Day 14 (Part 2)

Qingdao, China – continued

After lunch, we once again boarded the bus and headed off.  This time, we stopped at a place called Little Fish Hill Park.  I’m still
not sure why they call it that.  There was a sign hung on the wall explaining it, but English translation just didn’t seem to make sense.

Once again, we were told there wasn’t a lot of time available for this stop.  However, we were encouraged to look around and explore a little.  So I did.  At the top of the hill stands a large pagoda type structure with a pretty fait amount of open ground with views of the surrounding area.

The main path up the hill was well maintained and clearly the way to the top.  What wasn’t so obvious was the trail around the backside of the park.  I was the only one wandering around in that area, as it seemed everyone else was sticking to the main area.  The park grounds are nicely maintained with numerous signs posted around to stay on the paths.  It was very tranquil with no one else around.

Of course my wanderings put me out of earshot for the announcement to head back down to the bus, so I ended up being the last one
back on board.  Soon after, we were off to our next and final “tourist-y” stop for the day:  The turn-of-the-twentieth-century German
occupying forces governor’s mansion.  Woo hoo!

I could really give a crap.  Granted, it’s a nice looking building, and I’m glad I took a few pictures.  I didn’t really care.  Maybe I was just tired from the day’s events.  One thing I did run across was a tree that seemed like member of the Birch family, but it’s bark was mottled, kinda like camoflage…

About 20 minutes later, we were herded back to the bus.  From there it was back to the ship.

Back on board, I dropped my stuff off in my cabin and headed up to the Calypso bar.  That’s where Bill
and Brenda hang out.  I had run into them earlier, after lunch when all the busses were filling up.  Their next stop was going to be the Tsingtao Brewery, because they were on the opposite direction on the tour.  I gave them some Chinese Yuan to pick up some beer for me, since it was unavailable to me this morning.  When I got up there, I discovered they had been successful, since there was a gift box type of package on the bar.  The three pints of beer cost me 10 yuan each.  That’s about $1.60 apiece.  A buck sixty a pint…  Not a bad price!

As I was slapping the hands of the people grabbing at my beer, the ship started to move.  Shortly, we were underway, and slowly moving out of the harbor.  Bill asked me if I had seen the submarines as we arrived this morning.  Submarines?  I grabbed my camera and headed to an outside upper deck to get a look.  Sure enough, there was the Chinese submarine pen at Qingdao.  I snapped a few pictures, and waved at the sailors on the last sub.  I have no idea if they saw me or someone else, but they waved back…

And then the Diamond Princess was on the way to Dalian, China.

Who needs Coca-cola???

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Day 14

Qingdao, China

Yes, I skipped Day 13.  It was the last sea day and nothing extraordinary happened.  It was a sea day much like the first six…

Today we docked in Qingdao (pronounced “ching daow”).  It was the first of three stops in China.  Today I actually went on one of
the ship organized tours and was reminded why I like to wander around on my own.  The tour went to five places:  the Tsingtao Brewery, the “Granite Castle”, the big Buddhist Temple complex, Little Fish Hill park, and the turn-of-the-century German governor’s mansion.  The brewery and the temple were great, and the Little Fish Hill had great views of the city.  The Granite castle and the governor’s mansion I could have done without.

As we gathered for ours tours this morning in our respective meeting points, I discovered there were 11 or 12 busloads of sheeple like me signed up to go out on this city tour.  That’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 of us.  I was in line to get into the meeting area just a few places behind Bill and Brenda, my friends from the poolside bar.  They got ID stickers putting them on Bus 11, but when the girl passing out said stickers found out I was by myself, she ran back to the table and got a sticker putting me on Bus 6.  So I was separated from folks I knew.  As it turned out, to keep all 500 of us from descending on each spot all at the same time, half the busses went on the assigned circuit, and the other half did the itinerary in reverse order.

Our first stop was the Tsingtao Brewery.  By the time our bus pulled up, five busloads of tourists ahd already unloaded in before us.  Luckily our tour guide, Lily, kept us all close together as we exited the bus, and our group was the third or fourth to head into the brewery compound.  In the courtyard there’s a fountain, some sculptures, and a few rusted relics of long past brewery operations.  One imaginative couple decided to try to line up their photos so the perspective had the fountain in the palm of the other’s hand.  Sheeple see, sheeple do.  Soon enough a half dozen more attempts were underway only to be spoiled by the one schmuck who decided to get a close up picture of the fountain by walking right up next to it.

After the brief stay in the courtyard, we entered the first  building which was the museum part of the tour.  The history of the brewing operations was interesting.  Some of the timeline of the walk through displays were out of order in the way beer is actually brewed, but space is a constraint when trying to show original brewhouse equipment where it stood for many years.  Most likely, very few people noticed or even knew.  One of the great things on this part of the tour was the significant number of antique equipment on display (and very well preserved).  It was like it could have been in use just last month.  Oh. Wait a minute…   Okay, forget I said that.  One of the most disheartening things I heard in the first part of the tour was what one elderly lady said to her husband.  “Honey.  Honey, this is like a MUSEUM.”  I wanted to hipcheck her into the history of the hops drying display.  Of COURSE it’s like a museum, because it IS a museum…

At the end of that first section was a beer tasting.  YUM!  It was an unfiltered draft of one of their many styles of beer (but most likely the pilsner).  It was really good!  The way the tasting worked was that each guide went up to the bar and got a tray of small taster glasses of beer for his or her group.  I was near the back of our group and managed to grab on of the last sample off the tray.  Less than a minute later some obnoxious woman started complaining she didn’t get any beer.  She had been at the front of our group and had tried to get her sample from the group in front of us.  She got  shut out.  Had she just stuck with our group instead of going to every other table to get beer, she would have easily gotten her sample.  Instead she made a HUGE stink about it. “I didn’t get any beer!  I want my taste!  Why isn’t there any beer!!”  Our guide, Lily, being the good guide she was, went over to the bar to get the woman a sample.  While Lily was gone, another tray from another group showed up, and the woman grabbed a glass fast!  She drank it pretty quick.  Just moments later, Lily came back with a glass of beer from the bar and offered it to the woman.  Instead of saying something like, “Oh thanks, but I just had one from this tray”, she snatched the beer from Lily’s hand and said, “About time!”  I was smoldering pretty good, but managed not to strangle her.

After a few places showing the many different beers Tsingtao produces, the tour  proceeded to the modern brewing/bottling operation where there was less to see in the sense of brewing—most likely because it’s kinda boring with all the satinless steel…  The
bottling machinery, however, was quite amazing.  Each time I’ve visited a brewery in the recent past, I managed to miss the bottling process.  Granted those were microbreweries.  Tsingtao being a round the clock operation had the cans and bottles movin’!  And this is just one of some 37 facilities they have.  As the tour ended, we were herded through a few nice show-off hallways and then into the downstairs bar/pub area.  Unfortunately, since it was only about 9:30 in the morning, the massive beer tasting was not in operation.  Later, I heard from Bill and Brenda (who had the brewery as their last stop at around 3:00pm) the beer was being passed out
freely by the pitcher.  <sigh>

Pretty quickly after our group exited the brewery, we were pushed up into the bus, and off we were to stop number two: the “Granite Castle”.  Why this is even a stop on the tour is beyond me.  It’s a three story house made of (drum roll, please………) granite.
It so happens it also looks kinda like a miniature castle.  The major talking point about this place seemed to be that JUST THIS YEAR it was opened to the public.  Great.

The bus parked at some sort of military academy parade ground, and we got out.  We then proceeded to walk about ¾ of a mile up to this place.  Along the way we caught glimpses of Beach #2 – that’s actually what its name is – but, there wasn’t time to stop.  We had to keep on schedule.  On the drive from the brewery, Beach #1 was pointed out to us, but we didn’t even slow down.  Aside from some great views from the tower and some landscaping features around the property, the place was unremarkable   in my opinion.  150 other people cramming their way along the stairs and getting in my pictures didn’t help my mood.

Then it was time to go.  On the hike back to the bus, I wandered closer to the beach on a parallel track, but I didn’t actually make it to the sand or water.  After everyone was accounted for on the bus, we headed to the next stop, the big Buddhist Temple complex in Qingdao.  The place is pretty neat.  Around the compound are 7 or 8 major  structures with a number of lesser buildings here and  there.  By this time, I was in my “wander around mode” and strayed from the group.  I  managed to find a few more interesting things than the other folk saw.  There were cats everywhere, and none of them seemed feral.  I even happened upon a kitten wandering around (momma was laying in a flowerbed nearby keeping watch).

At one point during our tour, our guide pointed to a sign on the path and said for 5 Yuan, we could ring the bell 3 times.  My mind was still reeling from 4 different foreign currencies in 7 days, so I didn’t make the connection until later that it would have cost less than a dollar.  Not that it made a difference.  I was only carrying 100 Yuan notes, and I doubt the monks had 95 in change for
some schmuck like me…  Soon enough, we were herded back out to go to the next location.  Having separated myself from the group, I was one of the last to get the word.  When I got back to the bus, Lily was on the phone checking in on our lunch.

Once back on the bus, our guide let everyone decide whether to go to the next stop on the tour or go to the arranged lunch.  By a landslide the consensus was to get lunch, so we headed off to a big hotel with banquet facilities.  The lunch was billed as “traditional” Chinese fare.  Fine.  The way the food was served may well have been traditional, but the amount of it couldn’t have been.  We first sat down to a table with a lazy susan in the middle.  There were six plates of appetizers, and each of the eight people at our table took some of them.  Not long after that, the main courses started to arrive, and within minutes, we had ham, shrimp, rice, dumplings, and a number of other things I can’t describe.  As entrees arrived, plates were consolidated to make room for more.  There came a point I was too full and had to excuse myself.  I walked out.  Later, one of my tablemates informed me that after I left, two more entrees and two desserts hit the table.  I couldn’t even imagine eating that much more for lunch.  = (

(continued in part 2)

Day 12,  Busan, South Korea

Well, it was ANOTHER awesome weather day!  After 7 days of cloudy, cold, rainy days, we have had 5 straight of clear blue skies.  Unfortunately I failed to bring along sunscreen.  I was led to believe we would encounter cloudy skies most of the trip, so I didn’t pack any.  At 12 bucks a tube in the ship’s gift shop, I decided to take my chances.  I do have a sunburn from the past number of days and was worried about today, but most of my time today was spent under cover…

The city of Busan provided free shuttle busses from the ship to the downtown market area for those folks not on the ship tours.  I was one of those.  Like the previous port days, I decided to wander around without the help a guide.  The shuttle made two stops.  The first stop was at a park on top of a hill, and the second was in front of the big market down in town. 

The park was okay.  Its primary feature was the observation tower that gave a 360 degree view of the city.  I decided to go ahead and pay the fee to go up.  I got a few really good panoramic pictures, but they don’t translate well into the blog so I’m just going to post some regular pictures.

While up in the tower I spotted the next destination of the shuttle bus.  It wasn’t too far from the hill, so I decided if there wasn’t a bus waiting, I’d go ahead and make the trek down the hill on foot.  Not only was there not a bus, but there was a line of more than 50 people waiting for one.  I hoofed it.  About 5 minutes later I was at the foot of the hill, and 5 minutes after that, I was at the top of the market (the shuttle was dropping off at the foot).  The whole thing is covered, so from the top of the tower, it was hard to see just how big the place is.  FYI, it’s HUGE!

Just about anything you can think of you might need, you can probably find it there.  There are entire stalls dedicated to single themes like luggage, umbrellas, Hello Kitty stuff, socks, and plumbing supplies.  It’s a crazy, busy place!  I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, so I was able to just wander around in amazement at the amount of “stuff” available all in one area.

It was kinda funny to come across a tour group from the ship as I wandered through the fish market.  They paid more than a hundred bucks to be led around by a guide.  Their groups were so strung out, there was no way the folk in the back could hear the obvious, “Here are live fish, and in this next stall, here are more live fish.  Oh, look, live fish AND dead fish in this next area!”  At one point, a Princess Tour group came to an intersection where I happened to be standing.  Over her little megaphone, the guide told the group to turn left.  “A6 left, A6 left”.  The stragglers never heard it..  So, being the nice guy I am, I started calling, “A6 turn right!  A6 turn right!”  Okay, not really, but I DID think about it! = )

As I actually was directing them in the correct direction, one of the sheeple noticed I was munching on a snack.  He told me it looked good, and I have to say it was good.  I have no idea what it was.

Beside the giant flea market, Buson is known for its huge fish market.  I heard it was the second largest fish market in the world behind one in Japan, but I can’t confirm that.  It is, however, quite a sight!  So many live (and dead) sea creatures.  Little fish, big fish, shrimp, eels, octopus, seahorses, and the list goes on.  Here are a few pictures…

As I was walking through the fish market I found I was getting hungry.  A fair number of the fish mongers were starting to fix their own meals with a few of them having places for others.  I wasn’t sure if those spaces were for customers or friends, and the language barrier in the market was quite high.  I decided not to try for a spot.  I wandered on a bit and discovered a couple with a food cart.  The man was cutting off chunks of dough and scraping them into a huge wok of hot oil.  Some kind of fritter I deduced.  In the bin to sell was a HUGE pile of these “fritters/hushpuppies”.  I waited to see what people were paying for them, but the money and food and change passed so fast, it was impossible to follow.  Then I got a break.  Someone asked for something else.  There were fried batter covered somethings on a stick.  There were also sausages on a stick nearby, so I just figured what I was looking at was the same—just battered, like a corndog.  Folks were paying 1,000 Won a piece, so I figured I could shell out the 87 cents to give it a try.  I THINK what was in the middle of the delicious dough fritter was a tofu type “stuff”, except it was a little chewy and pretty nondescript…

All-in-all, it satisfied my hunger for the moment.  Still no idea what I ate.

After that I just wandered some more.  While the fish market was very neat and interesting, it became repetitive after the first 10 to 15 stalls.

Tomorrow is the last sea day of the cruise then it’s two port days in China before getting off the ship in Beijing.

More later!

G~

Day 11, Sea Day…
Another sea day today.

Again, I woke up to bad news. The Scrap Heap Boat Challenge was going to be today. We were led to believe it was going to be on the LAST sea day (day after tomorrow), and we were going to do our testing today to get out the kinks. Not to happen. Let me go back and explain a little.
A number of days into the cruise there were sign-ups for a challenge to build a “sea worthy” craft to transport a six pack of soda across the pool. Specific requirements were that safety floatation devices on board could not be used, other parts of the Diamond Princess could not be damaged in their use, and the craft must be self-propelled. The three criteria for success were: could it float at all; could it float with the soda on board; and could it move across the pool. There were also bonus points for artistic flair.


I didn’t sign up for the contest, since I already was involved in so many other things. Some time last week I was talking to Grace, a woman who was always in trivia and with whom I teamed up with on a scavenger hunt one day. She mentioned she had entered the boat thing. She said she had a guaranteed floating platform from some Styrofoam packing material but wasn’t sure how to get it to move. I thought back on when I saw another team testing their craft in the pool, and I had an idea. I told Grace I would design the propulsion system if she took care of the rest.

Again, I drew on things from when I was a kid. I remember having a Balsa Wood airplane with a propeller driven by a rubberband. When I wound the rubber (stretched from the propeller shaft to the back of the plane) it stored energy. When let go, it released the energy by unwinding thus turning the propeller. I did the same thing for the boat. I suspended the rubber band(s) top to bottom inside a water bottle. I thought I had taken a picture of the system, but I guess not – or I lost it. I had in mind a great little propeller, but when I saw the size of the craft I did a quick re-design. I ended up using a cut water bottle instead.
I developed the drive completely separate from the craft, and except for a brief encounter to figure out how to mount the motor, the two did not meet until today when we were going to test them. The announcement of the contest being today sucked. Had I had a chance to try it first I would have realized I cut the propeller the wrong direction sooner, rather than 15 minutes before the contest started. I ended up having to wind the thing backward which led to the possibility of the propeller unscrewing itself from its cap. While the thing worked, it was not as impressive as it would have been had I not messed up. The boat just kinda went here and there.

It did go though… My friend Margaret unfortunately had her camera set on some kind of time lapse. Bummer.
We took third after all that because ours floated the best and actually worked. Other teams got a LOT of bonus points for the artistic stuff. I only have a picture of the “Nineteenth Hole”. The other one was done up like a miniature cruise ship. One of the teams said it took them between 20 and 30 hours to put together their boat. With 6 members on the team, that’s 120 to 180 man hours! Seriously??? For a game/contest??? Grace and I spent probably a combined 10 hours, and we took third.
The weather has improved tremendously over the past number of days. The sun has been out, and it has definitely warmed up! I watched a movie out on deck tonight: X-Men: First Class. It’s a pretty good movie and was only marred when a group of 6-8 people came out and started chain smoking not too far away. I should have moved, but I was too comfortable where I was. Oh well…
Tomorrow, Busan, South Korea! More after that..
G~

Day 10

Vladivostok, Russia.

I woke up early again this morning with the time change. I managed to snap a couple pictures of what could have been a great sunrise, if it had risen before 7:30am

Today’s immigration procedure was WAY better than in Japan.  Our passports were delivered to us around 7:30am by our cabin stewards.  By 8:00 the disembarkation began.  After I gathered all the stuff I wanted to carry around for the day, I headed down to the gangway around 9:00.  There wasn’t even a line to get off the boat, just a steady stream of people.

The first thing I did was find a bank.  There were a couple ATMs at the train station across from the ship, but I didn’t feel like paying whatever fee it was going to charge me.  I took my cash in to the bank and tried to change 60 USD.  The woman took the bills and did the “counterfeit” routine.  She discovered a very small rip in one of them, and she handed back to me saying, “Nyet, Nyet, Nyet”.   So I walked out with 1300 rubles.

I was not on a ship organized tour, so I did what I did in Muroran – I just went walking.  Over the course of the morning and afternoon, I probably walked 6 miles.  A couple times I felt like I was in San Francisco.  One road I walked just seemed to go up and up and up with just a few places slightly level.

All-in-all, I found Vladivostok to be a rundown city with heavily rutted streets and crumbling sidewalks.  There is, however, a great deal of renovation and restoration.  Vladivostok is hosting the APEC Summit next year.  With the Asian Pacific Economic Counsel coming, Russia is pouring a tremendous amount of money in to fixing the place up all over the city.  They are working on two new bridges, two new big hotels, street and sidewalk repair, and an entire new “city” on an island across the bay.  It would be interesting to visit Vladivostok again some time next year to see the improvements done.

My walk about town brought me to a couple Orthodox Chapels, and of course the C-56 Submarine.

The submarine’s history includes its historic circumnavigation of the globe back to Vladivostok after it was damaged somewhere in the Atlantic.

One thing I noticed in Vladivostok was the HUGE number of smokin’ hot Russian women with legs up to their armpits wearing mini-skirts up to their butt cheeks, tights, and 4-inch spike heels.  Okay, okay.  Not ALL of them were in 4-inch spikes, some were only three inches…

Another sea day tomorrow.  Not sure what’s up…  Trivia for sure.

Next stop:  Busan, South Korea.

G~

Day 9

Another sea day today, but it didn’t seem nearly as long as sea days past – probably because of the stop yesterday in Japan. It gave us a much needed break from the daily routine of the sea days.

Today was pretty much like the others except for “The Great Egg Drop”.

The Egg Drop is a contest that assigns teams of passengers to design a device able to protect a raw egg when dropped from the deck 7 balcony in the ship’s atrium. The distance is only about 25 feet to the floor on deck 5.

From our trivia team, three of us signed up separately. When we discovered that, two of us were going to give up our registrations and combine everyone into one team. We talked about our ideas and found we all had different ideas for devices. We decided to keep the three entries and work as a team to develop the devices. We figured we’d multiply our chances of winning. No matter which idea won, we would share the prize.

My idea was a padded basket dropped with a parachute to soften the landing. As a kid I made hundreds of parachutes out of trash bags and the coveted dry cleaning bags to send my little, plastic army men on the ride of their existences. Having done it so many times in the past, I was very confident it would work. After all we had almost a week to get it right.

Wrong!

We were led to believe the egg drop was going to be on the last or next to last sea day. That gave us plenty of time to develop our ideas. We had plans to do testing in the atrium a couple times late night after the ship pretty much goes to sleep. Well, that didn’t happen. When I woke up this morning, I turned on the TV to the daily “Wake Show”. It’s the daily information program featuring the Cruise Directors. As they were reading off the highlights of today’s activities, they mentioned the egg drop was going to be at 3:00pm. We had planned on late night testing tonight and tomorrow. Oh, well!

I got up grabbed my stuff and cut my parachute. I used dental floss for my shrouds and a box top from some snacks I got yesterday. I had it assembled in a little less than 45 minutes. At two o’clock, we met in the atrium to test our rigs. Mine worked well, but I still shortened the shrouds by 1/2, so the chute would open sooner. Jim’s didn’t work so well. He and Brenda retreated do some quick redesign work.

Soon enough, we were getting ready to drop. I was 3rd after one success and one failure of a couple others. Mine worked great! Of the total of 15 or so entries, about 3 failed. Those of who made it, got a couple of trinkets and moved to the second round. Three more failed – one because they couldn’t unpack the egg fast enough.

We nine teams who passed the second round were each awarded a bottle of champagne. Between the three teams our trivia group fielded, we managed 3 bottles. I was ready for more rounds, because I figured the teams who padded their egg from a freefall impact would eventually lose it. Mine was golden with the soft impact.

The cruise staff decided to stop after the second round.

That was the highlight of the day. Tomorrow, we stop in Vladivostok, Russia.

That’s it for now!

G~

Day 8

Muroran, Japan.

Finally a day off the ship! Sea days are pretty nice except for when they come six (and a half) in a
row.  Don’t get me wrong.  There was plenty to do on board, or not do, as the case may be.  The days were really
starting to run together.

The first stop on the M129 itinerary was Muroran,Japan.  It is located in the southwest portion of Hokkaido Island and is considered to be the “gateway” to Sapporo.  The city of Sapporo is known mainly to Americans for two things – hosting the 1972 Winter Olympics and of course the BEER.

When I first looked at things to do, I thought to do the tour of the Sapporo Beer Brewery, and other things were next on the list.  After doing some research and listening to what other people said, I learned the trip to Sapporo from Muroran was going to be 5 hours round trip with about 3 hours to wander around town on my own.  I decided to cancel the tour I had signed up for to stay in Muroran for the day.  I’m
glad I did.

I have to say Muroran is not a “tourist-y” city.  It is an industrial port city and probably would like to have a tourism industry.
From what I understand, though, Muroran on gets only a few cruise ships a year.  Since it is quite a big deal for the local folks, they go all out in trying to keep some passengers in town.

They set up “cultural” activities in various venues around the city and provide free shuttle busses to move people in circuit from place to
place.  I’m glad I did it and here’s why…

The ship docked in Muroran this morning about 6:30.  Japanese immigration officials were coming onboard to process everyone – about 2,600 passengers and the crew.  We were assigned group numbers and a time (in ten minute increments) to show up to get it done.  They started around 8:30, and my time was 9:10 in the Churchill lounge, Deck 6 Forward.  Yeah right.  What a freakin’ fiasco!

The Japanese officials showed up late and had computer/equipment problems.  By the time I went down at 9:15 to be processed, the line was WAY longer than it should have been.  I wish everyone could visualize the line from the Churchill Lounge stretching back to the Atrium
elevators, across the ship to the other hallway, back down past the lounge, and up into the lower entrance to the theatre.  It took 10 minutes to move 30 feet.  Oh, wait.  I have a picture.

I don’t know for sure how long it took to get everybody through immigration, but I know some people didn’t get off the ship until after
10:30.  An announcement asking  people to delay getting into line to help ease the pressure came over the PA.   Some friends of mine took the advice with the assurance their tour wouldn’t leave without them.  Well, they got left behind.

After getting photographed and fingerprinted, I went up and grabbed a snack.  By the time I gathered all my stuff together and changed clothes it was about 11:00.  I went ahead and headed out on my Japanese adventure.

The shuttles were typical city busses which were tasked specifically to move cruise passengers around.  I got on the blue line, and off we went.  The first stop was the old train station which had been turned into the Tourist Information Bureau.
Unfortunately, I was on the 6th or 7th bus load of people to leave the ship and there were still 3 or 4 loads of people at this
first venue.  It was so crowded, some of us couldn’t even get in the door (well, without pushing and shoving).  I decided it wasn’t worth the trouble, so I took off walking in search of an ATM to get some Yen.  At first I was looking for a 7-11 store where ATMs are known to be, but I found a couple ATMs within just a couple blocks.  With Yen in my pocket, I went and headed off.

I am not one to be herded into the direction the powers that be want me to go (i.e., shopping areas).  Instead of following the main road to the next “venue”, I turned right and headed up the hill into the local neighborhood.  As I made my way up the hill, I found several homes with well manicured gardens.  The amount of work involved in maintaining them must be extensive.

I also stumbled upon an abandoned Shinto shrine on the ridgeline at the top of the neighborhood.  It looked like someone nearby has been using for extra storage.  It seemed unfortunate, since the spot upon which the shrine stands could be quite serene.  The property had a magnificent view of a cove with a nice beach.

After a while I came across a sort of dead end.  Without trespassing on what I think was private property, I could no longer get to the ridge with the ocean view.  I headed back down toward the city center.  On the way down, I heard some music with drums and singing of to my right.  It was definitely coming over loudspeakers, so I thought I may just have found the next schedule stop on the bus schedule.  When I got down to the entertainment, I found what was some kind of local cultural dance company in costume doing
routines.  It wasn’t until several minutes had passed I noticed I was the only white guy in the crowd.  I looked around, and there were no other cruise ship passengers around.

What I had stumbled upon was the Fish Market.  Unfortunately, the market was just closing up for the day so I missed almost all of it.
There were still a few food vendors around, so a bought a snack.  A woman was grilling hotdog looking things, but I was focused on the sausage-on-a-stick.  At first it was tricky eating, but after a few humorous bites I got the hang of it…

I managed to make my way back to the main road and eventually back the bus stop.  Along the way I came across a big grocery/department store – a sort of Walmart.  I only wandered the grocery part.  It was interesting to observe the difference between western and eastern cultures in both the produce and the meat sections.  In American stores, the beer aisles can be long with a variety of domestic beer with the microbrew section next.  The import part may be large or small with MAYBE a small space for a Japanese beer like Sapporo or Kirin.  In this store the beer aisle was ALL Japanese and not a Bud to be found.

Later in the day I ran into JT, the DJ up in Skywalkers.  He and a friend were doing what I was – wandering.  We decided to find some food
and ended up at a noodle shop.  The place was non-descript as there was no signage outside.  Anyone walking by would not have noticed it.  WE would not have know it was there if we had not consulted a map of the area hanging in a business across the street.

When we went in and sat down, we looked for menus.  As we searched, the owner/chef came over,pointed at us, and asked/stated, “Three Noodle”.  Obviously he recognized us as westerners who probably didn’t speak Japanese.  JT looked at me and asked me if I had seen a menu yet.  My reply, with a shrug: “I think we already just ordered three noodle dishes”.  In just a few minutes, we had our noodles.  It was just
about then I noticed the menu up on the wall.

When we were done, we went in search of the nearby Shinto Shrine.  The map we consulted earlier indicated it was a couple blocks over and a few up from where we were.  It indeed was, sorta.  We ended up on the backside which took us a bit of time to navigate around to the front.  It was very nice.

One of the local “venue hosts” came out of the building next to the shrine and let us know we could take all the pictures we wanted but could not go inside.  Fair enough.  He then invited us inside the other building for some Japanese roasted tea.  I’d never heard of it, but it was quite good.  While we were sitting there an elderly woman came over and wanted to know where we were from.  Through the host/interpreter, the woman told us about her travels in the USA and how much she enjoyed seeing America.  She presented us with little tissue pouches she had made herself.  The wholeinteraction was awesome, but we were totally caught off guard when the interpreter let us know she was 93 years old!  She had the energy of someone in their 60s.

After that we headed back to the ship.  I was so very tired, I wanted to take a nap.  I decided to go to dinner instead, as I had been invited by members of my trivia team to sit in the “traditional seating” dining room.  I had to go.   I did dive into bed shortly after dinner though.

Next stop – Vladivostok, Russia.  Tomorrow is a sea day, so I don’t know if I will post about it.  We’ll see..  Until next time!

G~