March 24, 2011

Travelogues 1.1

Today we go to China!

We haven't been to Hong Kong since 1990, years before the British lost their lease, and years before digital cameras.  We had a blast there the first time, but all our pictures are in albums, in storage, in Houston.  So you just get the short version here.

But at least it's current.

The good news is, Hong Kong is actually in better shape now than it was twenty years ago.  Even the commies know a good thing when they get it back, and the harbor is cleaner, the shantytowns less shanty, and capitalism is alive and well on the streets of Hong Kong.

Unfortunately for us, the day started with a thick fog that didn't really get any better even in the 'heat' of the day (never got above 60), so apologies for the less than stunning shots of the skyline...

As soon as the boat docked, we got on the tram to Victoria peak, something we had neglected to do in our 30s, disdaining it as "too touristy".  Now we had a chance to redo that decision and this is our view...

Oh well.  That was our penance I guess.  But the tram was a hoot.  Like a funicular but they call it something Chinese.

The floor of the tram has small speed bumps angled into it so the conductor can walk when you are at a steep angle.  It's pretty funny, but hard to get a shot with perspective, so use your imagination.

We took a bus down the hill, and got a shot of this cemetery on the way...

Space is so limited in the city, I'm amazed that this is even here.  But wow, have they packed them in!

Once we got back down to harbor level, we got on a sampan to check out Aberdeen (part of the harbor with lots of houseboats).  This is what the sampan looked like...

And this is the view once we were on board...

And this is a little piece of Hong Kong's Aberdeen...

...which is so very different from 20 years ago.  In 1990 it had 10 times this many boats, the water was brown and filthy (the kind of filth that makes you look up your last tetanus shot) and the smell was overpowering.

Now it's like a free form marina, and you can see for yourselves that the water is remarkably clean and clear.

I don't know what happened, although I'm pretty sure it involved "voluntary" relocation for a pantload of people but I give the Chinese credit for cleaning up the water- it's truly amazing.

Once back on dry land, we wandered the streets of Kowloon, visiting some places we enjoyed last time, and sitting in the park watching people.

A typical Kowloon street scene....

When we got back to the ship, we got a bottle of wine and went up to sit on the small balcony in our stateroom. (I absolutely recommend this if you take a ship trip.  Being able to open a door and step outside anytime of the day or night when sailing is really REALLY good.  Trust me on this.)

Our side of the ship was the side tied to the dock, so we knew we would be able to sit there, drinking wine in our jammie clothes, and mock the people who were late returning to the ship.

We were not disappointed.

No less than 10 people showed up after the "all aboard" time, accompanied by our hoots of "Fail!", as they made the walk of shame onto the gangway.  We were seven stories up so they couldn't hear us, but it was good immature fun anyway.

Best part: we found out (from the horse's mouth because she was sitting behind us whining to someone at breakfast two days later) that one woman missed the boat completely and was met with an empty dock when she finally arrived and she had to find her own way through China to the ship at its next port.  EPIC FAIL!

2000 other people made it, including the 10 slackers who were 15 to 30 minutes late, so we didn't really have much sympathy for her.

In between heckling the latecomers, we watched the people who gathered on the parking garage roof directly across from where the ship was tied up.  There weren't many, but one pair was a man and his little boy.

The boy was very excited to be so close to the big ship and ran happily along the length of the parking garage stopping every few feet to stand on the rail and gaze at the ship.

When he got to us and realized there were real live people on the ship he almost had a stroke and started waving like mad.

When we waved back, he fell backward off the railing and had to jump back up to continue waving to us and yelling to his Dad in Chinese to come and see.

After a minute, he stopped waving, took a deep breath, and in very clear English yelled:


I yelled back, "Shanghai!" and he started waving all over again.  He and his Dad stayed another 20 minutes until the ship pulled away from the dock.

That was our happy Bon Voyage from Hong Kong.

Next stop was Xiamen China.  We didn't even get off the boat.

Nothing there interested us in the least, and our shipmates confirmed for us at the end of the day that it was basically just a good place to stop the ship for a while, but hardly qualified as a "port of call".

The most interesting thing there was this boat, apparently come to rest for good, given that it was there for the entire cycle of high and low tides.

In any case, we were soon enough back at sea, following the coastline north to Shanghai.  We assume we were following the coastline because there were always little boats in the water to our port side.  Much littler than we would ever have wanted to be out in the open ocean in.

This one guy, nicknamed Crazy Boat, came close enough to the ship to get himself honked with that big old bass horn that ships have.  Crazy was a charitable nickname.

If he was trying to defect, he needed to find a ship that wasn't on its way to a Chinese port... d'oh!

Meanwhile, we were cozy in our cabin.  Here's my scale model, showing how to enjoy shipboard life while he reads trashy magazines and drinks Coca-cola (with chinese characters on one side of the label). 

The next morning, at sea, we got up, looked out the balcony door and saw this:

I kid you not.  You could not see the horizon.  You could not see anything.  And it was 58 degrees outside.

What, you may ask, does one do now?

I have two words for you:    

 HOT.     TUB.

Ted and I skedaddled to the pool deck which was empty of all living souls, the rest of our shipmates being huddled in various warmer parts of the ship.

All the better!

We staked our claim to one of the four hot tubs on deck and sailed our way to Shanghai.   The captain was blowing his fog horn every ninety seconds when we got in the hot tub.  By the time we were all pruny and ready for lunch he was blowing it every thirty seconds.

I felt us bang into and run over a small fishing boat, but Ted says we didn't.


After lunch, we got right back in the hot tub and sailed some more until other people figured out how smart we were and started getting in the other hot tubs.

By dinner time, this was the view from our cabin...

Next stop, Shanghai!

1 comment:

Barbara said...

Love seeing China through your eyes. And I couldn't imagine a better send off than the one you got from that little boy! My kids would have been so blase. ;-)

Can't wait for Shanghai!