17th March 2017
One of the highlights of this cruise for us was to be a visit to Shanghai, a city I'd last been to in 1984 whilst on a business trip and all I really remembered was that there were few if any cars but lots of bicycles. Anyway enough of that ; so to resume this travel blog I can announce that little Passepartou and I have now traversed the oceans in excess of 25000 miles. Actually with all the enforced sea day perambulations I feel I've probably walked most of it!
On yet another rainy day when I began writing this chapter, we were between China and the east coast of Vietnam having visited South Korea, mainland China and Hong Kong.
Careering around in Korea
Not being terribly fluent in Korean or indeed being able to read any Korean script, like all good tourists of advancing years an organised tour seemed the safe option and for us one that would take in lands beyond the city of Busan where Arcadia had docked.
The advertised tour would take us to an ancient Buddhist monastery, then some other site of note in Gyeongju, a bus trip of around two hours.
This would be followed by a brief tour of Busan highlights before returning to our floating home. All very interesting , but for me, having got up at another unearthly hour, most of what the tour guide explained failed to register. ( actually I always remember my school reports saying .."Trevor should pay more attention " )
Mrs Mop Strikes Back
One thing though I did learn in Korea however, was to be more careful when photographing local life. Whilst at the fish market trying surreptitiously to get a photo of a fishmongers and the peculiar wares, I seemed to have upset the proprietress . I think she thought I was taking a picture of her in her glamorous dress. Brandishing a soggy mop at me, she lunged towards me yelling something I'm sure quite unrepeatable in Korean. Pleading with a look of innocence, carefully I sloped away ( rather quickly really) and hid amongst the other tourists as I didn't like the look or smell of that mop.
So then there was Shanghai.
Cruising down the Yangtze River in the early hours ( well for me 08:30 is early) was interesting, with an amazing number of craft in both directions, some of which seemed so low in the water you wondered if they were about to sink. This indeed is one of the busiest waterways on the planet.
The rain did not stop all day
Our tour became
- Starbucks in the old city centre
- The toilets at the TV tower ( a result of stop 1)
- Costa coffee on The Bund
We were not sorry to leave Shanghai as Arcadia made its way back down river under the guidance of the local Yangtze pilot, who's task was to ensure that we would leave the crowded waterway safely. He would then be met by the pilot launch at the point where the river meets the East China sea, returning home up river in the early hours of the morning.
Totally soaked from our day's efforts it was just a relief to change, have dinner and get an early night for we knew we'd awaken next morning safely at sea en route to Hong Kong.
It's a forty eight hour cruise from Shanghai to Hong Kong, so we were looking for a couple of days rest as the ship would glide southwards along the Chinese coast, through the Taiwan strait to our next destination. Passepartou, threw back our curtains to wake up yours truly (an annoying habit really ), only to exclaim "we are not moving". As it's sometimes not easy to tell if the ship is moving or not (not that I ever doubt the good lady you understand ) I switched on the TV for the ships information channel to see that we were in fact traveling at 0 knots. It was then she told me that she had heard a lot of clattering before she awoke.....no, this was not me snoring, but Arcadia had in fact dropped anchor.
A certain amount of curiosity plus a little doubt set in. Had the ship broken down we hypothesised? Would we be stranded for days?
In fact all was revealed around 9:30am over the ships Tannoy in a serious tone.
"This is the captain speaking with an important announcement. We have been told by the local authorities that due to poor weather, all pilotage on the Yangtze is suspended until further notice. An update will be made at 12 noon.
Unfortunately this means we have been unable to disembark our pilot. We have suggested that the pilot could travel with us and get off in Hong Kong, but the authorities have rejected this idea, so we have to stay at anchor until the weather and services resume ".
12 noon came and went with no further announcement, the mist had not lifted. One, two ,three O'clock passed, then suddenly we heard the clattering of anchor chain ,the churning of the propellers, we were on our way south. The funny thing was that we had not actually seen the pilot boat, but then again we don't always see them .
Somewhat later another announcement.
"This is the captain ladies and gentlemen. As you may have noticed we are now on our way again although the pilot is still on board. He will stay with us until Hong Kong ".
Later we heard that the master of Arcadia had become rather annoyed with the Chinese authorities so that he made the unilateral decision to set sail taking the pilot with us, His problem was that some 900 passengers needed to disembark at Hong Kong and 900 more needed to join us, time then was not on his side. His rationale would be simple.
Upset 1800 people and risk P&O having to pay rather a lot of compensation OR Upset the Chinese authorities.
So that was that; Arcadia would maintain it's schedule and P&O had kidnapped a man from Shanghai!
Many of us I know have been to Hong Kong and if you haven't all we can say is it's definitely one of the world's interesting cities, with lots to do and see, plus it's very easy to get around independently.
Obviously having been a British dependency for many years, for an anglophone, communication is not a problem. So we were brave, purchasing (eventually, when we worked it out) octopus cards. The Octopus card is like the Oyster card in London which gives you a simple way to pre pay on public transport.
Having grey hair also was an instant advantage because when we bought our cards, the ticketing clerk looked up and provided us with the senior citizen version of the card, this meant that each journey, no matter how far, on bus, train or Star ferry would only cost us HKG$ 2.....Luvvley Jubbley!
We used all transport modes over our two days in port, as well as quite a lot of "Shank's Pony". Indeed our first days trip took us to Lantau island to visit the BIG BUDDHA. Two things stay in my mind about that experience :-
Nobody speaks on the MTR(the metro), as they are all staring into smartphones. And when they are walking about with the said devices in hand, one has to be careful not to get demolished if you are in their way.
The big Buddha is very big, but he also sits at the top of ~240 steps, which is not great for us of ageing limbs ( to say nothing of us with Buddha bellies!) Shank's pony was not keen at all.