Prayers to all that are ill, especially those who are fighting this ugly, ugly virus.
As I sit mostly at home these days - wrestling with many bouts of deja vu - I decided to review some of my blog posts for October 14 so that I could bathe myself in the truly golden memories of trips past.
So ... I am re - posting here my October 14 entry from my 2014 “Slow Boat to China” on the Amsterdam. I hope I do not bore you.
Slow Boat to China - Day 22 - October 14
Our second day in Beijing. Awoke to a sunny but rather crisp 48 degrees that warmed into the sixties. Hazes still sit over the port and port city - industrial smog is what we expect it is.
Again, nothing too spectacular for us today as we will be in Beijing again on our tour starting on Sunday.
I realized that I forgot to mention one tidbit about South Korea. A couple of days before we arrived they celebrated the festival of "Alphabet Day" which commemorates the creation of the Korean alphabet. Before that time some centuries ago they had to use either the Chinese or Japanese alphabets for written communication - the advent of their own alphabet is still celebrated today and I think that is wonderful.
Yesterday we took a poll from folks that had ventured out on the ship's shuttle - some saying go do it - others saying it is not worth the trip at all - (and added to that the encouragement of fellow cruise critic members) and decided to venture forth from the ship. Turns out, as we see it, both camps are right.
The thirty minute shuttle ride left from our dock in Xingang to a mall in Tianjin. The port itself is a large, modern, industrial port full of container and cargo ships. Between there and here the roads and the landscape are totally, totally flat - we understand that much of this ground is reclaimed from the ocean which brings up the basic question of where all the fill to reclaim such a large area came from? The roads are well paved and wide (three to four lanes each way) but there is not a lot of traffic. I was trying to see what type of cars are driven here and there were not that many cars to look at. Most were Toyota or Lexus, but there were also some Nissan and others that I could not identify mixed in.
The streets are surrounded by green belts down the middle and on the sides. Lots of trees beginning to change colors from green to yellow and dark red. The first part of the half hour trip we passed by huge yards full of containers and scrubby flat land including a whole area engineered to be salt flats that were covered in white salt crystals. Farther down the road are many office buildings - electronics and other firms - not heavy industry. New shiny buildings reminiscent of suburban U.S. office parks.
The office parks morphed into residential areas that did not have houses, or even small apartment complexes - they had groups of modern looking high rises that tower thirty to forty some stories up (I actually counted to make sure I was right about how tall they are). There may be three or six or eight of these buildings clustered together surrounded by a green belt.
The mall itself is located across the road from one such set of buildings. Inside the mall we found high end clothing shops, and restaurants including McDonalds, Subway, KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks as well as many local places to dine. Several of the restaurants were "hot pot" style where each table has a pot of hot boiling broth to which they add meat, vegetables, noodles, etc. then fish out and eat the cooked food.
What we found as the star of the show was the other area of the mall, a big box store that included electronics, housewares, clothing, etc and a large supermarket. I enjoyed wandering the aisles (which were labeled in both Chinese and English) looking at the food available for purchase. The produce section has all manner of both familiar and unfamiliar fruits and vegetables. Some exotic ones that I remember from our last trip like dragon fruit as well as many more. One particular fruit came in large melon like spheres but on the outside it had large pointed knobs. One of them had been split open to show shoppers their insides - and then the store had left large padded gloves to use in case you wish to purchase one.
The aisles were marked with titles such as "puffed food" and "roll paper" - my personal favorite item - the bottle of cleaning solution with the drawing of a large, muscular Asian man labeled "Mr. Muscle" - the only English on the label.
There was also a section of fresh fish consisting of the more common iced dead fish that we are used to as well as the live shellfish and a couple of aquariums full of live fish. The meats were displayed in open coolers in large hunks - unfamiliar cuts - and, maybe, butchered to order? There was one open freezer full of frozen, unwrapped, chicken legs.
I found myself wondering - if I had to live in Beijing could I learn how to shop here or would I starve? I was surprised at the amount of English in the labels - but when it came down to it most everything was in Chinese. For instance, the melons would display a number for price and below that was Chinese - so is the price for the melon or per kilogram? I would probably starve.
I am reminded of the time when we were in France many years ago (DH and I have no knowledge of French) and I stopped in a market to buy laundry detergent. It was only after completing several loads of family wash that I realized that I had just laundered all of our things in fabric softener.
Upon returning to the ship we learned that if you went through the mall to the right place at the rear there was a fascinating flea market. Oh, well - that will have to wait until our next trip to China.
In Japan we had to have our passports on our persons the whole trip. Here in China we are required to carry a Xerox copy of our passport I.D. page upon which the authorities have placed a red stamp the means that we were admitted and cleared. Each time on and off the ship that paper is examined. On our last stop in Shanghai these papers will need to be returned to the Chinese.
And for those of you who are interested - since Incheon we have begun, again, to receive the standard gold wrapped square chocolates that are the current HAL standard - still getting the Seattle chocolates on formal nights. I have to confess, however, that my preference is for the Hershey's kisses over the HAL chocolates, then the Seattle Chocolates (especially the ones that are dark chocolates) over the Hershey's kisses. Sorry HAL. But, then again, who am I to criticize a free chocolate? I am happy with anything.
Tonight we sail towards Qingdao.