Ship shots

Nothing scripted for you today. Instead, a small selection of pictures from the sea voyage, with captions.

Crashing through heavy seas in the North Pacific.

The engine room thingy.

Hanjin Copenhagen's wake

On deck. No pirates on the horizon.

View from the bridge.

The third officer plots the course.

Japan's waters - note the radioactive hazard zone around Fukushima.

Land! Hokkaido's coast.

Plenty of water everywhere....

....but none in the pool.

My cabin.

Hanjin Copenhagen's identical sister ship followed us into Busan, Korea.

Ready to abandon ship!



Fresh off the boat

Nov. 16 – Shanghai

Landing last night happened slowly. Especially for the Chinese pilot, who threw a tantrum at his colleagues over the two-hour delay in clearing a berth for Hanjin Copenhagen. It was so bad that even the Captain – himself not the gentlest of souls – stepped in with soothing words. “Ist ok. Vee vork togezzer, ja?”

Given the late arrival, I said I wanted to leave the ship at 0900 the next morning. Nothing doing, answered the Shanghai agent who directed me to be ready at 1900, but then appeared at 2130. Carrying my luggage, I made my way down the ship’s long gangway onto Chinese soil. Hanjin Copenhagen’s parting gift was a greasy smear on my hand.

 The agent’s name was Mr. Gu, an auspicious omen since my Ironman was fuelled by GU products. At the China immigration office, he did the paperwork and I sat until he needed me “to show my face” to the officer. At this point I realized that the USD105 “traffic and service fee” that I was paying him was well worth it. No way I could have muddled through the formalities on my own, never mind even find way out of the port district into central Shanghai. It was late, and there were few passenger cars on the road. But as Gu chain-smoked, ground his minivan’s gears, and swerved through a herd of honking container trucks, asphalt and concrete, I got my first nighttime glimpse of China.

 It’s been an epic first 24 hours of firsts. Here are a few:

 First hotel: I’m in a stylish-yet-economical business hotel 15 minutes’ walk from the Central Train Station (sorry mom, no GPS coordinates). All modern appliances, and glossy red, white and black interior as if designed by the White Stripes. Loses points for lacking wifi and laundry service, but otherwise comfortable.

 First WTF: Scrub Hanjin Copenhagen’s grease off in sink. Spend five minutes trying to figure out the drain release mechanism. Give up, leaving dirty water in sink. Think it’s going to be a long journey. Come back hour later. Poke plug with finger. Plug tilts, water drains, problem solved. It’s still going to be a long journey.

 First meal: Street food, yum! BBQ skewers of beef (the vendor pantomimed horns on his head, but if it was dog it’s tasty anyway), steam buns, and sprouts. Hotel breakfast of dumplings, rice w/egg and noodles. Lunch some kind of savory seaweed and vegetable crepe. All cheap, all awesome. Got my Ciprofloxacin ready to go if needed.

 First sleep: Impossible at first without the ocean and a 74,000HP engine rocking the cradle. But then, slumber of the dead and right through my 0730 alarm.

 First communications: Roaming fees are stupendous, so I’ll be limiting my Blackberry usage. In the absence of Wifi, I’m going to the nearby Happy Island internet café (about 50 cents for an hour). Of course, no access to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter in China, so I may be relying on my wonderful sister’s good graces a while longer to help do blog posts. Keep your messages coming! It’s good to hear from you, and your comments help me decide what I’m going to write about. I take requests!

 First scam: Embarrassing though it is, there should, and could, be a post on this topic alone. But for now, shall we say that the “Fool me once, shame on you” part of the saying applies. I can console myself with a good story, a very nice tea tasting experience and a tin of absurdly pricey Ginseng tea. I raise a cup to Chinese cunning. Too bad it means no one else here will get the benefit of the doubt. Trust is “Tai gui le” (too expensive).

 First woman: Yeah right. As if. But I gotta say, spend any length of time at sea in the sole company of men, and back on land the ladies look all the more attractive. And to the Afrikaans gal I chatted with in the foreigners’ train ticket line; Well done, ma’am. Well done indeed.

 First rail ticket: Which way to the train station? How far on foot? Which entrance? Where is the ticket booth? Is there English-language signage? When will the international tourist centre be open? It isn’t? How many trains go on each day? What time? Is it the fast train? How long will the journey take? How much will it cost? Do you take Visa? Cash only? Where is the bank machine? Does it take Visa? The fast train does not leave from this station? Where is the other station? Etcetera. Hours after I set out from the hotel, I’ve booked my ticket to Beijing.

 First metro ride: All cheap and easy, now that I’ve figured out how the payment machines and gates work. But today I paid my dues. Lots of bumbling around, clumsily imitating others in the workday rush.

 First words: “Ni hao” (hello). “Xie xie” (thank you). “Shi hao” (yes). “Pu xing” (no).

 It’s been intense. First beer coming up, then bed.