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 (, 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.  

Marshall Islands and Micronesia


It was in 1972, after an R&R in Honolulu, that Rog was flying back to Viet Nam.  I was changing planes in San Francisco when a news report flashed:  The Pan Am flight from Honolulu to Saigon had been hijacked!  I spent the next hour vainly trying to get more information.  It was days before I heard the details from Rog.

The hijacker claimed to have a bomb.  He wanted the plane to land in Hanoi (not a very bright idea on a flight full of military personnel returning to a battle zone.)  The flight crew claimed to comply as they took a long and circuitous route to Saigon and completely fooled the hijacker.  Upon landing, several soldiers overcame the hijacker and discovered his “bomb” was a foil covered fruit.  Rog reported the most dangerous part of the episode was exiting the plane by emergency chute!! 


Twenty-some years later, unruly passengers were still a problem.  In 1995, Rog was flying for Continental’s Air Micronesia and I accompanied him on the “Island Hopper” from Honolulu to Guam.  An overly stimulated passenger was unhappy that he could not have any more libations of his choice and became aggressively agitated.  We would soon be landing on one of the islands in the chain.  So, Rog called for the local authorities to come to the airport.  Upon landing, they boarded the B-727 and quickly removed the boisterous passenger.  This was my first visit to Majuro, Marshall Islands!


And here we are—back in Majuro.  This time, we came in by cruise ship—no drama involved.  Four of us hired a car and driver to take us around.  We visited the Welcome Center set up at the Alele Museum.  The Visitors Bureau folks were all wearing T-shirts commemorating the ship’s arrival!  What a nice touch.  After a little more sightseeing, a stop at the Outrigger Hotel’s beachside bar to absorb the view was most pleasant.  A totally different experience compared to the first visit!


The next port-of-call, Guam, was also a trip down memory lane.  Rog had been based in  Guam for Continental Air Micronesia. We revisited some old hangouts and marveled at how little the island had changed over the last few decades!  The entire island is like a WWII museum—so many of the beaches were battle sites.  We stopped at the Pacific National Historical Park Visitors Center where a Japanese 2-man submarine is on display.  It had run aground on the beach!  Can you imagine the sense of claustrophobia this vessel could induce!  It’s not surprising these little subs were never very successful! 


After re-acquainting ourselves with island history, we went on to relive some of our own!!  We had lived in Tumon Bay.  The condo is still there as is the Acanta Mall.  Jungle Java has moved from its Acanta home to the Outrigger Hotel but another café took its place.  We once loved sitting by the fountain sipping our lattes.  The shopping in Tumon is still amazing, still expensive and with many more shops!  The Micronesia Mall is pretty much as I remember, but Liberty is now Macy’s.  Most excitingly, there is now a Bookstore in the mall.  Bestseller also stocks a nice array of magazines.

We were expecting to complete our time in Micronesia on Saipan revisiting Bonsai and Suicide Cliffs.  However, there is no harbor in Saipan—not even a breakwater.  It’s an open berth.  Unfortunately, on the morning of our arrival, the waves at the berth were 11 feet high!  Impossible to dock.  So we passed by Saipan and are now on our way to Japan.  Our trip down memory lane has ended in the rough and stormy Philippine Sea.    


Happy New Year 2017

Actually, the New Year began 5 January 2017 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida as we boarded the MS Amsterdam for a 4-month journey around the world.  We departed Port Everglades and set off down the East Florida Coast; made our way thru the Panama Canal; up the Central American & Mexican Coasts and then berthed in San Diego to collect more passengers.

The next 3 days were torturous as the sea churned and roiled from a confluence of winter storms.  As Southern California flooded, the Amsterdam deviated from course to find less ferocious seas.  Our arrival in Hawaii was a physical relief!

It was in December 1975 that we first sailed from Hawaii to the Mainland aboard the Matson Lines’ SS Mariposa.  Cruising was much different in those days.  Friends came aboard and joined us–in our cabin–for champagne and hors d’oeuvres catered by the ship.  After guests were instructed to disembark, passengers collected along the railings on the Promenade Deck where wheels of streamers were available to toss overboard to our friends waving from the dock.  It was so very festive!  Those days are sooo long gone!  And the Pacific crossing was just as rough; but without stabilizers!

We are now on our way to Majuro in the Marshall Islands.