Saturday, March 19, 2011

BALI - BEIJING 3/8 – 3/20/11

Manila: American Cemetery surrounded by high rise condos
This was our first time in the Philippines which consist of over 7,000 islands.  We were there for 2 days, so we were able to take 2 different tours.  One showed us modern Manila and the other Old Manila.  The Philippines are highly populated with 5 babies born every minute.  Salaries are low, and billions come into the country from the 10 million Philippinos who work abroad.  Slums were anticipated; what I was not expecting to see were so many modern high rise condos selling for one million dollars and more.  It is indeed a city of contrasts: the very rich and the very poor.  

The horrific earthquake and tsunami hit Japan 
Chang Kai-Shek Memorial Taiwan
while we were in Manila.  Though our departure was slightly delayed, we suffered no effects and soon continued on to Taiwan.  Though the shipboard lecturer suggested that mainland China and Taiwan are living in peaceful harmony, our tour guide for the day in Taipei had no hesitation in saying the two are enemies.  Actually, both perspectives seem to be true at the moment.  Taiwan is very proud of its independence and seems to be thriving, in part due to trade with China that is benefitting both.  Nevertheless, the mainland has 21 missiles pointed at Taiwan.   We visited their museum, famous for holding precious artifacts Chang Kai-shek brought to Taiwan when and he and his followers fled the mainland and Communist forces.  His memorial is a breathtaking structure.  The religious practices of the Taiwanese people are influenced by  Tao, Confucius, Buddhism and Christianity.  The temples are colorful structures overflowing with offerings of fruits and flowers to various gods.  We were overwhelmed with the variety of food offered at the buffet lunch at the Grand Hotel.  Fish, chicken, pork, dim sum, noodles, sushi and more.  Much as everyone enjoyed sampling the many dishes, the biggest line was at the Haagen Das ice cream freezer.   
Folk Village depicting 19th century life in Korea
Cooler weather does not quite describe the drastic change in climate that greeted us in Inchon, South Korea the morning of March 18th.   The temperature reached freezing in the early hours but the sun was out and the day warmed up progressively during our 8 hour tour. We visited a Folk Village that depicted life in 19th century Korea.  It was very well done and included a traditional Korean lunch.  Then we stopped at the massive street market in Seoul, a bustling city of 12 million people.  

For all the wonderful sights and experiences of travel, the most fulfilling aspect of it is meeting interesting people, making new friends.  We have been so fortunate on this trip.  The staff and crew of the Voyager are like family.  Of the
Captain Mario and his adorable wife Mariana
approximately 100 world cruisers, many are successful entrepreneurs who are making the most of early retirement.  10 world cruise couples -- at least half of each being Irish -- had a cocktail party in one couple’s suite on St. Patrick’s Day.  Everyone had to share something Irish.  The hit of the evening was from our host.  He had put the faces of the girls (and I use the term lightly) on a video clip of women dancing the Irish jig.  The laughter and great conversation continued at dinner in the dining room where the 5 men sat together at one table and the 5 'girls' at another.  It was great fun.  Now it is on to Beijing and more cold weather.