Yes - we're still at sea. Today (1st October) we're in the Yellow Sea en route for Qingdao, a port city that has belonged at different times to Germany and Japan. It has China's most famous brewery as well as lots of German-style architecture. We're not going on an organised tour but catching the shuttle bus downtown to see what there is to see. The weather has got progressively warmer as we've come south, today is around 20o and the sea is calm. I've just done a load of washing (last one before we get home again) and this afternoon we have to present ourselves to the Chinese immigration people to see if we're fit to let in! Apparently, if you're not in good health, they won't let you land. How we're supposed to fly home from Beijing next week if you're not allowed into the country I don't know.
Tonight is our last formal night. Two things have been decided for us while on this cruise - one is that we are not cruise people and we'll probably never do another one. The other is that we're not dressing-up people either. Having said that, we've had a fantastic holiday and seen places that we'd never otherwise see. Most people on the ship are lovely and we've had fun talking to people from all over the world. The dynamics of the ship have shifted in the last few days and there are now lots more Chinese and Japanese on board, with the consequence that all the announcements etc. are done in two or three languages. For instance, last night the film "Invictus" was put on and it was dubbed into Japanese. Very strange.
Since the last blog, we've been to Muroran in Japan and to Vladivostok. From Muroran, we took a tour up to Sapporo - an enormous city that was celebrating its Autumn Festival - just like Manchester the week before Christmas! We also went to a traditional Folk Village - that was very interesting.
Vladivostok was a very different place. It was dull, grey, everywhere crumbling, nothing much to show us in the way of museums, etc., and made us quite depressed. The people must be depressed too - living on the edge of the Pacific Ocean with no other Russian cities nearby. To get to Moscow on the train takes 8 days and costs a fortune. We heard that they send some of their children to Australia for their high school education as it is so expensive in Russia, and the universities likewise. We went through a submarine museum but there was no Roman alphabet signage to help. The only place that was interesting was the train station which, I think, dates from before the revolution - it was beautiful.
Yesterday, we were in Busan in South Korea. What an amazing place that was! The industry and life there was buzzing. We took a tour up to some beautiful temples in the hills around the city, and then came down to explore the fish market. It must be the biggest one we've ever seen. Half was selling dead - though extremely fresh - fish, and the other half was selling live fish, kept in enormous tanks. I've never seen such a variety. There were little sea slugs that we crawling around their little plates - quite disgusting. After that we took the shuttle back downtown with the intention of finding an internet connection. The whole city is wi-fi free, so we thought it would be a doddle! But what we hadn't reckoned with was that, although the keyboard had both Korean and western letters, when I typed in our name and password on AOL it came up with Korean script. The place where we were couldn't understand that we wanted to switch to western script, so we gave up. We went to Macdonalds and had a coke instead! That is why I'm once again using the ship's very expensive internet cafe. Hopefully, we'll be able to get a connection at the hotel in Beijing where they might be able to understand what we want better.
We've been remarkably lucky with the weather. The sunshine and calm seas that we had in Alaska seems to have followed us all the way across. We've had the occasional choppy sea, but it's never bothered us. I know that the captain has been dodging a typhoon that was much further south, so he obviously knows his job. And it looks like China is going to be quite hot.
So - we're nearly at the end of our holiday. Qingdao tomorrow, Dahlian on Sunday, and Monday we land at Tianjin where we are doing a trip to see the Great Wall before getting to our hotel. I can't believe it's been nearly four weeks.
Hope Martin had a happy birthday yesterday.
Richard is getting progressively better, just coughing - but that's nothing new. All we've got to worry about now is if the Chinese let him in! They look a stern lot, very official and officious.
Will try and blog next week - if not, see you when we get home. Oh - for a good cup of tea!