HAL guest blogger Sharon Wilhelm is currently sailing aboard Amsterdam’s 75-day Grand Asia & Australia Voyage. While aboard the ship she will chronicle her cruising experience for us on the blog. Enjoy!
October 10: (Day 19) – Jeju City, South Korea
We booked a tour to go to a morning performance of Nanta. Even after reviewing several YouTube clips about this performance prior to departing on this cruise, it still was extremely entertaining and exceeded our expectations. This was true in spite of the necessity to shorten the performance to about 30 minutes due to the relatively short duration of this tour. This Nanta experience was created by three “chefs”, a sushi chef and a kitchen manager. The chefs use knives and other kitchen utensils to produce amazing non-verbal sounds. Their skill in using knives to chop vegetables at an incredible speed is truly remarkable – pieces of carrots, cabbage, etc. came flying off their chopping blocks and onto the floor.
We were sitting in the first row closest to the stage. Part way through the performance, the actors were “recruiting” two audience members to come up on the stage to act as guest actors. Well, when they came to Mark, I certainly “encouraged” him to accept their “invitation” and he actually did! I can only say that you should have been there to witness his acting debut. Rod, one of our fellow passengers, captured Mark in photos while he (Mark) was on stage. Rod – thanks so much! The tour included a visit to a local souvenir market where we purchased something I had not seen before – kimchee infused nori (sea weed).
October 11 – A day at sea.
October 12 – Xingang (Beijing)
As we did not book a tour, we took the Port of Tianjin provided shuttle to the closest city (Tanggu) and we were let off at the Aeon Mall. As in many locations in China everything here is new. Except for the currency and language the stores were much the same as those at home. For anyone hungry, the mall has 24 restaurants on site. While attempting to get a price on an item, the store employee gestured to follow her up to the second floor where she pointed to a large section dominated by overhead signs promoting that all items were 10 Yuan (~ $1.40). We were able to purchase the few items we forgot to pack. The area around the port is being created by land fill and it seems to go on for miles in all directions. The cities suddenly appear on the horizon dominated by new high-rise housing towers. We were told that the area has a 14% economic growth rate as compared to the overall slowing down to 7.5% for the whole of China.
October 13 – Xingang (Beijing)
We took a tour that included visits to Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City, lunch at a Beijing hotel followed by a tour of the Temple of Heaven. While the day in Beijing began with a howling, cold wind, coming I presume, from Outer Mongolia ☺, it made for clean air and great visibility for sightseeing. The Square was in beautiful condition accented by huge flower displays – a holdover from the annual October 1st celebration remembering Chairman Mao’s proclamation establishing the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949. There just isn’t enough time to detail the significance of and how interesting all of these sites truly are.
October 14 – At Sea
This was the night for the Amsterdam Prom Night & Ball – a really memorable experience transforming us back in time. The entire evening was very special.
October 15 – At Sea
October 16 – Shanghai
Our tour, Maglev Train Ride and New Shanghai, packed in a lot of interesting things to do / sites to see in a short time. The Magnetic Levitation train travels from Longyang Road Station (in Pudong) to the Pudong International Airport. The distance of 18.6 miles is done in 7.3 minutes as the train reaches a speed of 268 mph prior to slowing as it reaches the area of the airport. This is another demonstration of the will of the Chinese to incorporate the latest and greatest technologies into their infrastructure. This tour included a stop at the Jin Mao Tower where a high speed elevator “rockets” passengers up to the 88th floor in 45 seconds. It was necessary to clear my ears four times on the way up. The 360 degree view of Shanghai is remarkable from this observation floor. The Aerial Post Office located on this level is the highest in China.
October 17 – Shanghai
We took a tour entitled Scenic Suzhou that included a visit to the Silk Embroidery Research Institute, a boat ride on the canals of Suzhou including a small section of the Grand Canal, a look at the remnants of the city walls that are 700 years old, a Chinese round table lunch at the Bamboo Grove Hotel, and a walk through the huge Humble Administrator’s Garden. I would certainly recommend this tour as a way to see another very different side of China as compared to the larger cities.
October 18 and 19 (Days 27 and 28) – At Sea