Shanghai – The Bund & Nanjing Road

After the crazy day we had in Seoul, we played it safe today.  We still went off on our own, but we didn’t use the train systems or taxis.  I had planned our day around the local subway system, but when we got outside, Fred hopped on the shuttle bus, so I had to quickly alter our plans.  After about half an hour of great city views in stop and go traffic, we were dropped at The Bund, which is a great pedestrian area along the Huangpu River.  This area is known for it’s terrific views of Shanghai’s famous skyline and the approximately 3/4 mile of Gothic, Baroque and neoclassical style buildings that were built during the time of the International Settlement (the British and American settlements eventually merged into one around 1863, but they were originally granted in the Treaty of Nanking after the first Opium War ended in 1842).   The skyline on the far side of Huangpu River is simply incredible and has replaced Hong Kong’s as my favorite.  We snapped a quick photo or two and got directions to Nanjing Road.

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Seoul, Korea – The Best Laid Plans

I’ll admit I was nervous about traveling in Asia. When even the alphabet is unfamiliar, it adds a new layer of complexity to simple things like finding a post office, traveling on the subway, or buying vitamin C. We’ve traveled a lot over the years though, and I’ve quickly gained confidence here. I may not be able to find the post office easily (in fact, I’ve yet to see one here), but I do feel comfortable on any of the trains and subways. I never thought transportation would be an issue for us anywhere. Today we were all shocked by what happened. I’ve learned a really hard lesson a few times over lately: sometimes a set of circumstances beyond your control can throw a monkey wrench into your life. Those well-executed plans? They fly right out the window, but more on that later.

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Quick Update & Another Typhoon

We are still dealing with internet issues, so I can’t share any photos right now. I am still taking tons of photos and copious notes & I do promise to get the blog updated as soon as I can. Right now, we are at sea between ports in Vietnam, which has been incredible. We are waiting for news from the captain about the typhoon threatening the Philippines. We have a stop planned for Manila on this Wednesday, but it is looking like we will have to skip it for safety reasons. We do plan to go back to Manila, Davao City, and Palawan this coming March, so it won’t be the end of the world if we miss it. I just hope the storm, which is currently a category 4, doesn’t do too much damage.

I’ve gotten several emails asking how we’re doing and what is causing the hold up on the posts. Everything is fine and everyone here is doing quite well. The kids are really enjoying seeing so many different places. Everything they’re experiencing:  the languages, the cultures, the foods, the architecture – it’s really influencing them and their creative projects.  This is exactly what we hoped when we planned this long adventure several years ago. I will share all of the details as soon as I can get the internet to cooperate! Until then, don’t worry about us and know that we are safe and happy. The typhoon will not be a concern since our captain is watching the weather and keeping us a safe distance away. Please keep commenting, emailing, and texting to let us know how you guys are all doing. Lots of love from the South China Sea XOXO

Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima

I’m way behind on these posts.  I haven’t been able to upload any of the photos that I’ve been taking.  During the last cruise, I could usually find a wifi connection in port, but this time it’s been more difficult due to the issues with the passwords being in Chinese, Korean, etc.  Anyway, I had some luck on the onboard wifi and got some of the photos uploaded yesterday, so I should be able to post at least a couple of our recent stops.  Hopefully I will get some more photos uploaded soon.  Keep your fingers crossed 🙂

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Tokyo as Told by Kyle the Sequel

Hello there. Good to see you again. It’s me… Kyle:  son of my mother who writes these posts in a loving and motherly way and world-renown blogger.

It’s time for round 2. You know the drill, Bill.

So, It turns out that the weather was really bad in Osaka and our ship needed to refuel, so we had one more day in Tokyo. Yay?! We actually really wanted to go to Osaka since there are some wicked cool Buddhist temples there and whatnot… but of all the stops to get put at twice, Tokyo would definitely be at the top. This time we went out at a more reasonable time and only spent a couple of hours in the city (since our previous day’s excursion was so massive and we were all really tired). We were determined to go to a few of the shopping malls in some of the train stations and visit one of the shrines in the middle of the city. Did we end up doing any of these things? Well, you’re here and listening to me (which I greatly appreciate) so you’re about to find out.

From right to left: Kayla Bo Bayla Banana Nana Fo Fayla, Mr. Sourpuss, Sarah Conner from Terminator, and Thumb

We hopped on the train and got blasted with even more terrifying ads before landing at our first stop, which was one of the train station marketplaces. It took us a bit of time to find the market since the signs were all in Japanese (and were just a weeeeeee bit misleading), but eventually we found it underneath the train station.

Unfortunately we didn’t get a large-scale photo of just what the market looked like (mostly because we were tired and it was difficult to take any photos down there with all of the people) but believe me, the amount of shops and things to do down there was staggering. Each of the subway tunnels moving people in-between the different tracks were heavily populated with knick-knack stores, restaurants, and other fun places for us to poke our heads into. Needless to say, we hung out here for a couple of hours.

This was a Jump Shop? It had a lot of stuff similar to what we’d already seen in Electric Town so we didn’t stick around for too long. Also, does that bag(?) on the right say ‘Die Organic’ or ‘Oldie Gorganica?’ Either way I should have bought it…
It’s really difficult to mentally wrap your mind around the merchandise in these stores. If you can’t already tell, Kayla is attempting to do that very thing right here. That’s why her head looks like it’s always expanding (Love you, Kayla).
These are all the different flavors of Kit-Kat candy bars in Japan (or at least in this little side-store we found). The most notable one is ‘wasabi.’ Good luck imagining what that tastes like.
While we were walking around we saw a lot of lines like this just outside the doors of a few notable sushi restaurants. This got us really excited for lunch, since we knew that if there was a line, the sushi must be pretty good (we hadn’t actually had sushi in Japan yet. Shhhh. I know, I know. I’m getting to that).

Mom and Fred went to a convenient chair massage place and Kayla and I went around to explore on our own terms (I.E do all the nerdy stuff). We found a store with a lot of cute kawaii bear merchandise, a Pokemon store, a store dedicated to Snoopy from the Peanuts(?), and our favorite… a Studio Ghibli store. If you don’t know what Studio Ghibli is, it’s a really popular and high-quality Japanese animation studio. They’ve made films like My Neighbor TotoroPrincess Mononoke, and Spirited Away. I’m a little bit disappointed because we don’t have any photos for the store itself (that might be my fault because I was responsible for pictures), but it was really lovely store. All of the shelves were made of wood and there were tons of really intricately designed statues and leaves to help create a very mystical atmosphere (like you were standing in one of the film’s worlds). We ended up getting Kayla two Studio Ghibli art books for her birthday which she absolutely adores.

SUSHI was next on our list! We were really hungry by this point in the day, so we dropped Freddy off at a conveniently-placed Starbucks (since he can’t stand to be around seafood).  Afterwards we moved into food mode and began scouring for the best sushi joint in the whole marketplace. There were so many to choose from, but we finally settled on what was called a Sushi Go-Round.

That look in their eyes… the slight twitch in the nose… it’s Hungry Boy and his companion: Starving Girl.

The Sushi Go-Round was super cool for a multitude of reasons. Our server brought us over to our own individual booth where we were met with an incredibly strange sight:

This is the conveyer belt system, which took us a little while to figure out… but it ended up being really neat. We ordered the individual sushi pieces on that mini terminal there and then after a few minutes it would literally be delivered via the second conveyer belt up top. It was absolutely amazing each and every time it happened and it made the experience all the better. The sushi was straight from the kitchen too (as it should be?) so it was fresh and super duper awesome. The conveyer belt down below seemed to be advertising other dishes that you could pick up at your leisure (which baffled all of us because we had no idea how they’d know if we did that… but that mystery was solved a little later).
Gorgeous sushi. Notice that Kayla is already going for her sushi roll like the Starving Girl she is. We couldn’t wait to dig in to this glorious feast you see before you… on your computer screen.  See all of the different types of plates?  They each have a cost associated with them.  When the server comes at the end of the meal, they just add up how many of each plate you have…and you know how much you pay!
The ONLY complaint I had for the restaurant was that no server came by to give us water (which was a little bit frustrating since I was mega thirsty). This did, however, influence us to look at the drink menu on our terminal where we saw the very peculiar melon-flavored Fanta. Since we had already let the wasabi Kit-Kats behind we jumped to the occasion and ordered it. It ended up tasting like a jolly ranger, surprisingly, and was nice and yummy. I honestly wish we had this back home.

The sushi was fantastic. It was probably the best sushi experience I’ve ever had (and we know some top-quality sushi restaurants back at home) so it was a pleasant surprise. I guess Japan lives up to the hype when it comes to sushi (that could have just been that restaurant though. It’s hard to determine with only one restaurant to refer to, you know)? After being sufficiently fed and entertained we regrouped with Freddy and headed out to the shrine that was closest to our train station (maybe a few stops over).

A lovely shot by the lovely Freddy. The slight angle of the camera helps represents the stability of the shrine’s arches… and the three goofballs towards the bottom represent the fact that literally anyone can just walk into these sacred shrines apparently.
This beautiful staircase is what we were met with when we started walking up to the shrine’s courtyard. We walked up these steps as quietly as possible since everything around us was practically silent.
This is a historical picture of an ancient shrine monkey giving a sign of approval. I believe this is the technique known as the ‘thumbs-up.’
This is the first building we came across. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside so this is all you get. I don’t even remember what was inside though so maybe it wasn’t all that interesting? It certainly looks cool though.
This fountain was sitting just outside the first building we came across and was/is intended for washing your hands and mouth before going into the sacred space inside.
A view of the courtyard. Notice the peaceful air, clean stones, and loud construction taking place with that building in the background there.
These two girls were wearing colorful kimonos. I still have no idea where they came from or why they’re dressed like that… but they’re at least cute, aren’t they?
This other fountain was located just outside of the shrine and people were actively using it to wash their hands and mouth. 
A closer look at the fountain. A great description of that closer look at the fountain to accompany that closer look at the fountain. I’m good at this, I swear.

Surprisingly, the shrine didn’t really offer a whole ton of things for us to see or do.  By this point we were worn out from all of the walking and decided that we had done all we had wanted to do for the day, so we hung out for roughly 10 minutes and then took a train back to the port to get back on the ship.

If you’re wondering why this photo looks pretty great, that’s because Mom took it.  It’s of the port at Yokohama right near our cruise ship.

And thaaaaaaat’s Tokyo. We really enjoyed our time here and I think we’re going to go out of our way to come back here sometime. If you ever get a chance to go to Tokyo, I highly recommend it. The food is great, there’s a ton of stuff to do, and the people are super polite and respectful of the people around them.

*sniff* I’m going to miss you Japan.

Thanks for reading, yo. We’ll see if Mom makes the mistake of letting me write more of these. See ya!


Tokyo as Told by Kyle

Hey. It’s been awhile, eh? We’ve been having some issues with the internet lately so this post is coming a little later than we intended. So, for starters, why do I sound a little stranger than usual (what’s that unusual stank and sarcasm coming off this paragraph)? Well, you see, it’s me… Kyle. I’m the son of my mother who usually writes these posts in a loving and motherly way. Suffice it to say, things are going to be a little bit different this time around since I’m your captain. Continue reading “Tokyo as Told by Kyle”

Rough Seas between Alaska & Japan

“If this boat’s a rockin’, don’t come a knockin.”

No one’s been knocking – not on any door in this ship.  They wouldn’t dare. The night after we left our last Alaskan port, the captain adjusted our course due south to avoid a low pressure area.  We’ve been in rough seas ever since.  We’ve had periods of fairly calm waters, but for the vast majority of the time, the ship’s been rocking so much that even some of the crew are finding it a challenge to walk around onboard.  Some of the crew have even been seen taking video of the large waves, which leads me to believe that these conditions are at least fairly unusual. I’m beginning to think it might have something to do with the typhoon activity near Japan, although we are still only a little more than halfway between Alaska and Japan as I’m writing this post. Continue reading “Rough Seas between Alaska & Japan”

Hiking in Kodiak

For some reason, it was really crowded getting off the ship in Kodiak today.  The line was incredibly long and if you know anything about Fred, you’ll know that patience is not one of his greatest attributes.  He is just not made to stand in long lines.  So, we ate breakfast and then paced the floors for well over an hour waiting for the lines to disappear.  It actually turned out to be a blessing because we ran into some friends, Mark and Linda, that ended up going hiking with us.

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Hoonah at Icy Strait Point

Today we visited Hoonah, a small traditional Tlingit community on Icy Strait Point.  The town is situated on Chichagof Island in Southeast Alaska and is only accessible by boat or plane.  The Tlingit are renowned for their skilled fisherman, artisans, and hunters – and this is evident throughout the area. They also boast the largest population of brown bears on earth and the longest zipline in North America.   Continue reading “Hoonah at Icy Strait Point”