2009 World Cruise – One of the reasons John and I decided to do the world cruise 8 years ago was the itinerary. We had the opportunity to visit so many places, some of which we knew we would never plan a holiday to go to. For whatever reason neither John nor I had a desire to go to China or Southeast Asian countries. No I idea why really, the area has just never been one we would take time and spend money to go visit.
The world cruise took us to Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. We spent a full day in each place (longer in China and two days in Singapore) and got a taste of the East. We discovered that we loved Singapore and we really liked our stops in China. So, the idea of going by cruise ship and stopping here and there for a day or two, rather than book two or three weeks to go somewhere you are not sure you really want to visit turned out to be a good choice for us.
We were four days at sea after leaving Semarang, Indonesia. The first day out we crossed the equator again. We will cross the equator four times altogether on this voyage. The first time was the Golden Line crossing between Hawai’i and Vanauatu where we crossed the equator at the International Date Line, and now we crossed it once again on our way through the China Sea.It is tradition on ships (all kinds of ships – from navy to fishing boats) to have an initiation ceremony for anyone who crosses the equator for the first time. The ceremony confers on all ‘polliwogs’ the Order of the Shellback when they receive permission from King Neptune to cross his waters. All crew members who had never before crossed the equator were brought out to the pool where a very funny initiation ceremony took place. A ‘judge’ would read the charges, King Neptune and his mermaid consort would pronounce sentence – either innocent (the newbie got to sit on a bench poolside) or guilty (whereupon the crew member would be covered in foam by the ‘medical team’ and have to jump in the pool). All the crew polliwogs were required to ‘kiss the fish’ and guests who wished to do so could as well. It was quite fun and all guests received honorary certificates that give us safe passage from that day forward.
Then it was a few relaxing days at sea on the way to Hong Kong. When we arrived it was a cloudy, drizzly day and the weather did not improve much. The ship was to stay in Hong Kong for two days, then sail two days to Shanghai and stay there for two days. We only spent one day in Hong Kong and then we flew to mainland China for an overland excursion before flying to Shanghai at the end of the ship’s first day in port. This left us a full day to see some of the sights of Shanghai.
We got up early and went out on deck to watch the sail-in. Despite the cloudy conditions it was nice to pass along the shoreline of the city. Hong Kong covers an area of 244 sq. miles plus another 707 sq miles on the mainland and some islands. Over 7 million people make their home here so it is very densely populated. Our 8-hour tour was called The Best of Hong Kong and we were on the go all day.
First stop was the Bird Park. Because of the large population very few people keep dogs or cats as pets. The preferred pet, especially for the elderly, is a bird. Every morning the men bring their birds to the bird park where they can enjoy the outdoors and sing. (Our guide told us that while the men are out of the house, the women do the cleaning and laundry and such and when the men return in the afternoon and have a nap the women gather to gossip and play Mahjong.) At the Bird Park there are shops where you can buy birds, cages, dishes, seeds and live insects for your bird. Next we visited Flower Market Street (which really is an entire street with shop beside shop beside shop of flowers). And we made a quick tour through the Fruit, Vegetable and Fish Market. The people like fresh food so most of them shop twice a day for their meal ingredients.
I loved the reflection of this building on the other building.
We rode the funicular tram to the top of Victoria Peak where there is usually a panoramic view of the city of Hong Kong and the Kowloon Peninsula. Unfortunately most of our view was obscured by the clouds.
We had lunch at Café Deco atop Victoria Peak then went down the south side of Hong Kong Island for a trip to the Boat Village in the harbour.
Entire generations of families have lived in these boats anchored in Hong Kong Harbour. Most of the young people have no desire to continue the lifestyle so the government is supplying subsidized housing to move the older residents to a better place. It was quite interesting to see these small, semi-ramshackle boats at the base of the modern high rise apartments just across the water. We made the requisite shopping stop at the famous Stanley Market where you can literally buy anything and enjoy haggling over the price.
When you have that many people in that small a space burial grounds become very crowded.We returned to the ship just in time for dinner and then went out on deck to watch the laser light/music show that plays for 15-minutes every evening at 8 pm.
What a full and fabulous day to complete the first half of our voyage!