Since my last blog post, I have now been to 4 different countries around Asia. From Hawaii, I have sailed across the Pacific to Japan, China, Vietnam, and visited Cambodia for a short time. I am currently sailing from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to Yangon, Myanmar (Burma). I’m very excited about our next port because I know that this country is one of the most undiscovered places around the world!
Sailing the Pacific was definitely an experience. There were days that were calmer than others, but luckily for me, I have a pretty good pair of sea legs. We sailed for ten days straight before we arrived in Kobe, Japan. While our ship was being piloted, we were greeted with a water cannon show from the Japanese coast guard! The Japanese are without a doubt some of the nicest people I have ever met. They are extremely open to foreigners and will go out of their way to help someone in need. While in Japan, I traveled to a different city every day. The first day was our port city, Kobe. Kobe was really cool, and it is most famous for its Kobe beef. Although the price for the beef was ridiculous, I bought some, but it was TOTALLY worth it. The next city I visited was Hiroshima. Hiroshima is a bustling city with many people. My friends and I spent the day walking around and visited the A-Bomb Dome (the only building to survive the Atomic Bomb), and walked around the Peace Park. I never really understood how bad the Atomic Bomb was until I visited the site and saw all of the melted objects that had survived. Following Hiroshima, I traveled to Kyoto, this city is known for its strong Japanese culture. Here you can find different temples and shrines. My friends and I, like Hiroshima and Kobe, spent the day walking around the city visiting different historic spots. Later that night, my roommate and I took a spontaneous trip to Tokyo. We were able to do this with our Japan Rail Pass (If you ever consider visiting Japan, this is a must). In Tokyo, we visited the Emperor’s Palace, the world’s largest fish market, and visited other sites around the city. The final day was spent back in Kobe so that we could make on-ship time. Our next port of call was Shanghai, China.
After two short days of sailing we arrived in Shanghai. I remember waking up and thinking I was in Tomorrowland from Disney World because the architecture is so mind-boggling. The first day in the city I had a field class that basically toured the city. I wish I could explain how crowded it was, but it’s hard to imagine without being there. Also, we were able to go to the top of Shanghai Tower (second tallest skyscraper in the world). Over the next couple of days, I traveled around Shanghai and also went to a water village about two hours south of the city. The last two days I was a part of a field program that took us to Beijing. While I was there, my field program visited Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and The Great Wall of China. My favorite, like most people, was The Great Wall. The view from the top was spectacular, and if it wasn’t for the smog I would have been able to see for miles. Speaking of smog, I knew that China’s was bad, but I never would have imagined that I wouldn’t be able to see a building that was only a few blocks away. Anyways, when I got back to the ship I was extremely exhausted from the week I had been thru.
The next country that we traveled to was Vietnam. We ported in Ho Chi Minh City, and during my time in Vietnam, I was a part of a field program called Mekong Exit to Cambodia. This particular program was packed with activities. On the first day, my group traveled south from Ho Chi Minh City to another city called Can Tho. We walked around the city and intermingled with the different markets. The next morning my group woke up and took a trip on the Mekong River. Here, we interacted with a floating market. There were around a hundred large boats selling different fruits and vegetables, none of which looked very sanitary. We then traveled by bus through rice fields and different villages to the Tra Su forest. We spent the rest of the day floating around with a guide that navigated his way through the swamp. The next day, we traveled by boat into Cambodia along the Mekong River. When we got into Cambodia, we ate lunch and then went to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This was an extremely touching site because this is where thousands of Cambodians lost their lives during the Khmer Rouge in the mid 1970s. I was fortunate enough to meet one of the eleven survivors named Bou Meng. After the museum, we traveled to the killing fields. This place was where the Khmer Rouge brutally killed men, women, and young children. In fact, this site still has human remains coming up from the ground because of the Earth’s erosion. After a long and emotional day, my group flew to Siem Reap to spend the night. After a good night’s rest, we went to a small village to complete a service project. We spent a few hours learning about the local village (extremely impoverished), and how the organization, HUSK, had been helping the town. Our job was to make a wall for an elder who could no longer do it herself. After the construction, we left with warm farewells and traveled to the Temples of Angkor. These temples are the largest religious monuments in the world and some of the most eye opening structures I’ve ever seen! After exploring the temples, my group returned to the ship late the next evening and we are now heading for Yangon, Myanmar.