Beijing, China

Asia Travel…….continued

The MS Amsterdam sailed into the Port of Tianjin, gateway to Beijing, on Tuesday night about 9:00pm.  It was 28F and snowing!  Winter in China feels pretty cold to a couple of Floridians; but a stroll out to the Promenade Deck was certainly required.  You’ll find the resulting photos below.

Snow is falling.  Jetway is in place on the left.
Snow is falling. Jetway is in place on the left.
It's cold!  28F
It’s cold! 28F

The Customs Office started to process, mostly crew, on Tuesday night.  None-the-less, no one exited the ship until the following morning when the process continued with dozens of agents on hand in the cavernous Cruise Passenger Terminal.  This is a large, vast space that remains totally under-utilized.  On previous visits, we had noticed a coffee shop that was never open.  They retain an unbroken record.  Still no coffee or WIFI for us.  I’d been told a duty-free shop had finally opened in late 2016—and there were signs—but, alas, not open.  I suppose this could make some kind of sense.  Most passengers are leaving early on tours.  They go directly to the buses (but when they return, they like to shop!).  So, the terminal appears to be a waste.  But, the Chinese are, never-the-less, quite proud of it. 

Before exiting the ship, there was time to play in the snow!  The Indonesian crew—inexperienced with snow—were anxious to build a snowman, make snow angels, throw snowballs.  They did it all!  The aft deck was covered in at least 2 inches of snow.  More than enough for some winter fun! 

Trying to stay out of the cold, Rog & I took the ship’s shuttle to a local mall.  Imagine our surprise to find the current advertising theme was:  HAPPY SPRING!  How ironic. 

Ah, Spring in the mall!!!
Ah, Spring in the mall!!!

Anyway, because we have pictures from prior visits, I’m posting them to give you an idea of the beauty of this nation.  I’ve included The Great Wall and Forbidden City in Beijing.  Also, views of Tianjin’s Ancient Culture Street, Nanshi Food Street, Haihe River and just some general street views.  You are reminded to imagine snow, wind and people bundled up in parkas!

After 2 days of shivering, we look forward to heading South.  Late this evening, we’ll head back out to the Yellow Sea and continue our journey.  Next stop is Shanghai!

Osaka, Kagoshima and Nagasaki, Japan Incheon, Korea Asia Travel

Asia Travel

 In the early 1990s, a young boy (Takizo Iwasaki) observed the wax from a burning candle create shapes akin to flower petals when it splatted.  Iwasaki grew up to become a pioneer in the wax food models industry.  Today Iwasaki Sample Village (iwasakimokei.com), in Gujo Hachiman, Gifu Prefecture, conducts classes in fake food creation.  For only 1200 Yen (aprx. $12.00) and 3 hours of time, students learn to create three different items.  I mention this, because Gujo Hachiman is accessible from Osaka via Nagoya.  It’s a many hours long journey but it has made my bucket list!  What a fun thing to try!  Having just spent two days in Osaka, we’ve seen a lot of that fake food on display at the harbor market.  The ship docked right next to the Osaka Aquarium which is reputed to be the largest aquarium in the world.  There is also a huge Ferris Wheel, right there, at the Tempozan Harbor Village.  The Tempozan Marketplace is a large mall with many shops, souvenirs, a 100 Yen Store, and restaurants.  There’s even a food court with a shop selling popcorn in 32 flavors!  Free WIFI is available so a full day could be spent here without ever leaving the harbor.  Even Universal Studios Japan and its Universal City Walk are easily reachable by Captain John Ferry for 1300 Yen round trip.  It’s only a 15-minute ride—easy to cross the river for lunch!

I’m pretty sure, we’ve lost our minds!  One who decides to travel in Japan in the middle of February must be crazy!  We arrived in Osaka to the high temperature of 1 degree Celsius/34 F.  Fortunately, we were cognizant enough to bring socks, boots, gloves, hats and heavy jackets.  A little layering of turtlenecks, sweaters and scarves got us through the 2 days.  On day 1, we hired a taxi to take us on a tour—the charge was 6000 Yen/hour and worked quite well for us.  For about $60.00, we toured the grounds of Osaka Castle; enjoyed a driving tour of downtown Osaka; and ended up at the Takashima Department Store in the Shinsaibashi Shopping District.  Very high end and quite lovely.  We enjoyed our $7.00 US beers at a charming, but smoke-filled, café before heading back to the port.  Day 2, we stayed near the harbor.  Walked over to the Seagull Hotel for coffee, WIFI and the waterfront view.  Even took pictures of the mermaid statue (similar to Copenhagen’s) on the waterfront.  We shopped, had lunch and re-boarded the ship just before the sail-away.

Luckily, our next port-of-call, Kagoshima, was warmer.  We took the ship’s shuttle into town.  The drop-off point was midway between Dolphin Port with its ferry service to Sakurajima Volcano and Tenmonkan Shopping Street with its restaurants, souvenir shops, Kimono shops and malls.  We shopped at Maruya Gardens Mall; had a hot carafe of lemongrass tea at the Good Day Café & Artisan Craft Shop; and bought magazines and crafting supplies at the Junkudo Bookstore.  We explored kimono shops, a vintage used clothing store; and had lunch at KFC—KFC, go figure!  Later, we stumbled upon a beautiful pastry café in the pedestrian area.   Kakashi-yokocho is a most charming and serene place to enjoy a coffee or tea with a tasty confection!  They also sell candies, cookies and crackers amid beautifully hand-crafted wooden bowls and serving pieces.  Lovely place.

Our last Japanese port was Nagasaki.  We had been here before and had visited the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum.  So, this time, we went up to Glover Gardens.  Thomas Glover was a Scotsman who came to Nagasaki to seek his fortune when Japan (wishing to trade with the West) opened certain ports to foreigners.  He built his home on the hill above the port.  Soon, other Westerners followed.  This is now an interesting and pleasant place of beauty and history.  We took the funicular and then the elevator up to gate 2; paid 610 Yen/pp admission; enjoyed several hours exploring this Western community; took lots of photos; drank some Kirin beer (Glover was the first brewer); and did some shopping.

Now, we’re in Incheon, Korea.  The temperature this morning is 29F.  We’re staying on board the ship!!!  We’ve been here before—saw the DMZ & tunnels; toured Chinatown; bought souvenirs.  Our stop in Jeju, Korea (the resort area to the South) has been cancelled.  So, we will spend another day in Incheon.