Today we had a half day tour scheduled for the city. Da Nang is a beautiful city considering all the conflict that happened years ago. It was a major US Marine base during the Vietnam conflict, Da Nang was a strategic air and seaport, and most of the brutal fighting of the war happened there. We visited Cham Museum it housed the most extensive collection of Cham art in the world, dating back to the fifth through the 16th century. After a visit to the museum, we stop at the Han Market for a little retail therapy. The last stop was driving to Marble Mountain. This mountain was made up of five hills, each representing one of the five elements of the universe: water, wood, fire, metal, and earth. Our tour guide said that both Vietnamese and the Cham used these mountains to build shrines, so it’s picturesque with numerous grottoes, caves, and pagodas. The caves were also used by the Vietcong to hide during the war.
Today we arrived in Vietnam and began our day with a short drive from the ship to the junk pier in Ha Long city. Once there we boarded the junk boat called Phuong Hoang, this was one of the wildest boat rides we’ve ever been on. To get out of the pier, all the boats were bumping into each other hence their name Junk boats. We began our cruise in the bay which is located in the Gulf of Tonkin; Ha Long Bay is one of the world’s outstanding natural wonders. This densely concentrated zone of Karst Islands, world famous for its spectacular scenery of grottoes and caves and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We weren’t lucky with the weather it was raining and foggy, but it was still pretty.
Tonight we boarded an open top double decker bus for our night tour. We drove through the heart and soul of Kowloon. We drove past the Peninsula Hotel and modern Hong Kong Space Museum. We then drove to the animated Golden Mile of Nathan Road, the longest street in Hong Kong. On Nathan Road we were dazzled by all the bright neon lit up buildings. We also had the chance to go shopping at the Temple Street Night Market. This was a long street filled with vendors selling clothing, knock-off watches, posters all sorts of souvenirs.
March 22, 2014 – Hong Kong, China – Lantau Island & Po Lin Monastery
Lantau Island is the largest of the 235 islands. The full day tour began with a drive to Tsing Yi Lookout where we had a panoramic view of the Tsing Ma Bridge. After a brief photo stop, we drove to Tung Chung Terminal to change bus’ to drive on Lantau Island. We drove along the winding roads to Tai O Village which is known as “Hong Kong’s Venice” because of its many crisscrossing waterways.
Upon arrival on Lantau Island, we began our walking tour of Tai O and the Po Lin Monastery. The monastery is located at an altitude of 1,700 feet on the Ngong Ping Plateau. We then walked to see the main attraction which is the 250 ton, 102 foot high Bronze Buddha statue called Tian Tan Buddha. This is largest seated Buddha statue in Asia. The pedestal of the statue is a three-story exhibition hall embellished with Buddhist figures and scriptures.
After taking a bunch of photos, we walked to have a vegetarian lunch prepared by the resident monks which was delicious.
The last stop on this tour was a cable ride by Ngong Ping Skyrail. This is a spectacular 5.7km (3.54 miles) cable car journey, traveling between Tung Chung Town Centre and Ngong Ping on Lantau Island the floor of the cable car was glass which was scary at first but after a few minutes we got used to it and were able to enjoy the panoramic views. We went to the South China Sea and the North Lantau Country Park. We saw the best views of Hong Kong on this complete glass Skyrail.
Our tour today began walking through Yangmingshan National Park which was nice. After walking through the park and taking in the beauty, we went and had a traditional Taiwanese lunch which was fabulous.
Our last stop was the Cal La Young Garden Resort to enjoy the therapeutic hot springs. We had a great time soaking in the mineral rich waters. The view while at the hot springs was amazing. After an hour of relaxing at the hot springs, we boarded our bus to drive back to the ship.
After cruising the East China Sea, we arrive at our next port Nagasaki. We began our tour visiting Nagasaki Peace Park, commemorating the city’s destruction by the plutonium bomb dropped on August 9, 1945. Fat Man was the second bomb dropped on Japan, missed its target by over a mile and a half, it leveled nearly half the city.
The park’s main attraction is this massive Peace Memorial Statue depicting a man with his right arm pointing to the sky to indicate the continued threat of nuclear destruction. The next stop was the Atomic Bomb Museum which had over 900 artifacts showing the city’s devastation.
Our tour began with seeing the Shanghai Museum located in People’s Square. This museum was huge it had 110,000 historical objects and 430,000 reference pieces. It had bronze, ceramics, calligraphy, painting, sculptures, jade, furniture, coins and artwork.
After the museum, we visited the Yu Garden. This garden was built between 1559-1577 A.D by the Pan family from the Ming Dynasty. I loved the garden the buildings, the bridges, and ponds were so lovely.
This was the first time we were taking a tour at night which was different and kind of cool. As we started our drive around Shanghai, the buildings were very pretty and brightly lit up. Unfortunately, there was a bug traveling through the cruise ship, and I was unlucky and was one of the passengers who got sick. The bad part was that it started while I was 15 minutes into this tour. I ended up getting sick at our first stop which was the Jinmao Building, the 2nd tallest building in China and among the top 10 in the world.
At this point, I had to make the best of it since we had two hours to go. We went up to the Observation Lounge on the 88th floor. From this vantage point, we saw the skyline of Shanghai all lit up on both sides of the river. After about an hour at this hotel, we then drove to our last stop which was People’s Square where we had some free time on our own which I didn’t even get off the bus. I thought I was going to die at this point of the evening.
March 15, 2014 – Private Day Tour
We are still in Shanghai and unfortunately, I stayed on the cruise ship because I was still sick. John had a private tour set up for the city. He did some sightseeing and some shopping.
Today’s tour was going to be a great one. We had to bring our passports with us because we had to show it to the military before entering the DMZ. I’ve learned about the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in school, and I have always wanted to see it. We began our scenic drive to Seoul from the pier along Unification Road, which is the main highway connecting Seoul and Panmunjom. Along the way, we saw Freedom Bridge which is the only bridge that crosses the Injin River connecting North and South Korea. For thousands of North Koreans, this narrow wooden bridge was the path to freedom at the conclusion of the Korean War. Upon arrival at the DMZ, we saw that it was heavily guarded by the American and South Korean military.
Created by the Korean Armistice Agreements signed in July 1953, the DMZ is a 155 mile long, 2.5-mile wide military demarcation line (MDL) with a 1.2-mile wide demilitarized zone on each side of it. After the military had briefed us, we took a guided tour of the museum. After the museum, we continued to the third tunnel. This 5,364-foot long tunnel is located about 240 feet underground and is over six feet high and wide.
This tunnel was designed for a surprise attack on Seoul, the tunnel crosses the demarcation line into South Korea, and is capable of moving 30,000 battle equipped foot soldiers per hour. The tunnel was quite impressive. They had painted black spots on the walls so they could say they were digging for coal.
The last stop on tour was the Dora Observatory for a panoramic cross-border view of North Korea propaganda village. We were told not to take any pictures of North Korea beyond this yellow line that waspainted on the ground. If you did they would grab your camera away. It was a pretty serious thing.
We began our tour driving to Zhongshan Square which was constructed by Russians in 1899; it is also the oldest square in Dalian. From this square we started walking through the city we passed through Friendship Square, Victory Square and the Qingniwapiao Shopping area luckily they didn’t give us anytime to shop because I always find something to buy. From the shopping area, we continued walking to People Square whose name was changed from Stalin Square. It was built to commemorate the liberation of Northeast China in 1945 by the Soviet Union’s Red Army.
From here our walking tour continued to our last stop which was Labor Park to fly our kite. The tradition of kite flying dates back more than 2,000 years in China. This park was cool it had big statues of the Chinese zodiac animals.
Today we embarked on our long journey to Asia. We decided to fly into Beijing two days earlier so that we can take an extensive tour of the city and take our time to visit the magnificent Great Wall of China and The Forbidden City.
March 09, 2013
Our tour guides name was Tony he spoke perfect English and was informative which was great. We walked through Tiananmen Square. We saw this guy tearing up paper and causing a scene Tony told us to make sure not to take any pictures because the police might confiscate your camera and maybe you with it. Tony also told us as we were walking through Tiananmen Square not to ask where the tank was when they had the protests there back in 1989 he said he wasn’t allowed to tell us. The next stop was the Forbidden City.
One thing that I found funny was that some of the Asians started taking pictures of me. Tony said that they lived in the mountains and had never seen Caucasian people before.
March 10, 2013
The next day we drove to The Great Wall of China. It is amazing in person. Pictures don’t do it justice. We walked the wall about one mile and couldn’t believe how tired we got. We didn’t realize some parts were steeper than others and how quickly you get tired.
After the visit to the Great Wall, we went to Fanghua, and I had a necklace of pearls strung right in front of me. We then went to eat a late lunch with Tony and our driver. What do you eat while in China you guessed it Peking Duck.
We rested at the hotel and then got ready to go to dinner. We had a great dinner at TRB Forbidden City. The dinner was great, and the desserts were fabulous.
One thing I found surprising was that every day when we got back to the hotel after walking around the city I would wipe my face with a white washcloth and it would be black from all the smog.
Today we had a short 57-minute flight to visit our friends Adrian & Irene in London. We arrived at our hotel the Mandarin Oriental which is right in the heart of the city and right down the block from the world famous Harrods Store.
The key to our room was very cool it was plastic, and it was shaped like a regular key which was something we’ve never seen before.
Our friends picked us up from the hotel, and we walked to the local pub for a drink before going to dinner at one of their favorite places which was called Daphnes Restaurant. They’ve lived in London their entire lives, so they are very familiar with where to go and what to do which is great.
September 13, 2013
Our friends once again picked us up from the hotel, and we took the bus around to do some sightseeing we saw the Houses of Parliament which has Big Ben, and we saw the London Eye which was cool. After that, we continued our tour on foot and saw the South Bank, and then we saw the Tower Bridge, and we decided to do an Open top bus tour which was fun. After that, we decided to go to another favorite pub of theirs, and we had fish and chips. You can’t come to London and not have fish and chips.
September 14, 2013
Today we had some time alone to go to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards. After waiting in the rain for an hour (of course under an umbrella), a guard walked out and announced that they were canceling the changing of the guards, so we didn’t see it. After walking around the city for a few hours, we then had plans to go to our friend’s condo. We then continued our walk to their place which is by the Albert Bridge they live on the water with a great view of the Bridge. We decided to go to The Ivy for dinner.
September 15, 2013
Today we decided to take a walk to Harrods and do some shopping. I have never seen a department store quite like this one. It was great it had a restaurant in it and a shrine dedicated to Princess Diana. Around 2 pm our friends picked us up to get a bite to eat since they had purchased tickets to a show at The Savoy. The show was called “Let it be” It was a Beatles cover band. The show was amazing they sounded and looked just like a young version of them. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and we had to say goodbye to our beloved friends and go back to the hotel to pack and get ready for our flight the next morning.