Semester at Sea 2016
We first landed in Shanghai China on January 31st 2016. This was my first opportunity to explore the great expanses of China. The ship originally would be docked in Shanghai for two days then travel from Shanghai to Hong Kong and that is where I would meet up with the ship again. I traveled on the first day to the Jade Buddha Pagoda in Shanghai. This was an entertaining two hour walk from the ship with several friends. When we arrived at the Buddha it was an incredible experience to see the craftsmanship of these centuries old Buddha statues made from large pieces of jade. One of the Buddha reaching enlightenment and the other the Buddha going to nirvana. Unfortunately on our way back we had to battle the wind, snow and sleet. The nearest refuge from the wet and cold was a giant mall in the heart of the Shanghai shopping district. We took refuge in the mall and got a quick snack to recharge and thaw from the outside. We then took off to the nearest subway station which wound up being only 200 feet from the mall entrance. We then boarded the subway and took it to the ship. Then we all went out for an evening of celebration after a long day of walking. We then returned to the ship early.
The next day is when my travels across China began. I had a flight to Chengdu the capitol of the Sichuan Province in China.In Chengdu there is the Giant Panda Research Base this was my ultimate goal to get to. Before my flight to Chengdu I still had several hours in Shanghai. So I decided to go to the Shanghai Zoo which was only one subway stop from the airport. This was an entertaining sight as they have many animals that are not found in the United States Zoos. Many indigenous animals to China and other surrounding countries.
I then took the subway to the airport and waited for my red-eye flight at 21:20. On all flights in China they give a full meal, this was a pleasant surprise on the three and a half hour flight. When I arrived in Chengdu there was some confusion with the hostel I was to stay at, also the car I had arranged to pick me up was not there. This forced me to have to take a cab, which wound up taking me over a lot of the city of Chengdu. It finally got me to my hostel after two stops at hotels, to find someone who could help translate as the cab driver spoke no English. This unfortunately cost me double the fare as the reserved car would have. My next few days in Chengdu were stressful, adventurous, and very educational. Chengdu taught me more about myself than I have learned in any other place. The need to solve and find solutions to problems was around every corner in that city. I was there for three days and did get to go to several historic and cultural sights. I went to Tianfu Square, the Peoples Park, the Wenshu Temple, and most importantly the Panda Base.
I also got to learn how to play mahjong the local way. I am not good at it, the language barrier was still an issue when it came to understanding the rules.
On the last morning in Chengdu, I ventured outside the city to the Panda Base. The base is full of Panda’s old, young, and infant. Pandas, both rescued from the wild and born at the base were in the enclosures. One enclosure had at least ten Panda cubs chasing each other around, sleeping in trees, and pushing each other off of the food platform. After all of this I boarded a plane to get to Hong Kong to meet back up with the ship. After an adventurous evening of exploring Hong Kong by many unplanned ways, I made it back to the ship in time, only to wait in a security line.
The last day in the Hong Kong Port was incredible. I had a field lab for my Plants, People, and Culture class. A field lab is a mandatory trip that a class takes in a single port and explores real life practices of the subjects talked about in class. On this particular field lab, our itinerary was changed for the benefit of the group. We ventured to a local flower market, a local traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor, and a local fruit market. At the flower market our professor was in his element pointing out and describing different species from around the world being sold. It was a particularly vibrant time at the market as it was 2 days before the start of Tet, or the Chinese New Year. So, there were bright colors all over the market for people to decorate their homes with. We then ventured to the Doctors office, where we learned about traditional Chinese medicine. He answered our questions for an hour or so and taught us about the techniques of TCM and the holistic beliefs in contrast to “Western” allopathic medicine. He then demonstrated the techniques of acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, and filling a prescription for us. We then had lunch at a local restaurant that was very accommodating, and very delicious. The locals were lined up out the door when we arrived. After lunch, we went to the fruit market. The market was full of fruits and nuts, many of which we see as exotic, and others that came from a lot closer to home. My friends and I purchased a mango that was about the size of a professional football. This mango was also the sweetest, softest, and probably best mango I have ever had. There were also nuts in the shell and out. Then the exotic fruits such as dragon fruit, durian, and many fruits our guide couldn’t even name. We returned to the ship and had a surprise waiting for us when we got back.
The itinerary had us traveling from Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City from February 5th to February 8th. This plan was delayed by a day. Due to high seas and high winds delaying our departure from Hong Kong by twenty four hours. This, unfortunately did not mean that we would have an extra day in Hong Kong, but an extra day in Victoria Harbor. This was a joy for some, and a tremendous blow for others who had to cancel many plans and attempt to reschedule others. Now we are off sailing to Vietnam, where we should arrive tomorrow afternoon on the 9th.