I usually send my personal friends a regular diary when I go on a cruise and sign them ‘NIB’, but the internet connection I have encountered on this trip has been terrible. Now I have a stable internet source I have decided to share these with you. They were not written to be politically correct, but they are what happened and grabbed my attention at the time. Where I can I will include pictures, I have already posted a couple of things on the way to and including Australia, I hope you enjoy these
Sunday 17th March 2019.
5am our ship slowly sailed into the harbour of Tianjin, China. It berthed at to an oversized dock that looked like it could take 10 ships. The cruise terminal was on the overlarge scale too, tall and wide, built for one thing – to impress. I went out on the top deck at 6.30am to see the misty sunrise into a clear sky, it was cool but pleasant.
At 7.15 my wife and I were sat in the mid-ships bar, waiting for the tours people to arrive and tell us what to do. A surly looking woman came and sat next to my Florie, and it emerged she had not got a copy passport. These are required to have in order to go on the tour. The surly woman did not seem bothered, she just shrugged her shoulders. Florie told her she would not be allowed on the trip; then she began to look worried. The tours people arrived and the woman asked them if she needed this copy! They told her to go and get a copy or lose the tour, so off she toddled.
In front of us appeared a loud American woman, a member of crew. Barking out instructions to everyone, but she had competition. A loud American fella was boasting to two fellow Americans about his big boat and big house; and his very, very successful daughter. He was bellowing enthusiastically, wearing a cream baseball cap with a pair of sunglasses on the top of this hat ready for action, his Yankee drawl and rolled R’s resounding over all other conversations.
At 7.40 we were on the coach waiting for the last few people to arrive. When a lone traveller, a chap with a feminine walk came up to the only two seats left with a coat on them. He spoke to the couple sat in front of his coat, “I left my coat on these seats and it has been moved.” The lady said, “Oh we were told these things were left from the last tour, so we put them there,” and she glared at him. He flounced off and flopped on the seat behind in a huff, and then a prim lady took the seat next to him and he visibly seethed. I looked around to see everyone grinning who had heard the encounter and felt it had worked out right.
7.55 The coach is travelling up Yah Zoue Road away from the port passing miles of newly planted verges. The local tour guide was doing his best to find his way around the English language. He was just getting in his stride about being in the business for twenty nine years. Then a very loud bang and clatter occurred in the centre of the coach, a little way in front of us. I could not see what it was, but three chaps got up and went down into the stairwell to the side door half way along the coach. The tour guide made no reference to this and carried on talking as if nothing had happened. However, the whole coach were not listening to him, they were all craning in their seats to see what had happened.
8.45 We got off the coach and walked over a very large paved area. It lead to an enormous shiny metal and glass structure that looked like top quarter of a big ball sticking out of the ground. As we walked past a large green garden decoration with silver things on its surface, I noticed a large menacing police truck on the right with blacked out windows; its roof bristling with cameras. Its engine ticking over, it looked like a hungry lioness about to pounce.
When we walked into the glass and metal structure, we had to immediately pass through tight security. Bags through a machine and us through a gate that everyone set off the alarms as they passed through it. Then we were made to stand on a wide stool, arms outstretched, to be checked over with a wand that had red lights and bleeping sounds coming out of it all the time; then we were allowed to continue.
We all gathered as we got through, and took pictures of the striking view we had on the inside.
Then walked downstairs, and had to go through exactly the same security again. After showing passports and train tickets, we sat waiting in the enormous area for one and a quarter hours. A Chinese woman, her husband and her father came and sat close. They sat talking for a while, and then she got a call on her mobile from someone far, far away. (How do I know that?) Well, she started shouting at the top of her voice, so the other person could hear her from that distance.
On the way in the hi-speed train that travelled at over 340Km per hour.
We passed over a hundred miles of tree growing nurseries and landscaping close to the line. Further away, they were building blocks of high rise high density living accommodation. It looked to be about 30-40 floors high, 8-15 blocks built at the same time. I saw this many times, alongside the hundreds of block of flats already completed with people living in them.
Once in Beijing we were taken to a hotel for lunch, Chinese style, forks were provided so Florie got to eat some as well. It was a good mix of soup and food etc, plus beer. Later we were dropped off at the South Gate of the Forbidden City and were taken through its majesty by our guide.
Exiting over an hour later by the north entrance. Have a look at the film, “The Last Emperor,” that will give you an excellent view of what it looks like inside, all red and gold and very full of people.
Then we went on a Rickshaw Ride to a Hutong district, (Hutong means ‘find water,’).
Each single storey house built in a quadrangle usually 4 or 5 rooms round a small courtyard. It’s a very old traditional building style in brick, not used any more.
A woman in our group asked “How do they get from one room to another in winter?” It took four people to walk this woman from one room with a single door, across the courtyard, to the other room with a single door. And I still don’t know if she worked it out.
On the way to the bus for the journey back, we uncovered a pair of closet idiots in our group. Instead of staying put at the other end, as they were told, when they took the return journey in the rickshaw. They wandered off; it was only when we were all about to go back on the final journey that we found they were missing. They were walking up a main road, complaining they could not find anyone! Then we had to wait whilst they went to the loo!!
The three hour drive back to the ship felt like four and a sting in the tail of the long tiring day!
Once back at the cruise terminal we waited half an hour in long queues, as Chinese security searched each piece of luggage and frisked everyone. I had half a small bottle of water in my bag; they made me drink some of it before I could go through.
I climbed up onto the ship spiting feathers, only to find the bloody ships security wanted to do it all again. Florie was holding onto my arm and saying, “calm down love, they are only doing their job,” forever the diplomat.
My new Chinese name, “One pissed off Nib.”