I can’t believe how quickly time has flown by! The cruise with the grandmas seemed so far off when we left their house last June, but in the blink of an eye, here we are…in China of all places.
We arrived in Hong Kong a few days before the Gmas. Hong Kong is known for it’s abundant sky scrapers and dense population, which was quite a change from the empty beaches of the Philippines we’d been on for the last month. We also weren’t used to “western” prices any more. Michael just about choked after seeing the bill for our first dinner in our new city. Despite the prices and the smog, we were enjoying the amenities of city life once again.
The days seemed to drag by so slowly, anxiously awaiting our first face-to-face visit with family in 9 months. We filled our days shopping for cold weather clothes (since we really only had bathing suits and shorts in our bags anymore), visiting the dermatologist (AGAIN!) and getting our first taste of Chinese life. We loved the view from Victoria’s Peak and found the orderly way millions of people navigate the city subway lines fascinating. Finally, the Gmas arrived and our cruise trip could finally begin!
Never having been on a real cruise before, we weren’t sure what to expect or if cruise life was for us. It didn’t take long for us to figure out how much fun cruising is once the kids realized they could have all the pizza, soda and cheesecake they wanted, and Michael and I found the martini bar and casino. It was a great way to travel as a large group and allowed us to cover a huge country quickly and in the lap of luxury! After months of busses, trains, tuk-tuks and taxis, the idea that you go to sleep one night and wake up the next morning in a new city was such a breath of fresh air.
Travel with the grandmas is definitely much more organized and fancy than travel with the Liningers. At each port we were greeted by a private tour guide ready to whisk us off to another adventure. We explored the towers and palace of Taipei and even ate our lunch at a toilet themed restaurant (kinda gross but very entertaining). We got to see varying faces of South Korea, visiting three different ports. We explored the enormous fish market in Buson, visited an ancient village and went lava tube caving in Jeju and played at a cat café in Seoul.
The boat docked for three days in Beijing giving us a break from life on board. Our first night in the city we got to have a peking duck dinner, because…when in China, followed by a kung-fu show. The whole thing was a little touristy but still pretty delicious and quite entertaining. The next day it was off to a section of the Great Wall we had seen on our favorite PBS travel show over a year ago. We loved the experience of taking a walk on the Great Wall of China! We were able to ride a gondola up to a portion of the wall where we could get a view of it’s emence structure weaving across China’s peaks as far as the eye can see. From there, we rode tobaggons back down to the bottom. We’d been waiting for this adventure for such a long time and it was finally happening!
Thanks to the Gmas, Michael and I got a date night out in Beijing where we could try our hand at Chinese hot pot in a restaurant where no body else spoke English…quite the hysterical event. After some last minute souvenir shopping, it was back to the ship to head for Shanghai.
Shanghai was our favorite of the big cities we saw in China. We visited a Chinese water town known as the Venice of China. The streets were a little too crowded for our taste as it turned out to be tomb sweeping festival week, but riding a gondola through the canals of this town was certainly beautiful and definitely a once in a lifetime experience. The next day we had a fabulous time learning to make Chinese dumplings in the home of a couple local women. Our dumpling making skills could surely use some improvement but we all had a great time and left with full stomachs and happy hearts. Our last night with the Gmas we spent at an incredible acrobat show like nothing we’ve seen before. The stunts took death-defying and amazing to a whole new level.
Back at the hotel it was time to say goodbye. Our three weeks together absolutely flew by! Although we’ll miss them greatly we need them to rest up and miss us a bit before we invade their house in June. We were so worn out from all the tours and travel, we spent the rest of our time in Shanghai resting and recouping. I even gave in and let my family eat McDonalds…twice! Before we knew it, it was time to pack up and fly off to our last international destination. Watch out Japan, the Grizwalds are comin for you!