THE TRIP IN ACTUALITY ++ let the action begin.


I HAD no trouble with the very early departure even though it meant getting up at 4:30 AM.  It was 4:30 am and I jumped right out of bed into the shower and….I’m hit by the amazing thought “I’m  OFF ON AN ADVENTURE – LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL. I must be out of my mind!”  I really was excited and not the least bit affected by my usual preflight anxiety. 


 SEGMENT ONE:  DULLES TO MONTREAL.  (unfortunately no Business Lounge here – one of my main travel enjoyments. It’s ok-there’s much left ahead to enjoy).

This was a commuter flight which allowed for a very efficient departure from the main terminal; how very much better than our normal departure. The plane was small,  so it performed like a small plane should;  so unlike those impervious super jets in which you hardly have any sensation of flight.  I always loved the small plane experience:  the massive thrust of getting airborne, the cosmic tilts as the plane changes course, and the lower altitude so I could enjoy the geography.  I was very much in a happy place.  The approach to Montreal was spectacular; a supremely disciplined geometry of multicolored fields that looked like plaid fabric or an enormous quilt.  Even more fantastic was the bird’s eye view of THE ST. LAWRENCE SEAWAY…I was struck by the fact that what I saw seemed far too shallow to support ocean going ships; there were actual rapids and sand bars visible.  I should know this; but there must be canals and locks?  Perhaps someday we will manage to do the cruise up the St Lawrence.

I was very expeditiously  wheelchaired to the Business Lounge and was I ever ready for that;  we spent  a jovial little time sipping Bloody Mary’s, commiserating over the negatives of hot flashes  with the very energetic and upbeat “bar lady”, and trying out POKE, (big on the cooking shows, is an Hawaiian ceviche made with raw tuna, but not  nearly as good).

All of this totally benevolent ambience, not to mention the gin, inspired me to declare: “WHY AREN’T WE DOING THIS ALL THE TIME?”

SEGMENT TWO:  and then it was time for the serious travel:  THE FLIGHT to TOKYO

Flight time: 12hrs55 minutes: Are they being coy or are they afraid they are catering to especially superstitious people?

I was delighted when I found that intercom announcements were done in three languages - THREE;  The two official languages of Canada French and English, and maybe just for this flight to Tokyo they also spoke in Japanese.

The configuration of the seats was ok – still very isolated pods separated by a thin barrier which pretty much precluded conversation,  but not quite as much a tomb as others I’ve encountered. 

First the champagne, and instead of sweeping it away for take off, this gracious airline genially switched what was left in to a plastic cup for me.  How nice. I have yet to get the hang of how these intercontinental airlines schedule meals– I manage to get neatly stuffed in the business lounge only to get on the plane and be confronted by dinner.  They seem to invariably start with dinner no matter what time it is.  This menu offered a choice of either European or Japanese complete with Saki.  By 4:00 I’ve truly lost my mind. What with the Saki and the straight Tanqueray gin (this is another thing that puzzles me;  Brit Air had no idea of “Martini” either.  We learned a trick somewhere along the line: a spot of sweet wine is a rational stand in for  vermouth. Worked just fine,  but then I’m not big on quibbling over my martini – gin’s gin.   The Japanese meal was full of intriguing tastes like sweet potato remoulade and the Saki was a fine addition, all of which led to an episode of  luxuriating over the fact that I’m not having to wrestle with this stuff  (meal prep) myself.  Never fails to delight me; a totally heady experience    I’m even feeling benevolent towards Viking. “EDEN”

I may have been euphoric but it wasn’t long before I was thinking:  THINKING;;;

 I’ve never seen such a long night.  After dinner they turned the lights off so we were set for pretty much 12 hours of black, and if I sleep at all in a plane I  never sleep longer than three hours.  This leaves plenty  of time to do a lot of introspecting; ‘Course being in business class helps a lot.  Our last extensive flight was to Singapore I think on Air Nippon, and I remember being distinctly unnerved/freaked out – it seemed so scary to me.  Air Canada mustn’t have seemed as threatening.  it seems a good distillation, so I wasn’t  so scared, thank God, because this was a L.O.N.G flight.. 

So here I “lounge” busily thinking: It’s like being in a cocoon –a  timeless cocoon,  although::::  time seems to be 7:30 my time, the flight map on the screen in front of me is happily flashing the current times around the world – and it occurs to me that  I’m  either in all of them or none – take your pick -  giving me the distinct impression of free floating totally.  I’m up here .. I’M TIMELESS..  and unanchored.  I find this almost as interesting an insight as what I come up with when I cross the International Dateline; that never fails to  send my imagination flying.

All of this is a good example of what I think of as being  one of the major benefits of flying;  it gives me plenty of time to think – what I do in the shower but a whole lot more comfortable.

TOKYO:  at last

At long last and much welcome after experiencing what I felt was the longest night of my life.  I was not only relieved I was also delighted to find myself once again surrounded by a throng of Asian nationalities – it’s been a long time since I’ve been so and it’s such a delight. 

Very quickly me and my wheelchair (the benefit of said conveyance) were through the formalities and there was our Viking representative to greet us. Being met this way is one of my favorite things…makes me feel so welcomed and special.  Not so benevolent was the fact that we and our hand luggage in hand and no wheelchair,  along with our fellow Viking arrivals, were paraded off to the far end of the parking lot in order to board our bus - and it was lousy hot and humid and we were all jet lagged to beat the band.  The bus had wheels; how come they couldn’t have been used to pick us up (by the terminal) at the door of the terminal?  Good question.   I think we were just happy to be there so I at least didn’t think much of it.  The truth only comes out later in the telling.

The airport was some distance from the city so our first encounter with Japan was a super highway…obviously can’t be helped.

 I was struck- oh, not literally  – they were driving on the LEFT!  What?  That’s a British thing and I can’t think they had that much to do with England.  Eventually I managed to discover a reason:  they drove on the left so that the Samurai could carry their sabers in their right hand.  (this story is strikingly similar to the purported reason most of the world drives on the right: Napoleon was left handed so it seems consequently  a  whole lot of people – the Empire actually-  had to do what riding they did on the right so he could joust with his left hand. I don’t know what he was doing joisting in the first place – way wrong era -  but that’s ok –it’s as good a story as you’re likely to find.. 

We wound our way over and through the various levels of cloverleafs and multi leveled highways in Tokyo and eventually we found our ship ….YEA!

The rest of the day is kind of a blur but in good time we achieved our primary objective:  the cocktail lounge and that much anticipated martini.


This was our first encounter with what Viking might offer in the way of side tours.  Their general practice is to offer one free tour for each port of call,  offered at a few different times,  and usually of a reasonable two hour duration. This arrangement is reinforced by a variety of optional tours at varying prices, lengths and physical ability.

It’s very nice having a choice of departure time; it gave me a fighting chance to have breakfast.  On this first day the later start time was especially welcome as it gave me the chance to indulge in another of my favorite cruise things – the scrambled eggs at breakfast. I don’t know how they do it, but somehow or other, and apparently no matter what cruise line or ship, the (in my opinion) luscious scrambled eggs are always the same. I’ve tried mightily and I simply cannot replicate those delicious eggs. I was happy.   

The tour; there was some walking –to be expected –but was mostly a drive around the city and was fortunately short.  I was surprised at how hilly it was and also at the large amount of greenery:  gardens, parks and trees.  The city was notably crispy clean and surprisingly and conspicuously free of the ubiquitous graffiti.  Being from very low profile Washington DC  I was probably  particularly aware and impressed by the sheer size, volume and gleaming modernity of  massive shiny glass skyscrapers.  The tour guide told us the reason there was such a large number of conspicuously modern buildings was due to the frequency of earthquakes;  this frequency assures of a large and constant/guaranteed rebuilding – in the latest style of course.  This is quirky enough a fact to attribute to a tour guide’s imagination so…do I believe this? 

We returned to the ship, enjoyed lunch, were treated with the usual safety/life raft drill, and were released in good time for another hopefully usual cocktail hour. 

Sometime thereafter the ship departed and we were on our way to discover Japan: Land of the rising Sun, the Samurais, and the Shoguns.

DAY THREE – SHIMIZU -  but not Shimizu - a day at sea instead.

  Shimizu was skipped in deference to a pending typhoon;  I thought that was wise.   I’m vastly relieved to think that they’ve gained some sense (or learned something) from their little crisis in the North Sea last year.

 Unfortunately the highlight of this port was to view Mount Fujiyama: the major emblem of Japan.  But let’s face it; there’s a very good chance that it would have been shrouded in fog anyway. So, another “destination” hit the skids as I’ve averred they too often do.  You just can’t count on them.  

I’m thoroughly relieved to have this day off….in my estimation it’s way preferable (and almost a necessity) to have the first day of a cruise be a sea day; down time to get over jet lag and learn the layout of the ship.

The sea was like a millpond;  not a whiff of typhoon.

The layout of the ship, in general, was much the same as the other oceangoing cruise ships we’ve been on.  This is something to be thankful for; familiarity takes a lot of pressure off what could  mean a big and confusing job so  is a real benefit.  It’s hard enough negotiating with the loss of direction,  which I find inherent  with elevators in ships  and  which can remain the case for an entire trip. That’s ok, it keeps me on my toes literally.

Our cabin was quite fine aside from the interrupted window wall.  Only dislike – the veranda window wall was mostly a wall in the middle – the small door was very awkward and heavy to maneuver – I was constantly afraid it was going to break either my foot or my hand hauling on it.  The bathroom was what has become my idea of perfect; small with a great glassed shower and adjustable shower head and easily accessible sink…. Loved it.  The interior design of the ship was - Scandinavian – well, Viking;  but not the overtly modern and sterile version.  One stairwell displays the Norman Bayeux Tapestry, the halls feature pictures of Norway,  and there are  Viking embellishments  adorning the shelves. Our surroundings were attractive and seemed quite comfortable to me.

We spent the afternoon poking around the ship and enjoying the ocean breezes.  The day was sunny, 95o (hotter than Cambodia) – a perfect pool day.  

The much anticipated  pool unfortunately– was one of those scary looking squarish, small, dark, deepish things, resembling a tomb;   no lovely shallow areas around the edges on which to lounge or  sit  to dangle your feet in the water; just vertical sides with not even wide steps but  ladders - which at least were  very sturdy and secure. I’ve had problems with pool ladders,  so confront them with  trepidation.   What’s more …. NOT SALT…   why not? 

Although the weather was gloriously sunny and warm, the pool area and its lounge chairs spent most of the time almost empty.  HMMMM.  This pool has a retractable roof  I was told they use while at sea;  purportedly to keep the birds out.  I suspect it was in use the two times I tried the pool – the effect was distinctly eerie and unfortunately benefitting a bit at least from the air conditioning.  BAHHH. Definitely not INVITING.  Where were the bars, where were the pool attendants purveying those luscious tropical drinks with the umbrellas?  Where was the island music wafting through the warm humid air? Where indeed? (this is two months later and my reaction is simply to be appalled.  I really must have been jet lagged not to have been more unhappy than I seemed at the time).

Anyway,  I did brave the pool.  I was afraid, but it was there, so I had to do it.  Yes, it was very unfriendly.  There was one couple flirting and floating by the side;  I felt uncomfortable disturbing their privacy.   … and I was  fearful about getting out . I am really leery of ladders having slid down one which caused a lot of blood.  The whole situation was downright SPOOKY!   But I made the effort. I didn’t stay very long,  just long enough to earn another of my shipside pleasures, a very long, very hot shower.  sublime. 

NB and much later….it finally dawned on me what one of the major problems was; this pool hardly pretends to have any familiarity with the outside.  It’s very much sunk down into the body of the ship; no jogging track with deck chairs and bars around the upper periphery.  It’s basically an indoor pool especially when the retractable roof is on.  Lousy ambience for a pool…I knew there was something essentially wrong.

Shortly over time I discovered a really neat, humorous and quite unusual attribute;  THE SINGING RESTROOMS.  The public bathrooms  were equipped with  sound systems so when you entered you were met with a whiffle of  very pleasant, presumably  tropical, sounds;  the sound of surf on the shore, breezes rustling/stirring through the palm tree fronds,  birds squawking, maybe monkeys chittering and other more unfamiliar sounds presumably found in a jungle.  I can’t tell you how tickled I was the first time I encountered this delightful surprise……It doesn’t exactly gibe with the overtly Scandinavian interior design; unless of course they’re having a spate of wishful thinking.  This dichotomy just makes it even more fun, I think.

 And then it was       +++++       COCKTAIL TIME!!!!

We must have arrived at our next port by then, as we were greeted in the cocktail lounge by a view of the most extraordinary and very Japanese Ferris Wheel….  which thoroughly entranced us by its antics;  flashing and whirling neon lights in all the brightest rainbow colors and figures which looked like HELLO KITTY and anime.   Oh, yeah, I ‘m in Japan, aren’t I (I don’t think up to then I’d actually had much of a chance to notice that). I LOVE IT!

DAY 4 – OSAKA  - in which we get a bonus free day.

There is no agenda nor destination:  Now isn’t that just wonderful…..

 Our time is always committed when we are in any port.  But this day  we can do anything we want and at our own speed.

This turned out to be such an excellent and unexpected benefit, I came to the conclusion that it was indeed worthy to be an EPIPHANY.

Encountering and recognizing an EPIPHANY is such a treasured and rare occurrence that this in itself  is noteworthy, two in one trip is astounding.

What did we do with this unexpected bonus?  

Right next to the ship was that glorious Ferris wheel we so enjoyed last night.    Heights have never appealed to us much so this is an activity we’ve tended to shy away from; but there it sits just beckoning us to give it a try.  It didn’t look too scary; if you didn’t count those  cabins with the glass floors.  I wonder what you or they would do if you really got scared; but we didn’t.  What we did do is enjoy a terrific view – down there was the ship, and way over there we could see the city.

Then, beckoning us from afar, on the other side of a huge LEGO giraffe apparently advertising the presence of a Lego Museum, and a very Japanese shopping mall, we noticed that there was an aquarium.  How did they know this was one of the things I like to visit most on a trip?  We spent a very enjoyable afternoon with the fishes, the puffins, the trained seals and luckily enough, a brand new exhibit featuring jellyfish. 

Jellyfish:  so very strange and truly awesome animals indeed. They are a real trick of evolution why and how, and the scientific community is hot on their heels with thoughts of encountering characteristics potentially useful for the likes of us humans.  One feature recently under the microscope was their use  of flashing neon colors  to communicate.  Just think how it would be if we could do that.   Most species  present  were the common  billowy diaphanous varieties;  but there was a tank containing a species that looked like rather amorphous ”stuffies” – as in stuffed animals.

 I later learned that this aquarium is one of the largest in the world. 

This was a wonderful use of our free time plus being notably easy on my walking discomfort.

Tomorrow we’re scheduled to get down to some of the really serious business of touring.  Kyoto it is; eight hours of world heritage temples and shrines and a whole lineup of gold buddhas.  Goody!

But before we got there ….TADA….  we, RJ being the active one, spent the night tussling with the onset of that old familiar scourge to our touring;  gastroenteritis.

DAY 5 - but not KYOTO - We’re in QUARANTINE…. .I hope we’re not cooked for the duration.

This is the day of the much anticipated, much fought for tour of the trip – Kyoto  –  THE FIRST CAPITAL AND CULTURAL HOME OF ANCIENT JAPAN.

 I bit the bullet and I’m going to try to do it alone. 

I informed the Viking personnel of my plight and they assured me I would be fine.  I went to the bus and introduced myself to the guide and let her know of my situation.  BUT,  WELL… the English was very spotty (is this a clue to how well the tour would go?)  and I climbed on.  Approximately ten minutes later I was ready to get off.  She was in such a state of dither and confusion; a positive whirligig of stops and starts, hems and haws, sorry, sorry, dropping the box of water bottles and falling over it and, and,  and “so sorry so sorry” actually the epitome of the comedic totally unacceptable politically incorrect version of the  Japanese …I was simply AGHAST! 

I knew I was in trouble but I was so determined to visit this; probably the only vaguely traditional environment we will see.

We got to Kyoto and the bus parked, and I and my fellow bus mates set off for our objective – the Temple.  It was 102o, the trek was uphill, not ten minutes by a long shot, and included of all things three working railroad tracks. Everyone else was fresh, and energetic and set a fast pace; needless to say I was simply beat by the time we reached the first intersection. By the time I had managed to crawl to the forecourt of the Temple I was set to bail out.  I did not do the Temple tour but sat on a wall in a fortunate bit of shade and people watched; good stuff.  I wasn’t terribly disturbed – yet.  Temples have never been a big thing with me.  So I was just delighted to have the opportunity to watch a truly amazing variety of internationals as they streamed by on their way to tour.  I was totally gratified when along came a Geisha or two. Well of course I knew, real Geisha’s no longer exist, so I was a bit puzzled.  On closer inspection I noticed little clues that were not entirely what you’d expect of a Geisha; like rather uncoifed hair, overly casual deportment, etc. BUT what were these then?  I discovered that renting a costume and parading around town was all the rage:   They were FAKE GEISHA’S.  what a hoot! 

GEISHAS:  very interesting.  I’m a bit puzzled by the popularity of this diversion. There was a time when some people thought of them as being prostitutes;   not a particularly desirable image  to espouse.  It must be that the current thinking is more in the line of   glamorous, perhaps even romantic.  In fact Geisha’s lived a life of rigorously formalized trained servitude.  Maybe courtesan is a more western concept, but not I’d say as rigorously trained and regulated. Whatever they were, their position was not one a modern female would do anything but eschew. So why so popular?  Hopes of admiration, fun, and they undoubtedly added a delightful bit of local color for others to enjoy while providing terrific photo ops.   It’s quite possible the geisha reputation   experienced a change in emphasis over time; assuredly a good example of a mixed metaphor.

 WERE THEY actually DOING THE MAKEUP?  I wouldn’t think so, but I suppose I was too smitten to notice.

We were then bussed to an actual traditional palace for lunch.  We were told that we would be served in the traditional method of dining for males of substance which meant   primarily that we would be sitting on the floor (good luck with that). We did not sit on the floor as advised,  but on very low stools, each of us in front of ittybitty tables  upon which the food and drink was ‘jammed”  with stuff some of which closely resembled slime/mucus.  I’m sorry, I kid you not,  I am very open to unfamiliar foods  but….  Fortunately, there was one lone dish containing a piece of recognizable food, a melon – I gather that’s all most of us ate.   I tried a few things, but they were   so very, very foreign in texture, color, shape, everything; totally unappetizing.    Ok, it was VEGAN so possibly more weird even than normal.  (we paid $240 for this?) Yes, it was definitely an authentic Japanese style house with tatami mats and shoji screens and a peek of garden but – otherwise. (please note: I was surprised that this was the first and as far as I know the only offering of potties today).

 We learned later that this was supposed to be “a learning experience” and actually consisted mostly of the local food item  PICKLES – that’s interesting.  This demonstration was to have been conducted by our guide, but I really don’t think it would have helped much due to the inadequate English,   but…. She was running around with the waitress “geishas” delivering sodas and beer.  Perhaps with a little guidance we would have better been able to appreciate what we had been so carefully served;  we would have loved that.

 Remember, this was my first encounter with both Japanese as well as Viking side tours….and I was absolutely appalled.  I have never seen such disorganized, mass confusions, frenetic aimless scurrying around like A DISTURBED ANT’S NEST. SO sorry, excuse me, whoops, sorry sorry.      OH, OH, OH!

  The tour was then to proceed to the mountain of bamboo: up, up and away …….. I opted out.

One pm and boy have I had enough of this tour.  I thought I could wander in the surrounding garden – it actually was supposed to be on the tour but – I was alone and I didn’t dare take off.  Contrary to the guides advice, the driver did not know where the entrance was anyway  – actually he spoke no English.  She had told me the driver would turn on the AC for me – he didn’t have to; .all the drivers were lounging in their already AC’d buses anyhow. GRRK 

  I was confronted earlier by most of the other 35 members of the tour with the absolute fact that this was billed DIFFICULT – a walking tour.  Not in my book; computer sign up and Viking Catalogue both indicated it was  rated a Medium.  Our tickets did indicate Difficult, and we confronted the Tour Office with this fact. They said there’d be no problem.  I would never have signed up for a D…I’m not stupid.- even M is pushing it.  Another MISREPRESENTATION of the basest sort. 

I did gain the bus trip giving me some view of the town, the city  and the countryside, but the rest was ROUGH. 

This was the most unforgettable tour I’ve ever been on – not necessarily good, but definitely memorable.  And I had a basic learning experience:  I must never attempt another tour alone.  It’s mostly the stenosis but…. I need some sort of support/confederate but also to ward off angry wolves.

This was undoubtedly   that ADVENTURE I was looking for.

Main point; Viking screwed up – this trip was incorrectly rated.  This was also my first evaluation form to fill out ***  I’m amazed the form didn’t turn to ashes… I was RATHER FURIOUS.  Why did Viking not have a more temperate tour to such an important place?  I met others who did the essentials with ease – but independently.  I ended this journal entry by announcing:  KEEP THIS UNDER ADVISEMENT problem wasn’t her (the guide’s fault) now how could I actually have said that?  To be kind. I felt sorry for her; obviously she’d been given a job that she was not prepared for.

I’d like to say a word about those daily tour evaluations:  First of all, I don’t remember ever being asked to rate a tour on any of our earlier cruises.  And second:  the rating was based on ”expectations”:  did such and such meet your “expectations”?  Those that I completed, I made a big point of questioning that word – I crossed out the “expectation” and added that  a better ruler by which to judge would be – whether it fit your desires or perhaps satisfaction.  I aver this is by far a safer approach pretty much anytime especially when it has anything to do with travel.  Add to that the vicissitudes of travel and imagine the  tenuous   position you put yourself  in if you are responsible for the outcome – which Viking assuredly was.  I think I pretty much quit messing with them almost immediately. I’d love to see their responses.

Back to the ship, the quarantine, and the martini I so adequately had earned; and boy did I luck out.   I went to the bar for my, double by this time, martini.   I then returned to the cabin for dinner and to be companionable. When  I ordered my dinner I also ordered another usual  and by then double martini (we’d just settled in to ordering doubles – we’d  had a basic question all along as to proportion of drinks and we just settled with whatever they were considering double on that particular day – but mostly they seemed  single to us.  but a Martini is a Martini,  and we’re not going to bicker). RJ ordered one too - happily the bar didn’t seem to be hooked up to the computer program limiting RJ to a very strict diet.  (I didn’t forgo martinis when I was in Quarantine in Saigon). RJ actually relented and obeyed the Doctor/computer,  so I got to drink his too.  Huh!  I, maybe not RJ so much, had a perfectly fine meal thanks to room service.  Too bad we had no off- ship TV – not even CNN – why not?

I kind of spent the night fretting; will I be able to handle even a Medium tour, or even those that are included? But I can’t just quit touring. I was very concerned.  Tomorrow is Hiroshima and you can’t just ignore this landmark; you can’t just sit on the ship but there’s no way I’m undertaking that one alone. 

And, I’d hate to think RJ’s diarrhea is a result of our martini indulgence.  Oooboy, that could really put the kibosh on me.  FRET FRET!

DAY 6 – HIROSHIMA – and still quarantine

We, the ship, spent most of this day sailing THE INLAND SEA – how dramatic -being a rather formidable  element of the geography of Japan – and weaving our way through the islands of the delta of which Hiroshima is part.    This kind of travel is the best;  I do love being on the water watching the landscape floating by.

The ship’s Medics were being totally draconian,  and were absolutely not under any circumstance going to release RJ until 4;00, and not one minute before.  The included tour could be as late as 2:45 and we could possible join it, but they were NOT, not going to release him absolutely not.  “Stubborn Norwegians” – we tried everything. NO no no I am not doing it alone – too hazardous. But I must earn my martini. Are they going to have a ceremony to release him?

I came out of this with the distinct impression that Seabourn was a lot more relaxed in handling this kind of issue.

4 pm and FINALLY we were sprung; and we’re off on the shuttle to the city center and a visit to the Memorial Peace Park.  

The major objective on this stop, and actually I kind of suspect maybe the entire cruise, were the Peace Parks of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; as the whole world knows, the targets of the horrific atomic bombs in 1945.   The objective was to force the Japanese to surrender thereby saving endless additional lives.     I’m not crazy – oh yes – about visiting these locations… the whole thing more or less makes me sick. First of all I was old enough to feel the horror over what had happened, and since to have experienced innumerable reminders of that awful  event… HMMMM.  I suspect to a lot of people going there might be considered a pilgrimage of some sort; a pilgrimage of shame or recognition of humanity or something.  Of course I will comply.

Thought for the day: the citizens are very cute but squeaky.  Reminded me of the Lilliputians of “Gulliver’s Travels”. Itty-bitty cars, bus seats are very snug – for midgets – I didn’t say that, the guy in front of me did.

It was very hot and very humid, but the basic problem in getting to the Memorial Park was the streetcar (an aside;  we were very impressed by the presence of a streetcar – I used to love the one we no longer have.  I gather this is here because you can’t put a subway on the muddy subsoil of a delta).  That’s all very fine and dandy, but it sure proved an impediment to our getting to the Peace Park.  We were stopped in our tracks by a major intersection totally bereft of any pedestrian crossing.  Uh Oh!  Crossing was achieved by descending into what closely resembled a subway station;  shops circling the center and passages leading off in various directions.  Not a sole spoke English.  Thankfully a good Samaritan rescued us and by dint of a lot of sign language directed us to the proper exit.  We climbed back up to the surface and made our way to the park. HOT, AND WALKING – uncomfortable to the max – and getting very close to the bewitching hour.  We quickly paid our respects and I quit, so we went in search of a taxi.

 AND MAN,  WAS THAT SCARY….  Eventually we managed to capture a cab,   but the driver (who was by the way dressed to the teeth i neat white gloves and all) was absolutely adamant that he did no English and absolutely refused to look at the map showing our goal –which showed it  in Japanese mind you and that we poked in front of him.… frankly I was frantic.    Eventually he took off, in a very convoluted way, but in the right direction at least.   We had absolutely no idea where he was going to take us.  (Remember all this was taking place a very minimall number of blocks from where the shuttle left us).  Suddenly I spied “Americans”.   Stop, stop --no matter where the shuttle stop was,  any port in a storm will do …  and we jumped out of the cab.


DAY 7 – HIROSHIMA continued.

We had selected an optional side trip,  this time hopefully rated an “M”,  to an island to look at another frequently pictured element in Japan – an orange “gate” reflected in what I thought was a lake but is actually the sea.  Price was $99 each for the pleasure of visiting it. 

The bus took us to  a pier and therefore a ferry  which would take us to the pier on the island from whence we were expected to hike what appeared to be a very long way to visit a temple – this was perhaps the actual objective of this tour but being a selective reader I  did manage to overlook that slight fact, and thought the “gate” was it….  Well , that’s what you see all the time. 

The “gate was covered by scaffolding and totally invisible.  Another “DESTINATION” hits the dust.      SO MUCH FOR DESTINATIONS.

The route to the temple went through the main passage (main drag? – don’t know how much there was to this island.  Maybe strictly for tourists). This “walk way” was lined on each side by probably what were only tourist shops and covered with awnings as protection from the sun. It was very colorful and we had a fine time exploring and peering in the shop windows many of which were restaurants displaying their wares/menu in full scale life sized quite colorful and shiny plastic – I gather very traditional.   I indulged in the island specialty – grilled oysters – and you know I loved them, chatted with some very charming Cambodian students who picked me up probably with the objective of practicing their English, took cute pictures  of “deer pestering” – tourists energetically taking tons of pictures of  the island pests- small deer,  and passed our time happily.   We did happen to see some bit of the local color - but “$200 worth?

After lunch on board,  we were to go on the “included” tour of Hiroshima we missed yesterday.   We boarded the bus and discovered that it was two solid hours dedicated to the Peace Park – no thank you - so we ditched it.

Across the wharf from the ship there was a small building with a sign on the door indicating that it was an information center, just what we needed.  So we went in  with positive expectations of finding  some helpful tour assistance.  What we actually found was an impressively large  counter nicely covered by official looking tourist pamphlets, and seven people employed in doing origami*; but no one who spoke English.  I ask you!  The lone gentleman stepped forward and timidly suggested that he might be willing to claim to speak English and gently allowed as to how he’d be delighted to take us to our desired locations – the Castle and a Japanese garden;  and he insisted that he would do it free…FREE.  OK.  Certainly we were in total and thankful agreement.  But what somehow ensued,  instead of departing,  was  a great deal of bowing and related dithering  complete with committee assistance from the others behind the desk and involved a great deal of time  to agree on their part  to  accept our desire to enjoy a workable plan which we’d already enthusiastically had agreed on.  ?? What this seemed to consist of would be a 1-1/2 hour drive for $72 with the gentleman as our guide – we were needy and might have agreed to almost anything so this was totally fine.    Once that issue was satisfactorily settled and agreed upon by all hands on board, we finally set forth.  Our first stop was to admire and photograph the Castle and its moat, apparently the major extent of the city’s fortifications – quite different from our idea of castle.  We continued on to the Japanese Garden where we strolled /wheel chaired along the path around the pool, and over the bridges, admired the school of koi, enjoyed   the delightful plants, shrubs and trees – especially the wonderful Japanese Maples, and greeted the necessary tea house. (Gardens of course are a big thing in Japan, and incidentally with me as well, but this unfortunately was the only one I saw – I gathered from my research that most of them would be difficult for me to do on a tour because of their size, so this was thankfully modest version was very much appreciated.  On our return I not only was gifted with  a fine  origami mobile,  but – now this we thought was supremely strange – the taxi driver discounted the cost to $48 and of course our guide, insisting he was a volunteer actually, did it for free.  ?????  PUZZLED/AMAZED!

to that you might add something else we thought was rather odd…on the pier there was a little rather elderly woman who spent a good deal of time scurrying back and forth ?? who was apparently running a money exchange -  from a card table.  Could this be official?  How could they do it?  And there wasn’t a guard in sight.  NO ??

*ORIGAMI = the major pastime in Japan…because this is the only thing they have room to do in their very small apartments.  I gather a large percentage of the population lives in miniscule apartments in those astoundingly high skyscrapers.  Huge population, little habitable land.  INSIGHT

And again its cocktail hour

HAPPY GUESTS, HAPPY CREW this from our delightful Albanian bar attendant or perhaps his cohort from –he said Burma and I went in to puzzle mode: that’s good -  I guess I’ve gotten used to it being  Myanmar.  That’s progress.  (All of this brilliant repartee has actually been accompanied by a certain degree of curious abracadabra with the drink size).

And I’m inspired to do my usual introspection- (yeah, airplanes, showers, and martinis all seem to have this same effect on me).:  This time – on the Japanese I’ve met so far. “I think the Japanese are the STRANGEST PEOPLE I’ve ever encountered; a different species – aliens from Mars?  Mannerisms have to be seen to be believed.  They all ‘ maybe only women’ dithered hi hi and lots of hand gestures.  And what is this about speaking English?  I was told they had English in school but were too embarrassed to voice it.  Yeah, maybe as “face” is apparently still an issue.  Still?  Are they so proud they are rejecting tourism?  I don’t gather so.  “Japanese – judgement still out – I still have a few more days to work on this.

This has been a rather bumpy ride;  surely a perfect ingredient  for an ideal adventure.

It got unusually crowded - Sardines in the elevators – togetherness – actually good  (I’m beginning to discover what the problem is with even a minimally  larger ship.   I don’t see any advantage as far as basics (surely called “amenities”, gym, spa, restaurants) are concerned. What I do perceive is a sense of  remoteness and a feeling of being disconnected – I end up finally with the word COHESIVENESS.   (other issues will be mentioned later).


Today history, tomorrow mystery…      this is another bartender contribution.

DAY 8 – BEPPU  … instead of  Korea  


A lot is riding on my impression of this tour.   I am hoping to get a better handle on the VIKING VERSION of TOURS - will they all be as rough as Kyoto, is it rated properly,  and am I able to negotiate it. 

This is an “included” tour, so hopefully guaranteed to be less parlous than the optional offerings, but also probably a whole lot more basic. One of the optional tours offered at this stop involved immersion in one of the hot springs pools; clothing not permitted - to comply with the accepted tradition. Too bad I threw out the price list. 

We are fortunate, we’re having  a bit of a let up of the weather; this is a definite improvement at  79o and clouds.  The guide is an actress with a fine command of English.

My first reaction as we stepped off the bus at the destination:  Too much of a hassle:  we carry our own crowd;  we don’t need other cruise ships.

This town is a hot springs resort; two faults, active volcanos, 1600 ft above sea level, steam clouds rising here and there and of course the atmosphere is redolent of Sulphur.  Appropriate message du jour:  it takes ten hours to steam an egg.   This is a town of 200,000 households;  all using geothermal energy, and the  hotel makes its own energy.  Economy is based on fish and tourism; but is also  known for its mandarin oranges and mushrooms.  The tour, I think it involved clay and pottery,  wended its way right through the gift shop and included a taste of Saki (smooth move on the part of the shop).  A SHOPPING TOUR is surely much more my speed than a WALKING TOUR; but also more expensive.  I won’t look.  But Of course I bought a cup; $6.50 – I think I can afford that.  After dawdling around in the shops awhile we moved on to another location and through another even bigger shop; but no Saki.  This was a small brightly tinted red pond which was billowing bits of clouds.  The main attraction for me were the multitudes of Japanese visitors all of whom were  actively taking pictures: of the lake and each other.  Me?  I took pictures of the picture taking visitors.

Interesting but unsubstantiated statistics gained while sitting conveniently in the bus:  126 million population – smaller than California.

                                                                                                                                                         81 million vehicles

                                                                                                                                                          82 million people with licenses

                                                                                                                                                             5 million drivers 75 years or older (to which she blames the number           of accidents…….hmmmmmm – being an octogenarian myself I felt just a bit miffed over this stat and decreed;   surely preferable to our version - guns.

It was here I took notice and  fell in love with THE DARLING LITTLE METALLIC PINK LOAF OF BREAD cars that seem to be everywhere.  I’d just love to sneak one home  with me.  (I HAVEN’T SEEN ANY SINCE JAPAN; got no photo and I think they only live in Japan.   We think it is a Mazda). 

And I think I must have been getting bored.

The BEPPO tour WAS INNOCUOUS. That doesn’t say much for my reaction to this tour, but it’s surely proof positive that I could quit worrying about surviving subsequent tours.

DAY 9 – KAGASHIMA  - the Naples of the Eastern World. 

Well, I suppose if you’re a respectable tourist destination  you’ve got to have a compelling slogan; this apparently was meant to refer to  a cloud-shrouded volcano that is suggested to be an acceptable replacement for Fujiyama. And incidentally Vesuvius while we’re thinking about it and which earned it it’s  soubriquet.    Volcanos tend to look very much alike – it’s their claim to fame trade mark.   

This was  also apparently, “Home of the Last Samurai”:  now this is much more interesting.

This guide was the direct opposite of our Kyoto guide: she spoke excellent English, was not at all insecure or uncertain,  but was in fact astonishingly   wonderfully wacky in her presentation.  I think I have never encountered such a “hoppy” tour guide;  my faith is restored. 

I’m willing to accept the fact that this may or may not have been where the Portuguese landed, the first outsiders to penetrate Japan in the mid 1500’s bringing with them both guns and Christianity but I think it wasn’t until quite a bit later and in Nagasaki that either one of these had any effect.  It probably was the home of the “last Samurai”.   Otherwise not much of what I heard on the bus seemed to equate with the facts  so I’m just going to ditch this part and move on to more secure subjects. 

Our first stop was up a mountain to a spot that was supposed to be the best place from which to see the volcano; it of course was snuggly enshrouded by clouds much to the intense chagrin of the guide.  I tried to make her feel better by assuring her that I had indeed  seen it earlier,  but to no avail – oh well I tried.   We then went to the Museum which was located within the walls of the old city castle ruins.  For a Museum it seemed startingly devoid of artifacts, but what it did have was a very large model of a traditional feudal castle of Japan; a terrific visual  learning tool. A most interesting fact I learned was that Japanese castles did not need huge imposing fortifications as we see in the West,  that was what the Samurais were for.  I hadn’t realized  that; it’s a very interesting concept I think.  This suggests to me a rather low value on life - imagine that.  

Appropriately enough and on that note;  what had caught my attention here was the presence of a Kamikaze Peace Park …does that sound like an oxymoron?    Sure puts a whole new light on the uproar we’re involved in in the US over Civil War monuments; one attitude both concepts share  was how very odd it was to commemorate LOSERS and in such a large way.  I find this thought highly  ironic  and in this case  so timely.  PEACE PARK, PARDON ME!!!  Yeah, well I am old enough to remember their activities and aware of   how horrifying the whole concept seemed to everyone.  Of course, now we have “suicide bombers” and terrorism as part of our everyday fabric.  OUCH! I didn’t say that.

I’m very sorry I missed that Park,   but it got lost in the shuffle and was an optional tour anyway. I did pick up a few pertinent tidbits:  …. “Death instead of defeat”.  1000 flew, 500 were killed and a Mongol division was driven away twice – I think we tend to forget what else the Japanese were involved in during the war – Mongolia  for instance.  The name “KAMIKAZE” means  “DIVINE WIND”;  which eludes to the TYPHOON in the 13th c that wrecked a Mongolian fleet  thus saving Japan from imminent invasion.  This whole episode in history  was so hugely dramatic.

….Just as an aside – I discovered Okinawa is just south of here… I encountered mention of a tour to a property containing plants unique to Okinawa and I was puzzled as I really did envision it as far out in the Pacific.

On the way out of the harbor we were presented with an absolutely stunning scene of the by now largely unenshrouded volcano basking in the light of a glorious sunset.  Great photo op.  

COCKTAIL TIME:  comment: what we encountered today was a very good example of the point of the cruise; it gives us something to talk about. 

We’re privileged to be having a touch of motion in the ocean…..I LOVE MARTINIS AND SHIPS --   THIS IS THE LIFE FOR ME



  I surely hope there will be something else.

First thing we learned is that this area is 75% mountains,– it is the closely encircling mountains which served to restrict the area of fallout meaning that damage inflicted was nowhere near as bad as in Hiroshima.   

I really don’t say much about this tour as it primarily consisted of the Peace Park.  It was very dependent on the audio phone which I unplugged  the minute the narrative commenced relating all the horror stories caused by The Bomb.   I am totally well aware of what happened and at this point I think that’s enough.  It’s an unquestionably nasty  issue that fortunately rarely come up but when it does  I am perfectly satisfied with accepting the fact that it had to be: we were adamant in the attempt  to cease further death.   I’m actually not certain we knew/realized how perfectly ghastly the effect would be.

 As I said before, there aren’t many people left who actually remember,   and humanity  must not be allowed to forget, or horribly enough even in some cases deny, that this happened:  There’s no doubt that  these Peace Parks are essentials. But not for me.  I paid my respects and that was enough.

On the way back to the ship we had a bit of a peek at what was purported to be what remains of the traditional  portion of town.  I would have loved to visit that but…. It was a substantial walk from the ship (almost anything is substantial actually) and it was …. Lunchtime.

And then it was afternoon:  just in time for “ the mother of all “dog and Pony” shows and, incidentally, The BIG EVENT IN NAGASAKI.

This afternoon, according to the  ship’s schedule, we shall,  all 900+ of us,  be required to forfeit our passports, in person, to a team of Japanese Immigration officers who will be stationed on the dock to receive them - between the hours of three and five.

Please keep in mind 1/ most of us had gone this route already today and 2/ it was a very hot and humid 95o in the shade.  Small matter!

So, as all well brought up Americans of a certain age are wont to do, almost the entire contingent of 900+ passengers gathered punctually at the top of the gangplank prepared to diligently behave as requested,  at three o’clock on the button.  The result:  one huge traffic jam from beginning all the way to the bloody end.  the masses appeared all of a piece In the presence of the authorities, passports in hand, and dutifully proceeded to perform that truly popular activity of WALK, STAND AND WAIT especially peculiar to mandatory operations involving a large number of participants.

  Needless to say I was extremely unhappy about having to do this so I put off the inevitable – waiting for a miracle or a wheelchair – either would help - I  stationed myself strategically on the 4th deck railing in order to get a birds eye view of the ensuring pandemonium

and I was not disappointed.       

Starting at the  top of the gangplank,  and in order to achieve the desired effect: the order required did proceed :     We shall be paraded  down the gangplank, across the dock, through the customs shed, turn to the left and proceed  a block -  beneath a mercifully covered walk,  continue across the roadway,  to the  building housing the expectant officials.  Having achieved our goal  and having shed our passports to the great unknown beyond, we shall then be given the  pleasure of leaving the building, not actually to retrace our steps but to  attain another very long but also  mercifully covered path, back down the dock to the beckoning gangway, where we shall nimbly and adroitly weave our way past the descending passengers (this is basically a one-way passage) to climb back  up where we will perform the  ubiquitous  entrance process of flashing our ship id card and presenting ourselves to security screening and AT LAST , and finally, we are freed to go about our frivolous or required duties as we deem desirable.  

    Now I ask you!

 First of all, and  It is essentially at this point that I became convinced of an essential element rearing its ugly head on this trip:  there’s a tremendous amount of unnecessary walking  involved.  Admittedly, this is not a problem for most, but certainly is for me;  and I don’t suppose I’m alone.

Obviously the primary reason for all this hyperactivity is our pending departure from Japan for the next port of call Taiwan.

 This  brings up another point:  maybe we should be thankful Korea was removed from our agenda. Can you just imagine the degree of excessive exercise  that would have involved?  The thought just boggles my mind.  Wow!   I shall enumerate:  leave Japan, get Korea, leave Korea, return to Japan….for a few days, and then we could have started all over again.   

While I waited for things to settle down so that I could take my turn,  I conjured up a rather radical reason for all this:  they (Viking) needed an excuse to practice how to most efficiently effect the undeniably complicated  maneuver of  depositing and retrieving its entire passenger roster in one fell swoop, a very complicated procedure indeed, so they cooked up this operation.  Good job Viking. (We experienced such a business with Regent in Bordeaux when they had managed to drop off - actually in rather small increments, all of its passengers;   all of whom (a mere  600 – makes a difference) had to  be retrieved and boarded  at the same time.  To keep us happy they had lined their entire staff up on the pier and made a big deal ceremony of welcoming us back on board.  It was a beautiful day and we were probably full of wine tastings.   Unforgettable).

That’s one theory.  Not quite as far out, how about :  this is Viking’s version of how to keep the natives occupied for an otherwise eventless afternoon, Viking’s idea of entertainment.


I felt a bit embarrassed for the last one, owing to what shortly ensued: we were serenaded as we departed the pier by the Nagasaki High School band. real live entertainment indeed. 

I was very much  touched by this:  not only was I reminded of my darling exband grandchildren,  but also…. Just equating it with the visit we had made that morning as being  a reminder of our role in that horrific occasion in history……      What an experience.

Enough of all that introspection:  it’s time for my favorite evening ritual:  hot shower, oh does that feel good, and a session with the hair dryer.  WHAT AN INDULGENCE.

And last but not least  COCKTAIL TIME……..

Please be assured:  I actually wasn’t in the least put out by all of this   It’s all just part of the “adventure”.   BUT, it was a huge amount of walking for me for one day. 


It’s HOT, HOT, HOT…  and we GAINED AN HOUR.  I just love gaining an hour and I can assure you I take full advantage of this gift: …..and I eke out that  extra hour over, and over and over…for as long  as I possibly can.

I had a hard time coming up with an activity fit to pay for my cocktail martini  – actually even to earn lunch.  The jogging track on 2 is hot and SALTY STICKYICKEY….  I did make a bit of effort;  I looked at the ellipticals and I don’t think I should invest in one.  I’ll just have to make do with my broken recumbent.

It occurred to me –  I should never have tossed my original asyougo journals – they’re so much better – more immediate – than my carefully composed “masterpieces”.  But then again, for whom would/should I save them?  Like my pictures

Boy I hate to see the end of this;  but it has to be, in order to make room for the next adventure and, if nothing else, in enough time to achieve a proper degree of desire for the next martini.  As in: “ ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART FONDER” – yeh, that’s a pretty good  way to express my basic approach to one of my favorite activities.    I   admit, this is a rather odd attitude, and I’ve been trying to rationalize this for years;  maybe I’ve finally found it.  Suffice it to say, this is my system and it works for me.

I don’t actually know what I did with the day but it must have been acceptable/sufficient,  because I sure didn’t cancel COCKTAIL HOUR.

DAY 12 – TAIWAN – officially - The Republic of China Taiwan.

 and incidentally the home of one of my favorite people.

I’ll bet everyone speaks English… Back to civilization:  so sorry.  Naturally I didn’t get to see much in the way of countryside – actually this has been true for the entire trip. I came up with  a simple reason:   maybe there isn’t any; maybe it’s been all mountains and not accessible.  There were tours going up into the mountain villages:  I gather they were physically quite strenuous and because we were here such a short time, they were also very hurried and limited in scope.  Unfortunate.

We were in and out of Taipei so fast you can hardly even count that we’d been there.

Our admittedly undemanding and safe “included” tour  took in the absolute basics:  Of course we’d have to pay our respects to that amazing and world famous hero of Taiwan Chaing Kai-Shec,  as well as the shrine dedicated to all those who lost their lives fleeing the communist takeover of China and the establishment of  this Republic of China.  We were presumably “privileged” to be   present for the changing of the guard. Oh  Boy!

What really did it for me was the display which took up the entire center atrium of the vast Memorial Hall.   Mammoth FISH dangled from the ceiling all lit up in  spectacular fashion.  These were the most splendid in size, number and  presentation  PARTY ANIMALS* I have ever seen.  I’m crazy about  Party Animals (and Fish);  I was absolutely bowled over.   

These fish were mammoth, accurate representatives of a wide variety of tropical ocean fish painted in the highly exuberant, colorful and   intricate patterns for which the Chinese are so well known.  They were impressively displayed suspended from the ceiling as well as arranged on decorative shelving, and lit in a most effective and stunning fashion.

The purpose of this wonderful exhibit was to promote protection of the environment specially the ocean and it’s animal life.    

*PARTY ANIMALS are, or at least were, a popular street decoration in this country. They are large concrete fancifully painted representations of animals,  cows, pandas, fish, etc, and anything else which might be appropriate  to a particular area.  They were/are most frequently seen adorning parks, median strips, front yards, all over.   Our local (Fairfax County, Virginia) libraries had  books of course, My favorites are the  mermaids in Virginia Beach, Virginia.


It seems that I spent most of the morning contemplating the negatives of our hosts:  I will save the outcome of this for the end. 

We’re on our way to Hong Kong and the end of our cruise, so we were besieged with baggage instructions and a reminder that we’ve got, GOT that is, to be packed and the bags outside the door by 9:00 tomorrow evening.  Goody!

TOMORROW IS GOING TO BE A BEAR!  We are more than over extended with stuff to do …….. just how it goes

As for the rest of the day: 

Lunch and off to the cabin to read   but I finally couldn’t stand the inertia, so I donned my bathing suit with the intention of catching a few rays and having one more try at conquering the pool…. The experience unfortunately was not especially pleasant.  Not surprising.  I ‘d say the retractable roof was in place so not much sun, the lounge chairs were stacked up, and the crew was scurrying around setting things up for the dinner special. I had just commandeered a table and made myself comfortablish when the water aerobics class showed up with its very noisy  aerobics music;  hardly relaxing or even to read through for that matter.  Not much of this seemed very beach resort related, no…..  Of course there were no attendants offering drinks of any kind, let alone any sporting an umbrella.

 I did come to terms with the pool; I figured out a plausible way for me to get out, so I feel that was an accomplishment at least.

And It’s off for my favorite and maybe lastLAST…….COCKTAIL HOUR.

We were walking out the door and I was dismayed to find myself being handed an absolutely massive questionnaire, at first glance at least 25 pages huge.  Now when on earth am I expected to deal with that, pray tell?  We have a totally hysterically full up schedule tomorrow AND IF YOU THINK I AM GOING TO BE INTERRUPTED IN WHAT WILL PROBABLY BE MY LAST COCKTAIL HOUR OF THIS TRIP ….  WELL!!  

 I was totally aggravated – after all, we had ALL DAY to deal with this and I’d pretty much exhausted the subject already anyway.  Grrrrrrr….

 Bear (RJ) tossed it in the bathroom trash can.  Much gutsier than I would have done… I was just going to tell them they stink.  I have accused him of inertia but I’ll tell you that was more gutsy than I’d do.


Just a “heads up” on all the “Bear” stuff happening  tomorrow…………..

First of all, we’re signed up for a full eight hour tour 9 to 5– could be a great deal more than we can chew, but I was sincerely hoping it would give some substance to what has been a rather innocuous……shhh I didn’t really say that, did I?  ……trip.  (I hope as I say, that I haven’t made it too uninnoccuous.      

the final event of an already full day +++++  one I was intent on making the most of: THE SYMPHONY OF LIGHTS being a world renowned event  a light show over Hong Kong Harbor +++

When we were here a few years ago I got a glimpse of the spectacular neon signage adorning the waterside skyscrapers –and I just love all this glitz/bling.  We discovered too late that this fantastic display was further enhanced by what was purportedly a world famous light show. Too bad we  missed that,  but that’s how it goes.   I was very happy to have a second chance of seeing that. I spent a great deal of time at home tussling with how we were going to manage that;  The ship offered a tour(complete with  a duck dinner, the show and then a visit to the bazaar for a spot of shopping.   No way, Jose!   We wouldn’t be back from the tour in time anyway. Thank you. That left me with alternatives; We could do a dinner cruise or hop on a junk for a bit of wine and the show.   The reality after all that:  the show was only ten minutes long,  and,  totally visible from anywhere on the shoreline promenade.  Ok, fine.  But there was the bothersome question of how we were to get to the promenade and back.   There was another rather serious  glitch here;   that ten minutes was at 8 pm. Push has come to shove PUSH HAS COME TO SHOVE SERIOUSLY:  where were my martinis and my dinner?  The question now becomes…. Just how enamored am I actually?  All of this was just a conundrum I could see no way of solving, so I just let it all hang……………

AND THEN somehow or other we’re going to have to PACK…..

And I repeat…………. TOLD ‘YA….. THE DAY’S GOING TO BE A BEAR….

I opened the curtain and you will never believe what greeted me … the shoreline of Hong Kong en toto  sporting  its world famous lineup of skyscrapers;  the whole darned shooting match was RIGHT STRAIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. By some amazing miracle WE HAD THE BEST SEATS IN TOWN. I was absolutely BLOWN AWAY.


But there’s no time to soak in all this beauty right now; we must be off on our big adventure. 

This is to be a bus trip to Lantau Island, the largest island in the Hong Kong archipelago, the main attractions being, the world’s largest seated outdoor Buddha” OHBOY, and a fishing village which reputedly has remained unchanged “ for over a century”.  Obviously it was the fishing village that clinched the deal for me.  

This was the second of my large – ie optional - tour investments - of the trip.  $240 each is rather excessive but it got caught up in events when I first lost Kyoto..

The original reason I signed up for this tour was that we’d already visited all the basic tourist objectives when we were here the last time, and the two hour tour the ship was offering was soooo watered down.  No way  was I  going to spend the last day sitting on the ship;  we needed an alternative and this was the best offered.    I had never gotten around to cancelling it anyway, so we were more or less stuck with the deal no matter how exhausting it sounded. So we went.

The Buddha was indeed IMMENSE as billed, the meal – another Vegan offering but this time Chinese and better, and then there was the village.  There was plenty of walking but well worth the effort;   finally a dip into a bit of the local culture and chockblock one immense photo op.  I was deliriously happy. 

As if that wasn’t enough sensation for the day we were then treated to what I would rate as the utmost humdinger of tourist attractions,  the Ngong Ping Skyrail – 25 minutes of stupendous spectacular and very aerial CABLE CAR RIDE.    WOW!

On the return to the ship we were filled in on information about the rioting.    The guide, prefacing her comments by saying she had been alerted to keep quiet about the riots but obligated of course to keep us entertained for a rather lengthy bus ride, launched in to a rather detailed and definitely personal impression of the situation which is of course very, very unfortunate. I don’t suppose she actually had much choice – the subject was very much on everyone’s mind.   Hong Kong has been a rare example of peaceful stability since forever;  now here they are. They enjoyed great freedom and security under British rule for a century,  obviously   there was bound to be a great deterioration/change in their lifestyles as they were handed over to Chinese rule.   

 A major and unfortunate result of all this upheaval has been that they have lost a large segment of their expected revenue from Chinese tourists – Chinese tourists?  Of course- but not when we were here last.  As far as we are concerned, we are being warned to stay away from the airport on Sundays as well as  from municipal offices.

We got back to the cabin and of course were confronted by the need to pack – no downtime for the weary.  This actually is a breeze: we’ve got this packing thing down to a science, and packing to go home is the easiest by far.  All that’s needed is to upend all the drawers, one by one, into the suitcases,  and you’re done.  Watch out though;  make sure you leave stuff to wear for the flight home. I learned this the hard way – I’ve done that; I had no shirt. Fortunately men come helpfully equipped to solve this problem, Yes,  I was “stuck” wearing RJ’s undershirt and lucky for that; I just had to suck it up.    Not ideal but better than the alternative;  it wasn’t such a long trip anyway.    

Finally it was evening and we were all set to enjoy our front row seats for that famous “Symphony of Lights”.

 It was a glorious evening; perfect temperature,  clear as a bell, soft breezes wafting across the water, Chinese melodies floating  through the air, and  lovely comfortable seats  on our own private veranda. 

BUT…..What to do about cocktails and dinner?

 And that’s where the truly magnificent benefits of the cruise experience comes to fore:  room service to the rescue with spectacular success.   Two double martinis arrived at our door without losing a drop – I can’t imagine how he got it from the bar even though it was just upstairs, because these were totally full -blown right up to the rim double martinis.  The rest of the meal was nowhere near as glamorous, but it arrived in due time,  and at this point, so what.

Sitting on our verandah drinks in hand. We were all set ++  LET THE SHOW BEGIN.

we were smack dab across from that magnificent gaud absolute explosion  of skyscraping and steel all covered with neon messages/adornment of colorful neon patterns, colors, movement.. all this glory.  And what to my wondering eyes did appear - there it was - nestled down so modestly right in the middle of all this flamboyance: the essential element of any right minded tourist destination the eponymous Ferris wheel.   I’ll bet that Ferris wheel has been there from the very beginning;  all that’s left of the original shore front and I’m  impressed and so very glad that it’s still there.

The big show, well… the neon displayed on the skyscrapers was of course totally exuberant, exorbitant and spectacular.  The much vaunted SYMPHONY OF LIGHTS show itself however, and being only  ten minutes long was simply TEN MINUTES of LAZER beams shooting off dancing across the sky in all directions like a luminous dance routine.    WELL….   

I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT… I’d say it was the highlight of the trip.  GOOD ENOUGH.  I will never forget it – I’m a sucker for neon -all that glitters.   BLING . 

THIS whole scenario is hard for me to believe; after all the researching I did without success;   in the end  the whole thing has just simply landed in our laps no pain, no strain, nothing.  THIS IS AN EXCELLENT EXAMPLE of one of my recent epiphanies:  Don’t worry, don’t push it,  and it will almost certainly work out.   (this is a bit more fatalistic than I care, but…  do you believe in fate?)


Viking has done it again….   we were dumped at Hong Kong airport. their convenience, hardly ours;  not the three hours which is required for overseas travel, no…..we were there FIVE HOURS in advance.  This meant that we sat on a metal bench for two hours just waiting for the ticket office to opened up.    

Once that happened we still had to wait, on the very same very hard backless benches, 1-1/2 hrs, for a wheelchair to appear.  During this time there were  multiple mysterious appearances by a number of women, one of whom was equipped with a clipboard who approached us with an absolute symphony of   much bowing, scraping, nodding and more disappearances and reappearances  - no English, of course - and  Oh, my gosh and my butt is numb.  When the wheelchair finally appeared every one of us. It seemed to have taken a small crowd - was gleeful (I’d say that was the right word:  I’d say this was  a typical Japanese form of reaction most of us would probably greet with simply a “relieved” or “glad”).  Our attendant was a most delightful not so young woman - still no English of course - but we got along like gangbusters, and I just loved her.  At long last we finally achieved that long anticipated business lounge –about now not only was I ravenous, but we only had maybe an hour to enjoy a most impressive buffet of delicious looking tidbits.   (Air Canada seems to share lounge facilities belonging to other nations; impressively efficient and in this case much appreciated.   This one was Thai and their food offerings were a knockout.  I got to try lotus and some delicious and wildly different buns and I would have loved to keep going but our time was up.  I do love the lounges.   Unfortunately we have been sorely shortchanged on this trip BUT THAT’S HOW TRIPPING GOES.

AND AGAIN WE ARE OFF  +++  and into another endless night. 

Along with the proffered preflight welcoming prosecco came the first of my usual inflight introspections (what else is there to do?):   my day was about to be turned around – and in double time.  I think in this 12 hour flight might we end up being exactly the same time and day as when we left?  Yeah, I think so.  Somehow thinking so seems to make the whole arduous process seem so much more palatable (that might be true as we live it, but just you wait until tomorrow at home).   Yeah, there it is; we leave Tokyo Friday  Sept 20 at 3:15 PM and arrive Toronto Friday Sept 20  at 6:30 PM.  (I don’t know where the 3 hours went – daylight saving time maybe – but whatever.

Other interesting points I came up with after a few drinks (I was after all, all alone in my little cubbyhole with no one but me to talk to):  First off, here is dinner at such an odd hour; what’s more I’m full of all that delicious lounge food.  This happens every time:  I might as well accept this as a given and go easy in the lounges -fat chance.

PLANE TIME – how would you describe your existence while flying?   Might you be in limbo- or perhaps stasis?  How about literal existentialism?  No question; there  can’t be any greater break in the norm.

Put my lifestyle in a blender and switch it on….WOW.  GIVE me a few more drinks….WHEE… Time wise I think no change of clock is needed (that’s true.  Regardless of that mysterious three hours). 

The good part:  they moved the champagne to plastic…bad part they still haven’t learned how to make a martini.

OH, BOY DO I work hard for those martinis..

Oh, gosh………I’m bored stiff and we haven’t left the ground.

I came to terms with all the dark and in hopes of preventing blood clots in my legs (it’s never happened but you never know):  I spent the time playing with the myriad seat settings, interspersed with bathroom trips, in hopes of tricking  my body into thinking things were normal and actually maybe it was as it worked just fine.

Flight was ok – not the longest night ever like the flight out.  I have no idea where my body feels it is time wise – I’ve been up 24 hours 7to7 I think, and it’s not going to get any better. I THINK THE RETURN TRIP TOOK 24 HOURS -24 HOURS  -  WHAT WITH STOPOVERS AND SIT INS.    FORGETABOUTIT.



PLEASE STAY WITH ME - THE BEST IS YET TO COME - MY OPINIONS and I divulge that wonderful thing i learned ABOUT JAPAN............