Shanghai, China

Wednesday 28 March, 2018

In my preamble today I feel I must apologize for some of the ‘autocorrections’ my iPad made in my posting for Nagasaki. I know I proofed it before I sent it, but in my haste I missed a few ‘errors’, hopefully you were able to ‘adjust’.

After a very relaxing day at sea, we joined the caravan of ships heading for Shanghai, in the late afternoon. Though we could not see land, it was apparent by the chocolate color of the water passing under our keel, were were ‘in China’.

After a superb evening meal, we attended the best production by the Volendam Singers and Dancers, thus far. Hopefully we will be fortunate enough to appreciate it during the next three segments of this voyage.

Scenic cruising into Shanghai was scheduled to begin after the show, so we headed to the crows Nest for a front row seat. We had sailed this very route on the Amsterdam four years ago, so we knew it would take until midnight or so to reach our berth on ‘The Bund’. I knew the next day would be filled with activity so I retired early.

Shanghai is one of my most favorite ports of call, especially since we dock in the center of the action. So when I arose the next morning I certainly was not disappointed. What fascinated me most is the constant stream of barge traffic, intermixed with sea going freighters, doing the ‘river dance’. Hopefully my included images will show a more complete story.

Something that is unique to this voyage is the number of times we will have to participate in the ‘face to passport’ inspection upon entry into a different country. This can be a lengthy process as everyone one onboard must participate. Clearing each passenger can take up to five minutes! I think we are at around 1500 or so. Even though for Shanghai there were about ten border agents doing the processing, doing the math can be a headache so I will leave that to you. Yesterday a couple of guests were pulled out of line because of some aspect of their paperwork did not satisfy the agent. Sure glad we paid the extra $$$ for a ten year China visa. We sailed right through.

After a short ride on the free shuttle bus to the lengthly waterfront known as ‘The bund’, we set out in search of the nearest tourist information kiosk. And we searched, and we searched, until we reached the end of the Bund some two miles distant. All “I” locations were either closed for construction or had no tourist information!!! What a disappointment.

Reversing our course, we rested occasionally and were surprised when two different families wanted their children photographed siting on Barbara’s lap or with the mom holding the baby standing nearby. Of course when the first child was placed on Barbara’s lap it started howling to high heaven, complete with tears. Why this was so important, we don’t know, however, the Chinese people seem to look at life and deities in a way that is so foreign to us. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Excuse me while I take a ‘River Dance’ break …. humm, it’s almost 5 Am and the river traffic is very light. Just the occasional early birds like me!

Speaking of early birds, this morning when I came up early I was speaking with a dining room steward, Andi, who normally works the dinner shift on our deck, and he said earlier he was telling Yoga, our steward, that I am known as the Lido Early bird. This morning Andi was charged with making sure the port-side coffee mess was ready for the day.

Continuing my story …. as we made our way back to the shuttle bus pickup location, I was in dire need of a meal break so we decided to stop at the food court and treat ourselves to some ‘authentic KFC’, so for around seven US$$ my authentic KFC consisted of a bowl of rice, braised chicken parts, and steamed veggies!! Though not what I would call ‘authentic, it was certainly unique!!!

Today is ‘transition day’ for the crew and passengers so around a thousand passengers are going home or taking a shoreside hiatus before that grueling flight home. Of course I am referring to those flying to North America, or Europe. Feels kind of like a ghost ship this morning.

Well, that was our first of five total days in Shanghai for this voyage. Today we will stretch our capabilities was we attempt a trip onboard a high speed train to a lake city some hour distant in the interior. The first big hurdle is getting to the train station by taxi …. some distance from the ship. English NOT spoken here!!

Well, we are still among the living, having survived ‘Pecks Wild Ride’ via two interesting taxi rides and two high speed rail trains. During the taxi ride to the train station an hour away, we were subjected to traffic congestion on a major scale. Yet on the train to the interior an hour away we surpassed speeds of 300 KPH, yet it seemed as thou we were not moving at all.

Overall, the day was a grand experience, as life is very much what one wants to get out of it. Getting the taxi from the ships terminal was easy-pesy, and cost 100 yuan (Chinese dollars). Upon entering the massive and modern station we first had to go through security and present our passports and be ‘wanded’ and patted down. Now what? Pretty much the only words we recognized were the symbols for the restrooms! It’s as though we had landed on an alien planet. Barbara was a blessing though, as she had spent so much time researching this adventure, a little language barrier was not going to deter her in the least.

With the blessed help of a couple young, Chinese she managed to buy two round trip train tickets to at least get us there and back. Having waited this late we were fortunate that some seats were still available, as all seats are reserved. There are two train stations at our destination and apparently there was a misunderstanding (you think?) with the ticket agent as the tickets were for the station furtherest away from the hoped for Hop on Hop off bus. Oh well, we will sort that out when we arrive. Surface transportation in China, being government subsidized, is by our standards inexpensive. The result: cues at every turn, so much so that every cue has a ‘Disneyland’ type setup, otherwise with this culture there would be complete chaos.

Bottom line; we made the frustrating decision, so we would not get stranded and miss our return to the ship, to just hang out in the station until our 3:15 PM departure. I felt so sorry for Barbara as this had been my idea and she had put her heart and soul in ‘making it happen’.

I simply could not have a better travel mate.

We decided to have lunch at McDonalds, but a helpful young Tourist Information Clerk thought that since we were Americans we would prefer KFC, so that is where she led us to. When she departed, we slipped away to Mickey Dee’s where we sat at a community table with a mother and her son, I noticed that the boy had ran out of ketchup so I offered him one of my packets, he quickly stuffed it in his pocket, after which his mom made sure his hands were ‘cleaned’! When I finished my Big Mac and fries, and got up to leave he handed me his unopened Tart Pie. It was a precious memory I will treasure. Barbara had gone to the ladies room so when I met her and related the story, she returned to the table and gave the boy a brochure about Port Angeles, although he had to finish his smartphone game before she could ‘gift him’. With wide eyes he accepted what she offered. Simple gifts are sometimes the most treasured.

The trip back to Shanghai onboard the high speed train was without incident. However when we arrived and headed to the taxi cue, we were amazed that the line was extremely long. There was an Uber driver who offered to ‘help us’ avoid the hour long wait. We declined his offered fee of two and a half times the going taxi rate. As it turned out the line was only 40 minutes long. Little did we suspect that our driver would be the one and only; Mario Andretti, reincarnated!! We have been on wild rides in the past, but this beat any thing an extreme theme park could conjure up. Possibly the driver had a full bladder and needed the nearest relief station. His meter indicated that he had beat the going price by about 20 yuan, and I felt he earned the 20 yuan tip I gave him.

Thursday March 29th

Since our tired old bodies reminded us to ‘slow down’, we heeded the advice and took an early morning shuttle to the Bund and opted to ride the Red HoHo bus to Barbara’s favorite shipping district. She gets so focused when she is in her ‘shopping mode’. I got in some great ‘people watching’ while I cooled my heels.

An early lunch, before shopping, consisted of three spring rolls, six steamed buns filled with yummies, a sauce braised duck leg (for Barbara) and a shared Tsingtao draft beer, consumed in a private dining space overlooking a beautiful pond that was home to turtles, giant gold fish and Pekin Ducks/Geese(?).

In a perceived attempt to minimize pollution, an order must have been issued by the Chinese government that “all two wheel vehicles with two stroke engines must be converted to electric power”. I thought that dodging human powered two wheelers in the Netherlands, was an acquired life skill, but in Shanghai these stealth bullets follow no prescribed routes, and can be surprisingly encountered at any moment. Stoplights and marked controlled crosswalks are only suggestions for this mass of stealth bullets!!!

Once more our bodies begged us to catch the shuttle bus home and we gratefully complied. After a delightful evening meal with our new table-mates; Kathy and Jeff from Florida, we retired to our stateroom to get ready for tomorrow at sea.

Friday March 30th

I could swear that when nature called in the middle of the night I detected a slight pitch, indicated ship movement, however when I reached deck five, to my surprise, I discovered we were still held fast to our berth. As I was getting my first cup of coffee, I asked Andi the coffee mess steward why, and he replied that there was a delay because of a storm at sea and we could be held in port for …. maybe two days. Really? WOW!!!

Just after 2 pm we received the following update from the Captain: “Due to heavy fog at the entrance to the river, the port is still keeping the port closed because of the fog and congestion of vessels on the river and the large number of ships waiting to dock upstream. Our next ‘high water level opportunity’ to sail would at 2 am – twelve hours from now, providing the incoming winds can clear the fog.”

We have already been advised that we will miss our next port of call; Qingdao, China, but will be okay for the one after that; Tinjian, China the port of call for Beijing.

Saturday March 31st

It is now 7 am and we are sitting on the Yangtze River some 14 nautical miles from Shanghai. At least the fog cleared enough for us to sail back down the Huangpu River. How long we will have to remain at this location is in the hands of the local maritime authorities.

Jack W Cummings – Far East Adventure 2018

3 thoughts on “Shanghai, China

  1. What a joy to have (vicarious) time together with you in Shanghai, and like you two, one of our favorite ports too. Your words brought it all back. I actually re-experienced each of the train, bus, walking jaunts with you. Thank you so much for making that happen. FYI, GK and I are flying on Mon from Indy (where we r with our kids and grandkids) to FLL to board the Oosterdam on Tue as she slowly makes her way to Europe where she sails around to many interesting ports for an additional 3 weeks before we eventually disembark in Venice. From there, in early May, we make our way back to P.A. Happy sailing to all of us.
    Lynn Keegan

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