World traveler's trail leads to stop in Japan
This is the fourth installment in a series following New Kingston resident Fran Faulkner and her sister, Sandy Holsten, as they sail around the world in 90 days.
Seven days after departing Sydney, Australia, we arrived at Yokohama, Japan. Unfortunately, it was a cold (44 degrees) and rainy day. Our tour bus took us to Hakone National Park, where there was snow along the road! We took a ride in a cable car at the Hakone Ropeway and then drove up and down through the mountains, but the weather prevented us from enjoying clear views of the spectacular scenery in the park.
We stopped for lunch at a hotel in the mountains and later took a sightseeing boat ride on Lake Ashe. At this point we should have had a clear view of Mt. Fuji, but it was still cold and rainy, and the mountain could not be seen. When we arrived back at the port in Yokohama, we had to wait outside in the rain before we could get to the gangway to board ship. By the time we were finally back in our cabin, we were drenched. We changed clothes and then enjoyed evening activities.
Our cabin, situated mid-ship on Deck 4, is in a super location. We have Carol and Ken of Cruise Innovations to thank for this! Our balcony allows us to enjoy both sky and sea. We are thrilled to view sunrise and/or sunset and are fascinated by the fantastic cloud formations! We enjoy the ever-changing swells and white caps in the vast ocean, and we can often see flying fish. Because of the direction of our voyage, our starboard location enables us to sight land in the distance as we approach our ports of call.
We docked at Hong Kong about 8 a.m. on Monday. We watched from our balcony as we sailed into the harbor, and viewed an assortment of ships of all sizes and shapes. We finally arrived at the dock, which was located directly across from a very large container terminal! There are many tall buildings along the harbor – Hong Kong is obviously the largest port in this area. Once we were docked, we could watch tractors unload boxes of fruit and vegetables from trucks and bring them over to be loaded onto the ship. The QM2 was also refueled at this port.
We were disappointed that the weather was overcast, but we enjoyed a harbor cruise in a Japanese sightseeing ship. We had an incredible view at night as we sailed out of the harbor from Hong Kong! The tall commercial and apartment buildings were brilliantly lighted. Names of several well-known electronic companies, such as Panasonic, Toshiba, Sharp, and Sony (just to name a few) were in brilliant letters.
We then enjoyed a couple of days at sea. We attended a cocktail party given by Captain Nick Bates and the Senior Officers. Captain Bates was Master of the QM2 when we boarded the ship at Fort Lauderdale. He left us at Rio de Janeiro and was replaced by Commodore Bernard Warner. He boarded the ship at Hong Kong to take over again for the remainder of our voyage.
After two days at sea we reached Laem Chabang (Bangkok), and we awakened in time to watch the ship turn around to back into the harbor. Again, a container ship docking area was across from the QM2. As we docked, we were entertained by Thai music and dancing, and a large “Welcome to Thailand” banner was posted where we could see it. It was hot and humid by the time we left the ship for our shore excursion to Elephant Village. We were taken by bus through the woods to a clearing where bleachers were set up. After everyone was seated we were entertained by the elephants! Spectators were invited to feed bananas to them, pet them, or to ride on them, and many took a ride into a pond where the elephants took a bath. Some of the riders got more than they bargained for, as the elephants like to submerge themselves in the water and their riders got drenched! One of the trainers then gave us a great deal of information about the animals: age and average weight, how much food they required daily, and how long the females carried their young (18-24 months). One elephant demonstrated how it moved logs (before modern machinery, the elephants were used for logging). Another was thrown a basketball, which it caught and then shot right into a basketball hoop! After the presentation, the spectators were again invited to pet, ride, or feed the animals. It was a great show!
On the return trip to the ship, the bus stopped in the city of Pattaya so that we could go into a huge jewelry store, an unbelievable experience! The store took up a city block, and there were glass display cases throughout, along with huge aquariums with fish and plant life for extra decoration! Back on the QM2, we relaxed and checked our photos of the elephants.
After a day at sea we docked at Singapore. We were now two thirds of the way through our voyage. After docking, we went on our shore excursion, “Breakfast in the Wild,” at the Singapore Zoo. We enjoyed breakfast at an outdoor restaurant where we could watch the orangutans. An attendant walked around the tables showing off a large python that was curled in her arms! We took a tram to a different area to see more animals and stopped at an outside theater to watch the animal show. We walked along a trail to see white tigers, a kangaroo, a giraffe, an ostrich, flamingoes, a zebra, baboons, and others. There are no fences in this zoo. The animals are separated from visitors by water barriers. We were then taken to an area to see the polar bears, which are kept in a refrigerated room with glass sides so that visitors can view them both above and below the water. It was great to see the animals in such a natural setting!
Needless to say, we took many photos. Back at the ship after a fun day, we watched the QM2 pull away from the dock and the small pilot ship arrive to pick up the pilot as we left the harbor.