Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cruising in Asia

After 3 1/2 weeks of travel in Asia we are happily home. It was wonderful to get time away from the building project and we are eager now to get the last quarter finished.

Shanghai amazed us. Even though you read about the growth, there's nothing like actually being immersed in the energy and the throngs of people for a thrilling experience. The city skyline is breathtaking, particularly at night. Construction is underway everywhere, some of it the regular growth but on top of that, they are preparing for Expo 2010 and the riverfront area is under construction. What a change from a decade ago when I visited with Eilleen! I remember her commenting to me that she felt like we were in a global race and we didn't even have our feet in the starting blocks. How right she was. Fallbrook has hardly changed in that decade...even Temecula which was the fastest growing city in the US circa 2002, has constructed little in comparison to the growth in even the smaller cities in China. Real estate values have sky-rocketed predictably although how one owns property there is a mystery to me.

The cruise was an interesting experience - better than the Princess cruise around South America last year. The ship was older and well worn - not as dazzling as the Princess, but the atmosphere was far more interesting because there were people on board from all over the globe. We had expected most of the passengers to be Asian, but surprisingly they were mostly European, with a good smattering of South Americans and a handful of Americans. Luckily we were assigned a dinner table with a delightful couple from Minneapolis and another nice pair of Cubans from Florida. The Cubans didn't speak much English - you can survive quite nicely in Miami speaking only Spanish and the husband spoke literally no English after 30 years of residence in the US. Bill and Judy the Minnesotans had great stories to tell and regaled us nightly with hilarious tales of adventure growing up on dairy farms, vacationing near Kenora and of their part-time lives in a mobile home park in Fort Meyers, Florida. We met several other nice people and toured extensively with a British couple, Karen and Maurice. The food was pretty average but beautifully served. They offered a very nice high tea two or three times during the cruise - this was nicely done. There was plenty of entertainment in the lounges, for dancing and the big show every night in the theatre. As usual, the lectures were weak, but one on the Samurai was very good. I participated in two craft classes that were just plain fun because of the Italian craft master who spoke only Italian and conducted the classes in sign language and universal sounds of appreciation - sighs, oooohs and aaaaahs. He brazenly elicited these reactions to everything he did, no matter how small or silly. The result was generally hilarious and all attendees - Asian, European and America enjoyed the experience together.

The ports were all interesting - we enjoyed Nagasaki and Kobe the most. The cruise was supposed to be restful but it was so activity filled that we rested little. In port most days, we'd bolt off the ship as early as possible and either walk or chase around all day. Highlights were the Atom Bomb museum in Nagasaki, Tokyo Tower in Tokyo, H Castle near Kobe (and the ride on the trains), ERA performance in Shanghai and the laser show in Hong Kong.

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