Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Beijing: About to Fly

NOTE:  This was sent out in e-mail on March 19th because, at the time, we were in Beijing and China blocks access to "Blogger".  Here 'tis now March 26th and, I'm beginning to get caught up.  Hopefully soon, I'll get working on the some 22 ports that we didn't document.

'tis March 19th, we're all packed up and just waiting until time for our ride to the airport.  That will be in about 2 hours.  Just a very brief update on our journeys in Beijing.  The first pic is a typical mid-day sun in Beijing!  Most of the time, we wore masks.

The ship docked in Tianjin, the port for Beijing.  We had one day there before we disembarked and we chose the Great Wall at Tianjin, southwest of Beijing, for our excursion that day.  Note the wall on the hills behind us.  No, we didn't climb that far but did go a fair ways up in front of where we were standing.

Off the boat now and headed for our hotel, we stopped at the Forbidden City.  This is just outside the South Gate.

The next day, we were off to another section of the Great Wall, this one northeast of Beijing.  This area was MUCH steeper than the section a couple of days ago.  We did climb up the section behind us but not much further.  At least we can officially say we have climbed the Great Wall TWICE!

On our last full day in Beijing, we visited Tiananmen Square, the largest square in the world (so we were told!).  It was too cold to take pictures there!  Second stop was the Temple of Heaven.  We were so very fortunate to actually have a clear day with blue sky and Florida like sunshine!

Our last evening at the hotel, we stopped for a couple of drinks.  We thought Sweden was expensive until we had a couple of drinks here.  At $46 for 2 drinks, it was right up there with Monte Carlo!  Oh well, we're only young once and we were still well within budget!

It's about time to shut down the computer and do that one final check before we vacate our room.  Our flight leaves at 5pm, arrives Newark at 6:45pm.  Adding the 12 hours we will have lost, it is a 13h 45m flight.  We'll leave Newark at 9pm and are scheduled to arrive Tampa at 11:58pm.  Hopefully, we'll be out of the airport my 12:30 and home by 1am.

Ahhhh!  Home Sweet Home!  This will be the last post until we're home again.

Friday, March 15, 2013

So Long for Now

Tonight is our last night on board the wonderful Regent Seven Seas Voyager… our 66th night…and a wonderful trip it has been! Our large bags are packed and out in the hall, in fact already picked up! We'll be up at 6 in the AM (3/16) and out of here by 8am.

Today, we did climb one small section of the Great Wall of China, a section SW of Beijing. In a couple of days, we'll climb another section to the NW of Beijing.

No more posts planned, however, if I get inspired during our 3 days in Beijing, something may appear.

Four more nights and we'll be back in our own bed again! YEAH! YIPPEE!


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Shanghai: Sail Away

In Shanghai, we spent the longest time in port than any other.  We had three touring days, two nights.  A great city!  Other than the smog, it was quite clean.  There are more truly tall skyscrapers then we'd ever seen in one place in our lives!

We sail at 1:30pm, right on time.  It did take a few minutes to get turned around and headed down the Yangtze river.

This building was just down river from where we were docked and I never learned what it is all about.  Perhaps a guide told us, however, sometimes the words through the Chinese accents were difficult to understand!

Yesterday and this morning had been quite clear but by the time we left, the smog had returned in full force!  Glad we went to the TV tower yesterday!  That, by the way is one of the shorter of the super tall structures.

Close up, it didn't seem so smoggy.  The temperature was in the low 70s, perfect for an ice cream sail-away!  My choice was cherry vanilla with a splash of Godiva chocolate liqueur, well, maybe a little more than a splash!

When Regent puts out ice cream, they put out all the trimmings… almost anything one would like to have with their ice cream!
The hull of a ship being constructed.  Had I not been chatting with another of the travelers who happens to be in the ship-building business, I'd never have figured that out.  The yellow pieces on the blue barge are more pieces of the puzzle!

A section of the keels lies near-by.

Going under the one bridge on the way out.  It sure looked like we weren't going to clear.  However, as we sailed on under, we noted there was plenty of room.

Some two and a half hours down river, we were still in the shipyards!  This is by far, the largest port we have ever been in.

 It will be close to 7pm by the time we are once again in open water.  Tomorrow (1/8/13) as we head on toward Hiroshima, we'll spend the day in, ur uh, make that "on", the East China Sea.  We have nothing planned for then so maybe I'll get another post up.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Shanghai: Arrival

It has been a while since I've gotten a post up (the further we travel, the behinder I get!), so decided to skip ahead to where we are today (as I post).  Sometime in the future, probably after we're home, I'll catch up by adding the ports of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Da Nang, Hanoi (Ha Long Bay), Huang Pu (Canton), Hong Kong, Taipei and Okinawa.  We received a letter from the Captain advising there would be no internet connection when we're in Japanese waters (12 nautical miles out) as they restrict the 2 satellite band signals the ship uses. 

Here's the map of where we are today.  Until we started looking at this map, I'd never thought about how very close all the islands are to mainland Asia!

Closeup of going into our docking spot.  This was about half an hour before we docked.

Ahhh, Shanghai!  A welcome sign on the terminal building.  And, what a pleasant surprise to have an airline-like gangway, instead of the usual gangplank to get to the terminal.

Another smoggy day in southeast Asia!  This is the main financial area of Shanghai, on the port side, as we arrived.

The view from our cabin is a beautiful little park...

A closer look.  I think this, second to Hong Kong, is the best view to-date from our cabin when we've been docked.

We arrived around 8:30am.  Our tour for today isn't until 1:30 this afternoon.  Interestingly, we all had to get off the ship this morning to go through immigration in the terminal building.  Our cruise director told us everyone had to go through immigration before anyone could get back on.  We were prepared to have to wait quite sometime as most of us are not young anymore and some can be quite stubborn!  Fortunately, we were able to walk out of the terminal building, walk to the dock and back to the gangway and get back on the ship!  YEAH!  

More later!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bangkok: 2nd Stop in Thailand

This was our second stop in Thailand and our second stop on mainland Asia, the first being Singapore.  Ko Samui, our prior stop in Thailand is actually an island.  The port for the Bangkok stop was Laem Chabang which was about two hours from Bangkok.  Sooo, it was back on the bus!  Fortunately, Regent doesn't fully load the buses.  Rest assured the buses here are configured for the physically smaller Asian people, not the likes of we Americans.  Quite a few of us were able to get a row to ourselves.  We'd often go to the back of the bus where Tom had room for his long legs!

We were docked for two days there but after a full 10-11 hour trip the first day, we chose to stay on the ship for the second day.

On the bus headed to Bangkok, the traffic was QUITE heavy!

Through the smog, we can see the tallest building in Bangkok standing tall above all the other buildings.  Were we to come back here 10-15 years from now, I suspect it would be far from the tallest!

From the elevated highway looking down on homes of the locals.
Our first stop was at a Shopping Center which fortunately had some great, clean, western restroom facilities.  We just walked through the center to board our boat for cruising  along the Chao Phraya River and canals.

Getting on the boat was quite a challenge as it wasn't docked just pushed up against old tires with its "nose" over the pier.  Fortunately, there were folks to help the less agile amongst us make the step.

Homes along the river.  Note the apartment building in the background.  Unlike in the US where outside portion of air conditioners are mounted on the roof, these are mounted on the wall outside each unit.

A barge boat with living quarters for the owner/family to live.

One of the many temples we passed as we traveled the river.

More homes along the river.  Just to the right of center there was a man peeling something that looked like a potato, probably a turnip.
Vendor in a paddle boat trying to sell her wares to folks on another of our boats.

More homes on the river and a vendor either heading out or stopping for a delivery.
First stop on the river was Wat Arun, a Buddhist temple in the Bangkok Yai district of Bangkok, Thailand, on the Thonburi west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The full name of the temple is Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan.  It was established before the 17th century and refurbished in the 1800's.
Going into the temple, the path was flanked on both sides by shops.

A golden Buddha at the base of the main structure.
Looking up at the main stupa like structure that is the centerpiece of the temple.
A closer look at the porcelain overlaid decoratively carved stone.
One of the 4 corner buildings.
A closer look at the artwork.
From there, we were off to the beautiful Peninsula Hotel for a delightful Thai buffet lunch.
Main entrance to the hotel.
Bangkok is another of the Southeast Asia cities that values its green space.
One of many three-wheeled motor bikes adapted to function as a small truck.
Just one of the ubiquitous shops with vendor living quarters above.  Few homes come even close to meeting US minimum standards.
We were fascinated with the jumbled bundles of electrical, et al, wiring.  And, this was one of the more organized bundles!
The stop after lunch was at the Grand Palace and temple of the Emerald Buddha.  The Grand Palace complex was established in the 1780's and covers roughly 54 acres.  It has some of the most magnificent buildings and structures I can ever recall seeing.  Below is a view of the Upper Terrace.  In this photo, you can get a bit of a sense of how bad the crowds were.  Tom chose to stay on the bus and wait in the cool there.  The most striking structure is the reliquary (structure containing holy relics) in the shape of a golden chedi (the alternative term for a Buddhist stupa).
The intricate carvings, especially around the rooflines are just incredible.
Ceramic / porcelain tile roofs add to the beauty.
More of the impressively elaborate buildings on the temple grounds.
One of a pair of guardian statues in front of one of the temple buildings.
More of the awesome beauty within the walls of the Grand Palace.
A model of Angkor Wat, the largest Hindu temple complex, the largest religious monument in the world!
The structures are just incredible, especially knowing these were all done by hand! 

Images look like they are supporting the height of the structure… not pretty faces!

For going into the temple of the emerald Buddha, everyone had to take their shoes off.  Being one of the most popular shrines in Bangkok, cabinets were placed at every entrance.  Note the sarong on the woman on the left.  Women could wear skirts up to their cheeks, however, pants had to come to the ankles.  This woman was probably wearing capris, thus, the sarong.
The temple / Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha.  No pictures were allowed inside, thus nothing to show except the outside of the building. 

Back on the bus, headed back to the port (2+ hours away), I was fascinated by the decorative street lamps.

Modern day structures in Bangkok round-about.

Median strips are very nicely landscaped.
Back on the ship!  YEAH!  Today was Valentine's Day and when we walked into the main dining room, they had a long stemmed red rose for each of the women.

I took my rose with me for a post dinner Brandy Alexander!
The Voyager Lounge was decorated for the occasion!

The lights of the port coming through the windows in the lounge added to the ambiance.

We overnighted in the port at Laem Chabang and, had a second day to tour.  After all the driving of this day, we chose to stay on the ship for that day.

Well, I'm now 6 ports behind and we're headed into Japan waters where internet access is banned on the channels we use.  We'll then be making stops in China where satellite interference is not uncommon.  Bottom line of that babble:  I don't know when the next post will be!  

As I write this (3/3/13), we are on the 54th day of our 66 day cruise, the 59th day of our 75 day journey!