Sunday, 28 April 2013

Bedtime Stories in China


 ...charming tourist market in Tianjinn ...
Wyona and I were too tired to read our emails a couple of days ago.

But we agreed we could listen if they were read to us as a bedtime story for us.

Greg agreed to read.  We listened. That worked.

Last night, just as we were going to sleep we begged for more stories.

Greg studying the streets in the market
We must go back to do them justice.






















With no book in hand, he free-lanced and asked if we knew what three ingredients make China so successful today.

Was it the opium balls, I guessed, since I had gone to the lecture on how the opium wars had nearly destroyed China. Greg, who had also been at that lecture, said he wasn’t thinking along that line, but he had three other things to share.

... detail from ceiling of market building ...
The Chinese dictator in the 1980’s who opened up the way for there to be a Chinese business class – that was one important event. Having a single party system in China, that helps to get a lot done. There is no opposition getting in the way of progress. The third item making China successful is an inexhaustible supply of labour. Without hardly a pause between Greg’s last word in that sentence, and the beginning of the next sentence, Wyona seemed to be interrupting him. She was not interrupting him, for she said to me, would you believe Greg is already asleep.

No kidding, I said, waiting for Greg to pipe up. A long silence. You have got to be kidding!

“Yes,” said Wyona. “ I could tell he was dosing off when his words became slower and more carefully articulated. He is way under right now. Our laughing is not going to wake him up. I hope you can remember what he said for it is over now.”

... vendor in the market ...
I didn’t care if Greg goes to sleep in the middle of the bedtime stories. I learned three important things about China from him– more than I can remember from the volumes I was reading before I left on this trip.

Greg is a fantastic travelling companion. He can gives deeper, more academic lectures than the ones we hear on the boat. All he has to hear is a question asked and see an interested listener.

Greg? Why am I seeing so many shipping containers and no factories. This is going on for miles and miles. Maybe 20 minutes now.

Greg? Why are there so many road fly overs and round abouts and no vehicles using them -- no private vehicles on them, and no semi’s? 

She is as interested in me, as I am in her.
Greg? How did you know the exact spot on the street where the incident with the tank took place just before Tienanmen Square?

Greg? How do you know which line on the subway we should be taking? And how did you spot the entrance to the underground.

Greg? Why are the police stopping all of those kids at the bottom of the escalator and demanding to look at their passports? 

Greg has an answer for everything. For the last question, he reminded me that Chinese people are not free to travel in their own country, as we are. They have documents that tell them where they can go and where they cannot go.

A privilege to travel with Greg.

Arta

No Complaints


Arta, Jean & Byrn Sands, Wyona and Greg Bates
Wyona says that cruising is not real life.

Just an illusion.

She is right.

I can no longer remember when this happened, but I wrote it on a piece of serviette, so it must be true. I heard a woman complaining that the coffee she had was not hot enough. Now there is someone with a problem. Then I was asked by someone, as I was standing in line, if I were happy with the level of service on this boat. They said that their waiter didn’t come fast enough.


 .... sunset off of the Canadian coast ...

















They must not know that in coming on this boat I have moved from being the waiter to having a waiter, so I am perfectly happy with the level of service. I did laugh at the hot milk yesterday morning. Wyona was looking for a cup of hot chocolate. She could find the package to put into the cup, but not the hot milk. The waiter told her that it was gone for the morning, but she sleuthed around until she found a carafe marked hot milk. But the milk had been in that thermos so long that it had scorched. I laughed so hard – either the coffee is not hot enough or the milk is scorched.

I love a day when no matter how hard you look, there is just nothing to complain about.  Not even when you are looking for hot chocolate.

Arta

Monday, 22 April 2013

Bedtime Stories Part 2

Wyona and I were too tired to read our emails a couple of days ago. But we agreed we could listen if they were read to us as a bedtime story for us.  Greg agreed to read.  We listened. That worked.  Last night, just as we were going to sleep we begged for more stories.  With no book in hand, he free-lanced and asked if we knew what three ingredients make China so successful today.  

Was it the opium balls, I guessed, since I had gone to the lecture on how the opium wars had nearly destroyed China.  Greg, who had also been at that lecture, said he wasn’t thinking along that line, but he had three other things to share.  

The Chinese dictator in the 1980’s who opened up the way for there to be a Chinese business class – that was one important event.  Having a single party system in China, that helps to get a lot done.  There is no opposition getting in the way of progress.  

The third item making China successful is an inexhaustible supply of labour.  Without hardly a pause between Greg’s last word in that sentence, and the beginning of the next sentence, Wyona seemed to be interrupting him.  She was not for she said, would you believe Greg is already asleep. 

No kidding, I said, waiting for Greg to pipe up.  A long silence.  You have got to be kidding!

“Yes,” said Wyona. “ I could tell he was dosing off when his words became slower and more carefully articulated. He is way under right now. Our laughing is not going to wake him up.  I hope you can remember what he said for it is over now.”

I didn’t care if Greg goes to sleep in the middle of the bedtime stories.  I learned three important things about China from him– more than I can remember from the volumes I was reading before I left on this trip.

Greg is a fantastic travelling companion.  He can gives deeper, more academic lectures than the ones we hear on the boat. All he has to hear is a question asked and see an interested listener.

Greg?  Why am I seeing so many shipping containers and no factories.  This is going on for miles and miles.  Maybe 20 minutes now.

Greg?  Why are there so many road fly overs and round abouts and no vehicles using them  -- no private vehicles on them, and no semi’s? 

Greg?  How did you know the exact spot on the street where the incident with the tank took place just before Tiananmen Square?

Greg?  How do you know which line on the subway we should be taking?  And how did you spot the entrance to the underground.

Greg?  Why are the police stopping all of those kids at the bottom of the escalator and demanding to look at their passports? 

Greg has an answer for everything.  For the last question, he reminded me that Chinese people are not free to travel in their own country, as we are. They have documents that tell them where they can go and where they cannot go. 

- Arta


Nagasaki, Japan


The trip is over. 
Our home away from home is behind us.
Wyona was dividing up the yen that we have between us.  She counted it out.  Two, two, five, another five, yes, 12 thousand yen for you she said.  I learned a quick conversion tip at one of the seminars.  Knock off 3 zeros and that is how much money you have. 

Thanks for the $14 American dollars.  I can figure out the money.  I hear everything is expensive in Japan. My allotment of money will keep me from overspending.

Wyona's hand at the base of the monument in the Peace Park, Nagasaki
She is trying to show you
there is water running at the base of the monument
We did have a trip that was the right price.

For 5 dollars you could buy an all day pass on the trolley.

The trolley is not the high speed train.

It lumbers along, stopping every two blocks, picking up the school children, the shoppers, the old people.

And there were the 3 of us who rode the #1 all the way to the Peace Park.

Then we continued on the line, until the car was empty.  The driver ran to the other end of the train and we began the return journey.  
  
... a small rest for Wyona ... Greg moves on at the Peace Park ...
Greg told me that we must really take a taxi in Japan.  

The passengers sit on seats covered with white doilies.  


The drivers wear white gloves.  


“They take their taxi driving seriously here,” he commented. 

 
Cherry blossoms on the ground at the Peace Park
Our trolley driver also had on gloves.  And a broom in his cabin.
  
Taxis and trolleys.  Serious business.

Arta

A Small Room

We are going to a meeting today to tell us how to change rooms – from our small one, into a larger one with a balcony at the back of the ship.  The bigger rooms on this ship were booked long before Wyona had an interest in coming back to NE Asia.  The room has a double bed, and a two-seater couch which folds out at night or for afternoon naps.  There is no room for two people to pass at the bottom of the bed, so one person has to move one-way while two stand on the other side of the room, and then the action starts the other way. 

Alternatively someone can walk across the tops of the bed to go from the inside door by the corridor straight through to the baloney.  I saw David do this many times on the last cruise. Greg took this route once and proved he was good at it. Wyona and I would require a step ladder to get up on the mattress.  A step ladder would be a room accessory that we do not need, for there would be no space in which to store it. 

Yesterday Wyona threw out the red roses that came to us compliments of the Captain’s Club.  I thought the flowers had another good week in them so I resuced them from the garbage.  She citied having no room for them as the reason they had to hit the garbage.  By the morning I agreed with her, since together we were up a few times in the night, waiting for emails and during that time, while manoeuvring in the dark, we spilt glasses of drinking water into side drawers.  While drying those out we threw important jewels into the garbage along with the wet Kleneexes.  Cruising as a togetherness project is helping Wyona and me develop new life skills.


Saturday, 20 April 2013

JeJu Island, South Korea

The travel consultant said that JeJu Island is one of the new seven wonders of the world.  Wyona looked out the window this morning and said it first.  “I can’t see much of the wonder yet.”  She said the same thing again on the walk home from the market, “Are you sure this is one of the new seven wonders of the world.”

...  a woman arranging her produce in the market ...
I saw a sign board, a low one that was using the slogan again, so I went over to take a close look.

All we have to add is one word -- that this is one of new natural wonders of the world. I have seen the posters of a fantastic natural crater and the list of the other new seven wonders.

Next time we come we are taking the City Bus Tour.

We will be back for the next part of this trip is docking here.

This morning we went to the International Market – our local currency in hand, picked up at the KeJu money exchange.

Am I not getting enough food onboard?
I can't stop myself from taking pictures like this
.Everything is amazing to me.
The literature said that JeJu is known for its tangerines. I wanted to buy one, but when we were making the sale, we couldn’t tell if I was getting 1 tangerine or one kilo for the price they were asking. Fearing it was the kilo, we moved on.

Lurene asked for a pair of squeaky shoes to be brought home for Kalina.

Wyona stopped in every shoe store in Busan looking for them, and with sign language she would ask them if they have squeaky shoes. Soon her sign language got so good that they would quickly wave their hands down and to the back, explaining that they had none of those shoes anymore.

But she hit the jackpot today – tiny pairs of squeaky shoes in all colours. Though the Korean man couldn’t understand English he knew what she was talking about. I asked her how she got the idea over to him. She claims that “squeaky” is a word that is understood in every language. I guess it is, they way that she says it.

We walked through the equivalent of Fanny’s Fabrics – so many rolls of material, and so many women in small kiosks with their sewing machines, a mat for their noon hour nap laid out by time we got there; others eating their lunch with the Korean metal chopsticks – not something that has caught on in the rest of Asia, and if you try to use them you will know why.

Food slips off of metal chopsticks, except in Korea.

socks $1 a pair ... everywhere
We stopped bargaining and Wyona and I headed for home, while Greg stayed back to explore.

We had watched where the taxi drove on the way to the market and were sure we could make it back to the ship.

The difficulty was getting across 8 lanes of traffic with no traffic light to help us – just the big wide striped zebra walk, but when we would put our toe off of the curb, no one stopped.

Two Korean mechanics came to the curb, so we side-stepped over to be behind them and when they walked we walked; when they stopped, we stopped. This is the first time I have been truly committed to walking behind a man  instead of beside him.

The men stopped mid-street to let a big 18 wheeler roll on by, so we stopped.

At the other curb Wyona ran in front of one of them to say Thank You.

She could tell by the look on his face, when he understood that we had been using them for our protection.

The man laughed, said something back to us in Korean and we continued our walk back to the ship.

Arta

PS.  We went to another onboard lecture, found out what a treasure JeJu is, and that yes, it does have the on of the new 7 wonders of the natural world.  Then, to our dismay ... we didn't get to dock there the next time.  Perhaps we will return.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Hong Kong

We took the Star Ferry over to Hong Kong today.

The journey is about 5 minutes.

The ferry goes as fast as a well paddled canoe.

We emptied our pockets of change, trying to find enough money to get on the ferry: $2.50 HKD each way. That is the equivalent of $.40 a ride for the Upper Deck. The lower deck is cheaper. “Did we ride first class when we were here ten years ago, Greg?” Neither could remember. 
... the bottom half of the building ...
... I couldn't get it all in one frame ...
The walk over the foot bridge to the city, proper took us past a construction site.

We leaned over the rail and watched a long time.

Wyona spotted a digger, not at ground level, but one at the bottom of the excavation. Greg watched an 18 wheeler taking earth away from the construction site. He was curious as to why all of the wheels were washed before the machine went out onto the road. 
... Not the Hong Kong I remember ...
“This is not the Hong Kong I knew,” he said.

The shopping consisted of Armani, Dior, Cardin ... all of the big French and Italian designers.

I won’t say that the windows were not breath-taking. We had shopped a bit at Harbour City, Kowloon before we left. The Star Emporium, which Wyona and Greg remembered from the past, is not up-scale. I stopped to see the jewellery in a window, where the sign in its bottom left corner said, and “Sorry. We do not sell zircons or silver.” Whoops to anyone who wants silver or something that looks like a diamond, flashes like a diamond, sparkles like a diamond ... but is a zircon. 
... China, always under construction ...

Greg stayed in Hong Kong.

“Don’t hurry home to join us for dinner. We will probably just eat the fruit in our room. Enjoy yourself wandering the streets of Hong Kong to the very last minute,” Wyona said as we left him, turning ourselves back to the ferry.

She has a good sense of when to turn back. I want to go on with Greg, but I know that I can’t do 18 hours straight with no rest. Greg stopped to take out a map and give us detailed instructions as to how to get home. We both listened, for walking the streets has been easier when he is out in front. 
In Chna this is smog in the air
In Dubai it would be sand in the air

“Oh no,” Wyona said later. “We are half way beneath the underpass that leads to the subway, just the way Greg told us not to go. Oh well, at least we know where we are. Grab the map and let’s make some corrections. He never needs to know how we failed. New route -- down Salisbury, up Handkow, across Peking and up Lock Street,” she murmured. “How could we have followed so exactly the very route he told us to avoid?” 
We came home to rest, something she got none of yesterday.

We want to go back to the equivalent of the Chinese Five and Dime tonight where there is stuff piled in all of the isles, good hanging on high hooks from the ceilings, shelves partitioned and then crowded with merchandise still in boxes – no high end designers for us.

Not even looking at anything as low as zircons or silver. Tonight we are going right to the bottom. 
... a double decker bus goes one way ...
This can only be matched by yesterday’s adventure at the Temple Market. 

For the best purchase of the night, Wyona found the lazer light she had been admiring in London – one similar to the mirror ball. The best price at the front of the market was $60. By the time she got to the end of the market, she found the same model for $20. Now that was fun.

... a second double decker ...
I even loved it when the rain started to fall. 11:30 pm and Greg said, “Let’s get out of the rain and take a taxi home.” Every empty taxi window that rolled down for him rolled right back up.

... images of buildings in buildings ...

 “What is wrong?”, Wyona asked.

“They won’t take us. They want fares that are going to the Hong Kong side and we are only a few blocks away.”

So we ran in the rain, me just a few feet behind them – which is why my pedometer finally measured 8,524 steps last night. If our hotel had been a little further away, I would have made it to my 10,000 step daily goal.

Arta

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Year of the Pig in Gold

“Do not walk alone in places that are unknown to you.” That is what the sign said as I looked down a side alley off of Haiphong Road. And that is what is keeping me from doing an early morning walk all alone. So I laid here thinking about window shopping yesterday.

The gold jewellery in the window is exquisite and reminds me of the gold souks in Dubai, -- at least the amount of gold.

What makes this different is design, especially a choker necklace with the main design being a large pig, three columns of baby pigs hanging 4 deep from the sow’s underbelly. A fantastic tribute to those born in the year of the pig and the first time that I have been sad about being a dragon.

Down one isle of the Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre were a series of display cases, each holding two watching which were each circling 360 degrees, slowly, slowly and the sparkle coming off of the watches was so amazing that Greg, Wyona and I were all drawn in for a closer look.

We talked for a long time about the spectacular design, Greg finally remarking, “All of that and a watch besides.”

Wyona said of the salesmen in high end dark black suits standing near-by, “I bet those young men double as armed guards. I am going to find out the price of one of those watches.” She came back.

“Four million Hong Kong Dollars.”

That math was too hard for me even though I have been dividing every HKD price by 7 to get an idea of the cost in Canadian dollars. Having to work with six zeros at the end of some figure closed me right down for a moment. “That would be half a million dollars,” offered the salesman who had come over now to give Wyona more details on the watches on the pedestals. Exquisite beauty and a joy to look at.

We travelled on to other glass windows. In one shop, the silk skirts of the dresses were billowing, aka the famous Marilyn Monroe shot over the sidewalk grate. We searched to find where the fans were placed – in the far corners of the windows. A shop close by had large, fluffy 3-D clouds hovering down at the mid point of the window – eye-catching, though I can’t remember anything that was in the window except the clouds.

When we passed the diamond watches today, I heard the tone in Greg’s voice change to gruff. He said to Wyona, “This is the last time I will ask you. Do you want one of those watches or not. I am not bringing you back here. Either get it now or never!”

Arta

Monday, 8 April 2013

Room Size


... my bedroom window I am in a single.  
Wyona and Greg are in a double.

I have no window.  

Well, that is not quite true.  


There is a window painted on the green wall of my bedroom.  

Chimes are hanging on the outside of the painted window.   The inner ledge holds a pot of greenery and a picture.  I am reminded of O Henry’s “The Last Leaf”.  I am actively controlling my claustrophobia.  There is a fan in the bathroom that circulates the air of the room to the outside.  I rely on the small holes in the fan to sustain my irrational hope that there is another way out of the room when the door is closed.

... clothes closet is hooks on back of door ...
... no perk of side table, but is that a reason to upgrade ...













I measured my room. 

If I stretch my arms out lengthwise, then from tip to tip, there is 12 more inches than arms. 

If I take the same measurement on the width of the room, I have an extra 6 inches.  

My bags consume half the floor space.  

The other half can be measured by one stride of my foot.  

There is one tap on the bathroom sink – cold water.  

... tank is smaller than appears in this pic ...
Thankfully the shower has hot water.  

The water tank  is 2/3rds the size of a 12 pack of toilet paper and hangs from the shower wall. “Turn the tank on 10 minutes before you wish to shower,” the clerk said. I might wait until we get on the ship. 

The single bed is hard.  I try to think of a way to describe how hard.  The bed is one step up from sleeping on the beach. At Annis Bay, sleep on the rocks and I may have to rake the surface flat.  I wait all winter to get to do that.

Here, the bed is hard and flat. No raking.  Otherwise – the two spaces are equal.

How to spend the accommodation dollar?  That is the real question. Right from the get-go, when we entered our rooms, Wyona said to Greg, “Do you want me to change hotels?  I thought this one was a hot deal, because it has free Wi-Fi and an elevator.  And look at how cheap it is.  But, is your back going to make it through four nights? I can change, Greg.”

“I am fine.  In fact, so far, a hoot,” he replied.  “I don’t think anyone will believe us when we tell about this trip to Hong Kong.”

On other accounts, Greg has more walking stamina that Wyona or I have right now.  This morning she told him not to feel that he has to go with us.  “We are too slow. Take off, we don’t mind.” 

But he said, “No, I prefer this walk with the two of you.  I am soaking in the sights, the sounds, and especially the smells, all of which is accompanied by interesting conversation.  I am good.”

As soon as he said that, I made every effort to block out the visual and the aural.  I tried to concentrate on the smells that he was giving himself over to,  which now became overwhelming, changing every few steps as though each shop was beckoning us by smell.  At the end of our walk, when we were outside of a new cosmetic and lotion shop, I did not need to ask if the 10 foot high floral displays were silk or real.  The fragrances of the arrangements of lilies, roses and snap dragons were redolent, overpowering, now blocking out all of the delicious food smells.

Oh where was my camera when I needed it?

Arta