A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

SUNDAY, APRIL 5 HONG KONG, CHINA

1 & 2. We rode the old double-decker street cars – tall and skinny and nostalgic. The people wouldn’t let the government do away with them!
3. Fowl delivery
4. Many of the skyscrapers were designed by famous architects.
5. St. John’s Anglican Cathedral nestles among the glass and steel. 6. The Palm Sunday procession into St. John’s
7. A curious custom – meeting friends for lunch, cards and a chat – bring your cardboard to sit on.
8. We are in China, so we had to eat at a Chinese restaurant – don’t you think? (We don’t eat many meals off this ship!)
9 & 10. It was a beautiful night time sail away, with the Galaxy Orchestra playing “It’s A Wonderful World”.
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Posted by Swenigale 16:46

TUESDAY, APRIL 7 XIAMEN, CHINA

1. This is a port city and gateway to southern China, known throughout China as the “Pearl of the Sea”. We took a short ferry ride from Xiamen (itself situated on an island) to the island of Gulangyu.
2. Gulangyu is a favorite get-away for the locals. No gas-powered traffic is allowed so the air is clean and quiet.
3. An electromobile drove us along the coastal road on this unexpectedly rainy day. Usually, we were told, the climate is “delightful”.
4. The island was a foreign enclave in the early nineteen hundreds when many European and also the American Consulates were here.
5.We were served tea in the Haitian Tanggou Villa complex.
6-10. In another building in the villa we had a wonderful highlight of our morning visit. We were treated to a traditional puppet show. These are hand puppets that can do amazing things – pour tea into tiny cups, smoke a pipe, and even do some juggling! After the show the puppeteers demonstrated their dexterous hand movements. Pretty amazing!
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Posted by Swenigale 07:46

THURSDAY, APRIL 9 SHANGHAI, CHINA (PART 1)

1. Shanghai is the eighth largest city in the world. We docked a 1 ½ hour drive away from the city center and we had a morning tour and an evening tour, returning to the ship between tours to conduct a Maundy Thursday Service. Here we walked the quaint alleyways of Old Town.
2. Yu Yuan Garden, commissioned in 1577 by a city official as a place of quiet for his aging father, and a market area and gathering spot since the 18th century.
3. The “Huge Rockery”, constructed during the Ming Dynasty – now a protected historic relic.
4. Soren and Marika: find Hästa!
5. Mör Mör and Opa pose in front of the walkway to the garden Teahouse. The pond was teeming with Goldfish.
6. The Jade Buddha Temple is the most famous Buddhist Temple in Shanghai because it houses two statues of Buddha, each carved from single pieces of rare white Burmese jade. No photos allowed – this is a picture of a picture of the seated 450 pound Buddha.
7. This is a marble copy of the jade reclining Buddha, depicted as passing into Nirvana.
8. The Temple was built in the style of the Song Dynasty and golden statues abound.
9. Make your own captions for these guys.
10. We were spied by a yellow-clad monk.
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Posted by Swenigale 22:41

THURSDAY, APRIL 9 SHANGHAI, CHINA (PART 2)

1. Shanghai is the center of China’s economic resurgence - just look at this skyline! Located near the mouth of the 3,400 mile Yangtze River, it was a small but thriving fishing village just 150 years ago!
2. The South-facing windows of apartment buildings all fly the “Shanghai flag”- laundry!
3. The famous colonial Bund- with neoclassical and other foreign buildings built by Western businessmen before 1949. Right now there is even more construction going on as Shanghai prepares to host the 2010 World Expo.
4. A look across the Huangpu River to the Bund as colorfully lit tour boats float by
5. The Oriental Pearl TV and Radio Tower- kind of a symbol of modern Shanghai, the “city that never sleeps”.
6. The feminine curves of “the lady’s hat” atop this tower was built to provide the ying for the yang of the fierce, spiky energy created by the towers surrounding it (or is it the other way around?).
7 & 8. Looking out from the Observation deck of the tallest building in China, the Jing Mao tower, 88 stories high.
9. A skyscraper nicknamed the “bottle opener” appears to tower above the full moon!
10. Part of the tower is a hotel- a long way down to the lobby!
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Posted by Swenigale 00:51

Friday, April 10, SHANGHAI, CHINA

PRE-JAPANESE PORTS INFO:
Between April 11 and April 18th we will not be posting anything on our blog. The Japanese government is currently prohibiting cruise ships in Japanese territorial waters from using the C-band communication service. So - no internet or cell phones. We expect to have 5 stops in Japan and we will compose our posts offline and upload them after the 18th.
Today is Good Friday and we stayed onboard as we sail from Shanghai at 2 pm. We miss everyone back home and we pray you have a joy-filled Easter!

Posted by Swenigale 00:55

SUNDAY, APRIL 12 NAGASAKI, JAPAN

Right now we are 12 miles away from Japan’s coastline and we can use the internet momentarily– surprise! - this will happen once more before the 18th.
1. The sun rose over the hills of Nagasaki as we held an Ecumenical Easter service onboard the Serenity. Later, an unusually warm day with bright sunshine and the excitement of Easter made us climb to the top of Mt. Nabekamuri Park Observatory.
2. We walked past Oura RC church – Japan’s oldest wooden church with a history worth googling!
3 & 4. Just to prove we climbed the mountain!
5. Large bees up there – surveillance drones?
6. We visited Peace Park, built to memorialize the war-ending events of August 9, 1945 and the Atomic Bomb museum. Both are located in the area of the “Hypocenter”.
7. The hope for peace, symbolized by the thousands of paper cranes made by school children.
8. Statues have been donated from around the world – this “Joy of Life” was give by Czechoslovakia in 1980.
9 & 10. Scottish businessman’s Thomas Glover’s estate, situated on Dutch Hill over-looking Nagasaki and the harbor. Puccini is said to have used the estate as the setting for “Madame Butterfly”.
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Posted by Swenigale 12:56

TUESDAY, APRIL 14 OSAKA, JAPAN

1 - 4. We are a bit late for Japan’s famous Cherry Blossom festivals, but some blossoms still clung to the trees as we visited Osaka Castle. The impenetrable fortification was built by Hideyoshi Toyomori toward the end of the 16th century.
5. Shitenno-ji, a 6th century Buddhist Temple – one of the oldest in Japan. 6. No photos of the Buddha statues allowed – so we settled for pictures of turtles – symbols of long life to the Japanese.
7. School girls like “Hello Kitty”.
8….So does Hästa.
9. Yup, we are in a mall – had to visit “Popcorn Papa”.
10. Ninja Hästa.
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Posted by Swenigale 06:51

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 15 SHIMIZU, JAPAN

1. Mt. Fuji from the Serenity as we sailed into Shimizu. We were so lucky to have a clear view (somewhat rare, we were told).
2 & 3. We had a hero’s welcome from the townspeople and port authorities. The 4th graders performed their phys-ed routines while the adorable younger kids looked on. A brass band played Sousa marches too!
4. Ed and the Mayor of Shimizu – it just happened – they were gracious and happy hosts.
5. Mt. Fuji is snowless in the summertime, so I think this was the perfect time to see it. It is an active volcano, but the Japanese people deal with volcanoes, earthquakes, typhoons (and North Koreans) as part of life.
6. God’s art (Fuji, cherry blossoms) was complemented by our visit to the Shizuoka Prefecture Museum of Art and its collections made by man.
7 & 8. Some cherry tree varieties are still blooming.
9 & 10. People gathered to wave good-bye and we snapped one more shot of the magnificent mountain.

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Posted by Swenigale 07:46

THURSDAY, APRIL 16 YOKOHAMA / TOKYO, JAPAN (PART 1)

1. This is the beginning of the 7th and final segment and since the Serenity still does not have full power, itinerary changes have been made. We will not be stopping in Otaru, Japan and we will be docked in Russia on April 21st instead of the 22nd.
2. Yokohama Overseas terminal with a gracious welcoming ceremony.
3. In Tokyo (a short train ride from Yokohama) we passed these young ladies (guides in training?).
4-8. The Imperial Palace East Garden is a calm oasis in the city of over 11 million people!
9. In the Yokohama train station we found Kimono stores, where beautiful creations can be made to order.
10. This beautiful Kimono was for pictures only – and it weighs about 8 pounds!
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Posted by Swenigale 15:51

FRIDAY, APRIL 17 YOKOHAMA, JAPAN (PART 2)

(We are out of Japanese waters, so we expect to have internet connection from now on.)
1. On our 2nd day in Yokohama we walked within a 2 mile radius of the port. This clock tower, built in 1917, is affectionately known as “Jack”.
2. Yay! We found more Cherry Blossoms.
3. Shiloh Presbyterian Church – one of Japan’s oldest Protestant churches, founded in 1874.
4. Five toddlers, two adults and a rope (with handles!).
5 & 6. Even on a cloudy day, something draws us skyward. Today it was the top of “Landmark Tower” and its 360 degrees.
7. Maybe I was unduly excited – but I have never seen a curved escalator!
8. Okay, who got the Ferris Wheel - building contract in Japan? This one is part of an amusement park – and look where the roller coaster goes!
9. We felt like we were in Quincy Market in Boston! This market is only seven years old – I wonder where they got the idea? It is the “Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse” and Flower Garden – right on the water front. Boston really needs to get a Ferris wheel too!
10. A misty good-bye from Yokohama “…and I think to myself, what a wonderful world!”.
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Posted by Swenigale 19:21

TUESDAY, APRIL 21 PETROPAVLOVSK, RUSSIA

1. We were on Russia’s Far East Kamchatka peninsula – in the city founded in 1740 by Vitus Bering which has only been opened to outsiders since 1991! It is 9 time zones away from Moscow, is not connected by roads to anywhere, and there are 68 active volcanoes! Black ash can be found everywhere on the snow and ice.
2 &3. The Russian Orthodox Church, which was a theater during the Soviet era, and is now a church once again. Orthodox Easter was celebrated on April 19th. Their new church is being built behind it and to the right.
4. Most Russian towns have torn down their statues of Lenin – not here. The kids here refer to the statue as “Batman”.
5. It was a cold, snowy day so from a hill over the town we could see the bay, our ship, and some hills – but none of the volcanoes.
6 & 7. The Natural History Museum of Kamchatka.
8 & 9, Entrance to the local market where you can buy fur hats, dried fish, and caviar – but only if you have Rubles.
10. Our “Sail-away” was delayed by two hours (due, perhaps, to all the Russian paperwork) and we started on our way across the Bering Sea. Every night now for 7 nights we have been turning our clocks ahead by one hour, and since we will be crossing the International Dateline heading east we will be having two Thursdays!
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Posted by Swenigale 18:16

FRIDAY, APRIL 24 DUTCH HARBOR, ALASKA, USA

1. God Bless the USA! Even here, in the heart of the Aleutian Islands, we know we are home! The fishing industry in Dutch Harbor/Unalaska (800 miles Southwest of Anchorage) is booming - perhaps one of the few places in the world not suffering financial difficulties.
2. Evidently these treeless hills are green in the summer – but our day was bleak, wet and windy.
3. An exciting welcome – a lone bald eagle, the first of many we would see. The island’s people population is only 5000 friendly, helpful folks.
4 & 5. The 1824 Church of Holy Ascension (Orthodox), a national historic landmark and one of the top ten most endangered.
6. World War 2 Memorial park.
7. Fishing boats line a small boat harbor and cannery. Millions of pounds of King Crab, Snow Crab, Halibut, Cod and Herring are caught, processed and exported by the fleets and canneries. Unemployment is only 2%.
8, 9 & 10. Locals call the Bald Eagles “dumpster divers”. Seems the fishing is good for everyone!
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Posted by Swenigale 23:21

SUNDAY, APRIL 26 KODIAK, ALASKA, USA

1. Kodiak is the Alaskan “Emerald Isle”. The biggest tourist draw in Kodiak is the Kodiak bear, all of whom are not yet awake from their long winter’s nap. So – we had no fear of disturbing them as we explored Ft. Abercrombie State Park.
2, 3 & 4. The Fort was built as part of the North Pacific’s WW 2 defense system. The amount of moss covering everything in the forest is incredible!
5 & 6. This is Holy Resurrection Orthodox Cathedral, built in 1794 it is the first Orthodox parish in North America. The present church, built in 1945, is the 3rd one built on this site.
7. A small gift shop helps to support the parish.
8. The Russian Orthodox Seminary Chapel- just up the hill from the Cathedral. 9. An eagle and a raven find a perch in St. Paul’s harbor.
10. A bit of sunshine lights up the snowy mountains.
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Posted by Swenigale 10:36

MONDAY, APRIL 27 SEWARD, ALASKA, USA

1. We spent our day in Seward – on the water, but in a smaller excursion boat. The morning started out cloudy, foggy and misting – but that didn’t bother the really cute sea otters.
2. This mountain goat had a great observation post.
3, 4 & 5. Our tour was of Kenai Fjords National Park – we watched three whales breaching and blowing – and the skies had cleared!
6. After we saw a tidewater glacier (glacier pictures will come later) we found amazing “rafts” of sea birds (these are alcids).
7. The cliffs were teeming with gulls, terns, and the Common Murre (those penguin-looking birds).
8. Even though it is very early in the season, we saw tufted puffins (yay!), red headed cormorants, Arctic loons, Dall’s porpoise and these lazy Steller Sea Lions. They looked like they were poured onto the rocks.
9. The Serenity, itself really big compared to us humans, is dwarfed by the snow-capped mountains.
10. We glided away from Seward at sunset (9:44pm).

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Posted by Swenigale 13:36

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29 GLACIER BAY, ALASKA

1. We were the first cruise ship to sail into Glacier Bay this season and the day was picture-perfect. As we entered the 65 mile long bay we could see the rounded top of 15,300 ft Mt. Fairweather in the distance.
2. There are several glaciers here – some advancing, some retreating. This is Reid Glacier.
3. We approached our destination – the long, low gray mass in the distance is the Grand Pacific Glacier and to the left of that is Marjorie Glacier. We were up on the top of the ship, the 13th deck.
4. It was impossible to stop taking pictures – just look at that reflection! This wilderness is all protected – part of a UNESCO World Heritage area that is 25 million acres!
5, 6, 7. The rocks and dirt ground up by the moving ice mass accounts for the gray / black color. When ice breaks off and falls into the water (calving) the blue color is revealed. Marjorie Glacier is 350 feet high and a mile wide.
8. We sailed away late in the day, dropping off our two ranger guides and getting a good look at more Steller Sea Lions basking in the sun.
9. We stayed at the railing hoping for some whale sightings. We were rewarded- there is one tail waving good-bye….
10. …..and there a glimpse of a distant spout as we sailed out of Icy Strait.
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Posted by Swenigale 00:21

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