This Boat Overnights to Busan, South Korea part 16

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Busan greeting

Saturday 8 November 2014

I awoke to the sound of music – Jan was out on the balcony, we’d arrived and were just edging in to the wharf. The music was coming from a tourist stage set up on the wharf – loud reggae and Minnie the Moocher type music.

I’m not going ashore today. The ship leaves at 1330 and I don’t want a rushed tour with bonus queuing. Sick of it, especially the costs. My cabin account is mounting alarmingly, around US$1,000. Ouch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVery smoky hazy cloudy morning. The sun shone through briefly but it’s gone now.

Busy container port. High speed hydrofoil ferry. Taking on stores from containers on trucks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALoud music playing the whole time we were at the wharf. Annoying after a while and too loud. Saxophone player, solo with recorded backing. Korean orchestra. Ugh! Tuneless, discordant.

Pulled away at 2pm after more endless queues to reboard. Luckily I was watching from above.

Very smoggy hazy cloudy afternoon. Big rocky islands. Lots of navigation and warning lights everywhere. Ships cutting across our path. How are these high intensity white warning light platforms powered? Solar? Not enough sun, surely?

Watched Groundhog Day again. Or again, again? Or should I say “still”?. Good movie.

The Slow Boat Has Left China for Now – part 15

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFriday 7 November 2014

Awoke to find us already berthed in Nagasaki. That’s a pity, I like to see us enter the port but it can’t be helped. Another beautiful day, clear, dry and about 18C. Quick breakfast, oatmeal, not knowing when I’m going to eat again.

We go off the ship and join another endless bloody queue! I am so sick of shuffling, shuffling along in 200m queues. We finally get into the Japanese Immigration hall, then have our fingerprints scanned on small electronic imaging pads, left and right index fingers. Huh?

Once we reach the yellow line, it’s quickly forward to very friendly immigration girls, big smiles, “Good Morning”, English speaking, very quick. Another bag inspection after more queuing, and finally out to the buses. I took the easy tour, no long walking, few steps to climb, only three hours, US$79.

Nagasaki pano1The bus guide introduced himself as She Ma Da, Shimada. Another serial talker! I don’t want to know about your wife and kid, Shimada-san, tell me what we’re seeing out the windows. I don’t want to know about your wife’s failings and what a lazy son you have. Tell us what we’re seeing!

Up the twisting drive to the Mount Inasa lookout but it wasn’t bloody worth it. View very restricted by trees, we only stayed 5 mins, I didn’t bother taking photos.

Back down to the Peace Park. Big statue over water pools. Schoolkids in coloured caps and girls in sailor suits. Charming. Beautiful sunny morning, about 20C.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI finally managed to post my letter, in the souvenir shop. Stamps cost US$1 to Joondalup. The girl behind the counter put them on, then handed me the letter. I asked another girl where to post it and she took my letter, ran outside and around the corner, posted it for me and ran back, smiling. That’s Japanese politeness for you. Arigato Gozaiimas! It’ll be interesting to see what happens. The letter was a fine for having an expired ACROD sticker. I admit it, but the new one was literally in the mail. It’s a $70 fine and I asked for discretion – the disability existed last year, it still exists now as I’ve got the doctor’s letter. The date is a technicality. It was just past the 6 November due date. I wonder what they’ll think getting a letter from Nagasaki.

Bus through the streets, interesting, but no stops. Back to the port bus parking area. That’s it for the tour. I walked slowly along Ourakaigan Dori, the waterfront street for about 0,5Km then back. No Japanese money, no way to buy any food, This is crap.

Nagasaki pano2

That’s our ship

However, I should add that Nagasaki is a very nice small city of about 500,000 built around this natural harbour and surrounded by quite steep hills. The streets wind their way around, full of nice houses packed together and built up the slopes. Building a house here would cost a fortune. As Shimada-san said, he rents an apartment and will never be able to afford a house, nor his son. That’s their life.

All in all, this is a very nice place. A good tram system runs all around the flat areas and the CBD, with clear instructions in English on how to use it.

And this was the site of the second atom bomb blast in 1945. You’d never know now, but they have their memorial parks. I did wonder if there’s any residual radiation? I guess not.

I went back on board about 1230pm, downloaded my photos and video to the computer, then slept! Good sleep until 2pm WST, 3pm Japan time. Lunch on ship, good talk with US NY couple. They get taxed on everything, even retirement income.

Went to deck 6 to return passport copy, asked about cost to see doctor — they can’t tell me. Huh? Surgery is only open 4.30 – 6.30pm. This is bulldust. Looked for wi-fi, still no go!! Lots of points but I can’t connect to any of them. (For reference, once I reached Beijing and now here in Hanoi, no trouble connecting. So it’s not my computer that’s the problem.)

Went to deck 5 for coffee, met Lindsay Delahaunty and Peter Hudson, had some beers and a good chat. Peter is a Mercedes man, full of good advice. Turns out he had prostate cancer twice and is on those special pills that I’m on. Very interesting.

Then at 6pm Japan time (5pm my time) we’re moving and Jan and I went up on deck 15 and 16. The ship’s horn was sounding, loudly! Continuously loudly, threshold of pain. Impossible to speak. It just went on and on for more than 5 mins, then slowly faded down.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was a beautiful departure, with an orange full moon rising over the hills, and shining cables on the suspension bridge. Cool wind but not cold, magic. Much video, many photos.

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This departure was another unforgettable experience. Amazing.

Dinner was a bag of popcorn, a slice of seafood pizza, and a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and onion. And chips with vinegar. A crap movie was showing about American football with Kevin Costner. Bottle of Chilean Chardonnay Puerto Viejo US$24 + 15%. Tired at 2030 my time, 2130 Japan time. Bed.

The Slow Boat Has Had Enough of China for Now – part 14

Thursday 6 November 2014

Awoke to nice sunny daylight at 0700. Almost calm sea, about 16C, very nice. Very noticeable was another cruise ship about 3Km off our starboard side, our side of the ship. We were slowly leaving it behind and it was moving away, so dropped from view after a couple of hours.

It’s getting cooler as we go across the Sea of Japan (or the East China Sea).

1615 my time, 1715 Japan time: cooler, windier, rougher. Enough to wear my wind cheater, but quite bearable, maybe 16C.

Position 31.746 deg N, 126.74 deg E bearing 77 deg, speed 31Kmh. GPS works.

Just had coffee on deck 5 and sitting next to an Aussie guy spouting on and on about the differences between Australia and the USA. Another serial talker! I’m surrounded by them. What he was saying wasn’t wrong but it was the usual mix of exaggeration, half truths and rubbish. The Yanks were being polite and staying largely quiet. Much as I dislike Yanks, I am so embarrassed by so many Aussies too.

The skin break on my right leg is dry now but still pretty angry looking. I’ve taken the waterproof dressing off to let it dry out but it looks pretty bad. Obviously there’s no way I can go into the pools. There are still people swimming, even in this cool weather.

At 1722 it’s approaching sunset. Windy as hell.

The Slow Boat Reaches Mainland China – part 13

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Into Shanghai (Guangzhou) harbour this morning. It was a slow, late entry, no doubt dictated by the port authorities. We came in at a heading of about 290deg. and a speed of 21Km/h, sometimes down to 16Kmh. Ships everywhere, hundreds of them, some alongside us going in, others steaming out. We seemed to pass around an island in this huge river mouth, changing course many times, sometimes seeming to join the stream of ships going in. The water is muddy brown, presumably river silt. There were several dredges hard at work. It’s a beautiful clear autumn day, about 22C maximum forecast.

At 10am we slowly turned 180deg and edged into the pier. The gangway has been manouvered into position (screw jacks to raise and lower) and at 1030 we seem to be alongside.

We all have to go ashore into the immigration hall, even those who aren’t going on tours. We had our passports returned last night for this purpose. I’m going on a half day tour starting at 1130am.

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Even the clever Chinese get the punctuation wrong.

7.30pm: Phew! It was only a half day tour but it was hard work.

Ship disembarkation started for us at 1045, Group Red5, gathered in Club Fusion Lounge Deck 7.

We entered the gangway and started to walk, down the slope. The crowd soon bunched up and it was slow going. There was a group of three bloody Russian sounding guys right behind me, pushing from behind by bunching up, talking incessantly, loudly, right in my ear. What were they talking about? Every advertising sign along the way seemed to spark an entire discussion. I heard many English words mixed in. One guy kept breaking out of the queue and going down 20m or so trying to see the front. I got tired of this and was thinking of pulling out and going behind them, but we reached a doorway and they seemed to quiet down.

As we got into the immigration hall we passed through a radiation detector gateway, then there was a dog handler with a small dog on a leash and a large one lying nearby. After a bit, he pulled the three Russians aside and got the dog to sniff their substantial bags. It didn’t find anything, but i was interesting that he picked these three guys, presumably because they looked rough and suspicious.

Queues! We are more than 2,000 people, the equivalent of around eight jumbo jets arriving simultaneously. The queuing seemed endless to go through immigration. Stand behind the yellow line, full passport check, face recognition camera, bag scan, body scan, everything.

We finally got out about 1230pm, that’s more than 90 mins of slowly inching forward, then had a 100m walk to a bus. It wasn’t crowded, only 36 passengers. For some reason the passengers on the bus decided to give each arrival up the steps a big cheer as everyone boarded. I was taken by surprise. I found it hard to climb the steps up into the bus.

Then it was about a 40 min drive into the city. High freeways, like Tokyo, maybe 50m in the air. Traffic not too bad. Guide introduced himself as Darren, Chinese name Da, and he was another serial talker. Non-bloody-stop, wall to wall talking. Just like our guide “Jupiter” in Hong Kong. I assume it was to make her name memorable.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst stop was at the base of the tripod TV tower. The base! Nice, but too hard to photograph. You can’t take shots from so close, but I did.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALots of milling around. It was 2pm by now and I was hungry, but there was no opportunity offered to get any lunch and I had no Chinese money anyway. I could see a Subway across the road but there was no time. This was just wrong.

Bus via financial district to the Mag Lev train station to catch the 3pm train, with Darren talking non-stop. He doesn’t tell us what we’re passing until we’re past it. Annoying.

Another fast 200m walk to an escalator. More queuing. Full bag inspection and metal detector walk through just like at an airport.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey won’t allow any knives or lighters on the train. We boarded the train at 1455, with plenty of seats. This trip is to the airport about 30Km away, and back. We’re to stay on the train, it’s purely for the ride. We’re told the trip takes just 7 minutes – we accelerate for three minutes, spend 1 minute at top speed, then decelerate for the last three minutes. Want to meet the driver? There is no driver. It’s all computer controlled. The speed rapidly increases with a fair amount of noise and vibration and bumpiness, surprisingly. The top speed reached is 431Kmh. Sheesh, that’s fast. It’s the fastest I’ve been outside an aircraft. That means I’ve now been on the Japanese Bullet Train and this Chinese Mag-Lev train. Nice.

When we get off the the train, I can’t find Red5, the leader or our group. There are ticket turnstiles and the barrier lady won’t let me through – I have no ticket, Darren has them all but he’s gone missing. We mill around and eventually when I see the manual gate open and the guard distracted, I just walk through. She knows I’m doing it but I go through OK. I join Red4 group to get back to the bus. Darren (Da) turns up, caught wrong train, he says, lost group. Ha ha! How could he do it?

1545 we set off to the Jin Mao Tower – another 30 min drive through heavy traffic. More queuing for the lift. Only one of two lifts is operating. About 25 passengers per lift, so it was a long wait. Finally we’re off up the tower, at a 9.1m/s rise. Ears pop, then about 60 secs later we’re at the top and joining the crowds. I’m a bit tired of crowds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAViews from the top are pretty good but are marred by small windows with thick frames and smog/haze. Nice sunset at about 1715, but it’s brief. Did I mention crowds!

Then I realise that there are great shots looking down the centre of the tower.. The building is hollow! Hotel?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI couldn’t find the exit for a while. But all I had to do was look for the queues. More queues to reach the lift. The Chinese just push in. Luckily both lifts are operating now.

Another wait on the lower ground floor, more queuing, then back to the bus and a 1 hr drive back to ship between 1735 and 1840 when I finally got to the cabin, exhausted. Traffic jams. Gridlock. Another bag inspection in the immigration/customs hall, but no immigration check this time except for a scan of a bar code sticker on the back of my passport.

Walk along gangway – it’s horizontal – huh? It was downward this morning, so I was expecting to have to walk up a slope. I realise later that the tide has gone out, resulting in the ship being around 2-3m lower with respect to the pier. I reach the cabin at 1840, absolutely knackered. BS 5.4 – no lunch, no chance to eat at all! This is wrong.

Tried all wi-fi channels but no luck. Both Jan and I are feeling the lack of communications, and the lack of Google Earth. I wish I’d brought a fine detail map.

After some nice wine and a cheeseburger for dinner in the open top deck, I was ready for bed. Rain had set in and by 9pm, our scheduled departure time, it was steady. But we weren’t moving – passengers were still coming along the gangway at 9.30pm. By 10pm we were too tired to care and hit the sack. The novelty of leaving port has worn off.

The Slow Boat is Nearing China – part 12

Tuesday 4 November 2014

I awoke late after a rotten night last night. Certain noises made sleep impossible. I had to take a sedative and try to read, finally dropping off around 0330.

Very much cooler weather, although the big swell of yesterday is gone. There were some strong bangs and vibrations through the ship as we hit a big wave occasionally, but nothing to worry us.

Very slow day. Not feeling great – I stopped taking a nerve pain drug as it was making me very weary, but the result is a return of anxiety and pain in my feet and legs. It’s bad enough that I’ve gone back onto half the dose. I can’t win – if I don’t use it, I feel bad, but if I do use it I feel very weary and bad anyway. Can’t win.

At 1630 we’re at 29deg N latitude moving at 21Km/h, not very fast. Perth is 32deg. South latitude so we’re moving up to a comparable level for Shanghai.

I’ve booked a tour tomorrow involving a Mag-Lev train, a high speed express at around 300Km/h. Should be good. Then up an 88 storey building for the views, then a drive through the financial district. It’s only four hours, costing US$69. These tours are very expensive and are really adding to the final bill, but I feel I’ll never be back here so I have to do them. There’s no choice.

Wow!! At about 6.20pm we were buzzed by two military jets. I just heard the first as a loud rumble and roar and I thought it was a nearby ship, but when I went out to the balcony a second jet came straight over the top of us. I can’t estimate its height but I’d say 1000ft? The noise, the roar was incredible. It only took a few seconds for the jet to roar off to the east and disappear.

I don’t know why but that was an exciting experience.

The Slow Boat Is Reaching China part 11

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMonday 3 November 2014

The sea is much rougher today and the wind is up. This ain’t the tropics no more as we head for Shanghai. It’s about 18C, not especially cold, but windy. The ship’s stabilisers do a very good job of keeping us steady, but the water in the pools is really sloshing around. No problems with seasickness and I don’t anticipate any.

I do have a problem with my right leg, though, a break in the skin that’s leaking, so I’ve had to dress it with a waterproof bandage and step up the antibiotic. It means I can’t go in the pool, of course, and I haven’t tried for the whole trip.

And that was it for Monday.

The Slow Boat to China part 10

Sunday 2 November 2014

Boring morning at the terminal. Jan went off on a tour to Lantau Island, but I’m too stiff and sore to contemplate such a thing. Skipped breakfast and worked on images and this diary.

After lunch I was ready to go into the terminal to find a wi-fi hotspot to send all this stuff (on my blog). But at 2pm in the terminal I was told I couldn’t go further than a large space with a row of seats and a folding table. I was not allowed to enter Hong Kong in other words. Bloody hell.

I sat down at the table and tried to connect using the FreeGovWiFi hotspot, but in half an hour of trying I couldn’t reach the internet. I tried everything, but no go. Very frustrating. Back to the ship.

Then came the highlight of the trip so far, leaving Hong Kong. We were supposed to leave at 6.30pm, but that time came and went and we weren’t moving. PA announcements were being made for certain names. 7.30pm came and went and still we weren’t moving. We heard later that a group of passengers was still in the terminal drinking coffee so that they could get shots of the ship at twilight. A two hour delay!

Finally at 8pm, just at the fortunate time after the delay. we moved off, stern first, then slowly forward, just in time for the Hong Kong Light Show. to start as the lights came on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGliding past the city lights of Hong Kong Island was an unforgettable spectacle, and to have the laser light show as well capped it off, all set to the rhythm of music including golden oldies, the Beatles, ABBA, Bee Gees, Michael Jackson and others. Magic!

HK pano1I’d brought my tripod up onto the upper deck so I was able to shoot smooth video. I was in a dilemma as I saw my camera’s battery was running very low. I had to dash down and get another camera while Jan held my place at the railing. I must say I am totally crapped off at the rudeness of many eastern European and Chinese people pushing in and standing in front of me. One guy was leaning on my arm! Not just once or twice but for minutes at a time. Ugh.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur transit out of HK was the opposite of the way we came in. We entered from the east and left to the west, going around the southern side of HK island. Jan and I got into a big discussion about whether we were heading south or north, east or west. He has a Nikon camera which includes a compass and GPS, and to me, he’s reading the compass needle arse about. My built in compass told me where north and south were and I disagreed with his compass. So there. I wish we had Google Earth or a good map. That’s the one thing I really regret, not bringing a detailed paper map.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo then it was dinner at 11pm after a great highlight of the trip. It will live in my memory as one of the best evenings ever.