LINDA & PETER ON THE ROAD AGAIN - World Tour 2016
HAPPY EASTER WISHES FROM HORISHIMA-JAPAN!
It is the 24th March and we are having a fantastic trip.
Sorry everyone but I have not been able to catch up on posting our travels because since China it has been non-stop.
We decided to leave the ship again in Japan and do our own overland tour.
CHINA AND JAPAN HAVE BEEN WOW, WOW and again WOW.
It is incredible what we have seen, all the images and experiences
are getting difficult to put into words. Wonderful, helpful, generous and kind people. This experience has been GIGANTIC!
Hope you all have a good Easter. More news coming up soon.
On arrival in Nara - Japan
NIJO CASTLE - KYOTO
The Golden Pavilion - Kyoto - Japan
22nd March – Osaka (NARA)/Japan
What a wonderful welcome from the people of Osaka. Many, and I mean many, had come to the port to welcome the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship, her passengers and crew. People on the streets welcomed
us and there were banners on the lamp posts and hanging in the raiway announcing our arrival and welcoming us. There was an atmosphere of friendliness all around us. JAPAN is a really safe
country to travel in. Absolutely no need to worry about crime.
The only problem is the language, so you really have to us sign language a lot and keep smiling! English ist he only language which some people speak a little bit of. The Japanese people are very polite people, so it is advised to use some of their customs. When handing you a piece of paper or a document or even your credit card, they always do this, as in China, with two hands. It is polite to receive it with two hands. When they bow their heads slightly showing their thanks, it is adviseabe to do the same, consequently acknowledging their traditions and customs. Also it is good to learn how to say „Thank you“. This usually brings a smile to the receiver´s face.
NEW ADVENTURES – As mentioned - after visiting Tokyio, we had decided we were not seeing enough of the history and culture of Japan which we had come a long way to do. An independant overland tour seemed the ideal way to do this again.
It was possible to spend two nights away from the ship and catch up again in HIROSHIMA.
We left the ship at approx. 9.0 am heading for the railway station. That was not at all difficult, neither was it difficult to buy a ticket to get to Nara. There was a man at the train station waiting to help all foreign visitors and although his English was nearly zero, everyone had maps and plans in their hands and he was able to give directions, train times and help us put our money into the machines to get train tickets.
Nara, the roots of Japanese culture.
We arrived in Nara at 10.20 am. Inspite of the fact that Japan is not a cheap country, the train was not expensive. We took the JR train which is a local service. The train journey took us
approx. 50 minutes. Nara and Kyoto were the most important stops for us because they have some of the most important history of Japan. Our first destination was
the ancient city of Nara which took us 6 1/2 hours to cover a 5 km historical route. It was very interesting. On arrival we saw the famous deer that roam the park and streets
Deer in Nara - According to the legendary history of Kasuga Shrine, a mythological god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital. Since then the deer have been regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the city and the country.
Tame sika deer (also known as spotted deer or Japanese deer), roam through the town, especially in Nara Park. Snack vendors sell "shika sembei“ (deer biscuits) to visitors at a charge of 150 Yen (US$ 1,50) so they can feed the deer. If you bow to the deer, especially in Nara Park, the deer will bow to you. They may even bow without being bowed to. We saw it, and it is definately worth observing. In 2005 there were about 1,200 sika deer in Nara. We saw them all over Nara wherever we went
The sites we saw included the Tödai-Ji Temple which is a famous Buddhist tempel and home to the huge and most famous bronze Budda statue. It is the largest Budda statue world wide.
The wooden buidling is also the largest of its kind world wide. Tödai-Ji Temple was built in the Nara period, 710 – 794AD at the command of Emperor Shomu (724-749). This temple serves both as a place of prayer but also as a center of Buddhist doctrinal research. The famous statue of Vairocana Buddha is made from cast bronze, which was then plated with gold. The statue was censecrated in 752 AD, but has been damaged and repaired several times over the centuries. The current wooden building „Great Wooden Hall“ enclosing the statue, is the third building and was built in the Edo period 81615-1867) the two previous buildings had been burned down in wars in 1180 and 1567. The cuurent wooden building is only 33% oft he original building, is however, the largest wooden building in the world.
The Buddha is 15 meters tall, and weighs 54 tons. We spent 6 ½ walking through this ancient city and were able to see many wonderful buildings
Nara is the capital city of Nara Prefecture located in the Kansai Region of Japan. The city occupies the northern part of Nara Prefecture, bordering Kyoto Prefecture. There are specifically eight temples, shrines and ruins in Nara along with the Heija Palace and the Kasugayama Primeval Forest, which collectively form the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara and are a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site.
History: Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 784. During this period the framework of national government was consolidated and Nara enjoyed great prosperity, emerging as the fountainhead of Japanese culture. The city's historic monuments, Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and the excavated remains of the great Imperial Palace provide a vivid picture of life in the Japanese capital in the 8th century, a period of profound political and cultural change.
The temples of Nara, known collectively as the Nanto Schichi Daiji, remained powerful even beyond the move of the political capital to Heian-kay in 794, thus giving Nara a synonym of Nanto (The southern Capital) . In 2010, Nara celebrated the 1,300th anniversary of its ascension as Japan's imperial capitalAs of 2005, the city has an estimated population of 373,189 and a population density of 1,348 persons per km2.
Railways: Using the JR Train is relatively easy and not expensive. (JR – Japanese Railway)
Our tour to Nara was most educating – now we were looking forward to KYOTO! At 5 pm we took a break in the Nara park before taking the train to Kyoto where we arrived at our hotel at 19,3o (7 pm.)
Our hotel was the New Miyako Hotel, which we had been recommended to take by the tourist information office. The price for a double room with breakfast was 150.000 yen - 150 US$. After checking in we quickly dropped off our backpacks and made our way back out of our hotel heading for the Kyoto Tower which is very famous. Kyoto tower ist he first tower in the world to adopt a monocoque structure, in which steel plates are joined into a cyclinder without using iron frames. The tower was designed with safety in mind to withstand typhoons and earthquakes. The elegant figure is designed in the shape of a lighthouse and ist he highest construction in the city , rising 131 meters (430 feet) above the ground.
Peter stayed behind and waited for me while I went up to the top to take some photos. Now very tured, we made our way to a small restaurant near our hotel and grabbed a take-away and headed for our hotel where we needed to do some homework for the next day.
I booked a hotel via booking.com for Hiroshima for the next evening and we checked out some information to see what we would visit the next day in this imperial city. By 22.30 (10.30 pm) we were fast asleep!
At sea. Off to the libraray again to read up on Nara, Kyoto and Horishima. These stops were tob e included in our next overland tour. We informed the ship that we would be absent until Hiroshima. Not many passengers do what we do – travel on thier own overland without a guide, so there is always some excitement about our travels. First question – Aren´t you frightened tob e away travelling alone?
No, absolutely not. Japan is so safe. Be well organised. Know when and where the ship is going to be docked, take the dock agents contact details with you, and take everything in writing, preferably in English and Japanese to be able to show people if necessary, so that people can be of help if we get lost. Take enough cash YEN because only YEN is accepted on the streets.
20th March Yokohama / Tokyo - JAPAN
We had decided to travel straight into Toyko with open expectations. It was good as such, because Tokyo was much different to what we had imagined. VERY BIG, VERY CLEAN and VERY MODERN. We walked around for several hours visiting the palace area, riding a tandom bike, mixing with locals at a flee market and finally decided to take the train back to Yokohama to see if we coud find some history and old traditions there. However, once we arrived there we decided to take the shuttle bus service back to the ship. It really is a good offer from Cunard to give a free shuttle bus service to guests. We have not experienced this on previous cruises. There was always a shuttle bus charge and sometimes this charge could be as much as US$ 10! Tokyo was not our cup of tea in the short time that we had.
Now we were at a stage where we felt we were missing out on Japanese culture and history. What to do? Answer – another Linda and Peter overland adventure!
19th March At Sea (en route to Yokohama near Tokyo / JAPAN
We actually slept for 13 hours! Obviously our bodies were in need of some rest. Getting ready for Tokyo.
18th March Kagoshima / JAPAN
We awoke to fog and rain. No problem. We are tired and need to catch up on some reading and writing. A lot of passengers evidently feel the same.
Introducing Kagoshima City:
The islands of Japan trail along the Pacific Ocean like an elegant splash of calligraphy ink; the archpelago consists of over 6,000 islands, and it is the southernmost island, Kyushu, that is home to Kagoshima City.
Must sees: The prime sight here is Mount Sakurajima.
The last volcanic eruption was in 1914.
The fog is so thick that we cannot see the main city from our ship so we have no intention of visiting this volcanic mountain today. On the contrary, today is going to be a ralaxing one, saving and restoring our energy for forthcoming ports of interest.
Fast facts: Kagoshima is nicknamed „Naples of the Orient“ due to ist mild climate and neighbouring volcano.
Iso Gardens, said to be a beautiful park, was to be our bike tour destination today. We changed our mind because of the heavy fog and extremely heavy rain.
17th March Nagasaki / JAPAN
Wow – you need good condition to keep up with all these visits. I must say we are missing the sea days to catch up on our writings and readings. It is good to have a sea day inbetween to prepare for the next land stop, however we have so many stops at present that we have a really tight schedule.
Since we got back on board after China, I have not really have much time to sort through a lot of photos as since yesterday we leave the ship around 8 am and don´t get back until 6 – 7 p.m., then we need to eat, shower and prepare for the next day. So we get up between 6.30 – 7.00 am.
We are not presently visiting any shows in the theatre nor participating in any ship activities as we are too busy with our land excursions. Who said this was a holiday???? The next 8 days are non-stop around Japan. Peter and I try to spend at least 1 hour before going to sleep to make a note of what we have seen and experienced on that day. I think if we do not do this we will get confused during the next 14 days. Our experience in China was not to be mistaken with the everyday ports which can seem to tumble into each other. Two stops in South Korea immediately followed by six different stops around Japan. A lot of culture and activities to take in.
1st day in Japan – NAGASAKI (17TH MARCH)
Happy St. Patrick´s Day!
Nagasaki is the capital and the largest city of Nagasaki Prefecture on the island of Kyushu in Japan. It became a centre of Portuguese and Dutch influence in the 16th through 19th centuries, and the churches and christian sites in Nagasaki have been proposed for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Part of Nagasaki was home to a major Imperial Japanese Navy base during the first Sino-Japanese War and Russo-Japanese War. Its name means „long cape“. During World War II, the American atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki made Nagasaki the second and, to date, last city in the world to experience a nuclear attack.
Nagasaki has the typical humid subtropical climate of Kyushu and Honshu, characterised by mild winters and long, hot, and humid summers. Nagasaki has a population of 460.000.
History of Nagasaki:
In 1542 Portuguese traders and missionaries arrived in the small fishing village of Nagasaki. Many Japanese were converted to Christianity and the all powerful ruling shogun soon felt that his influence was threatened by the presence of the Westerners. Christianity was banned in 1587 and Jesuit missiinaries were expelled from Japan. Ten years later, 26 Christians (six missionaries and twenty Japanese) were crucified in Nagasaki as a warning to other Christians.
However, Christianity continued to spread and an uprising in nearby Shimabara was ruthglessly suppressed in 1638. Japan then became isolated from the rest of the world from 1639 for more than 200 years. All contacts with the west were banned, with the exception of a small Dutch trading community on Dejima Island in Nagasaki Bay. Nagaski was the only Japanese port which was allowed to trade with foreiners until 1859.
After contact was allowed with the rest of the world, Nagasaki soon bcame a major port and had developed an important shipbuilding industry of the 20th century.
On 9th August 1945 at 11.02 hrs an American B-29 dropped the world´s second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. The bomb missed the intended target of the shipbuilding yards and exploded above the northern part of the city. Exactly how many people were killed is impossible to state with complete acuracy, but some 40,000 were killed outright and many others dead in later months and years. About 40% of the city was completely destroyed or badly damaged.
The city rose from the ashes and is once again a leading shipbuilding centre and triving port. Not surprisingly, reminders of the devastating effects of atomic warfare feature strongly in Nagasaki.
- Kyushu is the birthplace of Japanese porcelain.
- The Americans dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki in August 1945.
- The Diamond Princess and Sapphire Princess, both cruise ships (we travelled on them both on our Alaska tour in 2012), were built at the Mitsubishi Yard for Carnival in 2004.
Nagasaki is a large city and distances between the main attractions can be considerable. The land also rises quite steeply in some areas of the city. Taxis and trams are the most convenient way to travel.
Japan taxis work on meters. You do not have to haggle, the price is determined by the meter. If you want to go on a longer trip you should talk about the charge beforehand, although not all drivers speak English. It is not as cheap as in many of the other countries we have visited, but the driver will often turn off the meter when waiting at a set of red traffic lights, so the system is very fair and the people here are honest and trustworthy and very polite. Trams (streetscars) prove to be an easy way to get around Nagasaki.
Peter and I had agreed that we did not want to visit the atomic war memorial centre and museums in both Nagaskai and Hiroshima, and decided we would do this in Hiroshima. I had read up on the Dutch Village whilst staying with our friends Helen and Fred in Sydney and this was on our „to do“ list. Six of us joined up together again and headed for „Glover Garden“ which was in walking distance. About a 15 minute uphill walk from the pier are several foreign style buildings. Thomas Glover, a Scottish merchant who established a trading company in Nagasaki in 1859, made quite a name for himself. Glover house is the oldest example of Western architecture in Japan and is romanticised as the home of Madame Butterfly, the tragic heroine of Giacamo Puccini´s opera. There are panoramic views over the city and harbour from the gardens. These are also the grounds of the Nagsaki Taditional Performing Arts Museum, where the colourful floats used in the famous Okunchi Festival held in October are displayed.
We also saw a film of the results of the atomic bomb in the small museum here. The film featured the nearby island of „Gunkanjima“ which is a World Heritage Centre and was immediately hit by the atomic bomb attack in 1945 and, of course immediately completely destroyed with all human life on the island. A very sad film bringing back to life the risks of such powerful weapons. The charge to get into the garden was 500 yen = approx. US$5.
Leaving the garden we walked in the direction of the Oura Catholic Church.
The oldest wooden Christian church in Japan is next to the Glover Garden. The church was built in 1865, under the supervision of a French missionary, in memory of the 26 crucified Christian martyrs. A particular feature is the beautiful stained glass. This curch is now a National Treasure. I paid 650 yen – approx. US$6,50 for the entrance. On climbing the high steps and entering the church, no photography allowed signs greeted me everywhere. No-one seemed to take a lot of notice of the signs and personally I thought US$6,50 was too expensive an entrance fee for this church, but I did receive a booklet containing a lot of information on the development of the Eastern and Western worlds, and entrance fees seem to be higher here in Japan than elsewhere. More on that as we go along.
This church has a lot of importance for the christian belief in Japan. It is a symbol of freedom of religion after the terrible years of persecution.
Our next stop was the Dutch village of Dejima. Japan followed a policy of isolation from 1639 to 1859 and the DUTCH, the only Westerners allowed into the country, established a trading centre on Dejima, a man-made island in Nagasaki harbour. Over the past few years this area has been under renovation to be restored to its original appearance.
The Dejima tram stops outside the museum, we however, had taken a taxi from the mentioned church to the village. Two of our friends, Jana and Luda, were not feeling well and had made their way back to the ship, so it was financially a good deal for 4 in the taxi and it would have taken us over one hour to walk here. We had not seen a tram connection from the church. Being in a city for one day only, you really have to consider the time and energy available.
The entrance fee to Dejima was 410 yen = US$ 4,10 as Peter had a 20% dscount voucher which he had picked up at the tourist information centre.
We learned a tremendous amount about the history of trading with the Western World here and the important connections which Japan holds with Holland and the Royal Family. These connections are very strong to this day.
There were several school classes, of teenager age, visiting the centre and a lot of the girls had got dressed up in traditional clothing - Kimono. They were shy, but posed for some photos.
PHOTOS TO FOLLOW
We stopped for a coffee and had an interesting experience with a mobile van. Brunhild decided to drink a hot chaocolate. The man in the small coffee vehicle did this with precise old fashioned technology. He measured the milk that would fit into the cup and boiled it on an old fashioned gas heater. He then weighed the hot chocolate powder and added a little hot water. Using a special wooden spoon he thoroughly mixed the chocolate into a smooth paste before adding the now hot mild. Finally, he sprinkled a small amount of freshly grinded chocolate on top. Brunhild was delighted and said it was PERFECT.
PHOTOS TO FOLLOW
After this short break we made our way through China town and back to the ship. At 5.0 p.m. we watched a super performance of a local Kindergarten on the ship. Five and six year old children performed some traditional dances for us in the Queen´s Room. It was extremly good and I was able to film most of the performance.
PHOTOS TO FOLLOW
REALLY TIRED we went to bed at 9 pm. (21.00) and slept for 11 hours.
16th March Jeju Do / SOUTH KOREA
An early start again. The six of us from the previous day had decided to meet again for another tour. We left the ship at 8 am. Just outside the ship we were able to get a map at the tour agency and I happened to speak to an English couple who were looking at doing similar things as we were. They asked me if we had room for 2 more in our group. I explained that there were 6 of us, but, if we could get an 8 seater mini bus they would be welcome to join us. They followed the group outside and I, Linda, took off in search of a mini bus, which Peter had sighted, WITH SUCCESS. It was a 9 seater van just outside the terminal. I haggled the price down to $200 for the mini bus with driver for the complete day. Everyone was pleased as this now meant only $25 per head for a day tour. We agreed that the driver take us to 3 points of interest.
The crater at Seongsan (Sunrise Peak at Seongsan), then the Lava Tube at Manjanggul Lava Cave and finally the Dothareubang Park – Hamdeok. The Lava Tube is one of the new 7 natural world wonders. Both the crater and the lava tube belong to the Unesco World Heritage.
The journey to the crater took approx. 1 hour. The admission price to the crater was 2000 won = $2. Our driver suggested one hour for this stop. The climb was very strenuous and took us approx. 35 minutes. At the top we had a wonderful view over the city and valley. You should not attempt this climb if you are not fit. It is VERY strenuous and the steps are very steep and narrow. There are handrails but the climb is still not easy. You really need good walking shoes – no flip flops here! The descend was quite fast and we left this area after 1 ¼ hours heading towards the lava tube which is in a natural eco protected area.
Lava Tube - Admission was again 2000 won = $2. This lava tube was fantastic. This is the longest lava tube on earth. It was 7,5 km long but you are only allowed to walk 2 km inside. Peter and I walked ¾ of the way through and I managed to get some great photos and take some films to show at home. We both really enjoyed this stop. Peter and I were in a lava tube on Hawaii in 2015, but it was so small in comparison to this one.
Well worth visiting. You need to have good walking shoes, preferably hiking boots as it is very uneven and wet in the tube. It is also very dark so if you are not good at walking you should not go down. A rain jacket is also good as it can get wet and cool inside. A torch is also a good aid to see where you are treading.
Next and final stop - Dothareubang Park – Hamdeok. This was an Eco Garden with stone figures with good explainations of what the figures mean. These figures are part of the Korean culture. It was interesting but was not the highlight for Peter and myself, whereas it was the highlight for Helmut and Brigitte, so everyone (including our two new English travellers) were once again completely satisfied with the tour. On our way back to the ship we stopped off at a local Korean Supermarket to get some beer to take on board. One bottle of local Korean beer (500 ml.) cost $1,37. We are allowed to take drinks on the ship for consumption in our cabin. The price on board is quite a lot higher! Another successful tour day. Tomorrow we will be Nagasaki – Japan!
The crater at Seongsan (Sunrise Peak at Seongsan)
Manjanggul Lava Cave
15th March BUSAN / SOUTH KOREA
I, Linda had looked at two places I really wanted to visit. Peter agreed that this would definately be something different.
We had talked to two of the passengers (Helmut and Brunhilde) who toured with us in Puerto Princessa and they asked what our plans were and asked if it would be possible to accompany us. I explained exactly what I wanted to organise and see and they were unproblematic and glad of my English and ability to be able to organise everything for us and them. Later in the day they had met up with the other two passengers from the last tour (Jana & Luda) who also asked if they come come with us again. So ready to go the six of us at 8.00 a.m.
Our destinations today – Beomeosa Temple, Haedong Yonggungse Temple, and the famous „Fish Market“.
Peter had read the evening before that it would be possible to travel to the Beomeosa Temple via the underground and bus. We took the Cunard shuttle bus into the town where we recived a good map and made our way to the subway. The price for the subway way was 1500 wan per person approx. $1,50 per person for a day ticket, and this was to be a 40 minute journey. We took line 1, the red line up to station 133 and then too a bus from near the tram station to the temple. On the way I tried to find someone to speak English as we did not know how to get from the underground to the bus station. No-one spoke English but when I showed a man our map, and pointed to where we wanted to go, he took us to the bus station. Again, we received wonderful friendliness. The bus was only a few cents and took us 2,5 km uphill. Since arriving, we had noticed that everything was very clean. No rubbish lying around.
There was no charge to get into the temple. This visit was well worth the 1 hour travel. The temple is up on a hill and has several outer gates until you get into the main square. I thought it was really very peaceful and beautiful. It was how I imagined a mountain top temple to be.
We spent apporox. 2 hours at this spot before heading back to underground to continue our journey to the second temple which was on the coast and another 1 hour of travelling. This was a bit more complicated as we had to change the underground line 3 times. On arrival at the end stop we decided to take two taxis to our final temple destination. We were still travelling on our underground day pass for $1,50.
The two taxis took us to the temple and the journey which lasted about 10-15 minutes cost us 10.000 wan = $10 per taxi.
This temple was very different from the first one, and unusual for a temple because it is built directly on the coastline overlooking the ocean, which also makes it very unusual for such a temple. This was also very interesting but I personally preferred the first traditional hillside temple. Both temples were in such contrast to each other and both well worth seeing and visiting.
After this visit we took 2 taxis back to the underground where we continued our journey heading back into town to visit the fish market. On the way we asked an elderly gentleman the way and he told me that he had been to Germany 10 years previously. He told me we could walk with him as he was going in the same direction. We later found out that he was 86 years old and his wife had died two years ago.
He had been a teacher of law at Seoul University and he was a lawyer. He asked me which country I preferred, Japan or Korea. I told him that we had not yet visited Japan and therfore could not make any comments. He told me that the Japanese people were bad people and Japan was a terrible country. This, immediately told me of the hate between these two countries arising from their history. The South Korean people suffered badly at the hands of the Japanese.
Sitting in the tram he opened his shopping bag and offered us some packets of buscuits. He was very kind and pleased to be able to help us. Everyone was very moved by this kind and generous man. At the next underground station we parted and we continued our journey to the fish market.
The fishmarket was very big and spread out over several streets. Many various fish and I had no idea what they were. It was interesting to observe the hustle and bustle of the day. By now it was getting dark and time to head back to the shuttle bus to take us back to the cruise ship.
We had a most interesting self made tour which cost us $12 per person for our travel fares. (No entry fees into any of the temples)
14th March AT SEA / en route to South Korea
We had a really long breakfast today meeting up with other passengers and talking about our China experiences. Thereafter, we wanted to stay in our cabin and talk about our travels, looking at the books we had purchased underway and discussing the various places we had visited. Also, we had to prepare ourselves for South Korea the next day. We watched an onboard tour video and decided that we would like to visit two famous Buddah Temples. One inland and one on the coast.
13th March SHANGHAI / CHINA
At 8.0 am I rang the tour office to get our collection point changed. I had booked the tour from Germany and had had to choose a well known hotel for collection. This of course would have meant us walking through the city to this point with our backpacks, which by now had got heavier with the books we had purchased and my new jacket. This turned out to be no problem and our checking out time was midday, the same time as our collection, so we were able to enjoy a good breakfast and relax.
Day 3 tour - Zhujiajiao Ancient Water Town, Silk Museum and Shanghai Night-view Cruise with Buffet. (I had booked this tour through the same company and through the Beijing agent. The complete day tour from 12 noon until 9 p.m. cost us US$97 per person.
Collection was punctual and our guide´s name was Joy. We were collected in a mini bus and there were a total of 8 people in our group.
Our first destination was the ancient water town of Zhujiajiao which is over 1700 years old and approx. A two hour drive from Shanghai even though the distance is only approx. 60 kilometers. The traffic in the cities is hurrendous. Joy had a metal pole with a yellow flag on it – thank goodness because after the initial entry into the village it got so full that without the flag we would have lost Joy.
We entered the village from the back and you must see my photos to understand what we saw as it is difficult to put into words. To our standards we would say these people are soooo poor. However, this is their way of life. They work and live in these conditions and do not know any better. There was no begging at all.
It was Sunday and when we got around the the correct entry into the village it filled up so full that we could only find our guide by looking for the yellow flag. There were hundreds and hundreds of visitors. This is a top attraction for Shanghai. There were many small shops offering various types of food, clothing and gift items.
Half way round we took a small boat tour along the canal.
This part of the tour lasted approx. 2 hours and I think we were all satisfied and ready to leave. Not because we had not enjoyed the village, but because there were now not hundreds of visitors but now THOUSANDS and the narrow streets were totally crowded so that you were just being shoved back and forth. Nevertheless, it had been an extremely interesting visit.
From here our tour led us to a silk factory. We were shown how silk is produced and obviuously this was a sales tour. If you do not join these factory tours you have to pay double the price for the tour. No-one in our group purchased anything, but the tour was interesting. Then it was over to the harbour area for our evening tour.
The buffet started at 5.30 p.m. (17.30) and we did not have to wait long.
The food was fine and we quite enjoyed this meal as we had not eaten since our breakfast.
The tour cruiser was quite large and able to seat several hundred guests. Thank goodness there were not several hundred guests on board, so no shoving and pulling to get a view. At 7.pm (19.00) our tour started around the harbour. By now it was dark and the huge tall skyscrapers were brightly lit and it was COLD. The temperatures had dropped to about 4 degrees.
IT WAS FANTASTIC – SO BEAUTIFUL!!!!!
Joy, our guide made comments on the various buildings but to be truthful there were so many buildings and I was so interested in taking photos and filming that I gave up trying to understand which buildings she was talking about. Peter picked up some information but also gave up after a while. This is a MUST when you are in Shanghai - the evening cruise to see Shanghai by night.
At 8.15 p.m. (20.15) we left the boat and were driven to our shuttle bus point where the Cunard free shuttle service was waiting. One hour later we were back in our cabin and still very intoxicated by our wonderful China Tour.
China – A fantastic tour and definately a top Highlight on this trip.
12th March BEIJING & SHANGHAI / CHINA
Today we would explore Beijing alone. Our plans.... The Temple of Heaven and The Summer Palace late afternoon, making our way to the airport for our evening flight to Shanghai.
We had asked our guide Jean for directions the previous day. As the traffic in Beijing can get very bad, she advised us to take our backpacks with us. Peter, being the cavalier that he always is, insisted on taking both while I took photos on the way.
We set out after breakfast heading for the subway/underground station which we had arrived on. On our way we saw an exercise park where people both young and old could exercise free of charge and play table tennis. We stood on the outside watching and then several people motioned us to come inside, which we did. It was fascinating to see these elderly people playing table tennis with such precision. Some kept the ball up and going for more than 5 minutes – ping pong! I took quite a few photos and filmed the activities.
Time to move on. Peter saw some shops on the way and stopped to look at the shoes and clothes while I stood back watching anything and EVERYTHING. So much going on around me. Peter called for me to look at a „Jack Wolfskin jacket“. The jacket had a detachable fleece lining and I know the price of these jackets in Germany and also know that when 30.000 are produced that another 5 – 10.000 are produced and dissapear out of the back door of the factory. The jacket fit, but the lady could not take US$ she needed RMB (Chinese money). Her price 280 RMB – 43 US Dollar – approx. 39/40 Euro.
We decided to find an ATM machine and try our luck. We found one but it did not work with my credit card so we needed a bank. How to find a bank when no-one speaks English and all the writing on the buildings is in Chinese? Use your hands and feet! After a 10 minute walk we found a bank, however, it took 20 minutes to change US$50 into Chinese RMB. I had to sign at least 3 pieces of paper, my passport was photographed at least 4 times and my details checked at least 5 times. Talk about security!
Finished and back at the shop I realised that I had not tried to handle on the price. We all know that this was more than cheap, but bargaining in China goes with business. I offered the shop owner 260 RMB and we agreed on 270 RMB = 36/37 Euro. Unbelievable!!!!! The shop owner was satisfied and so were WE! We continued our travels via the underground to The Temple of Heaven. This was not as spectacular for us as I had expected it to be, but obviously a very special to the people of China.
Our final tourist attraction was the Summer Palace. What we had not known beforehand is that you can spend a whole day here visiting the buildings and the park. We unfortunately only had 2 hours before taking the underground to the airport. Nevertheless we were able to get an impression of this attraction and definately would re-visit if we get to Beijing again.
Notes on the Summer Palace: This is a World Cultural Heritage site in the middle of Beijing. Easy to get to using the subway. The Summer Palace is
the cream of classical Chinese gardens. The Kunming Lake adds to the attraction of this beautiful site. To receive more information please contact „Mr. Google“.
Off to the subway/underground to get to the airport. On leaving the park areas I saw a European family coming towards us and aksed if they knew the way to the subway. It turned out that they came from Lemvörde (nearby where we come from in Germany) and were visiting the young man, their son and brother, for his 30th birthday. The young man was living and working for his company who had their main office in Beijing. We all walked to the subway together and travelled for quite a while together before Peter and I had to change our direction to the airport. Small world, isn´t it?
Everything went fine at the airport. The whole trip had worked out perfect, absolutely nothing had gone wrong, as of yet.
Our flight to Shanghai was again with China Eastern Airlines and cost Euro 88,37 per person including cancellation insurance. Flight time 2 hours and 15 minutes.
We landed in Shanghai around 11 pm (23.00) and to our surprise the huge airport of Shanghai was nearly empty. I approached several people asking for directions, nobody understood me. Oh dear, I was thinking. We had no idea how to get to our hotel, except by taxi and we knew by experience that that could be expensive. Then I saw two relatively young women (girls) who both held a mobile phone in their hands, and I asked them for help. They understood me and „googled“ our hotel. They explained which underground lines we had to take and told us we had to hurry as the underground closed at midnight. They helped us by our tickets (the subway is really cheap for us) and then they both led the way to our line where we had to get the train. They were sooooo sweet and told us where to stand and what to do. They were very shy but managed well. I felt quite embarrassed because we
had taken up at least 15-25 minutes of their time and we offered them some money. This they would not take telling us that it was an honour for them to be able to help us. We had received so much help and kindness on our travels through China and here again was a wonderful example of such. We thanked them sincerely and got into the train. Arriving at our station it was raining. The taxi drivers were very pushy and we decided to just walk past them and find our own way. The girls had told us that it would only take a few minutes at the most to walk to our hotel. We suddenly found that we were already on the correct road and on checking the house numbers knew that we were not far away. I popped into a nearby hotel to check how far we must walk and he told me two minutes round the corner. There it was, our hotel, the Radison Blue Hotel. I had booked this hotel with our rest British Airways Avios points and, surprise, surprise it was a 5 star hotel and on checking in we were told that we had a „Business Suite“ on the 32nd floor. (The hotel had 45 floors). It was a fantastic room and we had a wonderful stay at this hotel.
11th March BEIJING / CHINA
Day 1. I found this tour office by using Google. They were most helpful and I booked the tour online from Germany beforehand. US$81 (RMB500) per person. The charge ist o be paid in local currency in China. Google „Beijing Local Tour“
- Hotel in Beijing downtoen area pick-up and drop-off.
- 2. Air-conditioned tour car/van.
- Entrance tickets.
- English speaking tour guide.
- Typical Chinese lunch.
1. Fee of cable car at the Chinese wall.
2. Tips to the guide and driver
(One souvenir shop will be visited on every tour day)
Tour booked – The Forbidden City, Jade Factory, The Great Chinese Wall at Badaling and Tiananmen Square. Photo stop at the Olympic site „Bird Nest“ and Water Cube.
Beijing - Amazing and a wonderful experience which we will definitely never forget. We are sooooooo glad that this highlight of our trip was on our bucket list. For those reading our blog we can highly recommend a trip to Beijing. However, you should allow more than 2 days because it is such an interesting city. Never at one single moment, did we feel unsafe, on the contrary people were more than helpful. If they did not understand us, they tried to find someone to speak English. Some people even took us by the hand and led us to our destination. We actually felt more like film stars because so many people wanted to have their photo taken with us. They wanted to know where we came from and tried very hard to practice any English they knew. The underground/subway system is complex, but not difficult and a very cheap way to travel. There are no longer 12 million bicycles on the road in Beijing. The underground has taken this pressure away from the roads. If travelling alone - You definitely need to speak English in China. Not everyone speaks English, so if you are unsure which way to go, look for a smart young person, most walk around with mobile telephones in their hands, just like in Europe, and they usually speak English. However, a very large amount of Chinese do not speak English. A lot of the signs are in Chinese with English written underneath, but not all! Chinese Visa. If you are flying directly into Beijing it is possible to use the 72 hour visa free system. If, however, you are flying into Beijing via Hong Kong you must have the official visa from the Chinese embassy in your country. The visa charge is approx. Euro 98 from Germany. You cannot enter the country without this visa. Baggage Controls are often in China. At the airport, train station, important areas such as The Forbidden City etc. They have a huge safety and observation system. Peter and I wanted to change US$50 at the bank. It took approx. 20 minutes including passport check, 3 x photo checks, 3 formulars and 3 signatures. Every detail on our passport and visa was read through at least 3 times and re-entered into the system. This short visit to China has been more than just educational. The people have greeted us with a huge amount of friendliness and as I have previously mentioned to see the inside of a country, learn about its culture and people, you must "Travel with an open mind" Peter and I feel must richer and wiser after this visit.
Our Day 1 tour -
Breakfast was fine. This typical Chinese hotel in which we were the only European guests, offered a variety of typical Chinese foods, mainly hot foods and then for European tastes fried or scrambled eggs, toast, cornflakes and other cerials, jam, butter and yogurt. Coffee, tea, orange juice, hot and cold milk were also available. If you have not tasted the tea before you should try it or stick to coffee, it is not typical tea as you may know it. We were to be collected by a private car and an English speaking guide from our hotel. We left our room but left the heater on at halfway temperature so that our room would at least be warm when we returned. Our tour guide Jean, 26 years old turned up punctually and led us out to a waiting car with chauffeur. A most comfortable limousine. Jean spoke good English and informed us about the plans for our tour. Our tour was to start at the Forbidden City which was only 1 km from our hotel. Jean explained that there would be a high degree of security in this region as there was a political meeting at the Titaniaum Square that day and the Chinese leader would be there. (We later found out that Putin had been there too!). Our car dropped us off directly in front of the entrance and this was to be the start of a fascinating tour.
The entrance price for The Forbidden City was included in our tour price so I don´t know the charges. Jean took care of getting the tickets and we proceeded to the security check whereby our backpacks went through a scanning system. Once inside we delved our way through the many walls and. buildings. My camera was in NON-STOP MODE.
The Forbidden City - Absolutely amazing! I had previously watched the film "The Last Kaiser" and consequently had a small idea of what to expect but what we actually experienced had no comparison. The area is HUGE and wonderful. This with the Great Wall are the two utmost MUST for Beijing and of course China in general. Today its beauty and sheer site, along with its mythologicL history and unyielding architectural magnificence continue to knock the socks off anyone who steps inside. It certainly knocked the socks off Peter and myself.
Jean talked to us both explaining various customs and historical events. When we arrived at special buildings of interest I had to push my way to the front, like the several hundred other Chinese visitors and hang onto the railing while I took photos and then getting out of the crown was as difficult as getting in. I arrived back to Peter and Jean laughing at me and the experience I had gone. I have never experienced a situation like this before. No queuing or waiting. He/She pushes and wheedles and the best - gets in. Unbelievable. This behavior continued at all the special buildings where the last Kaiser had spent time. Our tour lasted 2 hours but we could have quite easily spent a complete day there. See my separate notes on THE FORBIDDEN CITY.
Notes to The Forbidden City:
The Forbidden City, also known as the Imperial Palace during the Ming (1368-1644) and Quing (1644-1911) dynasties, is the largest ancient and the most spectacular architectural complex in China. In 1987 it was put on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The construction of the Forbidden City started in 1407, the fifth year of the Yongle reign period of the Ming Dynasty, and was completed in 1420. It spans 72 ha and comprises of more than 9,000 rooms
that are symmetrically distributed along the south-north axis from the Meridian Garden to the Gate of Divine Valor. It is surrounded by an eight-metre-high wall. Located in the heart of Beijing the Forbidden City symbolized the supreme power of emperors. I must say that if you wish to read more about this remarkable place you has better ask “Mr. Google” otherwise I will spend hours telling you and that could get very boring!
Next stop a visit to a Jade Factory. I was not looking forward to this as I thought it was going to be a cheap shop, trying to sell us Jade. Surprise, surprise! We were welcomed at the entrance and received our own personal guide Sylvia, who started explaining about the mineral Jade. She took us into a separate demonstration room where she explained about the importance of Jade to the Chinese people. Thereafter, we were shown into a HUGE showroom where of course we were able to purchase ornaments and jewelry made of Jade. Jean met us here and led us to the entrance of a restaurant explaining that she and our chauffeur would be waiting for us at the exit after lunch. We were led into a lovely restaurant and the table was filled with a large choice of foods. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal. We also had a personal waitress who stood nearby refilling our glasses as soon as we drank anything out of them.
Notes: Jade Factory - Jade is part of the Chinese Culture.
There are two types of Jade - hard and soft. It is tradition to give a daughter-in-law a jade bracelet. These are worn on the left wrist because they work better massaging on your pulse sending vibrations and impulses directly to the heart for a better blood circulation. When you listen to the sound which is made when tapping a piece of real jade it has a much lighter tone than an artificial jade bracelet will have. Jade is cut with a diamond cutting drill because it is so hard. This trade has been passed down over the generations and not many tradesmen can be found today as the younger generation no longer wants to do this work.
PHOTOS TO FOLLOW
After lunch Jean informed us that we would now head to the Great Wall and that the journey would take approx. 1 1/2 hours.
We had been driving for approx. 30 minutes when we had to slow down to go through a toll system, wham bang ....... a car ran into the back off us. Fortunately none of the two cars were moving fast so we were not injured but the back of the car, the boot received a very big dent. Our driver sorted the situation out and we continued our journey to the Great Wall.
The Great Wall stretches for thousands of miles, but the best parts to visit are the walks surrounding the capital. Beijing's Great Wall comes in a variety of styles, from immaculately (and recently) crafted to crumbling under a heap of overgrown brush. But no matter which side of this masterpiece you decide to visit, you will quickly see that the Great Wall is not only a symbol of China, but also a testament to the ingenuity and diligence of humanity. Definitely deserving to be what it is, one of the eight wonders of this world! The Chinese people believe that a man cannot be a hero until he has walked on „The Great Chinese Wall“. Lots of Chinese pilgrim to the wall just to walk a few steps on it.
Wall building was nothing new to the Chinese by the time of the Spring and Autumn Period, which ran from the 8th to the 5th centuries Bce. This period and the subsequent Warring States period, saw the states of Qui, Wei, Zhao, Qi, Yan and Zhongshan all construct extensive fortifications to defend their individual borders. The walls were designed to withstand attacks from small arms such as swords and spears, and for this purpose the walls were just earth and gravel stamped between frames of wood. The construction oft he Beijing section began in the time of the state of Yan (475-221 BC) and continued through many dynasties. A survey indicates that the wall stretches for 629 kilometers in the Beijung area across six counties and districts. We visited the Badeling section. The construction oft he wall lasted more than 2,000 years.
PHOTOS TO FOLLOW
On our way back to our hotel we made a photo stop at „The Crow's Nest“ – (The Olympia Stadium) and the Water Cube.
We reached our hotel at 7.15 pm (19.15) and were both asleep by 8.30 p.m. (20.30).
10th March HONG KONG TO BEIJING / CHINA
We started writng notes underway on this tour, but both spent all afternoon on 14th March, at sea, after the tour, going over this MOST FANTASTIC EXPERIENCE!
If you have not got China on your „bucket list“ you should definately look at visiting the country. Remember however – „YOU MUST TRAVEL WITH AN OPEN MIND“ If you do this, and accept other country´s cutlure, you will really enjoy China. I will explain this as I go along. Hope you enjoy this too as much as we did. Beijing/Peking should definately be on the top of your list. We loved every minute of our visit here.
On arriving in Hong Kong temperatures had dropped to 14 degrees.
Peter and I have been to Hong Kong several times in the past on business.
Our cruise ship will stop in Hong Kong twice so our plans were clear in Germany that we would travel overland to Beijing/Peking.
Notes on Hong Kong:
Since 1st July 1997 Hong Kong has been outonomous territory of mainland China. A thriving community devoted to buisness with amazing contrasts.
For many visitors Hong Kong is unboubtedly one oft he most exciting destinations in the world. A truly impressive skyline of modern skyscrapers outline the busy harbour, which is full of junks, ferries and foreign cargo ships. The streets are often crowded and full of colour and people going about their daily business. Peter and I always loved the evening and night atmosphere around the harbour and a visit to Stanley Market is a MUST when in Hong Kong.
More on Hong Kong later when our ship stops fort he second visit.
Our tour through China & general information:
Arriving in Hong Kong on our ship we were able to get a free shuttle bus from the sea terminal to the railway station. The shuttle bus was available for anyone and everyone not just Cunard passengers. At the railway station we took the train to the airport. At the airport we quickly changed some money so that we would have not only Hong Kong Dollars but also Chinese RMB fort he next day. I had booked our flight at a cost of 181,50 Euro per person. We flew from Hong Kong to Beijing with China Western Airlines. The flight included a meal which we enjoyed. Flying time was just over 3 hours. On arrival in Beijing, we found out that there was a super service into the city centre via the Airport Express Train. The train from the airport to the city centre cost 50 RMB per person which is approx. Euro 8.00. We decided to take the subway to our hotel (the subway to our hotel only cost approx. Euro 2.00) and after asking several people if they could help, we found a most helpful young man who googled the directions for us and wrote everything down. (A taxi would have costs approx. US$80) Now, we knew which direction to travel in, and which subway to take. We showed the man at the ticket office the piece of paper with the directions from the young man and he gave us our tickets. Talking with your hand and feet! The Airport Express train from the airport into the city is excellant and took approx. 40 minutes. On reaching the city we had to change underground trains twice and finally arrived at the nearest station to our hotel. The subway amazed us and on getting off the train we unpacked our cameras and stood waiting for the next train to come so that we could film and take photos of people getting in and out. The trains are packed like sardines in a tin. An incredible system that works well for the Chinese people. It takes us Europeans a moment to get used to the system, but then you learn fast to flow along with things pushing and pulling your way through crowds just like the locals do. On leaving the subway we stopped to check directions with a policeman sitting in a police car. He could not speak English but he understand the paperwork (hotel confirmation with map) I was holding in my hand and told us the the way, using his hands. Walk up the the traffic lights, turn left, left again, then right and our hotel should be on the left hand side. Okay, off we went.
Feeling a little unsure, we stopped and asked others underway and always got the same directions. No-one spoke English but helped with their hand signs after looking at the map.
Important - I had booked our hotel via Booking.com and had printed out a small map so even those who did not speak English were able to help us.
The first observation we made was that the bicycle riders and moped drivers did not have any lights on at night. This amazed Peter and I and we found this more than dangerous. Unknowingly, nearly at our hotel, we stopped and asked finally at a restaurant. All the young people spoke English and sent us back 100 yards down the road to turn into a small alleyway where we found a sign with the name of the street on our hotel address 20 meters further a sign for our hotel. We would never have looked down this alleyway for the hotel and were more than surprised to see the entrance to our hotel (see photos) but behind the wooden doors was a quaint authentic small Chinese hotel with a small back yard and approx. 20 guest rooms. No-one would have thought that this hotel could have been hidden in this backyard. The small side road leading to our hotel was dusty and full of old bikes and carts where in between large dusty but relatively new limousines where parked. It seemed most unlikely that we would find a hotel of any description down this ally/road. Despite all doubts, we had found it.
We had had a drop of temperatures from 16 in Hong Kong to only 7 degrees in Beijing, now it was about 8 p.m. so it was getting quite cold with temperatures sinking to zero. Our room was of normal size with everything that you need. Clean but cold. There was an electric radiator in the room (one like the ones we had some 40 years ago), which we turned up full and I went off to get us extra blankets for our bed. The room had everything else. A nice big modern shower, with toothbrushes, dressing gowns, slippers etc. The room was not luxurious for European 4 star comparisons but but really quite adequate for us and very authentic. There was a big TV screen which we did not use. The mattress was very hard but better than being too soft. After a night's sleep I felt as though I had slept on a wooden mattress. The hotel „Jingshan Garden Hotel“ was listed as 4 star with booking.com and we paid Euro 68,50 per night for the room including breakfast. It was also situated in the city centre which is OLD Beijing and as such, very handy for sightseeing. We had wanted to be in the old part of the city and not a huge modern hotel outside. This was a typical small Chinese Hotel which I am sure has a very pretty courtyard in summer, but like most places in winter was now very dusty with no living plants only plastic ones to cheer up the place. I placed a wake up call for 7.15 am as breakfast was as of 8.00 am and our guide was to pick us up at 8.30 am. It had taken us 2 hours to get from the airport to our hotel and we were now tired and ready to get under our warm covers. We left the heater on to warm up the room overnight. After a good night's sleep we woke up to a warm room!
NOTES TO BEIJING:
Beijing has a history of over 3,000 years. Well designed streets can still be found here dating back to the Yuan Dynasty 700 years ago. Beijing boasts a wealth of cultural relics.
The cultural heritage sites scattered around Beijing are wittnesses tot he splendid history and brilliant civilization of the Chinese nation, and make Beijing a world-famous metropolis of historical and cultural importance.
Finding our hotel in Beijing
The Great Chinese Wall at Badging near Beijing
The Jade Factory -Beijing/China
On the streets of Beijing
Exercise Park - Beijing/China
The Summer Palace - Beijing/China
9th March At Sea
Linda´s choir day! Singers at Sea presentation in the Royal Court Theatre.
What a busy day. Preparations for our departure from the ship in Hong Kong and choir day.
12 noon choir practise. 1.30 p.m. (13.30) Stage organisation. We had to meet on stage in the Theatre to receive our standing positions fort he concert we were presenting. 2.50 pm (14.50) Meet in the Royal Theatre, dress code black and white or just black, performance begin 3 p.m. (15.00).
All went well. We sang a total of six songs and received standing ovation.
Peter filmed the complete performance and took photos. After the performance we all had to go to the Atrium (central point in the ship with the huge staircase) where photos were taken. These photos and a DVD video of our performance where then on sale later in the day.
We now had to finalise our preparations for our next adventure. Weh ad to get our suitcases out from underneath our bed to unpack our winter jackets which we would need fort he forthcoming tour.
CHINA here we come......... (I, Linda, was sooooo excited)
8th March - MANILA - Philippines
Our tour – We had already decided that we did not intend doing a lot in Manila. This was a stop which we knew was going to be the most important stop for the majoritiy of our crew members who are mainly from the Phillipines. On arriving at the port of Manila our ship was welcoming by dancers, singers, drummers and we received a most wonderful lively welcome. The outer decks of the ship were full of passengers and crew as we sailed in. It was difficult to find a spot to take photos and film the event. They really made us feel welcome, just as they had done at our first stop in the Philippines. Unfortunately, or fortunately, which ever way you see it, there had been a lot of warnings beforehand that Manila is not a safe place. Consequently, we left all of my camera equipment on the ship and just took our small pocket Samsung Galaxy with us. We really wanted to upload our blog so decided to take the Cunard Shuttle Bus into a very big modern shopping centre, send and receive our emails which is otherwise far too slow and expensive from the ship. We wrapped my laptop into a towel and took a small backpack with looked worthless and made our way to this shopping centre. This was not at all dangerous as the Cunard Shuttle Bus stopped right in front oft he building and we were allowed straight into the centre whereas locals had to wait until 10.00 am to gain entrance.
After we had taken care of what we wanted to do we walked through the shopping mall and then ventured out to the main street. There was a hustling and bustleing going on. So much traffic and caos. We walked down the road keeping close together. I, Linda kept behing Peter with a hand on the backpack on his shoulder. We wandered here and there for approx. 30 minutes and decided Manila was not our city. I, Linda, purchased some LG headphones really cheap from a small street stand (yes, they are original and do work!) and then we took the shuttle bus back tot he ship.
I, Linda, was on deck most of the late afternoon and during the sail-away. There were several hundred crew memeber´s families there to bid them farewell and again a fantastic sailaway with music and dancing. A very emotional time not only for crew members, but also fort he passengers watching. It was so difficult trying to find a spot to take good photos as so many passengers wanted to watch this sail-away, so at one stage I got back off the ship, filmed the music and dancers and then got on with the final passengers.
Manila was interesting to see for a couple of hours, but definately not a place that we will return to.
Facit: Cruising is an ideal way of travelling enabling you to make an impression of coutries you visit and know you would like to see more of or not as in the case of Manila for us.
History & General Information to Manila
The Philippines, comprises of 7.107 islands with a total land area of 120,000 square miles – slightly larger than Great Britain. The capital of
the Philippines is Manila which is located on the eastern shores of Manila Bay. Chinese Traders had been resident since about the year 1,000, but the people we know as the Filipinos came originally from the mainland of Asia, and later from Indonesia and the Malay area.
The country was constituted a commonwealth in 1935 with independance scheduled fort en years later, but World War II intervened. The Japanese occupied Manila from 1942 to 1944, and the Americans had to bomb the city to get them out. Independance arrived on 4th of JUly 1946 but this was not the end of American influence which is in evidence all around you. The last Ameerican forces withdrew in 1992 but the world powers keep a watchful eye on the government.
Handy Tips: The national tongue is Filipino based on Tagalog and well over 100 languages and dialects are spoken through the country. However, English ist he official language and the literary rate is as high as 96% due tot he American influence during their occupation.
7TH MARCH AT SEA
6th March Puerto Princesa - Philippines
Puerto Princesa, officially City Puerto Princesa and often referred to as Puerto Princesa City, is a city located in the western provincial island of Palawan, Philippines. This area is an independant area with Palawan and not controlled by the province in which it is geographically located.
As of 2010, Puerto Princesa had a population of 222,673 people, making it the least densely populated city in the Philippines. Today this city is a popular tourist city with many beach resorts and seafood restaurants. It has been acclaimed many times as the cleanest and greenest city in the Philippines.
Puerto Princesa is known as the Eco-Tourism Centre of the Philippines. In recent years the city has seen a remarkable increase in visitors.
Our ship received a wonderful friendly welcome from the local people and tourist board. A group of elementary school children performed dances and sung as the ship sailed into port. A large band played music to their activities which went on for quite some time. The people from the Philippines are known for their kind and warmheartedness. They are in general, also a very good looking nation. Not only the women area very beautiful but the men are good looking too.
What to do here? We had been told that a visit to an underground river with a fantastic cave was the thing to do! We decided to make this our destination. Two other passengers had asked if they could join us and finally there were six of us on the trip. After asking my way around the crew members on the landing area I suggested we take the shuttle bus to a local shopping centre and arrange a tour from there. This seemed to be the most inexpensive way. Peter had already tried to organise something within the docking area and also get a group together but that had failed as while we were waiting fort wo of our group the group had left without uf. No problem, we were six people and the group was big enough.
Our Cunard shuttle bus took us to a huge modern shopping centre where I immediately enquired about prices and possibilities. I was told that the tour would cost US$ 33 per person for the drive (2 hours each way) entrance to the cave (including 2 boats) and lunch. I agreed for the group but was then informed after 5 minutes that all tours were fully booked and the cave could not take any more visitors. I told the young man that we still wanted to go out tot he cave and try our luck there. At this point we all realized this was really the HIGHLIGHT of the area. The young man organised a vehicle for us which turned out to be one of the Cunard shuttle buses which we privately rented for the tour. I asked for a quote from the driver who told me $50 per person just for the driving which was to be a 2 hours journey each way. I gave him a counter offer of $15 per person and $20 if he did a good job. After giving my offer a quick thought, he accepted my offer, to the amazement of everyone around. He then suggested that we first go to the local government office to get permits for the cave as these were usually limited. We did and then were able to start our new adventure. All 6 were in very good spirits. We all had the same nature and attitude so this was a most fitting combination of people.
Our journey took us out of the bustling city overland to our destination. On the way I talked to Mark our driver, asking him to show us points of interest on the way and also asking him to show us more places after the cave with an increase on the rental price. He agreed and did not haggle with me on prices just left it up to us. He pointed out rice fields and marble cliffs on the way.
It was more than interesting traveling through the villages and believe me a BIG EYE OPENER!
As Mathew our tour organiser would say "Keep an open mind".
These people, although they have literally NOTHING and I mean NOTHING but the clothes on their backs and a shade over their heads in form of small huts yet still they always have a smile smile on their lips and are always willing to help, be kind and GIVE! Yes, GIVE what they have and share it with you.
All they have to give is a precious smile and their open kindness and that is a wonderful gift in today´s world.
On reaching the area we wanted to visit (after a 2 hour drive) there was a hustle and a bustle of people. Obviously half of our ship had decided to do the same trip. However, Cunard were not offering this tour out of safety and insurance reasons. This I could understand as we made our way to the waiting boats. Our tour guide and driver Mark took good care of our all and jumped the queue in front of other groups saying we had priority booking. Our permits were checked and we aloud to board the first open boat. It would have been quite dangerous for many people getting into the boats and you really had to be careful not to lose your balance otherwise you would have slide down under the boat.
The boat transfer took about 15 minutes to a beach and we then walked up to a rain forest. Other guide collected us here and we were taken through the rain forest to another boat. Before getting in the boat we had to put on an audio guide and helmets. The helmets were to protect us from falls rocks and bat shit!
Sorry to be so direct but there were HUNDREDS of BATS inside the cave hanging from the top rocks above our heads. The cave tour was remarkable and most interesting. So many beautiful forms, shapes and colours. It was very dark in the cave and the only bit of light was when our guide shined his torch on the rocks and we followed his hand shadows to see what we were being told about. Most people were unable to take any photos because it was too dark but most people are not LINDA! Of course I managed to take photos and a lot including the bats hanging from the top of the cave. More details on this beautiful cave coming up.
After we left the cave and made our way back to our mini van we drove back to the city centre but stopped to visit a Tribal village and Butterfly Garden on our way. The tribal village was most interesting. There is a small corner which is kept free for tribal families to come down from the hills and stay for about one week. They do this and then move on. The family that was there during our visit showed how they hunt and what musical instruments they played. These very old tribes do not allow their children to marry outside of the villages. The children are usually married by the age of 12! These tribes are of a very old nature and not the modern way of thinking o the general Philippine people.
Back at the ship we paid our guide $30 each and the other gave Peter and I $10 each for the permit and entry fee which we had paid out in local currency.
Our guide had also spent some money on drinks for us so after settling with him we had all had our complete day out for $45 and our driver/guide was very happy.
After talking to other passengers we had had a really cheap tour and seen a lot as other had taken the first prices and paid $80 per person and more for just the drive to the cave.
It is important to know that in these countries the tour people will tell you ridiculous prices and you have to be informed of the correct prices and be ready to barter with them. At the end everyone is happy and no-one feels cheated.
5th March SEA DAY - Saturday
Relaxed all day!
4th March SEA DAY - Friday
Peter won his first Paddle Tennis tournament today with a new partner.
He received a stamp in his activity book and you can collect a Cunard prize for this.
Formal evening. Since Sydney we have a new Captain on board, Captain Alistair Clark. World Travellers are invited to join the Captain for drinks at a guest reception this evening. As you can see, we enjoyed this evening and very much.
On returning to our cabin we had received a gift. On our bed, in lovely gift boxes, we found some Cunard cuff links for Peter and a silk scarf for me. A very nice gesture to end a most enjoyable evening.
3rd March SEA DAY - Thursday
Relaxed all day!
2nd March SEA DAY - Wednesday
Hot and humid. Today there is another „"Pollywog“ – crossing the Equator ceremony and of course, a Paddle Tennis Tournament.
We do not get bored on the sea days. There is a huge offer on entertainment. I, Linda like to also play croquet and sing in the passenger choir. There are various lectures, films, shore presentations, card games, quiz games in the pub and lots lots more to do.
1st March – Tuesday – Papua New Guinea/Rabaul.
We had the most warm hearting and probably once in a lifetime experience in Rabaul...... read on for more.....
General Information - Papua New Guinea today – A chaotic political atmosphere. This nation has a bewildering political complexity. A total of 109 MPs represent 820 languages, consequently since 1975 only one prime minister has managed to serve a full 5 year term without being brought down in a no-confidence vote. The chaotic political scene sometimes takes a turn for the absurd, has happened in 2011, when two men claimed to be the legitimate prime minister. The reigning Prime Minister Michael Somare took five months leave abroad to undertake medical care. During his absence MPs officially removed Somare from his post and installed Peter O´Neill as prime minister. When Somare returned the whole affair was taken to court. A deadlock on parliament activities was caused until 2012. The whole affair even caused a mutiny amongst loyal soldiers to Somare. The supreme court ruled in his favour but the whole affair caused him much discredit amongst the Papuans who felt that after his 43 years in parliament (18 years as prime minister) it was time for him to move on.
A new path and future for New Guinea. - O´Neill has promised a new era in Government: better education and health care, major investments in infrastructure and a more inclusive environment for women.
Crime rates have however risen on PNG. Tribes are difficult to keep under control. Head hunting and canabalism went on here until the 1970`s.
Our stop in Papua New Guinea is Rabaul – Rabaul, was known in former times as being the Pearl of the Pacific, being one of the prettiest towns in the South Pacific which was devastated in 1994. On 19th September 1994 Mount Tavurvur, which looms ominously to the southeast, erupted, spewing huge amounts of ash over Rabaul. It buried most of this once lovely city in a desert-like landscape of black and brown ash. It is still active. Rabaul is not completely dead. The port facilities keep the town alive.
We don´t intend taking big and expensive camera equipment on land as doing as this could be dangerous and inviting trouble. Not only that, there is ash in the air. The volcano is still active and consequently spitting out ash.
Our visit and experience – Mathew, the tour director told everyone to keep an open mind. We are visiting a third world country and people should act and accept what they find. We did.
I had, the day before been a bit disappointed because I did not believe we were going to have any contact with the villages and people living there to get to know the culture of this country. We had seen some photos and I thought we were only going to see venders selling their wares, but not the real Papuans. On arrival everything looked dismal. What can you expect from a town which lives under permanent pressures from the not too far away volcano, continuously spitting ash. It was overcast and as I tried to take some photos from the deck it was difficult – no contrast at all in the photos. Temperates were up to 36 degrees centigrade with an 80% humidity.
It was HOT. We we wet through without even sweating. The surface of my skin was permanently wet. I took off every piece of jewelry including my wedding ring and we both put on clothes that could thereafter be thrown in the washing machine. Boots were our footwear today. Peter put our small Samsung Galaxy camera in his pocket and I pocketed my old i-phone and off we went – with an open mind!
We walked along the main road just outside the harbour where villagers were sitting on the roadside offering their self made wares for sale. Past these we headed down towards an old ship wreck we we had spotted from the ship.
On the way we passed through a small village which turned out to be a missionary village. People came up to us with outstretched hands welcoming us, and speaking an excellant English. They informed us that this was the small village which the missionary workers had founded. I asked the man in charge, an elderly Papuan, if it would be okay and safe to walk up to the local village. He told us certainly, so we did. As we approached the villages we saw about 8 small children playing and as soon as we approached most of them ran away but some women came in their place. We received a very warm welcome and were invited in to take a tour of the village and their graveyard. The children were very wary of us and kept a distance hiding behind their mother´s skirts. We headed off behind several women and about 8 children through the village. In the meantime, someone had run off to fetch an elderly woman named Elizabeth, who spoke excellant English. Elizabeth met us at the cemetery welcoming us and thanking us for our visit. She told us that the whole village was very honoured and, that we were the first tourists off one of the ships to visit their village. She said that visitors always only kept to the guided tours or the main road and were frightened to come into their community. She said that we had made them very proud this day because we had come. By this time we now had approx.10 women and 8 children around us and the children were not so frightened and consequently came nearer. The women told the children to shake hands with us, which they did. Elizabeth told us that she was a teacher at the local school and gave us a lot of local information. She then invited us to meet the eldest lady in the village, her sister and the local policeman, her cousin. At this point coconuts were fetched for us and opened so that we could enjoy some fresh coconut milk, which was very refreshing, and a coconut was split for us with a demonstration of how the villagers use the milk, pulp and dried coconut. We filmed these activities to the amazement and pleasure of those around us.
When we had seen the first people that morning we have noticed that their teeth were all very badly coloured and of course a lot of teeth missing. I asked Joe, one of the younger men in the village what he was chewing and he gave us a demonstration of what the mixture was, which I filmed. By this time I felt very relaxed about taking photos and filming our visit and everyone was thrilled to see the 21st century technical wonders of this world when we showed them the photos on our digital wonder machines! Their teeth were badly coloured by what they were chewing and Joe told me – no problem they just use colgate toothpaste to brush their teeth. We all laughed a lot and had much fun.
Elizabeth asked if we would like to see the church and visit the school. We did of course want to do this, so she and one other woman escorted us to such. At the exit of the village there was a lot of hand shaking, waves and goodbyes. We could now see that school was ending for the day and children were coming out of the gates. The children wore school uniforms and were delighted when they saw us heading their way. Giggling, they forgot it was time to go home and followed us back into the school grounds. First, we went to the church were a group of young boys were gathered and two were playing guitars. Elizabeth introduced them to us and I asked the boys to play for us which they did. It was a very moving situation and Peter and I felt very touched and special by this warm hospitality which was being given to us. Elizabeth was telling everyone our names and those present where looking at us in awe. Peter filmed the situation and I took some photos of the boys. They were thrilled at our 21st century digital wonder machines!
We headed down to the school. Elizabeth informed us that approx. 500 children attend this school. On reaching one of the classrooms we found a teacher and children inside who seemed to be just finishing their lesson.
I shook hands with the teacher and immediately went to the middle of the classroom to talk to the children. I looked at the books and clapped my hands telling them very good. Then, I sat down at one of the desks and was instantly surrounded by children. I asked them if we should all count together and saw lots of happy smiling faces so I started - one, two, three etc., and they all joined in. Then I asked them if we should try and count in German - they all smiled and their eyes gleamed at me, so we did.
They were VERY good and we had lots of fun and laughs. They then whispered their names in my ear. Peter filmed the situation and when we showed the films to fellow passengers, they were amazed at this wonderful experience.
Elizabeth said she would come down to the harbour to wave to us when the ship left. Peter was wearing an orange T-Shirt and I told her we would be at the back of the ship and we would wave Peter´s T-Shirt so that she could see us. I also promised that we would send them some photos which we had taken. After saying goodbye we headed to the local store where we purchased nearly 100 writing books, pencils, crayons, and wax crayons which we then took to the village. Elizabeth had told us that this was what they needed. No one had asked us for any money and no one had begged and we decided this was the best way of helping rather than just give them some money. We only saw one of the women at the entrance who smiled at us and said she would take the bag full of supplies to Elizabeth. We did not wait as a heavy rain was setting in and we headed back to the ship. We had spent
nearly 4 hours with these people and had the most wonderful experience. We felt very honored and touched by them.
On the way back tot he ship a hard rain shower came and the streets were turned into a small river and we were soaked to the skin.
On reaching our cabin, a shower was our first action – we were soaked from the rain and sweat from the high humidity.
Late afternoon when our ship sailed away, the sun had broken through and the clouds had lifted leaving a beautiful light over the harbour. We were on the lookout for one woman, Elizabeth. I could see a group of women, men and children standing by the gates. Everyone else, venders and tour buses, had gone home. I was looking through my 400 mm lens and was quite sure it was our villagers, but the guard at the gates had sent them away from the entrance behind the railing. Then, when Peter waved his orange T-Shirt and they all started waving back we knew it was various people from the village weh ad visited! Probably hard to imagine for an outsider, but this was a very special moment for us and it had been a very special day. Peter and I were very moved. What a wonderful experience to take home with us.
RABAUL - PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Facit: A lot of visitors did not enjoy their visit to Rabaul, a lot did.
The people who did not enjoy this stop where those who walked up and down the road just outside the harbour where the venders were selling their goods. They found it dirty and under developed. They had read that Papua New Guninea is dangerous. It is in some areas, like big cities. They did not venture to the missionary village, nor the church or school. They did not participate in an island tour offered by Cunard. Their first and short impression was their only one.
Always travel with an open mind and do not measure people and their surrounds on sight. Be careful, be aware of your surroundings and possible dangers, but also be aware that there could be a lot of positive experiences to discover behind the scenes.
Additional notes on Papua New Guinea:
Rabaul is a township in East New Britain province, Papua New Guinea. The town was the provincial capital and most important settlement in the province until it was destroyed in 1994 by falling ash oft he volcanic eruption. During the eruption, ash was sent thousands of meters into the air and the subsequent rain of ash caused 80% oft he buildings in Rabail to collapse. After the eruption the capital was moved to Kokopo, about 20 kilometers away. Rabaul is continuously threatened by volcanic activity due to having been built on the edge of Rabaul caldera,. Rabaul was the headquarters of German New Guinea until captured by the British Empire during World War I, when it became capital oft he Australian mandated Territory of New Guinea until 1937 when it was first destroyed by volcano. During World War II it was captured by the Japanese in 1942, and it became the main base of Japanese military and naval activity in the South Pacific.
At ist peak, almost 100,000 troops were stationed here.
Papau New Guinea has a population of approx. 6,3 million.
80% of ist population live in rural areas. Port Moresby, the country´s capital, is situated in the eastern half of New Guinea (the western half belongs to Indonesia). English is the official language and Queen Elizabeth II is recognised as the Head of State. Papua New Guinea covers an area of 178,704 square miles and is slightly larger than Morocco.
29th February – Monday – AT SEA
Entering the Salamon Sea. From 7.30 a.m. until approx. 10.00 am we travelled though the China Straits. Small islands could be seen on both sides of the ship and some, but few were still lived on. We passed an old harbour which was no longer in use, but had once been an important point for ships coming from and going to Asia for trading reasons.
The Reef Captain gave a lecture on Papua New Guinea which was most interesting. Today, I, Linda, joined the new choir on board. Before we reach Hong Kong we will be putting on a show in the huge theatre. We will have a lot of practicing to do before then!
28th February – Sunday – AT SEA
Travelling through the outer limits of the Great Barrier Reef in the Coral Sea. Heading to the China straits. Tonight we will exit the Coral Sea entering the Solomon Sea. Sea depth today is between 2500 – 4000 meters. Sub tropical climate. The sea is extremely calm.
No wind, nor breeze - far too hot to be outside. Peter played Paddle Tennis early and we had breakfast out on deck but in the shade. The temperatures are around 33 - 36 degrees and the sun is burning down hard today. Dangerous and a relaxing day INDOORS in the library and around the ship catching up on notes about our travels and preparing ourselves for our next stop – Papua New Guinea/Rabaul.
Did you know?
The History of British Afternoon Tea.
Anna Maria, the Seventh Duchess of Bedford, is credited with the invention of afternoon tea in 1840. Following in the Duchess of Bedford´s footsteps, Afternoon Tea has been a Cunard tradition for over a century and a half.
With the introduction of Twinings Tea, Cunard´s quint essentially British on board experience is further enhanced and perfectly paired with their renowned White Star Service.
Cunard´s Afternoon Tea:
Served at the Traditional Afternoon Tea, is a special tea blend selected by Cunard. This traditional tasting tea is a blend of the finest Assam, Kenyon and Ceylon teas. A classic bright, refreshing tea full of flavour. A choice of Earl Grey and Darjeeling are also offered as an alternative.
The Afternoon Tea is accompanied with freshly baked scones, homemade sandwiches and cakes. Afternoon Tea takes place every afternoon in the Queen´s room at 3.30 – 4.30 p.m.
Twinings Tea – 300 years of heritage:
The Twinings journey began in 1706 when Thomas Twining set up as a tea merchant at 216 Strand, London. The firm has traded continuously ever since from the same address and over the past 300 years Twinings have built an unrivaled reputation worldwide for their quality and standards of tea blending.
27th February – Saturday – Cairns - Australia
We had to return to the ship early morning as the Australian authorities needed to see us with our passports, as this was our last day in their country. After dropping off our bags in our cabin we headed back to land and our rental car. Our ship had to tender at Yorkey´s Knob, which is a 30 minutes drive from Cairns.
We had decided the day before that we would like to visit the Aboriginal Culture centre to learn more about the history of this huge country. We arrived at 11.30 a.m. and were under the impression that it was possible to pay a 3 hour trip and go through the various points in their itinerary. WRONG! After waiting for 1 ½ hours for some activity to start we sat outside for a demonstration on „Bush Cooking“. The demonstration started 15 minutes too late and lasted 4 minutes! Everything had already been prepared the day before so a cover was taken off the hole in the ground and the dish of covered meat was held under our noses and that was the end of the demonstration. We then went indoors and waited for the next activity to start which was, of course, again late and looked like it was going to be a very commercialized show. I asked to speak to the manager! We had paid AUD 60.00 per person and as of yet had been there nearly two hours and only sat with other visitors watching them eating and drinking and I told the person in charge that we could have stayed on the ship to do this and not paid AUD 60 to have to do it. We were annoyed, disappointed, and wanted a refund so that we could leave. No refund was possible, but we left anyway.
I had arranged with our hotel that we could return, use their wifi connection and the pool, which we did. I was able to update our blog and we
spent a relaxing afternoon doing so and cooling down before returning our rental car and taking the shuttle bus to the ship. This was the end of another wonderful overland adventure. Up to now only one disappointment - our visit to the Aboriginal Culture Centre.
Additional notes on Australia:
Tasman silence and beautiful scenery.
Australia´s island state „Tassie“ delivers convict sites, and a phototgenic wilderness.
Hobart – Australia´s second oldest city (Sydney being the first) and southernmost capital lies at the foothills of Mt. Wellington on the bank of the Derwent River. The town´s rich colonial heritage and natural charms are accented by a spirited atmosphere.
Port Arthur – the contrast between melancholy and a thriving lively tourist attraction of today.
From 1830 – 1875, 12.500 convicts did hard, brutal prison time at Port Arthur. The prison was able to take 7000 convicts. Port Arthur lies approx. 95 km southeast of Hobart. Over 300.000 visitors come here annually, but Port Arthur remains a sombre, confronting, haunting but also beautiful place.
The visitors´ centre includes an information desk, café etc., and the tour starts with a visit to an excellent interpretation gallery where you can follow on a convict´s journey from England in the late 18th and early – mid 19th century. A 40-minute guided tour and a boat tour are included in the admission price. There is also a popular nightly “Historic Ghost Tour” – we did not take part in this.
Sydney is the state capital of New South Wales, the most populous city in Australia. It is on Australia´s south east coast, on the Tasman Sea. Inhabitants of Sydney are called Sydneysiders. The site of the first British colony in Australia, Sydney was established in 1788 at Sydney Cove by Captain Arthur Phillip. The city is built on hills surrounding Port Jackson , which is commonly known as Sydney Harbour, where the iconic Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are prominent structures. The most famous beaches in the area are Bondi and Manley. Within the city are many parklands. We very much enjoyed our time in the Royal Botanic Gardens on our visit in January 2011.
What we did not know until this visit is, how expensive the cost of living is here and around Sydney. Prices for food and housing are much higher than in Europe.
From Shackles to Freedom – Australia´s development
At first Sydney and the smaller colonies depended on ships supplies brought in. Anxious to develop productive farms the government granted land to soldiers, officers and settlers. It took 30 years of hard work before the farms began to flourish. Unfortunately there were ruthless landowners who made a lot of profits at the cost of others and it was not until 1810 when a new tough governor named Lachlan Macquarie took office that much changed.
Macquarie laid out the major roads of modern-day Sydney, built some fine public buildings of which many were designed by talented ex-convicts and he also supported the rights of freed convicts granting them lands and appointing several to public office.
Aboriginal cultures and history of Aboriginal Australians
Aboriginal cultures have evolved over thousands of years with strong links between the spiritual, economic and social lives of the people. This heritage has been kept alive from one generation to the next by the passing of knowledge through rituals, art, cultural materials and language. Aboriginal culture has never been static, and continues to evolve with the changing times and environment. New technologies and mediums are now used to tell Aboriginal stories and you can look at rock art which is thousands of years old. Rock Art is the oldest form of human art. Rock Art is found in every state of Australia and as previously mentioned, have been proved to date back as far as 60.000 years. There are a number of different styles of rock art across Australia. These include engravings in sandstone and stencils, prints and drawings in rock shelters.
Many academics believe Aboriginal people came from somewhere else, and scientific evidence places Aboriginal people on the continent at least 40 – 50.000 years ago. However, Aboriginal people believe they have always inhabited their land – Australia. At the time of European contact the Aboriginal population was grouped into 300 or more different nations with distinct languages and land bounderies. From the desert to the sea Aboriginal people shaped their lives according to their environments and developed different skills and a wide body of knowledge about their territory.
The effects of started immediately after the Europeans arrived. An epidemic of diseases was fatal for many thousands of Aboriginal people. Smallpox killed around 50% of Sydney Harbour´s Indigenous population. A period of resistance occurred as Aboriginal people fought to retain their land and way of life. As violence and massacres swept the country, many Aboriginal people were pushed further and further away from their traditional lands. In a period of just 100 hundred years, the Aboriginal population was decimated by 90%.
The relationship between indigenous and „white“ Australians has not been an easy one. Aboriginal people had to adapt tot he new culture but where treated like second class citizens. Employment opportunities were scarce.
There are many problems involved. The Aboriginal people are not used to earning a living through continual labour, so given employment they would often lean the trade for a few weeks and then just move on. Consequently, whites did not want to employ them. Education also being a major problem. Another major problem is alchohol. Aboriginal people cannot control alchohol in their body. It has a totally different effect on them than on a white Australian. Only a small amount, and I mean small amount will get them drunk and out of control. This would seem to be a very big problem in present day Australia.
The Stolen Generations:
In 1901, a government policy known as „White Australia poliy“ was put in place. This was not good news for the Aborigine people and between 1909 to 1969 many children were taken away from their families. On 13th February 2008 the then prime minister Kevin Rudd, offered a national apology to the stolen generations of Aboriginal people.
Tropical North Queensland - Reef, Rainforest and Outback.
Our tour of Cairns and above - Far north Queensland sits apart from the rest of Australia, and is so loved by the people. It is a pride not only born in its people and the natural beauty of the area but also to become recognised in a world so focussed on big cities. The are three World Heritage sites - The Great Barrier Reef, The Wet Tropical Rainforest and Riversleigh Fossil Fields. Cairns itself is a primary gateway and jumping off point for these locations.
Most Australians live along the coast and most of these folks live in cities.In fact, Australia ist he 18th-most urbansied country in the world, with 70% of Australians living in ist 10 largest towns.
The population of Australia has just reached 24 million (so I was told during our visit).
Sydney, known as the sun kissed harbour city, is a glamorous collusion of beaches, boutiques and bars whereas Melbourne is all arts, alleyways.
Tip: The temptation is to hit the open road and explore – but remember..... Australia is reeeeeeeealy big! Trips needs good planning and it is advised to combine a tour with the very good airline facilities.
Points of interest from Cairns which we visited -
1. The Great Barrier Reef – Stretching more than 2000 kilometers along the Queensland Coastline it´s a complex ecosystem populated with dazzling coral, sea turtles, rays, timid reef sharks and tropical fish of every colour and size. Whether you dive it, snorkel it or explore it via scenic flight or glass-bottom boat, this vivid undersea kingdom – and ist coral fringed islands – is an unforgettable experience.
We had previously been here in 1992 and have been lucky enough to come back for seconds. Cairns and the area has grown tremendously since 1992 and offers a large amount of activities for visitors. The Great Barrier Reef is of course a recognised UNESCO World Heritage site.
2. Daintree Rainforest – the oldest living rainforest in the world at 160
Lush green rainforest tumbles down towards brilliant white-sand coastline in the ancient World Heritage listed Daintree Rainforest. We drove along a winding road through the rainforest which sloped down to the white sandy beach.
Upon entering the forest you will be enveloped by birdsog and the buzz of insects. This was a full day trip which took us 13 hours to drive and walk.
Tip: Don´t forget to use mosquito spray! You will need it here.
The greater Daintree rainforest is protected as part of Daintree National Park.
The area has a controversial history: despite conservionist blockades, in 1983 the Bloomfield Track was bulldozed through lowland rainforest from Cape Tribulation to the Bloomfield River, and the ensuing international publicity indirectly led the federal government to nominate Queensland´s wet tropical rainforests for World Heritage listing. The move drew objections from the Queensland timber industry and the state government, but in 1988 the area was inscribed on the World Heritage list, resulting in a total ban on commercial logging within its boundaries.
3. Mossmann Gorge – This is where we did our 2 ½ hour rainforest walk.
The Gorge attracts hundreds of visitors each year. We were lucky and went on a quiet day. There is a good 2,4 kilometer walk (which we did) and swimming in the fresh water holes is possible. It is possible to book a tour which is led by an Aborigine at the main centre. There is a small gallery, gift shop and restaurant at the visitor´s centre.
In 1824 Queensland became a penal colony. Free settlers soon followed and in 1859 Queensland became independant from New South Wales. The original settlement was called Trinity Bay after the bay in which it was discovered on Trinity Sunday in 1770. It was later renamed after Sir William Wellington Cairns, the govenor of Queensland from 1875 – 1877. Cairns achieved a town status in 1903 and city status twenty years later.
General facts: Queensland is seven timest he size of the UK.
The Great Barrier Reef stretches for more than 1,200 miles down the Queensland coast. Queensland is known at the „Sunshine State“.
The state´s symbol is a Koala bear. Brisbane, the state´s capital is 1,063 miles from Cairns. Today, Cairns has a population of 160,000 and is the capital of the far north of Queensland. Ist recent growth has been encouraged by the expansion of tourism – The Great Barrier Reef is a major attraction.
Melbourne – On our last visit to Melbourne in December 2010, our friends Cheryl and Bruce took us on a tour to Phillip Island. This is well worth visiting and I took many many photos on that trip and have some hanging on our gallery walls at home. You can visit the famous Penguin Parade there or join the Eco Night Tour, as we did. There is also a Koala Conservation Centre which we loved. This is a fantastic way of observing Koala bears in their natural environment. It was lavender season on Churchill Island and this was most spectacular to see the lavender fields stretch out to the ocean beyond. The extreme southwestern tip of Phillip Island leads to the Nobbies. Beyond them is Seal Rocks, inhabited by Australia´s largest colony of Australian fur seals. There are wildlife coastal cruises available for better viewing oft he seals.
Thank you Bruce and Cheryl for these wonderful memories that are still very close at heart. I remember most of the events of that day as if they were only yesterday.
3. Port Douglas. We really liked this spot! We visited Port Douglas and the Daintree Rainforest tour. Port Douglas is the flashy playground of tropical northern Queensland. For those looking to escape the Cairns bustling traveller scene, Port Douglas is more sophisticated and intimate. It also has a beautiful white sand beach on its doorstep and the Great Barrier Reef is less than one hour offshore.
Other points of large interest in Australia:
Uluru-Kate (Previously known as Ayers Rock). We visited this site in 1992 and it was well worth seeing. It is not on our list on this visit, too far away. It has a remote desert location, deep cultural significance and spectacular natural beauty.
Kuranda - We visited Kuranda in 1992 and thoroughly enjoyed this tour.
Kuranda is just outside Cairns. We did not go again on this tour as there were other places we wanted to explore. The historic train journey to Kuranda is well worth taking. It is also possible to take the sky rail back. This is a very popular visitor attraction. The village itself is a sprawling set of markets nestled in a spectacular tropical-rainforest setting where you will find everything from made in China Aboriginal art to emu oil. There is no need to stay overnight as you can see all in a day trip.
26th February- Cairns-Tropical Rainforest - Australia
The North Queensland Rainforest /Daintree National Park and Rainforest is said to be the oldest on earth.
The Aborigine culture is proved to be the oldest on earth! I don´t know if I have mentioned this before but engravings have just been found in the Kimberleys (north of Perth) which have proved to be older than 60.000 years. That is incredible! Just think about the Romans coming to England in 427AD that is not quite two thousand years ago. Here they have proof that the Aborigine cultur already existed 60.000 years ago.
We started our trip to the rainforest at around 07.30. Our drive took us up the Cook Highway 44 to Daintree National Park stopping of at beaches on the way. Peter built a stone memory block with another over 100 stone memorials built by people on their travels. Our first big stop was at the National Park where we walked through the rain forest for about 2 ½ hours. Taking photos I was reminded oft he many photography lessonsI have given in the local woods and forest around our area. Many most enjoyable hours with my students who have over the time become our friends.
After this walk we decided to tour all the way up to the Cape of Tribulation. This ist he furthest point that you can get to without a 4 x 4 wheel drive.
It was a long and windy drive which took us 2 ½ hours. We had to take the ferry over the Daintree river to get there. On the way back we drove through Daintree (also famous for its Tea Brand) and then drove through Port Douglas, which we REALLY liked. Unfortunately we only had time for a drive through and a short walk along the harbour. We would have liked to spend more time here but we still had a long way back to our hotel. It was 8.30 p.m. when we got back. That was a 13 ½ hours day with lots of driving, walking, and climbing then paths through the rainforest. We both needed a beer and a bed!
THE DAINTREE RAINFOREST
25th February Cairns-The Great Barrier Reef - Australia
We have now just arrived back from our Barrier Reef tour. The boat was huge and only 7 weeks old. The staff were extremely friendly, funny, and helpful. We felt very comfortable on this boat. Most of the members of the tour were much younger, only about 10 out of 120 our age. We did not find the first reef "Saxon" very good. It was not high up enough to the surface of the water and consequently the sight was not clear and you could not really get a good view of the corals as a snorkeler nor could we see any fish. After the first snorkeling session, lunch was served and tasted very good. We then continued to the "Hastings Reef" which was very good. We really enjoyed this. A clear view and lots of large and small colourful fish. The corals are fantastic. While we were in the water people were doing short helicopter trips over the reef. At 14.30 it was our turn. I had asked the boys who were organizing the seating, if I could get a window seat as I had mentioned this when booking the tour. I explained that I give tour lectures. They were great and when the boat took us over the the helicopter pad they asked Peter and myself to come forward for loading first and put us up front next to the pilot. How good was that guys? I got some good photos. We had however, like the other passengers,thought we would see more of the reef for a longer amount of time than we did from above or at least for a few minutes more. Oh well, we take it as it comes and are thankful for what we get. Our tour took us back to land so the flight was only really 1/3 reef and 2/3 water and coastline. I was however, soooooo pleased they gave us the front seats as you can imagine. It was a fantastic experience and one not tob e missed.
After our tour we relaxed in and by the pool followed by a 3 hour walk around Cairns. We ended up at the night market and purchased a load of beautiful leather bracelets/and ankle bands as gift for friends at home.
I learned to play and understand the different types of the didgeridee at a specialist shop and of course we had a big ice cream between us to celebrate. Honeycomb ice cream, delicious! We have decided to go to the Tjapukai Indigenous Cultural experience on Saturday. Here, we can learn about the oldest living culture dating back over 50.000 years. Tomorrow we intend driving up the forest area around Daintree National Park.
PS. Peter just said he thought the whole of China was already here in Cairns, but they obviously have some more in reserve as some have just arrived.!! Good night!
THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
24th February - Wednesday Cronulla/Sydney Temperatures around 32 - 36 degrees - slight breeze late afternoon – HOT!. Well, would you believe it? Down to the beach again! This time Fred took a surf board wit him and their daughter Alex accompanied us. What a ball we had! I, Linda got back on a surf board and had a whale of a time. I had not been surfing since I was a teenager (just a few years ago - Ha Ha). It was a wonderful feeling riding the surf again. Then, of course it was time for Peter to learn how to surf. When I say surf riding, I mean on "Belly Boards". This, I had learned to do in Cornwall when growing up in England. Peter had lots of fun too and enjoyed his first surfing lesson.
Well, time to go home for a shower, have breakfast and head for the airport. Fred and Helen drove us to the airport which was approx. 45 minutes away from their home. We feel sooooo very lucky having such wonderful friends on the other side of the globe, way down in Australia. Thank you for a wonderful time, looking forward to more in Europe.
I had booked our flights online with Virgin through Expedia from Germany. Again, we got a good deal. Both flights from Sydney to Cairns, including a baggage allowance allowance of 23 kilos each cost us 198 AUD ( Australian Dollar) A really good price and we did not have to hang onto the wing of the plane! We had good seats. The flight was just over 3 hours. On arrival we collected our rental car which I had booked in Germany through www.billiger-autos.de. The cost for 4 days being AUD$96.-. The hotel we are staying at is one I booked with some rest miles we had with British Airways. It is basic but very clean and ideal for us. The owners and employees are extremely friendly, helpful and welcoming and we have a pool! Breakfast is included and basic but fine. The hotel is directly on Cook Highway and central giving easy access to Cairns centre. We took a short walk through the night market in the evening (this is always an interesting place to look around) and along the promenade. There is a huge open air pool on the sea front and there was a really good atmosphere there in the evening. A lot of young people and Chinese people. We got an early night for an early start to the Barrier Reef.
ALLURA BEACH - CRONULLA - SYDNEY
FRED, HELEN, PETER AND LINDA
23rd February - Tuesday Cronulla/Sydney - Temperatures around 32 degrees Started the day of by using Fred and Helen's computer to prepare for our tour of Japan. They have both been to Japan so this was most helpful to us with our tour planning. Midday they took us to the local park and we enjoyed seeing local trees and flowers. After lunch we drove to Allura Beach! Fun non stop was on the menu. Peter and Linda jumping the huge waves and Fred and Helen laughing their socks off! What a ball we had. Wonderful, The four of us had so much fun. Peter was a real "Dare Devil", swimming out to catch the big waves. I was having trouble with my bikini! Every time a wave caught me front on, I nearly lost my pants and one time I nearly lost the whole lot - pants and bikini bra! How much fun was that! I had everyone roaring of laughter. Peter had to hold on to this swimming trunks too. How wild was that!
22nd February - Sydney Cronulla (Monday) Time for a swim in the Tasman Sea! Fred and Helen drove us to Cronulla National Park where we were shown a beautiful beach on the one side and fresh waterfalls on the other. The waters were calm, no big waves so we enjoyed a most relaxing swim. What a beautiful place to spend time in. After our swim we walked over to the barbecue area where barbecue stands are provided by the local authorities free of charge. Fred barbecued some German sausages and we had a great meal. On returning home we enjoyed a relaxed afternoon meeting a group of Helen and Fred´s friends. Something ironical happened here. During our tour of Tasmania I had fallen in love with a beautiful flower Hippoastrum, which is a bulb flower. We had tried to purchase some bulbs n the island and again in Cronulla, without success. Our hostess, Erica, had one flowering in her front driveway and when I told her our story she immediately told me we could take it with us. When Peter dug it up there were two bulbs. Let´s see what happens when weg et it back to Germany. I will put them in an extra pot and talk to them! Of course thy will have to come in over winter but that doesn´t matter. I have promised to send photos if they blossom. The evening was accompanied by a wonderful sunset which I took photos of from Fred and Helen's balcony.
21st February - Sunday – Sydney Cronulla (A suburb of Sydney) We took the ferry with Fred and Helen to Bandeena and the Cronulla National Park. We enjoyed a sandwich picnic and then walked through the village and back down to the beach to find our way to an Aborigine Art site. Fred and Helen explained that these types of rock art have been found in an area north or Perth and it has been proved that they are 50 thousand years old. That proves the Aborigine to be one of the oldest surviving people of our earth. It was very interesting. Peter and I had only ever seen any Aborigine Art before when we visited Ayers Rock in 1992.
20th February - Saturday - Sydney Temperatures around 28- 30 degrees Bicycle Time! Yes, we actually cycled around Sydney, under Sydney Bridge and around downtown and then took the ferry over to Manley, had fish and chips with Fred, Helen (our friends from Sydney) and her brother on the beach, before riding around the coast a little. Back at Sydney Harbour we took the bikes back to the ship and collected our overnight case. We thoroughly enjoyed our bike ride and both felt very safe riding around Sydney. Fred & Helen were waiting for us on the Quayside and we all took the train to their home in Cronulla which is a suburb of Sydney. We met Fed and Helen on a holiday cruising around New Zealand in 2011. We have stayed with them in Sydney before and they have stayed with us twice in Germany. Needless to say, another late night as we had so much to catch up,on!
19th February - At Sea The day flew by unpacking our bag from our Tasmania Tour and getting ourselves re-organised for our Sydney - Barrier Reef tour. Peter played Paddle Tennis with Wolfgang while I caught up on some notes. There are laundry facilities for passengers on the ship and they are free of charge. Each deck has a washing room with 3 washing machines and dryers and an ironing board. These facilities are free of charge on the Queen Elizabeth. All set and ready for our next adventure. Sydney, here we come.........
18th February – Melbourne/Australia Temperatures around 28 degrees We spent a really relaxing morning with Bruce and Cheryl at their home and early in the afternoon we went out for lunch, visited Adrian and Mark at the shop and then the four of us headed down to the centre of Melbourne for a walk around the district near the harbour before getting back on our ship destined towards Sydney. It was a short stay but a most enjoyable one. Thank you Cheryl and Bruce for a great stay. We will be back for more cheesecake. No doubt about that! Did you know? Agapantha flowers are a great protection against fires. Bruce and Cheryl have literally hundreds around their house and buildings. Cheryl broke a leaf open and showed me how much water they contain. Consequently when they get a bush fire, this is a deterrent to the fire. I think anything possible would help in a bushfire.
17th February Tasmania/& Melbourne - Australia
Peter really had felt the cold the night before. We slept in double layers of clothing and were okay. After breakfast we decided to explore the area a bit more before setting off back to Hobart. We found a couple more picturesque bays nearby and then drove back into Hobart. Hobart is quite a large city spread out over a big area. There are no skyscapers so you still get a village feeling about the place. We decided we wanted to spend the time around the harbour area as we had seen some large sailing boats when we drove through and wanted to take a closer look. We had an opportunity of going into a travel agency office at the harbour that was showing videos of trips they organise around Tasmania. Now we know what we have not seen and of course have to come back to see more of this fantastic island. Hobart airport is on the way to Sorrel just 7 kilometers outside of Hobart. Easy to find. Our flight was with Tigerair. The flights from Hobart to Melbourne cost us approx. â‚¬48 per person including one case (20 kilos) each. We only had one case between the two of us and of course a camera backpack each! Flight departure 16.20. By the way, the oldest established hotel in Australia is here in Hobart and was built in 1807. Good Bye Tasmania - we hope to come back for more! This adventure was a great one to be remembered for many years to come. Funny situations; Peter and I had come over with one case weighing 18.5 kilos for the two of us. We had purchased some good books on the island and some gifts so our case weighed now 24 kilos. No problem. They just split this between two and we were underweight. However! Hand luggage was no more than 7 kilos. We had one backpack each and a small box containing gifts for our friends in Melbourne and Sydney. When the lady asked me to put the backpacks on the scales I told her we had some water bottles and food inside the backpacks which we intended eating before getting on the plane. She said we needed to take these out and definitely eat them. Our complete hand luggage should not weigh more than 7 kilos each. I opened the smaller backpack and took out a book and camera lens before putting it on the scales. That was okay - 6,4 kilos. Then I put the larger backpack on which was 9,8 kilos. Too heavy. I then told her I would take the water water out (I had already done this) and the food. I pulled the backpack out of sight and took out the i-pad and another camera lens and a book and then closed it and put it back on the scales. The result 7,4 kilos which she said was fine. I then put the backpack back on the floor, out of sight and put everything back inside. Also, she had not seen the box which I had immediately put behind the counter out of sight! This small box probably also weighed about 3 kilos. Facit: Don't carry it - eat it or hide it! Tip for a tour of Tasmania: Dont't bring fancy clothes. This is a rugged and wild island. You need; bathers, shorts, long cotton trousers, short sleeved and long sleeved tops. Jumper or fleece and a rain jacket. Good footwear and flip flops or similar. Sun tan lotion and sun glasses and a hat. Arrival Melbourne 17.45. Cheryl and Bruce, our friends from Melbourne collected us at the airport. We spent the complete evening catching up on each other and touring their beautiful new home. It is a beautiful house with a riding arena, stables, swimming pool and wonderful view over the valley. Cheryl has a lovely collection of roses and shares my joys of the garden. Bruce took us on a guided walk around the "Ranch". They still have an area of 21 acres, which is small in comparison to their previous home of 106 acres, but still of course huge to us. A super place and so well kept. It was a pleasure being shown around and introduced to so much knowledge on Australian life. Cheryl had cooked a lovely meal and made a cheese cake which we all ate very slowly, enjoying every crumble! Can't you just taste it? Delicious. Cheryl and Bruce are also "Horse People" and run a successful riding shop and saddlery with their two sons Mark and Adrian, who have the skill as does their father of being saddlers. A great family, whom we enjoy being around.They all make us feel so very welcome. We met Bruce and Cheryl at Spoga (a Horse Riding Accessory Exhibition in Cologne) in 2010. We hit it off at the exhibition and they invited us to visit them at the end of that year when we toured Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. They visited us in Germany in 2015. We still had a lot to catch up on and talk about.
KINGSTON - NEAR HOBART - TASMANIA
HEADING BACK TO HOBART