to the shops to try and get rid of the rest of our Singapore money. We bought a poster, a polo shirt and a silver Raffles ornament. Our bus was waiting for us, except it wasn?t our bus and we almost ended up at the airport but Fifi (our tour guide) stopped us before we ever got on the bus. We were with a Princess crew person and we thought she knew where she was going. It led to some good laughs. Also discovered that one of the women we were traveling with was from Pleasanton. The world seems to get smaller and smaller the more you travel.
We got back to the port with less than an hour to spare. After walking around a little, we decided to just cash the money in and get back on board. I took all the packages and headed form the ship, worried that Chris might get side tracked by all the electronic shops. He didn?t and was there just behind me. We had just enough time to change and head for dinner, stopping to chat with Burr and his wife, Amy, as we went.
Dinner was very good tonight. I had onion soup, complete with the cheese crust and some duck, which was very good. Chris had a potato/pumpkin soup, followed by a salad followed by the pork loin. For dessert, it was a raspberry cr?me Brule and I had a sundae.
There was a debate about whether or not to go to the production show ? Rock and Roll ? I decided that it was time for me to go to bed and Chris followed suit, even though I assured him that we was free to attend with Roy, SJ and his wife.
Day 8 ? At Sea
We decided to stay the day by having breakfast in the cabin. It was the same for me, cereal, fruit and a bagel, but Chris had a good Denver omelet. The coffee was better than at the buffet, so that was okay by me. After sitting around for a while, we went down to the future cruise desk and signed up for our next cruise ? to the British Isles. It was exactly the same trip as the one we were looking at ? this one goes to Normandy, but the cruise director said it was because it was a new season and the lists I?d been looking at was for this year. As long we hit Edinburgh and Inverness, that?s okay by me. Then we?ll be able to say we?ve been to France. We also talked about Tahiti in 2008, but it was really too far to book anything. We even booked the suite we wanted, so that will be nice. It will be nicer if John and Irene go with us, but it?s a big decision to make the first time.
After that I headed back to the cabin to hang out while Chris prowled the ship. He went to the culinary demo and then came back to collect me for lunch. The afternoon was spent quietly, reading and resting.
When we returned from dinner this evening, a lovely meal awaited us. I had Quiche Lorraine, capon broth and Breast of Duckling. Chris has shrimp cocktail, chilled papaya soup and New York Steak. I can?t even remember dessert. We returned to our cabin to discover the acknowledgement for our 2007 cruise. We didn?t get the cabin we wanted, but it?s a long way out and we?re on the waiting list for it, so here?s hoping. It was another quiet evening. I don?t know what we?re doing to make us so tired, but again sleep came early. We did hear that the Crown has an Asopod failure and developed a pronounced list, resulting in a shortened trip. People were whining and complaining about it on x, but Princess offered money back and discounts, so I don?t really understand what is wrong. There was a message from Tony complaining about the large number of children and Mexicans on board. I?m afraid I wasn?t very polite in my response to him. Gee, and he didn?t want to get together with us for a drink ? what a surprise. The more I read about him, the bigger jerk he seems to be. Before I thought he was just pompous, now I know him to be a bigot.
Day 9 ? Vietnam (Phu My)
Today was an early beginning, we had a 7:30 start, and so we got up around six and had some breakfast while we sailed into Phu My harbor. We had gotten out visas the night before, so it was a simple matter of having them stamped as we headed out for our highlights and shopping tour. Amy and Burr were on this one, as was Jim and Edie. We started with a two-hour bus ride into Ho Chi Ming City (still called Saigon by most of the people). Our tour guide, Van, was very articulate and personable. He spoke English well and had an extensive knowledge of his country?s history. This was a hard stop for many of our passengers because of course of the Vietnam War. Van spoke dispassionately about the war saying that most of the population doesn?t remember it (over 60% of the population is under 30). He says that their feeling is that it happened and now it?s over, so let?s move on.
Okay, first impression of Vietnam ? this is where all the motorcycles of the world come when they?ve finished elsewhere (80 million people and 30 million motorcycles share the roads). It was frightening to wait them weave in and out of traffic. Crossing the streets was also an adventure, but more later.
Our fist stop was the Natural History Museum, which gave us about 4000 years of history in 30 minutes. First though were the water puppets. Chris didn?t know about this, but it was one of the reasons that I picked this tour. They told three stories, one about two fighting dragons, complete with fire, the next one was about a husband and wife raising ducks and trying to protect them from a fox, who looked an awful lot like a cat to both of us, including climbing a tree, which I didn?t think a fox can do. The last was about the four creatures of Vietnam, a dragon, unicorn, phoenix and a snake. It was spirited to say the least. The museum was okay, it gave a little background and displayed some interesting artifacts, the most interesting of which we couldn?t take photos of. Then we headed to the post office, where we found some lovely cards. Next it was off to the site of the American Embassy, where we could look, but not take photos, even from the bus. Next was a visit to a lacquer factory, where the 17-step process was explained. I didn?t know there were three different styles to this type of lacquer ? the painting, egg shell and mother of pearl (or abalone). We bought a long tray, a small saucer and a pair of chopsticks. Then it was on to the museum for lunch.
Lunch was an extravagant meal, lots of local dishes, including a very tasty lotus root salad and some deep fried pineapple ? they used canned pineapple, which made it even tastier. There was also a display of local song and dance, very interesting and the best buffet lunch so far! After that, it was on to the Rex hotel and Dong St. for some shopping. Okay, this was a real eye opener. There was a fleet of peddlers who follow the bus from stop to stop, but when we hit the street here, it was an all out melee. It was amazing that we purchased as little as we did and Chris bartered like a native. I got a silk scarf for two dollars, my big purchase. It matches my dress for formal night. After that, we headed back to the hotel to rest and get a drink at the bar on the fifth floor. Chris had an Alice; I had an orange soda (again juice with soda water). Then it was back to the bus for another two-hour ride to the ship. We were all beat when we got back just in time to dress for dinner. Crossing the street was a wild adventure or making sure you didn?t get flattened. Someone said over 7000 people are killed by motorcycles a year here ? ouch!
Chris had prime rib, with a scallop Pate and cream of artichoke soup. I had polenta with marinara, duck broth and a pasta dish in a brown sauce. It was tasty, but hard to describe. For dinner we each had tutti fruitti ice cream. Jim fell asleep at the table and we all struggled to stay awake long enough to make it back to our cabins. We are a real party table I?ll say that!
Day 10 ? Vietnam (Nhan Trang)
We sailed into port today a bit later than the other cities. This is a lovely port with brightly colored houses and boats. Chris said it reminded him of some of the Mexican town we saw on our cruise with Barb and Rod. We didn?t have a tour here, so we grabbed the shuttle into the market. Okay, again, wow with the attention. People just descend upon you. We picked up one gentleman who finally gave up. Chris had a running battle with this one old lady who wanted $2 for a spoon and he only wanted to pay $1. He won, but she wasn?t happy about it. I bought some glass bracelets, five for $3 and a tee shirt for $3. We also got some fabric for my quilting, hard but successful bargaining and another ?helper?. This time it was a young girl, about 10 or 12, and she would not let us out of her sight. We wandered out of the market and down some streets, got yelled at by a cop for walking in the street (honestly, it?s hard to tell) and just looked around. We decided it was time to head back to the bus, but not before being hounded by men offering to take us on tours. We declined, got back on our shuttle and headed back. There were several stands open on the dock and I got a necklace and some earrings for Ginny.
We headed back to our cabin to discover they were fixing our patio door ? it had rusted through its tracks ? and replacing a missing light. One thing about maintenance on this ship, they are fast and thorough. We ate again at the buffet and had a nice lay down. There is still talk about what is going to happen with the typhoon and whether or not we will make it to Hong Kong. I am content to leave it in the Captain?s capable hands. He will pick what is best for the ship and its cargo. Some people are fussing about it, but there?s really not much to be done. Weather is the weather. For dinner, I had a leek and potato turnover, roasted duckling broth and Risotto. Chris had cold poached scallop ceviche, chilled pea pod soup and lamb chops.
Day 11 - At Sea
Finally today was a day to rest up from all the sightseeing. With that in mind, we did very little today besides eat and sleep. We did take in a talk on Pirates ? Yesterday and Today. This was pretty interesting. We also watched a bit of ?Pirates? and watched a talk on Hong Kong. That night we got to meet the Captain at the Captain?s Circle party and we got to see the infamous Tony. He looked smug, pompous and exactly as I pictured him, except a bit younger. I wondered how someone so young could have all this time and money just to sail aimlessly back and forth on the same route. It would see boring to me!
After that he headed down to the floorshow, which was the one we missed the fist night - ?Give My Regards.? They managed to hit every musical I hated, even JCS ? long tribute to that?sigh I can run, but I can?t hide.
Day 12 ? Hong Kong
Today came the best news possible ? because of Kimai, we will have two days in Hong Kong! What an incredible city to sail into, some buildings are so full of color and yet some are so pastel colored. We sailed into the Bay of Hong Kong ? we docked on the Kowloon side and had a few minutes ashore before it was time for the tour ? not even time to eat lunch today. We had highlights of Honk Kong, which started with a trip under the bay via one of the three tunnels. Traffic was a bear and our guide, Stella, assured us that this wasn?t bad at all. She says that she rides Bus 11, i.e. she walks or takes public transit. First we headed to Aberdeen, where the water people live. The government is trying to get these people out of the water and into low cost housing, but they aren?t budging. The younger people are willing, but the old people won?t leave their sampans.
After the water taxi ride, which was a hoot and a little rough, we went to a jewelry store, where I purchased a jade and gold pendent for probably a lot more than it was worth, but I like it and it will go perfectly upon the gold chain that came with the plumeria pendent.
After that, we took a hair-raising ride to Stanley Market. I got a little frog, a humming bird and post cards, but the best purchase were the ice creams bars! Anyhow, it was beastly hot and very humid because of the typhoon. We walked the entire market and got back just in time to wait for the bus ? we beat the tour guide, who was delighted that we were all together. Next we drove to the top of Victoria Peak ?eek! I had to take more mecclazine, just for the trip, plus my back was just killing me. We got to a shopping center and I got to use the Happy Room (toilet) and we walked around a bit before climbing on board the tram ? it went down backwards. There was a massive thunderstorm coming into Hong Kong and we got to watch the lightening for several minutes before the storm hit. What a trip it was down the hill. We reassembled and headed back to ship. Boy, was I glad to see that ship. We had just time to throw our clothes on and head to the dining room. I had a beef Bresaola with arugula and parmesan, corn chowder and veal parmigiama and Chris had a scallop mousse, albondigas soup and Gamberi Saltati alla? Aglio (shrimp) Too tired for the floor show, we both went to bed after making plans to meet with S.K. and Shirley to meet the next morning for breakfast and our own tour of Kow Loon.
Day 13 ? Hong Kong
We met and decided to head out about 9 a.m. ? it was too early, but that?s okay. We took a public bus, which was a hoot and got off downtown. Nothing opened until 10:30 or 11, and it was only 9:30. We did a mess of walking and looking around and then Jim decided it was time to go back to Nathan Road for lunch. He and Edie really didn?t like the walking at all. We went to a five-story department store and had a tea demo. That was fun and we bought three tea pots/strainers. I also got a puzzle and some cut outs for Julie. Then it was time for some serious lunch. We went to Shamrock Seafood Restaurant and S.K. ordered for us. I thought it was a shame that Jim would only eat the fried rice, but that was his choice. We had some fabulous Char Sui buns, fried rice, chow mien, Shrimp bow, deep fried won tons, egg rolls, chicken soup, it just went on and on. Then, for some reason, both Jim and Edie got a bee in their bonnet about having to get back to the ship as it was going to leave without us ? it was 1:30 and we sailed at 6 p.m. but that was okay. We went back to the ship, except Roy, who walked back. The guys and Shirley grabbed a cab to go over to get an English warranty for Jim ? he didn?t pick one up when we purchased his new camera. I was only back on the ship about ? an hour before Chris returned, unimpressed, from his visit to Ho Hum. Dinner was pretty good Italian tonight. I had a very good proscuitto and melon with minestrone and a veal chop. Chris had the eggplant parm, with a bean soup and beef stew. The gelato was really good and then, after the captain warned us of high waves that night and for the next day, we all retired to our cabins. I was pooped!
Day 14 ? At Sea
It was great to have a quiet day at sea today. I slept 12 hours before reluctantly dragging myself out of bed to face the day. I had taken enough mecclazine to offset any wave motion and was pretty comfortable. By 3 p.m. most of the waves had quieted down and we were back to the regular motions. Chris went to a computer class on safety and I went to a talk on Titanic ? it was about the filming, which really wasn?t that hot. I haven?t seen the movie and didn?t want to see it any more after the talk. Chris spent the afternoon working on a project for people at the table (e mail addresses) and I had a great bath, plus read a bit. Tomorrow is another sea day, so we should be really rested up for Shanghai. We had our second formal dinner tonight and it was the Italian dinner. I had the prosciutto (again), the rustic vegetable minestrone soup and the Pappardelle al Sugo d Lepre (pasta with rabbit) and Chris had baked eggplant, Venetian soup of beans and pasta and the Veal Chop.
Day 15 ? At Sea
We are still bouncing around a little because of the typhoon, but not as badly as I thought we would. We had already decided that we weren?t going to do much of anything today and we really didn?t. I went to a lecture on sea myths and also painted a tee shirt. I couldn?t get it finished in time, so I brought it down to the cabin to finish up. It was a pre-punched design, but that was okay. It was still fun. We hung around with S.K., Roy, and Shirley quite a bit today, just chatting and enjoying ourselves. Mostly today was just a day of eating and sleeping. Jim seems like he?s getting a cold, which is not what you want to happen going into China. Roy is concerned because he only has a single entrance visa and can?t come ashore. Dinner was good again, but we are beginning to see a pattern here. I had an asparagus puree,
Day 16 ? Shanghai
What a beautiful city this is! So many skyscrapers and they are so unique ? not just simple straight lines, but circles, cut-aways and the like. It really is quite incredible. Our tour today was all day long and, boy, was it long. Lots of walking and seeing of things. First we went to the Children?s Museum, a fine arts school, and we got to see young boys (5 ? 12) working at Peking Opera movements and young girls, all younger than seven, dancing to ?Jingle Bells?. The school was three stories and we went up and down a couple of times. We bought two student paintings of kitties. Then it was off to the Jade Buddha Temple, which was lovely, but a lot more standing and standing as our guide explained all about Buddha. We bought a great little kitten cut out. Then it was time for lunch. What a spread Shanghai set out for us. Favorites for us were the sweet fish lemon pickles and in fact all the pickles were good, and the soup, chicken egg drop with corn. We had such a large number of dishes and they just kept coming. Everything was very good, although it did give me indigestion later that afternoon. I took a pain pill and soldiered on to the next sight, the Yu Gardens. On the way there, we saw a little kitten crying for mom. I would have taken him back to the ship if I could have. The gardens were really crowded and I wasn?t feeling well at all ? a combination of the sun, indigestion and back pain. After we finished the garden, which would have been nicer if it wasn?t so crowded, we wandered around the market for a little bit, but I just didn?t have my heart into shopping, so we went into DQ, got something cold to drink and just sat until it was time for the bus. More walking, five blocks, back to the bus, among all the professional beggars, vendors and people just out enjoying the blue sky. We got to the Shanghai Museum and it really was great, there was a costume and mask display on the top floor that was very nice and I really enjoyed the paintings, but my pain pill had worn off and I was not very happy. Then we headed to a silk factory, but I stayed on the bus along with a couple of other passengers. We got back to the ship too late for dinner, so we went up to the bistro and had some pizza. Chris went down to see our tablemates and I went right to bed. What a long day!
Day 17 ? At Sea.
Thank goodness we have a day to sleep in and relax a little. When I met the tablemates for breakfast, they presented us with a beautiful embroidered kitten picture. Roy, Shirley and S.K. had had a great day just walking a bit and shopping. Wished we gone with them in hindsight. I did go and paint a ceramic tile for Julie and take a long hot bath. The back isn?t happy, but it?s okay. Chris went to a computer class and I watched a couple of movies. It was just a day to not do much of anything. This was also our last formal night. I had roasted grouse, Chris had fish ? for some reason, there is not a menu for this dinner - and it was met with the obligatory march of the Baked Alaskas. Dinner was good, but not spectacular. We are seeing a lot of repeats during this cruise.
Day 18 ? Nagasaki
I can only say that I wish we had more time in this port. We took a brief tour of the city and even that was too long to allow us any time to get back out into the city. This was the cleanest and most demur of cities, as I would expect from Japan. The memorial at ground zero was nice and well cared for. We found a little gift shop and the rest rooms and that was about it. We got back on the bus and that was it, our grand tour. The bell ringers from one of the local schools came on board and played for us. That was pretty and the Tai Koh Drummers sent us off. The captain is really having to put his foot down to get us back to Beijing on time. Had a rattlely cabin all night because of this. Again, it was a quiet afternoon of sleeping and reading ? actually I have been working to finish the appliqu? on Amy?s baby blanket. Again, we seem to be missing the menu for this evening and the food completely escapes me except to note that nearly every item on the menu had been served before. Hmm, this is a little odd.
Day 19 ? Last Day at Sea
We spent today packing and getting ready for the disembarkation in Beijing. There are a total of 11 people on our land tour. I hope they are nice and fun to be with. We decided to bring down the bottle of wine we got to the table for dinner, which is down home food ? turkey and dressing, prime rib, that sort of thing. It?s hard to believe that 16 days have gone by on this cruise. They really went like a snap of the fingers. We spent so much time with our tablemates and they were really a lot of fun. Mostly, it?s hard to believe all the stuff we bought! I don?t remember buying some of it, so it?s okay. Today I picked up a chain for my locket and some tee shirts. This afternoon, we sailed through a huge fog bank ? it was very eerie, then suddenly we popped out to great weather and the coast of China. Now we just have to get up to Beijing. It?s has really been a great cruise and the trip of a lifetime. We did so much that we both remark much of it seems like a dream. We exchanged addresses all the way around and left the table a little misty eyed. It?s hard to think we will never see these people again. Guess that?s a little how life is though. I?m just glad we were able to do it. I don?t know if I will have time to actually do anything once we get on the land tour, but I will try. Dinner was an odd assortment of items. I had an asparagus soup with tapioca and Prime rib. Chris had Oranges with mint and grand Marnier, a chilled pumpkin soup and turkey. There was an incredible series of storms at sea this evening. Chris called to tell me about the first one and then I woke up for the next two ? or it could have just been one really long shower. With no clock in the room, it?s hard to tell the passage of time.
Day 20 ? Beijing
We made plans to have breakfast together and it was a teary event. These people had grown very close to me during the trip and I will miss them. The only thing I didn?t get was my tile. I am going to contact Princess when I get home to see if they will ship it to me. I really wanted it for Julie, but at least I got photos of it.
Our disembarkation went smoothly enough until we got to Customs, and then we got hung up when they put a large group through just before us. Thankfully the bus waited for us. Our guide is Jackie and he?s from Beijing. He reminds a lot of Kenichi when he talks.
We have a small group of people, just 11, and I will try to do a recap of them. There is Fran and Jim Yost, whom we met at Bangkok. There is Charlie and Connie from Montreal, Jim and Sandy Carpenter from Washington DC, (I think), Then there are Doris and Wally and Doris sister, Janice, from Michigan. It is a diverse group and we get along pretty well. I?m glad it?s an older group, as I would have problems keeping up with younger people. Jim has had lots of surgeries and walks with a pronounced limp. Connie uses a crutch, so I felt right at home with them. I admire them both for trying this trip
We had a two-hour ride into the city from the port area and that was pretty. China has done a lot of beautification, I think mostly because of the Olympics in 2008. Beijing is interesting in that the streets are very wide and they don?t permit left turns ? go figure! Jackie had suggested that we skip Tiananmen Square until later in the trip and at night so that it would be cooler, but we discovered we had lunch there. After a buffet lunch, (Connie went t back to the hotel because there were no wheelchair access to the Forbidden City we walked out to the square for about 15 minutes and then hit the Forbidden City. Big, enormous, huge, gigantic, none of these words come close to describing the size of it. We walked over three miles in it and didn?t even scratch the surface. Jackie said that if you were to sleep in a different room every night, it would take you 27 years to do it. It was a very long day and the hardest part of the whole trip was when we had to wait and wait for the bus. The Crown Plaza is a beautiful hotel and we had a great room, even though we only had time for a quick shower and change before going out to dinner to a banquet. The food was great and we ended up sitting with a family we knew from the ship. They were very funny and the youngest girl was quite the hoot. She and I had a great chat.
After dinner, the children put on a show for us, three dances and then they came out to the audience to meet us ? they were so cute and the dances were very long and difficult for such young children, but they did a great job. We got back to the hotel at about 9:30 and fell asleep almost instantly.
Day 21 ? Xi?an
This was a day of mishaps, such as Wally losing his backpack and Charlie having a tiny pocketknife in his pouch. He?d flown all the way here with it, but was never stopped. Beijing Airport is huge, but much like any airport once you get use to the mass of people.
We got on our plane with no trouble, only to hold for a passenger ? for an hour! We were not happy campers. I was afraid this would cut into our time with the warriors, but Jackie assured us it would not.
Our guide here is Tony and he has a bedroom voice. I loved listening to him. He was very knowledgeable and was a fountain of information about the area and the various dynasties around Xi?an. We had a lovely cloudy and cool day to do the figures and it was perfect.
The terra cotta warriors were awe-inspiring. What a sight Building One was with its rows and rows of figures! China had a lot of foresight in constructing the area and making sure that it could hold massive amounts of people before they started digging. It was quite well thought out and we had a wonderful time at the site. We got a book signed by one of the farmers who discovered the figures, and I got some tee shirts, figures and a magnet for George.
We headed in to Xi?an, which is a lovely city and went to the hotel ? the name eludes me at the moment. It is new and still working the kinks out. Jim and Sandy?s shower leaked, our toilet plugged up at a very bad time and Janice was given a room with someone in it. That all being said, the bed sure felt good that night. We had dinner at a theater and saw a show. Most people went ohh and ahh, but I wasn?t as impressed. I think theater has been forever ruined for me. The costumes were great and the food very good.
Day 22 ? Xi?an to Chongquin
Another early morning of 6:30 a.m. to catch all that we needed to see in Xi?an before flying out. We saw the bell tower and went to the city wall. They have four gates, but 11 entrances. The city fathers are thinking about tearing it down for more room, but we told Tony that we thought it should stay. He agreed with us. Xi?an has been the home of many dynasties and has seen a great many battles, but no one has ever gotten over the moat or through the wall. Then we went to a jade factory and I got jade for every one back home, Chris got a pendant for Elaine and we nearly bought a beautiful needle work cat ? looked just like Nosh ? but the asking price of $5,000 was a bit steep. We did get them down to $2600, but Jackie told us to pay no more than $2500 for it. We left it there. Then we headed for the City museum, which was very lovely. We took it on our own and had a great time of it, even visiting a side building that had nothing but Chinese signs. It had lovely scrollwork and landscapes, as well as some recent finds.
We were now seriously ahead of schedule, so Tony urged us to take our time at lunch. We didn?t, but kill some extra time by shopping. I got a shirt (surprise) and some bottle covers. We headed to the airport and again had to wait for passengers ? six this time. However, they came right along and we even took off early.
The flight to Chongquin was pretty short and we had no trouble with our luggage or getting to our bus. The ride wasn?t too bad, but we were tired and just wanted to be there. The boat, the Victoria Star, is very nice and we had to the chance to upgrade to a suite. It?s very lovely and has a huge balcony facing front. Chris really enjoyed it and spent lots of time out there. Because we were so tired, the ship actually served us dinner and we set sail at about 9:15. Aside from nearly falling out of bed once (the ship occasionally leans side to side), we slept fine.
Day 22 ? Feng Du
I have wanted to visit this city for a long time and was very excited to get the chance. It was another early morning of 6:30, but it was good that we took the excursion early to keep as cool as possible. We took the chair lift up and I had no problems negotiating the steps. Again, Connie couldn?t go because this place definitely wasn?t ADA compliant! Still it was fascinating and we learned a lot about Hell. We had to pass three tests on our way in, walk over the center of three bridges in three steps, cross over the threshold to hell and balance on a rock. The last one about did my back in, but that was okay. The pantheon of ghosts and demons were very different from ours ? there was the Good Ghost, who looked after all the animals, the ghost that killed bad babies, the ghost who punished people for reading too much ? figure that one out ? and just a host more, the far and neared sighted ghosts, the horny ghost, etc. The tour was great because we would walk a bit, then Summer would talk, then we?d walk a bit. There were a total of about 250 steps throughout the temple, but I did okay. I was tired though.
We spent a quiet and restful afternoon and then went to the Captain?s reception. It was better than Princess?s do. The champagne poured freely and the apps were great. Dinner times vary depending upon where we are in the river. Tonight it was at 7; yesterday it was at 7:30. My poor body is so messed up now. Chris went to the fashion show, but I went to bed. Chris came back and sat on the deck only to discover that they chain the door shut after 10. Thankfully, we are just under the bridge and he was able to attract attention to get the doors unlocked.
Day 23 ? The Three Gorges
It was yet another early morning as we hit the first and most dramatic of the Gorges at 6 a.m. We watched it and then went to breakfast before boarding a smaller ship for the four-hour trip to the lesser gorges. The ride in was just breath taking and it?s impossible to describe just how beautiful it is. We saw the hanging coffins and lots of monkeys ? I liked the yellow birds that flew around everywhere. Then we got into small sampans and went up yet another river ? this one was called Ma Tu, Horse?s Knees, because it was so shallow. Now it is 20 feet deep and the water level is due to rise again on the first of September. It was very pretty and quite a trip for my birthday.
That night at dinner, there was a surprise in that everyone with birthdays on the cruise were given a lovely painting of the Three Gorges and, similar to the big ships, the dining room staff paraded with cakes to each table. It was nice and a very special way to remember this day. There was a talent show for this evening, but we opted to watch the locks instead. Of course, it was nearly 9:30 before we got to one. I?d been have intestinal problems mostly due to my pain medication and it really cut loose today, no pun intended, so much so that I had a pretty rocky night, but Chris slept well.
Day 24 ? Yichang to Wuhan.
And guess what time we got up today? Yup, 6:30 again. Chris has gone on a tour of the dam, but I stayed behind due to the aforementioned intestinal reasons. It?s better, but I didn?t want to chance a squat toilet today. Chris came back to report western toilets a plenty, but I just didn?t want to take the risk. He said I would have been bored with the tour and I had had a feeling that it would e the case. Anyhow, he had fun and that was all that counted. We spent a quiet morning and sailed through the last lock at lunchtime. It was a very bizarre sight to watch the ship going down while we were eating. It started to rain as we left the ship, but we hadn?t brought anything except hats ? it was okay, we didn?t melt. Then we left for the four-hour ride to Wuhan. No matter how you slice it, it was long. We stopped at another road-side happy room. Again, this was a sensory adventure. Our guide, Sammy, was interesting and talked a lot about what made Wuhan different from other cities ? mostly it?s their aggressiveness. It looked much like all the other cities we?d been to, but armed to the teeth with Citrons. Apparently, Wuhan is the manufacturing capital for this type of car and nearly even one you see in the city is a Citron. We had dinner at the hotel and got to know Jackie a little more as he opened up about his childhood and school days. He was the classic example of bad boy making good. It was interesting to see how very little difference there really is between us.
Day 25 ? Beijing
We flew back to Beijing today and it was an okay trip. At least we didn?t have to wait for anyone and the trip went quickly. Charlie got to pick his knife back up at the airport and we quickly left for a tour of the Temple of Heaven. It was where the farmers went to pray for a good harvest. It was big, laid out much like the Forbidden City. It was okay, but had to confess to being really tired of temples at this point. We headed back to the hotel to pick up our checked luggage and a night to ourselves. We waited for the luggage to arrive and then headed out to shop. There was a huge street that was blocked form traffic. We checked out two bookstores, but found nothing that would work for John. For dinner, while many of our other traveling companions ate at the hotel, we ate at the Outback. It tastes just like home and, boy, was that good many of them complained that we didn?t tell them, but we were ready for some ?us? time.
Day 26 ? Beijing.
Today was the Day for the Great Wall. We stopped at a pearl factory on the way out and I got a nice necklace, as well as some earrings for Ginny. The Great Wall was something else and we bucked the norm and headed left, for the more difficult climb. There were fewer people and I made it to the first tower. I then waited for Chris to walk up two more before he caught sight of a tourist in a thong hiking in front of him and he called it quits. One of our members, the highest maintenance one, didn?t make the trip, as she was sick with a pre-existing condition. Now why she didn?t bring medicine along was anyone?s guess. Her husband and sister seemed to get along fine without her, so we weren?t worry, since they weren?t.
We had lunch at the Friendship store, which was okay. It certainly wasn?t the best, but also not the worse. The bathrooms were a challenge, but that?s okay too. It?s our last day here, so I can cope. Bought a bunch of stuff for people back home and then we headed for Ming?s tomb. This was an okay stop, certainly much smaller than the Summer Palace and I hit the jackpot by finding not only a four-star bathroom, but also four squished penny machines for Julie. It was a major coup. Back at the hotel, Marion was no better and Chris and Jackie went out to look for Gatorade. They found a powder that did the same thing and left it with her. She never even said thank you to them. Made me more than a little mad. We left a little late for our Peking Duck dinner. It was clear across town and I couldn?t help but think we could have chosen one closer to the hotel. The dinner was okay, but I thought the hullabaloo about the duck wasn?t worth the end result. It was okay, but nothing great. The skin was okay, but greasy. We both tried duck feet, which were okay too. Mostly I was ready to get back to the room and sleep a little.
Day 27/28 Homeward bound.
It?s time to say goodbye to China and while we had a great time here, I was ready for home. We had a bit of trouble with Security trying to take my little scissors, but I prevailed. We waited in the business lounge and Chris went off to spend the rest of the Yuen he had. Got a bunch of chocolate-cookie things. The flight was pretty smooth, despite the incoming storms. I spelt nearly all the way back, waking just for a midnight snack and then breakfast. It didn?t help the jet lag much, but you do what you can. It was worth every minute of travel and effort to do this. I certainly came away with a better understanding of the people and the country.