A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

March 16 - BANGKOK/LAEM CHABANG, THAILAND

sunny 88 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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We left the Serenity in the Port of Laem Chabang for the two-hour bus ride into Bangkok. Our Chao Phraya River cruise would be in boats similar to these.

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Bangkok is Thailand's capital, home to over 11 million people. We were excited to get a first-hand look at this bit - life along the river.

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Klongs (river canals) run throughout the city.

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The river is lined with temples, shrines and high-rises.

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The main river is an avenue of commerce, travel and tourism. They call these "speedy boats". If you sit in the back, you will get wet! (I know!)

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Our tour boats traveled the same route.

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A stop along the river was at the Temple of Dawn, obviously undergoing extensive restoration.

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Inlaid porcelain, unending

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We climbed the prang (tower) as high as allowed. Those were really steep stairs!

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Buddhist monks and international visitors mix

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After this exciting look into Bangkok's life along the river we enjoyed a brief panoramic bus tour of the city.

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And, oh yes, a delicious Thai buffet at the amazing Peninsula Hotel - just look at my dessert plate.

Posted by Swenigale 22:35 Archived in Thailand

March 17 - SIHANOUKVILLE, CAMBODIA

sunny 87 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Just a one day visit to Cambodia - what to do? Join the line of golden monks at Wat Krom?

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Have your shoes removed by a little boy so you can enter the temple with respect?

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We did that, and more in "Panoramic Sihanoukville". Built in 1963, this site was destroyed during the reign of Pol Pot. Local people have restored it.

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Monk laundry

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Traffic was not too heavy as we crossed back to our buses.

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A visit to an extended family's home in a nearby village

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And a chance to visit a local primary school

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Kids going home after morning school

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Next class

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Walking through the newly constructed and largest traditional market in town - you can buy everything, from food..

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..to shoes

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And have lunch, too.

Posted by Swenigale 04:25 Archived in Cambodia

March 19 - HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM

sunny 94 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Independent exploration is possible in many of the countries we visit since Crystal frequently provides a shuttle service. An hour'’s drive from the port and here we are in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, about to walk past the beautiful Hôtel de Ville.

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We have had two memorable visits to this thriving city-– in 2009 and 2014. Our visit today would be all about shopping. Here is the huge Ben Thanh Market, where we arrived apparently at lunch time.

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Our new friends :) have a tailor shop inside the market and, measurements taken, promised to whip up a suit and shirts for Ed overnight!

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Fellow travelers had clued us in to good prices for new prescription eye glasses, as well!

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Always ready to cool off from the heat and humidity – why not in a bier garden?!

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Price for our snack/lunch? Just $229,000 Dong – or about $12.00!

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The Crystal Shuttle parked across from The Saigon Opera House (Ho Chi Minh City is the official name, but locals still call it Saigon).

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The things one can see with a good camera zoom!

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This morning we had sailed up the winding Saigon River and would cross its tributaries a few times in the shuttle as we headed back to the port.

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Evening entertainment on the Serenity is varied and always excellent. Tonight a local group showcased traditional Vietnamese musical instruments and dance.

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Posted by Swenigale 17:55 Archived in Vietnam

March 21 - HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM

sunny 94 °F

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Our cameras took a rest on Palm Sunday. Monday morning, we took an early shuttle back into the city to pick-up our glasses and see how the tailor did.

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Street scenes on the way in ..

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We went way up in the Bitexco Financial Tower back in 2014.

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All our purchases retrieved (how do they accomplish so much in so little time?) - a last view of the Opera House.

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A popular place for a photo shoot

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Did you get it?

Posted by Swenigale 21:15 Archived in Vietnam

March 23 - CHAN MAY, VIETNAM

sunny 79 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Marble Mountain (one of five formations) is near Da Nang and China Beach.

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Marble figures for sale - get you a good price - shipping included!

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A nine-hour tour today with multiple stops also included Da Nang's Cham Museum. There we saw sculptures by the Cham people from the 4th through the 14th century! We also visited the ancient riverside town of Hoi An and I decided to focus this post on it. This is the Japanese covered bridge in Hoi An, built in 1593 - with Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese characteristics.

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The town is a UNESCO World Heritage site with streets that have remained largely unchanged over centuries.

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Hoi An was once an important trading post in Southeast Asia. Commercial fairs 4 to 6 months long included traders from Japan, China and the Netherlands. Here is the market today.

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Ed said this butcher was flailing away - and she got him with a little piece of flying meat!

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Counting her Dong

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Street scenes - the town is like a living museum!

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Our three stops in this long, thin country of Vietnam are in the south, the middle (today), and the north.

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Traditional arts

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And foods

Posted by Swenigale 04:15 Archived in Vietnam

March 24 - HONGAI, VIETNAM

rain 65 °F

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What a difference a day makes, even traveling at just 20 or so knots per hour! North Vietnam is markedly cooler than the rest of the country. We arrived in the port of Hongai, where we will anchor for the day. Cargo ships wait in the bay to be loaded from smaller ships.

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The limestone karst formations must present a navigating challenge!

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Actually, the rocks and islands have functioned in the past as natural barriers against invaders. Can’t keep the tourists out, though!

See the sun? It went into hiding the rest of today.

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Looks like they unloaded the front end first.

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The legend is that when the ancients here were fighting invaders the gods sent a family of dragons to protect the people. The dragons spit out jewels and jade which turned into islands and islets upon hitting the sea, thus protecting the people.

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The city has become quite developed. Many of our guests took tours to Hanoi today, a 3 ½ hours bus ride away.

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But many of us stayed in Ha Long Bay – and boarded these boats right from our ship to sail out among the rock formations.

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Rains kept most of us inside on the covered deck.

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Comfy – and, what do you know, shopping opportunities!

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Lots of boats out here – and only a few near misses!

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Many of the rocks have been given names – here we have the “Thumb”.

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Buy my bananas? She pulled up to the boat and opened our window!

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Some transportation is a bit more casual.

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The symbol of Ha Long Bay: Kissing Chickens. And so we say good-bye to Vietnam, and on we go- to Hong Kong.

Posted by Swenigale 19:25 Archived in Vietnam

March 26-27 - HONG KONG, SAR, CHINA

sunny 65 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Happy Easter from Hong Kong!

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On Saturday morning we docked in the best spot – close to the Star Ferry terminal, other transportation, and all the shopping you could possibly want. Hong Kong is Asia’s “World City”, a blending of Cantonese Chinese and British influence, and it is a shopping mecca!

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Everyone shops here – including me and Hästa!

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Shopping malls have Easter egg decorating for kids. The streets and stores were teeming with shoppers this big holiday weekend.

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Saturday evening we watched the “World’s Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show” (A Guinness World Record holder). We stood on the top deck of Serenity and this is the view across the harbor to Hong Kong Island.

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We have heard that the population may be 40% Christian and it was great seeing this greeting flashing across the harbor!

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The same sentiment in Cantonese, I assume!

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Easter morning our Ecumenical Sunrise Service was at 7am in Palm Court on the ship (remember – Hong Kong is 12 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time – so this was your Saturday evening back home) – joyfully attended by Crystal’s early risers! After the service we traveled with friends to their home church, St. John’s Anglican Cathedral on Hong Kong Island.

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At the 9am service we enjoyed their outstanding choir and organist. A wonderful community of believers made a joyful sound (and this service was all in English).

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After church Ed and I wandered back down to the shore with no commitments until the afternoon Protestant Service onboard. So – let’s ride the new Ferris Wheel!

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Looking over Hong Kong harbor to Kowloon side (which is attached to the New Territory and to China mainland) we can see our ship “bunkering”, or fueling up, for the days ahead.

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My birthday boy enjoys his dim sum and his big cup of noodles before our ferry ride :)

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A Christian youth choir sang about Jesus and Easter to all who would listen. Returning to our Crystal ship, we led the 5pm Easter service, with volunteers singing the anthem, “Easter Morn”. What a marvelous Easter Day! And a very special birthday for my one and only!

Posted by Swenigale 20:45 Archived in Hong Kong

March 28 - XIAMEN, CHINA

sunny 65 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Our brief panoramic tour of this southeast China port city began in Bailuzhou Park.

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The park is a favorite place for locals to relax. The Egret Goddess statue is a symbol of the city.

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Xiamen is a tourist resort with a mild sub-tropical climate and beautiful beaches.

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Scenes seen from the bus…

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Another photo stop – looking across the strait to the island of Jinmen, a possession of Taiwan -

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And a bite to eat.

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Opened to tourists since 1980, Xiamen is now home to 3 ½ million (see the USA cap?).

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A pedestrian shopping street was our final stop.

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Posted by Swenigale 22:45 Archived in China

March 30-31 - SHANGHAI, CHINA

overcast 58 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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We are in Shanghai for two full days and the ship is docked an hour's drive from the city in the Yangtze River. The Huangpu River flows through the city, a city that measures 2,300 square miles!

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Shanghai Opera House - seen from our tour bus. Amazing economic development starting in the 1990's has transformed the city into a major financial center and the busiest container port in the world.

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As our ship has traveled north air and sea temperatures have become more similar to Springtime in New England. It is the Spring flower festival season in Shanghai and the bare branches of the sycamore trees will soon be leafing out.

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Looking out from the 88th floor observation deck of the Jin Mao Tower this is the view someone got on a clear day .

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..this was our view - still mighty impressive!

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Our day and Segment Four drew to a close. We were entertained back on the ship by a troupe of Shanghainese acrobats - remember those plate guys from the Ed Sullivan Show? Do you remember the Ed Sullivan Show???

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Our second day in Shanghai marked the start of the Fifth Segment, "Oriental Odyssey". Our itinerary has been altered somewhat - we leave tonight for Beijing, instead of tomorrow night.

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We came back to the city mid-morning and found that the tops of the tall towers on the Pudong side had disappeared!

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Rain and drizzle accompanied us as we strolled the length of the Bund, the riverside boulevard lined with art deco-styled buildings from Shanghai's colonial past.

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Some form of capitalism is definitely going on here.

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The Tourist Mart and the Old City Bazaar were part of our destination today. The showers had gone away and we poked around the many shops - and watched all the Asian tourists and their selfie sticks!

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This "snuff bottle" artist is amazing! With the tiniest hooked brush he paints the insides of these bottles! He even added our names inside while we watched.

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Time to eat - something fried!

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Near the market is Yu Yuan Gardens, the 400-year-old classical garden with elements of the Ming and Qing dynasties. We spent some lovely time there and have many more great pictures, trust me!

Posted by Swenigale 23:55 Archived in China

April 3 - BEIJING / TIANJIN, CHINA

sunny 70 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

Day 1

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What an incredible opportunity! This segment of the world cruise includes an all-inclusive 3 day, 2 night visit to the must-see sights of Beijing! And we had the honor of serving as Crystal escorts!

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The first day was on a Sunday, with an early China immigration clearance and departure from the ship, which was docked a 2 to 3-hour drive from Beijing, in the port of Tianjin. We held Sunday services late Saturday afternoon, since most of the guests would be on the tour. Let me stop myself here - in order to actually get some pictures up, I'm going to leave out lots of details and descriptions (e.g. the excellent meals, the great tour organization, all the historical facts and stories recited by our guide - and my ramblings - hmmm, too late!).

This is the Summer Palace, said to be the best preserved imperial garden in the world.

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Really? Chinese food - in China!

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Stopping by the 2008 Beijing Olympic Park

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Here we have almost arrived at our hotel for two nights which is very near this interesting TV and Communications building.

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The elegant China World Hotel, wow!

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Posted by Swenigale 00:15 Archived in China

April 4 - BEIJING, CHINA

sunny 70 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

Day 2

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The Great Wall of China! I can't believe we are here! This is a section of the wall at the Juyongguan Pass - reconstructed and maintained, apparently, for tourism.

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We would have liked to have stayed longer on this beautiful day, but - moving on -

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In the center of Beijing we walked through this square - several Mahjong games were going on -

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a ride in a Rickshaw

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through the narrow Hutong, the old streets.

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Oh, Oh

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That evening at Tiananmen Square - a special banquet for Crystal Cruises in the Great Hall of the People!

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An orchestra played and opera singers performed -

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Kids waited their turn to entertain

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The perfectly trained wait staff assumed their positions to clear once all the guests were on their way. Well done!

Posted by Swenigale 16:25 Archived in China

April 5 - BEIJING, CHINA

sunny 68 °F

Day 3

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It’s the start of our third day in Beijing and looking out from our hotel in the morning it appears their smog is returning. We were fortunate to be here during a big holiday: The Sweeping of the Tombs. Someone told us the factories were closed for the holidays and traffic was very light by local standards. We certainly appreciated the clear skies!

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Packing up and moving out for additional exciting adventures, here’s one last look at some of the amazing art in the lobby of the China World hotel. Call this one, “Hästa meets a Carp”.:)

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A brief morning visit to Tiananmen Square

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Keeping things tidy

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Yes, we’re really here!

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And…on to the Forbidden City, the Imperial Palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty, 1420 to 1912.

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No longer forbidden, since the lifting of the Bamboo Curtain.

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This way to the Palaces of Eternal Longevity, Mental Cultivation, and Earthly Honor.

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The Imperial Garden

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No climb here

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Just to prove these are not pictures from a guidebook – yes, we were there! From the Forbidden City we traveled to the Grand Hotel Beijing for yet another elegant meal before returning to the port and our beautiful Crystal Serenity.

Posted by Swenigale 02:35 Archived in China

April 7 – INCHEON / SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA

sunny 70 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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We both escorted tours into Seoul, from the port city of Incheon. Ed’s group went to World Heritage sites: Hwaseong Fortress and Changdeokgung Palace. This bulls-eye? Ed’s arrow in the Korean traditional bow and arrow range at the Fortress.

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The palace visit – many beautiful traditional buildings

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I crossed the Han River in Seoul as my tour came into the city.

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In the National Museum, a ten story pagoda from 1348

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The North Seoul Tower

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View from the observation area

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Viewing platforms

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Bathroom with a view!

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Korean barbecue lunch in the tower

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My final stop -Bukchon Traditional Village

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The houses are examples of traditional “hanok”. The wooden figures are “Kokdu”.

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A Dragon Head plank – which would be placed at the front and back of a bier to protect the “traveler”

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WE ARE HAVING GREAT difficulty in getting an internet connection and posting to the blog because of Japanese regulations.

Posted by Swenigale 02:59 Archived in South Korea

April 8 – JEJU ISLAND, SOUTH KOREA

sunny 69 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Diorama of the women divers of Jeju Island in their Folklore and Natural History Museum. The women free dive 60 feet down to harvest shell fish and seaweed. The tradition is still practiced, though it is dying out.

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I’m guessing these modern women of Jeju will not be following that tradition.

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Jeju Island is the largest island off the coast of the Korean peninsula in the Korea Strait. Recently, it was named one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.

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Dragon Pond where the sea meets fresh water

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Yongduan Rock, the Dragon Head

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Coffee break

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A view from the motor coach – fallen blossoms carpet the sidewalks in pink.

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Hallin Park is one of their most popular spots, established on barren land in 1971. It is the only place in the world where a lava cave and a limestone cave are joined together.

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This is a “grandfather”. Carved of volcanic rock, these statues are everywhere. They guard entrances to homes and cities, watching over the Jeju islanders.
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A visit to Dongmun Fish Market….
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……where you can buy so much more

Posted by Swenigale 06:09 Archived in South Korea

April 9 – BUSAN (PUSAN), SOUTH KOREA

sunny 69 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Welcome to Busan! We have sailed to the opposite end of South Korea from Seoul, the southeastern tip.

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With a population of almost 4 million, Busan is South Korea’s 2nd largest city. It is located at the mouth of the Naktong River.

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We are on our way to the mountaintop Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

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People place little figures among the rocks to keep Buddha company.

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Drying seaweed

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On our way to the Nurimaru APEC House

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This was the venue for the 2005 summit of the 21 Pacific Rim countries, called member economies.

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Lunch – Korean BBQ – what else?

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Or, Mickey D delivery?

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A brief visit to Busan Tower with its Dragon guard

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And then to the International Market place – a good place to buy socks!

Posted by Swenigale 06:41 Archived in South Korea

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