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Hangzhou/ Shanghai, Day 14

Hangzhou, China

It was a tight day, there was a lot to squeeze in.
We started by hiking up Phoenix Mtn. and see herbs there. This was the last hike, so naturally we had to get separated as a group in order to keep with the tradition. It was a nice day out and the trail was lined with new slate tiles all the way. Robert grabbed a couple of samples to show us on the trail and later on the bus.

During lunch we all decided that while Hangzhou is a niced city, we were ready to move on to Shanghai earlier and wanted to all have a formal, final dinner together.
So we revised the schedule a bit.

Next we visited the West lake tea farm. Along the drive you could see all the tea growing on the hill side. Here we met some of the local farmers who pick the green tea leaves and pan-dry it for 8 hours each day by hand. It's an arduous task and explained why the tea is expensive to produce. Then we met "Dr. Tea" who then explained all the benefits of green tea as well as the various grades there of. He was a total salesman with animated demonstrations. The teas though, tasted nice. Of course, we had to buy some, since it is hard to find good quality tea in the US.

We then had to hurry to catch our boat ride on west lake. The day started off beautifully and continued that way while we were out on the water, the weather was perfect. The ride offered nice views of the surrounded hills which were dotted with pagodas and temples. In the distance you could see the modern city, a drastic contemporary contrast to the ancient buildings. It was a perfect snapshot of modern China.

After the lake, we had about an hour to squeeze in any last minute shopping at the promenade in town. there were lots of paintings, textiles, handcrafts and snacks to be had. So much to buy, so little time.

Then it was our last 3 hour bus ride to our final destination: Shanghai.
The city was all lit up. Shanghai is a city with the height of NYC, the width of LA and the electric light overload of LV. Our hotel was located right on the end of the "Bund," an area along the river where on one bank there are all old European colonial buildings and the other all skyscrapers made during the last 10 years. It was a great drive and a perfect introduction to the chaotic city.

We quickly checked into our hotel, which was all Art Deco and made in the 30's. Then it was nice final dinner together. We were all able to fit at one large table this time. After many toasts and thanks to one another we called it a night. it was great to wrap up the trip together this way. So much had happened in the past weeks, you could barely remember all the events. At this point, the traveling had taken a toll and most of us were exhausted. We had to prepare for the next day, check out and leave Shanghai at noon. A few brave souls walked around the Bund and checked out Shanghai's night life.

permalink written by  Benjamin Satterfield on September 28, 2005 from Hangzhou, China
from the travel blog: China Tour Fall 2005
tagged Food, China, Herbs, Medicine, Nanjing, TeaHouse, Mountain, Hangzhou, TeaFarm, Phoenix, PhoenixMountain, Herbal, Tea, Boat, BoatRide, Lake, ArtDeco and Bund

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Get on the Boat!

Osaka, Japan

Morning arrives, we eat the regulation free business hotel buffet, and then get a cab to the port. The cab was jam-packed with the 4 of us plus Adam and my massive luggage. The cab driver did not seemed best pleased, especially when the bottom of the car scraped on the gutter as we had overloaded his jaloppy.

Get to the ferry port very early expecting there to be issues with passport clearance and we had to stand around waiting. The port was a warehouse with a few people behind desks and a vending machine. Not a single shop.

While we were waiting Dana befriended a guy whose name we don't know, but my best guess would be “Child-bearing Hips”, or CBH... He was at the port 7 hours early for a ferry to Korea. He offered to take our picture all together which he did with everyone's camera except mine. After he did that he decided to hang around and become our friend... Well, after all, he had taken the picture.

Dana and CBH starting becoming as thick as thieves, so the rest of us retreated hastily outside and talked about how much we didn't want to talk to the other guy. A few more photos were taken and then it was time to board. Some sad goodbyes were said and I can not thank those boys enough for coming all the way to Osaka to make our send off even more special. Then we boarded the “luxurious” Su Zhou Hao. As we boarded we were impressed that our tickets said VIP on them as we had booked the VIP room, but no-one else seemed to give a crap. We ate lunch, sat around, ate dinner had a beer, shot the shit and then went to bed at 11pm... What a sad pair...

permalink written by  Big_T on August 22, 2008 from Osaka, Japan
from the travel blog: Big_T's Travel Blog
tagged Boat, Boring and CBH

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The Boat across and Stockholm

Stockholm, Sweden

Mark, hope this one works better... It's appropriate for the Finland post only though


After hitting up the internet cafe for the previous entry we walked down to the port and jumped on our accomodation for the next 15 hours or so i.e. the boat across to Sweden.

We got on on the 7th deck, even though we were staying in the cheapest possible rooms on the 2nd deck... The boat was massive, it went up to about 13 decks... We knew that we would be safe from the seasickness of the Osaka to Shanghai debacle...

We were, we stayed up and had a few bevvies, slept and were awoken by the captain telling us we were an hour and a half from port...

We arrived at the hostel which was a former prison after following the directions (well written, but they underestimated the walking time by about 300%)... Of course, as we had arrived in the morning, we couldn't check in yet, so we had to leave our bags and do sightseeing as we were...

We visited the main sights of Stockholm, much like Helsinki a beautiful old city, some really cool museums and old buildings... I got frostbite as it was about -140 degrees... We walked around until about 5:30 when we went back to the hostel to check in... Smallest room ever!

I guess as it was designed for prisoners, there wasn't much chance of a suite at the Park Hyatt, but it was a real 8'x3' job... The 2 of us slept in a bunk bed, at the end of it there was a locker and on the side there was a small table and 2 chairs...

We decided to forego the guidebook for our dinner location tonight and walked around and see what we could see and we found a restaurant/bar in this cool part of Stockholm... The food was good and the service was really cool... I have started to appreciate that much more since Moscow, where if you ask for help, it is like you set their Grandmother on fire...

Next morning was Adam's birthday, and we were going to do 2 things from my 1000 places to go before you die book. First, we got up and visited the Vasamuseet... A museum that houses the Vasa a gigantic warship from the 17th century that sank after 1 nautical mile... It is 95% intact and one of the most magnificent things I have ever seen...

After that we ate for lunch what the Swedes are famous for, Smörgåsbord! We headed about 10Km north of Stockholm to a lovely country inn that is famous for it's smörgåsbord... Even the King of Sweden has been known to eat there, and we know he has a diamond car with platinum wheels (subtle movie reference there)...

The food was awesome, and again we ate reindeer! The Finnish reindeer was better, but that was specifgically prepared and much more expensive... This was on a buffet table...

We left, headed to the port again for the ferry to Latvia... This time, the boat was pretty big, but a rain started just as we got on and this was not a great sign... I felt OK most of the trip but at about 11PM we were having a beer on the top deck and the constant up and down of the boat started getting to me...

Adam could notice I was getting a bit green in the gills and suggested we head back to the room... We did and within 30 minutes we had both passed out... We would have the birthday dinner at another time...

permalink written by  Big_T on September 9, 2008 from Stockholm, Sweden
from the travel blog: Big_T's Travel Blog
tagged Boat, Museum, Birthday and Sweden

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Komodo and Rinca: Day 1

Komodo, Indonesia

Around 8am we met up with our captain, his three-man crew and of course our charter boat for the next two days as we sailed around Rinca and Komodo! It felt like two hours for us to reach Rinca but we were instantly absorbed by the incredible landscape that makes the Komodo National Park. It seemed like a never-ending chain of green jagged hills [even mountains] and empty golden beaches, all of this joined by such clear blue water - really the most incredible thing about the trip for us!

The boat itself was great too, Rolind captained his team of an engineer, a chef and a deck-hand but in reality all of them helped each other. This part of the trip was arranged with Dino and was all included; boat, food, park entrance, snorkel... ...everything except the biscuits and some extra drinks!

Tot le matin, nous embarquons sur le bateau et faisons la connaissance de notre equipage en direction de l'ile de Rinca. 2 heures de mer a admirer les richesses de ce parc naturel qui semble intact depuis des millions d'annees. Quel privilege d'etre la, ces 2 jours seront nos preferes sur Flores. Tout etait inclus pour nous (entrees sur les parcs, guides...) et encore mieux il y avait un cuisinier sur le bateau qui nous preparait de fantastiques repas et en-cas. Pour resumer on n'avait a se soucier de rien sauf de savoir comment on allait manger toute cette nourriture!

Rinca was a strange place with very tall and thin palm trees evenly dispersed across its landscape and dry ravines between its small rolling hills. This is where the Komodo Dragons like to rest in the afternoon and we had the opportunity to see at least five or six females keeping guard near the huge holes they had dug to lay their offspring in. The irony is that once the baby dragons are out of the hole, the mother tries to eat them before they make it to the safety of the trees! We continued to follow our guide [complete with stick] up to a spot on top of a hill where we found a big Dragon hiding between a rock and a tree. As it relaxed in the shade of the sun, it gave us the opportunity to get some good photos before making our way down to the boat. Once on board the crew made us feel instantly at home with a deliciously refreshing juice - a sign of the service to come!

L'ile de Rinca : nous avons fait une petite marche de 1h pour aller a la renconte des dragons et decouvrir le relief et la vegetation de cette ile. Nous avons vu comment les femelles font diversions en creusant plusieurs trous pour tromper l'ennemi afin de cacher leurs progenitures en devenir. Le guide nous a explique qu'a la naissance les bebes ont l'instinct de monter le plus vite possible dans un arbre pour eviter leur mere.... qui attend de les manger! Une fois devenus trop lourds pour grimper aux arbres, ils sont en mesure de se defendre. Le guide a un baton special qui en cas d'attaque permet d'immobiliser les dragons au niveau du cou. Le danger reste minime puisque la journee ils sont assomes par la chaleur. Par contre la nuit cela semble assez dangereux!! Les dragons chassent les animaux de l'ile, chevres, buffles, chevaux (2 recemment qui ont mis bas, et l'odeur du sang les a attires et ont tue les 2 chevaux) et autres. Ce n'est pas tant la "morsure" qui est dangereuse, ce sont les bacteries tres puissantes contenues dans leur salive qui tue rapidement. Apres quelques photos, il etait temps de rentrer au bateau pour savourer le jus de fruit frais qui nous attendait.

We had our first of three superb meals on the boat as we sailed from Rinca across the waters and incredibly strong currents to a snorkelling spot closer to Komodo island itself. Just as the sky became a bit cloudier it was time to jump in and discover what lay beneath. The feeling of seeing such a beautiful garden of corals and exotic fish is difficult to describe but this spot was one on the best snorkelling spots i have ever been to. Within minutes there were turtles and large shoals of fish to be seen, then rays and closer to the beach the coral gives out a red substance that makes the beach look pink and hence the name of the place, Pink Beach.

Nous avons repris la mer en direction de Komodo et avons decouvert la puissance des courants entre ces deux iles (c'est d'ailleurs a cause de la puissance des courants que ces animaux prehistoriques existent toujours. Ils n'ont pas pu quitter leurs iles et d'autres predateurs n'ont pu les atteindre). Proche des cotes, le bateau a jete l'encre pour qu'on puisse faire du snorkelling. Je ne me suis pas aventuree trop loin du bateau tandis que Brian n'a pas hesite a nager jusqu'a une plage de sable rose, admirant au passage poissons, tortues et coraux.

After Pink Beach we sailed a short while to the sheltered spot where we would lay down anchor and spend the night. Just as we arrived two dolphins made an appearance and these were followed by a mass passage of flying-foxs [bats] going from one side of the water to the other, impressive. The locals came out to sell us a wooden Komodo Dragon and we duly accepted, after all it's better to buy here than in Bali! We watched the sun go down and had another splendid meal of fresh fish thanks to one of the crew who caught a big fish en route to Rinca by trailing a fishing line of the back of the boat. A few drinks and some music between everybody and then to sleep; some put up with the heat and size of the cabin others chose the deck!

Nous avons dormi entre 2 iles dans un endroit protege des vagues. Alors que le soleil se couchait, nous avons vu 2 dauphins nager vers le bateau puis un peu plus tard, les flying fox (sorte de chauve souris) passer au dessus de nous rejoingnant Komodo. Magique! Des vendeurs sont venus a bord et nous leur avons achete un petit dragon en bois souvenir. C'est bizarre de faire ses achats en pleine mer! En route, l'equipage avait installe un filet de peche ce qui nous a permis de manger du poisson frais le soir meme. Compte tenu de l'etroitesse, de la chaleur et de quelques cafards dans la cabine, Brian et Amandine ont decide de dormir sur le pont!

permalink written by  Lenameets50 on January 22, 2010 from Komodo, Indonesia
from the travel blog: Indonesia & Malaysia et al 2010
tagged Boat, Indonesia, NationalPark, Beautiful, DinoLopez, Labuhanbajo, Komodo, Rinca and Dragons

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Komodo and Rinca: Day 2

Labuhanbajo, Indonesia

Our second day on the sea began with a beautiful Sunrise as you can see from the photos. Just as we were getting ready for breakfast, the captain took us on a tour around the fishing boats that surrounded the bay. As Captain Rolind bought our lunch, we got the chance to watch each fisherman on every boat working alongside his wife and child. The sea standing still and the heat starting to rise it was a fantastic place to be and won't be forgotten either.

Nous avons assiste au leve du soleil (enfin!) puis avons navigue parmi les bateaux de peche de la baie. Nous avons constate que de bon matin les pecheurs travaillent en famille avec femme et enfants sur leur bateau. La journee s'annoncait deja belle.

We arrived at Komodo island around 8am before the small cruise ship got there and although it wasn't quite as good for dragon spotting as Rinca it still made a pleasant land-break. We got to see a few big dragons walking around as the heat was more bearable for them at this time. The deer and other animals that live around the small settlement made us imagine feeding time every time they wondered close to a dragon but nothing eventful happened!

Nous sommes arrives a Komodo de bonne heure avant que les bateaux de touristes debarquent. Mais a choisir nous avons prefere l'ile de Rinca pour ses nombreux dragons et le contexte. Mais vu qu'il etait relativement tot les dragons n'etaient pas encore trop assomes par la chaleur a Komodo et nous avons vus certains se deplacer devant nous et c'etait impressionnant! Du coup entre les animaux autour des dragons (des biches) et les dragons qui se deplacent, on imagine vite qu'une attaque va se produire.... et bien non.

After Komodo we had a two hour journey along the coast to Manta point where we spent a while circling the shallow crystal waters looking for Manta rays. Although we saw several from the boat either playing on the surface or swimming in numbers below, every time we tried to catch them in the water with the snorkeling gear they were to quick. Brian did get to spend a few minutes alongside one though and it was a formidable underwater experience. Eventually we stopped the engine and spent some time just playing about in the water and lounging on the boat. A perfect afternoon! Then a last stop on Angel Island where the ladies enjoyed the beach before our return to Labuhanbajo and the end of a quite marvelous two-day trip to Komodo National Park. It wasn't the dragons that made it just the pure beauty and preservation of this magical place.

Apres komodo, nous avons navigue 2 bonnes heures pour rejoindre une zone en pleine mer qui s'appelle Manta point ou on peut admirer des raies geantes. Apres en avoir apercu du bateau Brian a saute du bateau a plusieurs reprises pour les voir avec son masque. En vain, pas assez rapide! Finalement il a pu en voir une durant quelques minutes et profite des ces moments privilegies. Nous avons pose l'encre de nouveau et fait du snorkelling dans une eau translucide (heureusement, si une raie arrive!). La fin du voyage s'est termine par une session plage sur l'ile Angel (ile de l'ange) avant de rejoindre Labuan Bajo. Plus que les dragons, c'est surtout le cadre magique du parc naturel que nous avons apprecie durant ces 2 jours.

permalink written by  Lenameets50 on January 23, 2010 from Labuhanbajo, Indonesia
from the travel blog: Indonesia & Malaysia et al 2010
tagged Boat, Indonesia, NationalPark, Beautiful, DinoLopez, Labuhanbajo, Komodo, Rinca and Dragons

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