CRUIS­ING AROUND EAST ASIA

Trav­el­ling by sea of­ten takes much longer time. There’s not much to do dur­ing the jour­ney. Most ships only of­fer benches and TV for pas­sen­gers to while away time.

The Freeman - - LIFESTYLE - By Casey An­dre Que

A cruise ship, though, is dif­fer­ent; one never runs out of fun ac­tiv­i­ties to do on board.

Re­cently, our fam­ily went on a cruise trip. We left for Shang­hai, China in the af­ter­noon of the day be­fore Christ­mas.

Ac­cord­ing to the an­cient texts of Tao, “In or­der to mas­ter the present re­al­i­ties, [one must] be able to un­der­stand the an­cient ori­gin.” We took heed. We went around Shang­hai a bit be­fore get­ting on the cruise ship.We went to the Old Shang­hai Street lo­cated in Fang­bang Cen­tral Road. The street was di­vided into east sec­tion and west sec­tion. The east sec­tion had a strong re­sem­blance of the early years of the Repub­lic – houses fit­ted with lat­tice win­dows, shop-fronts of wooden boards, balustrades and swing doors, roofs with up­ward eaves and pro­trud­ing cor­ners, and laced tri­an­gle-shaped edges and horse-shape wall tops.The houses in the west sec­tion were the styles of Ming and Qing dy­nas­ties, high­light­ing the folk prac­tice of old Shang­hai us­ing black tiles and white-washed walls, red col­umns and up­ward eaves.

The lit­tle shop­ping street is a shop­per’s par­adise as al­most ev­ery­thing can be found there. And shop­pers may hag­gle in or­der to get a re­ally good price.

Within the Old Shang­hai Street is the Yu Gar­den, built dur­ing the reign of Ming Em­peror Jia Jing (1559) as a pri­vate gar­den. Cov­er­ing at least two hectares, it is the site of the Great Rock­ery, the “Nat­u­rally Hol­lowed Jade” Boul­der, the Hall of an Emer­ald Touch of Springs, the An­cient Opera Stage, as well as an in­ner gar­den. “Yu” in Chi­nese means pleas­ing and sat­is­fy­ing.

Af­ter a good night’s rest and a hearty break­fast at the Radis­son Blu New World Ho­tel, it was time to set sail into the vast open sea aboard the MS Quan­tum of the Seas. It took some ad­just­ing be­fore we got ‘set­tled’ aboard since this cruise was our first.

MS Quan­tum of the Seas is a cruise ship for Royal Caribbean In­ter­na­tional (RCI) and is the lead ship of the Quan­tum class of cruise ships that was de­liv­ered to RCI on Oc­to­ber 28, 2014 and sails from Shang­hai, China. This cruise liner cur­rently has 16 pas­sen­ger-ac­ces­si­ble decks, eight of which fea­ture bal­cony state­rooms over­look­ing the ocean and a to­tal of 2,090 state­rooms con­sist­ing of 1,570 bal­cony state­rooms, 147 ocean-view state­rooms, and 373 in­side state­rooms.

All the in­te­rior state­rooms fea­ture a floor-to-ceil­ing 80inch high-def­i­ni­tion (HD) TV screen show­ing live views from the out­side of the ship, which Royal Caribbean calls a “Vir­tual Bal­cony” based on the “Vir­tual Port­hole” con­cept in­tro­duced by Dis­ney Cruise Line.

Other than the five com­pli­men­tary main restau­rants which din­ers can choose from, rang­ing from fine din­ing cui­sine to an eat-all-you-can buf­fet, MS Quan­tum of the Seas has a num­ber of var­i­ous ameni­ties which in­cludes a mul­ti­pur­pose sports court, out­door pool with a large video screen, spa and fit­ness cen­ter, “Ad­ven­ture Ocean” kids club, a Wave Loch Flowrider surf sim­u­la­tor, a rock-climb­ing wall, and its new­est fea­ture, the “RipCord by iFLY” which is a sky­div­ing sim­u­la­tor set in a re­cir­cu­lat­ing in­door recre­ational ver­ti­cal wind tun­nel.

An­other cool fea­ture of the cruise ship is the “North­Star” ob­ser­va­tion tower that is lo­cated at the for­ward end of the top deck. It uses a 7.1-ton glass-walled cap­sule at the end of a 41-me­ter-long crane arm in or­der to lift guests up and over the edge of the ship, reach­ing heights of up to 300 feet above sea level.

The ship also fea­tures a num­ber of multi-pur­pose venues, namely: The Royal The­ater, a Broadway-style the­ater with orig­i­nal stage pro­duc­tions that just blows the au­di­ence’s mind away); Two70°, which fea­tures three-story-high 270-de­gree panoramic ocean views, a café, and an ice bar; and the Music Hall, which serves as a night­club and small music per­for­mance venue equipped with pool ta­bles.

Af­ter one and a half days at sea, we reached the beau­ti­ful city of Fukuoka, Ja­pan. But with so much to see and so lit­tle time, the only main at­trac­tion we went to was the shop­ping street in Daza­ifu called Daza­ifu Monzen Machi, along­side its shrine called Daza­ifu Ten­mangu. This small and quiet town on the out­skirts of Fukuoka City proper was es­tab­lished in the late 7th cen­tury and served as the ad­min­is­tra­tive cen­ter of the en­tire is­land of Kyushu for over 500 years.

Daza­ifu’s shop­ping district felt like a safer and cleaner ver­sion of Cebu’s Colon Street. Shops and stalls sold ev­ery­thing from lo­cal del­i­ca­cies to hand­made, well-made, and orig­i­nal Ja­panese prod­ucts and sou­venirs. Shop­pers here, how­ever, may not be able to hag­gle with the prices like in China, but prod­uct qual­ity is guar­an­teed.

At the edge of the shop­ping street, the Taiko Bridge and Shinji Pond greets the tourists be­fore pro­ceed­ing to the “hon­den” or its main shrine. This par­tic­u­lar bridge in Daza­ifu con­sists of three sa­cred bridges: an arched Taiko-bashi, a flat Taira-bashi, and an­other Taiko-bashi – to­gether rep­re­sent­ing the past, present and the fu­ture.

Af­ter cross­ing the bridges, we en­tered the shrine’s precinct that spanned over 3,000 acres and in­cluded sev­eral struc­tures. The main shrine was built by Ya­suyuki Umasake in the year 905. A larger structure was con­structed by the Fu­ji­wara clan in 919 but was de­stroyed in a fire dur­ing a civil war. The Mo­moyama-style shrine that could be seen to­day dates back to1591 and is an im­por­tant cul­tural prop­erty of the state.

In the af­ter­noon we went for some shop­ping, and then headed back to the ship for our next stop – the his­toric city of Na­gasaki. To re­call, Na­gasaki was where the Amer­i­cans dropped the first atomic bomb on Au­gust 9, 1945 at ex­actly 11:02 a.m., in re­tal­i­a­tion of the Ja­panese bomb­ing of Pearl Har­bor. The next bomb was dropped at Hiroshima, just min­utes af­ter.

Our first stop there was at the Na­gasaki Atomic Bomb Mu­seum, where ev­ery­thing and any­thing re­lat­ing to the tragedies of that day are kept. It sent shiv­ers down my spine imag­in­ing the 74,000 lives lost and how the bomb blew the city to ashes in an in­stant. To this day, the rem­nants of that fate­ful day linger – the look of the city right af­ter the bomb­ing, the sur­vivors’ dam­aged and

ra­di­a­tion-ex­posed bod­ies, burnt items, torn uni­forms.

For­tu­nately, there is some­thing at the mu­seum that’s emo­tion­ally up­lift­ing. At its en­trance and exit are at­tached pa­per cranes, winged crea­ture that the lo­cals re­fer to as the “bird of hap­pi­ness” as the crane’s wings are be­lieved to carry the souls up to par­adise. They also be­lieve that if one folded 1000 origami cranes, one’s wish would come true. The pa­per crane has also be­come a sym­bol of hope and heal­ing dur­ing chal­leng­ing times. As a re­sult, it is now a pop­u­lar prac­tice to fold 1000 cranes (in Ja­panese, called “sen­bazuru”). The cranes are strung to­gether on strings – usu­ally 25 strings of 40 cranes each – and given as gifts.

Just a few min­utes from the mu­seum is the renowned Na­gasaki Peace Statue (Heiwa Ki­nen-zo) that was built to pre­vent a re­cur­rence of such a disas­ter on the earth, to wish for world peace and to pray for the vic­tims of the bomb­ing. Com­pleted in 1955 by Seibo Ki­ta­mura, the bronze statue is 9.7 me­ters high, sit­ting on a 3.9-me­ter base, and weighs at least 30 tons. It is said that the statue’s right hand is raised to the heav­ens to point to the threat of nu­clear weapons while the hor­i­zon­tally ex­tended left hand sym­bol­izes peace. Its gen­tly closed eyes re­sem­ble a prayer of­fer­ing for the re­pose of the bomb vic­tims’ souls; and the non-Ja­panese face is a de­pic­tion of “a per­son who goes be­yond hu­man races.”

Our Na­gasaki tour ended at St. Mary’s Cathe­dral, bet­ter known as Urakami Cathe­dral, con­structed af­ter a long-stand­ing ban on Chris­tian­ity in Ja­pan was lifted in 1873. The brick Ro­manesque build­ing was the largest Catholic church build­ing in East Asia un­til the atomic bomb dev­as­tated it, along with 8,500 Chris­tians. Atomic bomb-ex­posed angel stat­ues could still be seen to­day, even af­ter the structure was re­built in 1959, in the same style.

Again, af­ter some quick shop­ping we made our way back to the ship. Back in Shang­hai, we spent two more days, which we spent snoop­ing around to see what else the city had to of­fer to tourists. This time we checked out the Shang­hai Ori­en­tal Pearl Ra­dio and TV Tower lo­cated at the tip of Lu­ji­azui in the Pudong New Area, by the side of Huangpu River, op­po­site The Bund. The Tower, a dis­tinct land­mark in the area, was com­pleted in 1994, the tallest structure in China un­til 2007, when its 468-me­ter height was sur­passed by the Shang­hai World Fi­nan­cial Cen­ter.

Shang­hai is now the lo­ca­tion of the world’s largest Star­bucks fa­cil­ity, a nearly 30,000-square-foot com­pound that in­cludes three cof­fee shops, one of which at least 88 feet long – the chain’s long­est to date, along­side with a two-story, 40-ton cop­per cask tow­ers over the store, re­fill­ing the cof­fee bars’ var­i­ous si­los. Too bad, we had to forgo get­ting in­side be­cause of the 1.5 hour wait­ing time and the fact that it was rain­ing and we had some­where else to go.

But even if only up to that point, this fam­ily trip was re­ally full.

Shang­hai Old Street mar­ket

Taiko Bridge and Shinji Pond

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