Asia

ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

Since Narita Airport is so far from downtown Tokyo (over an hour’s drive on a good day) and traffic is always a question mark, Viking arranged for me to leave the hotel at 6:30 AM for my 11:15 AM flight. As it turned out, traffic was light and we made very good time. Another couple from our cruise was in the same van but they were flying KLM so there were two Viking assistants there to meet us at the airport. One took the KLM couple to the south check-in point while mine loaded my bags on a cart and guided me to the north check-in.

As I was in ANA First, we walked back to the Z check-in area which is a private area for ANA, United and other airlines. There were about 4 ANA reps inside and I was the only passenger at that point so it felt a little strange (but nice!) to be doted on so much. Check-in was very efficient and I was directed to the dedicated security lane, the one that can only be accessed directly from the First Class check-in area. Naturally that process was speedy as well.

Then it was down the escalator to Immigration, where, of course, I picked the line that didn’t move. But I had plenty of time and once the one person holding up the line finally got through, our line moved efficiently as well.

I turned left and walked past a number of shops and one gate before coming to the escalator leading to the airline lounges.

ANA Suites Lounge Narita Lounge Entrance

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Categories: Airline Clubs, ANA, Asia, Japan, Star Alliance | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

On our final day, Viking had contracted with another company for a tour out to Mt. Fuji and Hakone National Park. While we had the option to return on the bus, almost everyone opted to pay the few extra dollars to return via Shinkansen, the high-speed bullet train.

We were blessed with a beautifully sunny day which made the drive out to Mt. Fuji more enjoyable. We stopped along the way near Lake Kawaguchi-ko for a traditional Japanese lunch at a local restaurant. There was a wide variety of foods so even if you didn’t like everything that was offered there was certainly something else you would like.

Our lunch had lots of dishes!

What lurks beneath all the covers!

From the restaurant we could see Mt. Fuji in the distance. The rain that we’d endured the day before had brought the first snow of the season to the mountain, giving it a gorgeous topping.

Mt Fuji from Lake Kawaguchi-ko

Mt. Fuji

If you were to hike Mt. Fuji, you’d find a series of stations along the way. These are places where you could camp for the night before the next day’s hike. The fifth station is the highest one reachable by car or bus. At first we weren’t sure we’d be able to reach it as the road had been covered in snow, but by going to lunch first and giving crews more time to clear it we were fortunately able to reach it.

At the fifth station was all the usual tourist stuff with t-shirts, pins, postcards, etc. There was also this small Shinto shrine. But the biggest attraction was the close-up of Fuji-san. We’d been told the best view was on an outdoor raised viewing platform but unfortunately that was closed due to the snowfall.

A small shrine at the fifth station

A view of Fuji’s peak from the shrine. We were just a little too close to be able to see the top clearly.

Konagatake Ropeway

After milling around for awhile the bus took us down to Lake Ashinoko where we boarded a boat and cruised along the lake a bit until we reached the Konagatake Ropeway.

Boat that took us to the base of the ropeway (tram)

The small building at the top of the hill is the top of the ropeway.

With a name like that I had visions of doing some sort of ropes course and wondered how some of the older folks in the group were going to manage. But the ropeway was really just an aerial tram. They do try to squeeze every last person in and I actually felt claustrophobic enough to exit the tram and wait for the next one (10 minutes later) where there were only about 15 of us on it instead of 75 people crammed on the previous one.

The ride to the top provided some scenic views of the immediate area, the lake and as we got higher, Mt. Fuji. Once up top we had the option of hiking up a little further to a Shinto shrine.

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Shinkansen

The bad part about taking the bullet train after dark is that you can’t really convey how fast you were going. The lights are left on inside the train and on board it doesn’t feel like you’re moving all that quickly but when I could see us moving past buildings, I knew we were indeed going quite fast. The drive that had taken us two hours (including lunch) on the outbound leg of the tour only took us about 35 minutes to return. As expensive as I’m sure Tokyo is, it seems to me it would be much more economical to live further out and take this train in to work each day.

We wrapped our trip with dinner at one of the restaurants inside the hotel’s shopping area with some of the folks we’d been with for over two weeks now. I really liked Tokyo and would like to come back when I have more than two days to see things.

Categories: Asia, Japan, Tours, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Viking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo: City Tour

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

The Tokyo City Tour was, frankly, a bit of a letdown. Perhaps it was that we’d been traveling for two weeks at this point but the tours from the Viking staff were just better than the ones on this extension. The guide didn’t have a microphone and we didn’t have headsets. Granted, the group was smaller but there’s just so much more you can learn if you can wander a little bit but still hear the guide’s spiel. I will definitely think hard before paying for another Viking extension.

Sensō-ji

Our first stop was not far from the hotel. We were let out near the Sensō-ji, an ancient Buddhist temple. It’s actually just one of several buildings on the grounds and there’s the Nakamise shopping street leading up to the grounds. Since we were just let out near the site, we didn’t really know what we were looking for or looking at which was disappointing after being spoon-fed during the previous two weeks.

The first temple on this site dates back to 645 AD after a sacred statue was found in a nearby river. This is the oldest temple in Tokyo.

Sensō-ji Temple

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Categories: Asia, Japan, Tours, Viking | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

There were about 35 of us from the Viking Emerald who were taking the extension to Tokyo and you’d think that Viking could have found all of us seats on the same plane but nope, we were on a number of different flights leaving Shanghai at various times of the day. Originally two of us from our small group of 12 were on one flight and the 3rd person was on a different flight but we were able to get that changed so at least the three of us were all together. However that meant missing out on a noon-ish JAL flight and taking an earlier Delta flight instead so there was definitely a trade-off. We did manage to purchase bulkhead seats so at least we had legroom.

We arrived at Tokyo Narita airport and began to search for the Viking representative. Besides the three of us there were probably 6-8 other Viking Emerald passengers all looking for the rep with no success. She was a little late but every last one of us passengers had been looking for someone in a red coat or jacket and this rep was not wearing red. We had been so trained by Viking with all their tour guides and crew members wearing red that we never even considered that the guide might be wearing some other color! But eventually we were loaded on to our motorcoach and we were dropped off at the large complex that houses not only the New Otani Hotel but also an office tower and a shopping tower.

Check in was efficient, as we expected by now, and we set off for the elevator bank. We were amused that during busy times of day there typically was a hotel staff member waiting to push the elevator call button for us – always with a polite bow.

Our rooms were fairly high up and, conveniently, were connected. However, we had to ask management to unlock the connecting doors. The rooms were perfectly servicable though compared to our rooms during the first part of the tour, these were a bit of a let down. Like many hotel rooms upon entering the bathroom was to one side and beyond that was the area with the beds.

This room was not large enough for two double beds so we once again had twins with a single nightstand in between.

New Otani Hotel Twin Beds

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Categories: Asia, Hotel, Japan, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

Yuyuan Garden

The final day of the main part of the Roof of the World Tour began bright and early as we walked through sections of Old Shanghai on our way to the Yuyuan Garden. This garden dates back to the Ming Dynasty when it was first built in 1559 as a retirement gift from a son to his father. But before it was completed the son was appointed governor of Sichuan and that postponed further construction until 1577. At the time this was the largest and most prestigious garden in the city though its expense eventually ruined the family that built it.

By the 1700s the gardens had fallen into disrepair and a group of merchants purchased it and in 1780 the West Garden was opened to the general public. During parts of the next two centuries some of the buildings were used as headquarters by invaders or leaders of rebellions and the original structures inside the garden walls had nearly been destroyed. In the late 1950s the government appointed someone to restore the buildings. The gardens were fully opened to the public in 1961 and declared a national monument in 1982.

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Categories: Asia, China, Cruises, Tours, Viking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

We had chosen this Top of the World tour in the Beijing to Shanghai direction because you get to do the rickshaw tour of the hutong and you don’t if you take the tour in the Shanghai to Beijing direction. But we came to realize we were fortunate to have done the tour that way for a couple of other reasons. First, after being on tours or traveling every day for a week, by the time we got on the boat we really enjoyed having a few afternoons with nothing to do but nap and watch the scenery. The other reason was that had we stayed at the Fairmont Peace Hotel first, we might have been disappointed with the other hotels on our tour.

The Peace Hotel was orignally called Sassoon House and was built by Sir Victor Sassoon in the late 1920s. It’s a beautiful art deco building that was closed for three years for renovations and reopened in 2010 when Fairmont took over running it. Continue reading

Categories: Asia, China, Cruises, Fairmont, Hotel, River Cruise, Viking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Shanghai: Shanghai Museum

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

We left Wuhan and flew to Shanghai on Sunday. Our schedule got re-arranged a bit as we were scheduled to see the Shanghai Museum the next day but since it was closed on Mondays we stopped by before we even went to the hotel.  I was floored by the line to get in.  Pro tip: go as part of a group so you can use the group entrance!

The Shanghai Museum

The museum was founded in 1952 and the current location was opened in 1996. There are over 120,000 pieces in its collection. The building has four or five levels and it has eleven permanent galleries and three temporary ones:

  • Gallery of Ancient Chinese Bronze
  • Gallery of Ancient Chinese Sculpture
  • Gallery of Ancient Chinese Ceramics
  • Gallery of Ancient Chinese Jades
  • Gallery of Ancient Chinese Paintings
  • Gallery of Ancient Chinese Calligraphy
  • Gallery of Ancient Chinese Seals
  • Gallery of Ancient Chinese Numismatics
  • Gallery of Chinese furniture in Ming and Qing dynasties
  • Gallery of Arts and Crafts by Chinese Minorities

Atrium of the Shanghai Museum

Here are just a few items that I found interesting.

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Categories: Asia, China, Cruises, Tours, Viking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

The next morning, a Saturday, we awoke in Wuhan, the capital of the Hubei province and the most populous city in Central China with over 10.5M residents in the city itself and over 19M in the metro area. That’s roughly 3200 people per square mile.

Hubei Provincial Museum

Bells Performance

Our first stop for the day was the auditorium at the Hubei Provincial Museum where we would be treated to a bell performance. That doesn’t sound all that exciting but was actually pretty cool. I had visions of a number of different hand bells but this was different. These 65 bells were uncovered in the tomb of Marquis Yi who died approximately 430 BC. He was the ruler of Zeng, a minor state in what is now Hubei province.

These are zhong bells which means they are made of bronze and cast in a lens shape (think of two circles slightly intersecting) rather than a circular shape. The mouth of the bells also has a “cutaway” profile and on the outer surface there are 36 studs placed symmetrically on it. This allows these bells to produce two different tones, depending on what part of the bell is struck. The bells uncovered in the Marquis Yi tomb are still playable though the concert was performed on replicas.

There were six musicians, two on zither-like instruments, two on woodwinds and two playing the bells.

Musicians for the Bells Performance

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Categories: Asia, China, Cruises, River Cruise, Tours, Viking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Jingzhou City Walls Tour

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

Our stop the next day was in Jingzhou (jing – zhō) where we could choose to go visit an elementary school that Viking helps support or we could go visit the ancient city walls. Of our immediate group of 12, 7 went to the school while the other 5 of us went to the city walls.

Today Jingzhou has just under 6M inhabitants but “only” about 1.2 live in what we’d consider the metro area. Due to being situated right on the river the city has been a transportation hub and distribution center for 6000 years.

Our bus took us to the visitor’s center and we began the easy walk toward the city walls. On the way there we stopped to look at this picturesque bridge.

Bridge in a Jingzhou park

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Categories: Asia, China, Cruises, River Cruise, Tours, Viking | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Three Gorges Dam

Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Viking Emerald
Shibaozhai Temple
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston

When we awakened the next morning we found that overnight we’d been through a series of locks and were now moored just downstream from the Three Gorges Dam. The dam is the world’s largest power station as far as installed capacity, meaning how many megawatts it can sustainably generate. The dam opened in 2009 but wasn’t fully functional until July 2012. The locks, which are off to the side were completed a bit later.

The government set up an excellent tour program for the dam. Our bus driver took us to the welcome center where we all checked in and then were put on one of the buses specifically for the tour. That dropped us off at the foot of a hill that had a series of escalators to take us to the upper-most viewing area.

Escalating up to the Observation Plaza

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Categories: Asia, China, Cruises, River Cruise, Tours, Viking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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