November 11, 2018 – Singapore

Marina Bay Sands Hotel

Mark and Kent

View from the Marina Bay Sands Hotel

View from the Marina Bay Sands Hotel

It was Veterans Day so the ship had prepared a salute to our military by having a sunrise wreath ceremony at 6:47am. We were not up in to attend but those who did spoke highly of the moving service. The captain, the cruise director, theIt was Veterans Day so the ship had prepared a salute to our military by having a sunrise wreath ceremony at 6:47am. We were not up in time to attend but those who did spoke highly of the moving service. The captain, the cruise director, the minister and the rabbi all participated in the service.

Our goal for this day was to get to the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel to see the views over the city. We headed out through security and immigration, walked to the subway system and found our way to the Hotel. The weather was fairly clear and no rain so it was a perfect time to visit the observation deck. The hotel is built as three towers with a ship shaped structure stretched across the top of the three towers. There is the world’s largest infinity pool stretching along the length of the tower on the 57th floor of the hotel is open only to hotel guests. We could only view the pool from a distance. The observation tower is located at one end of the ship structure 650 feet above the ground with spectacular views over the city.

After our visit to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel we walked through the attached shopping mall and around the adjacent boat marina to the Merlion statue. We continued walking along the river to Clarke Quay where we took the subway back to our ship. By afternoon it began to rain and there was lightning and thunder once again. Mark worked on the community puzzle and Kent tried an acupuncture treatment in hopes of helping the pain in his back and shoulder that he has been experiencing. He is not sure where it came from but he often yells out in pain when he moves the wrong way. (Can’t imagine what our neighbors think).

We received another gift from the ship. Today it was a couple of expandable Ballistic Nylon carry on Travel Bags.

The evening’s entertainment was a young and talented Chinese woman by the name of Annie Gong. Annie plays an unusual electric accordion that produces all the sounds of an entire orchestra. She can play sounds from the drums, flute, horns, bag pipes and many more with this one instrument. It was very interesting and so much more pleasing than a traditional accordion.
minister and the rabbi all participated in the service.

Our goal for this day was to get to the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel to see the views over the city. We headed out through security and immigration, walked to the subway system and found our way to the Hotel. The weather was fairly clear and no rain so it was a perfect time to visit the observation deck. The hotel is built as three towers with a ship shaped structure stretched across the top of the three towers. There is the world’s largest infinity pool stretching along the length of the tower on the 57th floor of the hotel is open only to hotel guests. We could only view the pool from a distance. The observation tower is located at one end of the ship structure 650 feet above the ground with spectacular views over the city.

After our visit to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel we walked through the attached shopping mall and around the adjacent boat marina to the Merlion statue. We continued walking along the river to Clarke Quay where we took the subway back to our ship. By afternoon it began to rain and there was lightning and thunder once again. Mark worked on the community puzzle and Kent tried an acupuncture treatment in hopes of helping the pain in his back and shoulder that he has been experiencing. He is not sure where it came from but he often yells out in pain when he moves the wrong way. (Can’t imagine what our neighbors think).

We received another gift from the ship. Today it was a couple of expandable Ballistic Nylon carry on Travel Bags.

The evening’s entertainment was a young and talented Chinese woman by the name of Annie Gong. Annie plays an unusual electric accordion that produces all the sounds of an entire orchestra. She can play sounds from the drums, flute, horns, bag pipes and many more with this one instrument. It was very interesting and so much more pleasing than a traditional accordion.

November 10, 2018 – Singapore

Gardens by the Bay Flower Dome

Mark in the Garden Dome

Cloud Forest Dome

When we arrived about 8:00am the weather was quite cloudy although warm and humid.

Singapore is an island country and the smallest country in Southeast Asia, located on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. Singapore was the site of several ancient port cities and a possession of several empires in its history before the United Kingdom colonized it in the early 19th century. The Japanese occupied it during World War II before a merger established it as part of Malaysia. When Singapore acquired independence in 1965, having few natural resources, it was socio-politically volatile and economically undeveloped. Foreign investment and rapid government-led industrialization grew an economy which relies on exports of electronics and manufacturing, primarily crude oil refining.

Singapore has the second busiest port in the world… second only to Shanghai. It has the highest standard of living in Asia and 83% of the population lives in owner occupied housing. Most of this housing is high rise condo style built by the government with some type of subsidies. More than half of its nearly six-million residents use the efficient public transportation system daily maintaining low pollution levels.

Singapore has the world’s highest percentage of millionaires, with one out of every six households having at least one million US dollars in disposable wealth. This excludes property, businesses, and luxury goods, which if included would increase the number of millionaires, especially as property in Singapore is among the world’s most expensive. Singapore does not have a minimum wage, believing that it would lower its competitiveness. It also has one of the highest income inequalities among developed countries.

Security and immigration in Singapore are very high. Every time that you get on or off of the ship you are required to line up to be processed through immigration and to have your bags checked and you are put through an x-ray machine. Immigration takes your thumb prints and they pulled several folks into a private side room for further questioning before being allowed to go ashore.

We ventured out on our own to explore the Gardens by the Bay requiring us to take the subway system and to change lines at the Chinatown subway stop. The Gardens by the Bay encompasses 250 acres of parkland and is home to more than 250,000 rare plants housed in giant domed conservatories. Most of the park is open to the public free of charge although the two large domes require an entrance fee to enter. One of the domes is called the rain cloud and houses many species of orchids, anthurium, ferns and plants that enjoy tons of moisture. The second dome is much larger and is called the flower dome. The flower dome has multiple sections of plants representing different types of plants from desert climates to Mediterranean climates, etc. There is also a large area that changes with the seasons and is now featuring a huge Christmas display with a variety of trees, poinsettias and a large number of other species. Disney sponsors the holiday display and so there are many playful toys and characters in the display.

We explored both domes before heading outdoors to see the public gardens. Everything is immaculately maintained, beautifully clean and perfectly manicured. In the late afternoon we were back on the ship for a brief rest before taking a tour sponsored by our travel agent to the Night Safari. We traveled by bus to the north side of the island about a 45-minute drive. Once at the Night Safari we were escorted to a lovely glass walled room in the middle of the rain forest for cocktails and snacks prior to a buffet dinner. The buffet had a nice selection of salads, a carving station of roast beef, local fish, chicken, beef and seafood dishes and a table of desserts. The wine and beer kept flowing and everyone had a nice dinner indoors as it poured rain outdoors.

The Night Safari is set on 98 acres of dense secondary forest offering a unique experience to observe wildlife in a tropical jungle at night. By the time dinner was over and we boarded the open air trams, the rain had stopped allowing us to enjoy the safari. Each tram has a narrator as you are escorted through the jungle explaining a little about each of the animal enclosures. The lighting is strong enough to see the animals fairly well without disturbing them. We saw things like deer, hippos, tapirs, bears, lions and others. After the tram ride we had some time for shopping and to watch a fire show with four performers throwing and spitting fire. We returned to the ship and another immigration and security check about 10:00pm.

November 9, 2018 – Sea Day

On this sea day we attended the morning show with cruise director Jorge as he interviewed guest entertainers Andrew Kennedy and Peter Mehtab. They discussed the many missed opportunities of being in show business. The television pilot that never got picked up for Andrew about his family and about Peter performing for the royal family in England.

Ian lectured on our upcoming port of Singapore and Kate Mead lectured on Singapore-A City Garden. Singapore was ruled by one man for more than thirty years and it was his vision to make Singapore a city within a garden. Hence, they have created many wonderful green spaces throughout the city, public park areas, a botanical garden, etc.

We lost an hour’s time as we moved east rather than west which we have mostly been doing. Instead of changing the time in the early hours of the morning and disturbing guests sleep patterns they change the time at 2:00pm.

In the afternoon Kent attended a lecture by Captain Thomas G. Anderson about Sea Power in the 21stCentury while Mark worked on a large puzzle of decorated Christmas cookies.

The evening’s entertainment was an internationally renowned pianist from Shanghai by the name of Tian Jiang. He performed a variety of music from Andrew Lloyd Weber songs to classical Chopin. One of the ladies traveling with the same travel agent as us is a pianist and teaches piano and gave him a standing ovation for his Chopin number.

November 8, 2018 – Phu My, Vietnam

Cao Dai Temple

Cao Dai Temple Altar

Rice Paper Making

Buddhist Temple

Buddhist Temple Altar

Miraculously after yesterday’s rainy day the weather was sunny, hot and clear today. Phu My is the gateway to Vietnam’s capital city of Ho Chi Minh City otherwise known as Saigon. It is approximately 80 miles and a 90-minute drive to the capital. Since we had visited Ho Chi Minh city previously we decided to do something different closer to the ship.

Located a short distance inland from Phu My Port is the untouched rural area of Ba Ria Province where we took a tour titled “Ba Ria: A Local Life Experience”. Here, a small township, located around a village square, is filled with fading colonial architecture—neglected, but nonetheless bringing a touch of French elegance to the typically rural surroundings. This area has seen little in the way of urban development and many inhabitants continue to lead their lives the way they have for generations.

We visited a local Buddhist temple that was two stories tall and was having a special day of prayer for the local blind community. When we arrived hundreds of sight impaired folks were coming out of the sanctuary after two-hours of prayer and having a ceremony where they released hundreds of birds. The parishioners were then taking to an outdoor covered dining hall where they were feed lunch before returning to the temple for an afternoon of prayer. The temple had two floors, each with an altar, the upper floor being much more ornate with lots of gold and many silk floral arrangements. As is custom in Buddhist temples there was no place to sit and instead only an open space to stand or sit on the floor.

We had the rare opportunity to enter the confines of two traditional Vietnamese homes. One was partitioned into three separate areas, was a 100-year-old house, complete with clay floors that have been passed on through six generations from the colonial times of the French to the present day. As in nearly all Vietnamese homes, a series of altars stands proudly in memory of deceased family members.

For all Vietnamese, rice is the staple diet, but it can also be made into many different forms. Our next stop allowed us to see the process of rice paper making and a distillery producing the local ‘moonshine’—a potent form of rice wine. The woman who was making small rice paper wrappers for spring roll type food can produce 3,000 wrappers a day. They sell them in a package of 50 for only $1.00.

Finally, we stepped inside a colorful Cao Dai temple. This religion was officially founded in 1926 and within a year the group had 26,000 followers. By the mid-1950s eight percent of South Vietnamese were Cao Daist. Founded in an attempt to create the ideal religion through fusion of secular and religious philosophies of east and west, Cao Daism is a fascinating combination of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, native Vietnamese spirits, Christianity and Islam. The official Cao Dai symbol is the ‘divine’ eye and is inset into the front of the temple above the altar.

On our tour was an interesting person.  S/he was Canadian and at first glance you couldn’t tell whether s/he was a woman or man.  S/he, at about 60, very tall, had breasts and no bra, painted nails, short-cropped hair, shorts, blouse and men’s shoes and socks.  However, he used the urinal in the men’s room.  After conversation, we learned he was an Electrical Engineer and seemed friendly enough.  It will be interesting to talk further with him to find out more of his story.

The entertainment for the evening was a variety show with the magician Peter Methab from last night and Andrew Kennedy the comedian from a couple of nights ago.

November 7, 2018 – Nha Trang, Vietnam

Nha Trang Beach

Nha Trang Church

Nha Trang is a coastal city on the south-central coast of Vietnam with a population of about 400,000. Nha Trang was the capital of the Champa Kingdom that once controlled what is now central and southern Vietnam for over 13 centuries. During the Vietnam war this spot was a popular place for U.S. servicemen. Nha Trang is well known for its five-miles of beautiful beaches and scuba diving attracts many international travelers. The local economy relies heavily on tourism although they do also have shipbuilding and fishing industries including lobster farming.

The morning skies were very dark with clouds and before we were able to take the shuttle into town it began to ran buckets of water. It was raining so hard that you could not see anything twenty feet in front of you. Instead it looked more like a heavy fog out the window and there was a bit of thunder and lightning as well.

By early afternoon the rain had subsided and we took the ship’s shuttle into town to have a look around in what was still moderate rain. We had been to the city previously and decided not to take a tour of some of the local sites. Instead we walked to the Nha Trang Cathedral built by the French in 1933. Unfortunately, the church was closed for a couple of hours for lunch and we decided that, with the rain, we should not wait for it to re-open.

Instead we walked several blocks to the Long Thanh Gallery owned by a local photographer. The photos are all in black and white and depict life and history of Vietnam. The gallery is on the ground floor of the photographer’s residence and we had to ring the bell for someone to come down and let us in. She was kind enough to turn on the lights and allow us to have a look around at the hundred or so large framed photos. The photos were of elderly folks, children playing, local salt mine workers, kids on water buffalo, babies, young women and more. We enjoyed having a look around but did not make any purchases.

Due to the poor weather we headed back to the bus stop to catch the shuttle back to the ship. By our short shuttle rides into and out of town, it appeared that there was a lot of redevelopment and construction going on around town. New resorts are being built, new roads and sidewalks are being installed and things are being renovated.

We have been watching the election results with some joy and alarm. Wish us all luck!

The evening’s entertainment was a master magician by the name of Peter Methab. He has performed all over the world, for Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth II and has appeared in the James Bond film The World is Not Enough. He is a bit of a comedian as well and it was an entertaining show.

November 6, 2018 – Sea Day

On this sea day we attended several lectures. The first was by Ian about Make the Most of Your Visit to Nha Trang and Phu My, Vietnam. The second lecture was by a new lecturer by the name of Kate Mead about Vibrant and Varied Vietnam. Kate is from England but has lived for the last 40+ years in Hong Kong. She showed us many slides of Vietnam and tried to prepare us for some of the clothing, food, motor bikes and culture we might find in Vietnam.

In the afternoon we attended a lecture by Captain Thomas G. Anderson called The Box that Changed the World. In this lecture he discussed in detail about how the cargo container has changed the world. He showed many slides about the size of the boxes, the ships that haul them, the shipping docks that load and unload them and how this has changed how we transport goods and materials around the world. He also discussed and showed slides on how these boxes have been used to house the homeless around the world, high end homes that have been built with container boxes as well as commercial spaces that are built with container boxes.

Later in the afternoon, Ian lectured on the Vietnam, Land of Dragons. He showed many slides about life in Vietnam and things we might come across in our travels in Vietnam.

The evening’s entertainment was a celebration of country, folk and rock music presented by the Amsterdam singers and dancers. The performers were great, but the show was not one of our favorites as we did not recognize most of the music.

November 5, 2018 – Hong Kong, China

Nan Lian Gardens

Nan Lian Garden

Nan Lian Garden Bonsai

Chi Lin Nunnery

Peninsula Hotel

This morning we headed out on the ship’s shuttle to a subway stop where we took the subway to the Diamond Hill subway stop. Along the way we met up with two of our fellow passengers Pat and Paula who were headed to the same spot. There we walked a short distance to a beautiful park called the Nan Lian Garden and connected Chi Lin Nunnery. The gardens include several structures, ponds, lakes, a mill, a restaurant, gallery and exhibition space and the gardens are immaculately manicured.

After exploring the gardens and a ceramics exhibition in one of the structures, we headed to the adjoining nunnery for a look. Chi Lin Nunnery is a large Buddhist Temple complex founded in 1934 as a retreat for Buddhist nuns and was rebuilt in the 1990s following the traditional Tang Dynasty architecture. The temple halls have statues of the Shakyamuni Buddha, the goddess of mercy Guanyin, and other bodhisattvas. The statues are made from gold, clay, wood and stone. The nunnery is in extraordinary condition and the gardens, as well as the temple structures, are breathtaking.

The Chi Lin Nunnery uses the traditional Tang Dynasty architecture with a design based on a Sukhavati drawing in the Mogao Caves. It is constructed entirely with cypress wood, without the use of any nails and is currently the world’s largest hand-made wooden building. This construction is based on traditional Chinese Architecture techniques that uses special interlocking systems cut into the wood to hold them in place. The complex with 16 halls, a library, a school, a pagoda, a bell tower and a drum tower, covers an area of more than 360,000 square feet. The Chi Lin Nunnery buildings are the only buildings to be built in this style in modern-day Hong Kong. We really enjoyed our visit to the gardens and nunnery.

Our next stop, after Pat and Paula went their own way, was to the famous Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon where we had a look inside the lobby as well as the arcades of high-end retail shops. If you are looking for Harry Winston, Tiffany of any number of high-end jewelers and watch makers you may well find them here. Not many customers there, but they probably do not need to make many sales at these prices.

Since some of the ship’s guests departed yesterday and were replaced with a new set, we were required to have another emergency life boat drill before sailing from Hong Kong. At 5:30 we attended a sail away party in the Crow’s Nest bar.

We attended the sail away party in the Crow’s Nest before dinner and then enjoyed a comedian by the name of Andrew Kennedy. Andrew was a Top 20 Comedy Showdown Winner on Comedy Central. He is born to mixed race parents from Venezuela and England and grew up in Hong Kong, Connecticut and a few other places. His comedy is based around his family experiences with three boys each of different shades of brown, one gay and all quite tall. He speaks English, Spanish and Cantonese as well as being able to do many impersonations. He was very entertaining.

November 4, 2018 – Hong Kong, China

Dim Sum Restaurant

Dim Sum Food

Wei and Kent at the Bakery

Wei and Mark at the Tea Shop

We arrived in Hong Kong before 7:00am to cloudy skies and an expected high of 81 degrees. On our last visit to Hong Kong we were docked right in the heart of town by the Star Ferry but now all ships are docked at a new cruise terminal where the old airport was on the outskirts of town. They offered two buses that take you to two different subway stations to allow you to get into town easily.

Hong Kong, now officially Hong Kong Special Administrative Region People’s Republic of China, consists of a mainland on the country’s southeastern coast and about 235 islands. It is bordered on the north by Guangdong Province and on the east, west and south by the South China Sea. Hong Kong was a British dependency from the 1840’s until July 1, 1997 when it passed to Chinese sovereignty. In 1841 British naval officers hoisted the Union Jack over the empire’s newest addition. At the time the land was a barren island with hardly a house upon it. Today it is covered with more skyscrapers than anywhere else in the world and has a population of about 7.5 million people. Hong Kong’s mainland consists of the urban area known as Kowloon and a portion of the New Territories, a large area that became part of Hong Kong in 1898. Lantau Island, ceded to Hong Kong as part of the New Territories but often considered separate from that region, is the largest island. Located about six miles east of Lantau Island and across Victoria Harbor from Kowloon is Hong Kong Island. The city of Hong Kong, also known as Victoria, faces the harbor on the northern part of the island. In total there are only 422 square miles of land area.

For lunch we met up with one of our past international students who studied at San Diego State in 2008 by the name of Wei Toh. He invited us to join him for a dim sum lunch at a restaurant called Lin Heung Teahouse in central Hong Kong. The restaurant was very unique to us although Wei said this is typical Hong Kong Style. The large dining room was filled with round tables of eight chairs and each was full and people were hovering waiting for folks to leave to get a seat. Once you found a chair, a waiter would bring you a small bowl for your food, a tea cup a small ceramic spoon and a pair of chop sticks. Next came a small bowl with hot water to wash your dishes and utensils even though they had been cleaned in the kitchen already. Some folks even used tea to wash the utensils and dishes before they began eating.

Meanwhile older women would roll small carts out of the kitchen with a couple stacks of bamboo steaming trays/baskets and people would follow them until they stopped in an aisle to sell their goods. Once each revealed what item she had on the cart, people would ask her for one, two or three baskets and she would stamp their card so they would be charged properly after eating. The restaurant was a wild experience. Wei ran around the restaurant chasing rolling carts to retrieve our lunch. We had pork buns, pork ribs, pork liver, pork dumplings and a sweet bean curd bun.

After lunch we attended a festival of the Hong Kong Heritage Association that was having an open house of several Hollywood Road area historical buildings, as well as street music and dance performances. Wei wanted to show us the former Central Magistrate complex that used to house the police headquarters and prison. This complex of buildings dating back several hundred years was closed for about ten years as they renovated it and had just recently opened it as a public complex. There are now shops, museums, restaurants, performance spaces, and outdoor spaces for special events. Also included in the complex are some of the jail cells as they once stood.

We stopped at a favorite egg custard bakery that Wei likes to try the pastries, reminding us of the Nata pastries you find in Portugal: small custard pies with a flaky crust about three inches in diameter. Along with the custard we sampled the local favorite tea milk made from condensed milk and tea. Delicious.

After exploring some of the shops around Hong Kong Island we stopped for tea and crumpets at a favorite tea shop. We had a very spicy hot Chai tea, sponge cake with a green tea spread and a banana and peanut butter scone.

After Wei left us, we explored a section of Hollywood Road’s antique shops before catching a double decker tram through Hong Kong island. We then took the subway to the Jordan subway stop to make our way to the Temple Street night market which began about 5PM. At the market they sell mostly souvenir items like artwork, toys, tea sets, wall hangings and a few clothing items. We stocked up on our Chinese wine bottle bags that we enjoy sharing with friends. Kent did a good job of bargaining with the lady although she appeared to be unhappy with the price. I suspect it was all part of the game. She came down to less than half of the asking price on the bags.

The evening’s entertainment was a local folkloric show that gave a dance show featuring dances from around China. This included a Tibetan dance, a Taiwanese dance and a Korean dance from North Korean.

November 3, 2018 – Sea Day

We had another sea day as we traveled from Taiwan to Hong Kong. The weather was about 70 degrees although mostly cloudy skies.

In the morning we attended the Morning Show with cruise director Jorge who interviewed one of the ship’s crew members who is a deck officer by the name of Eric. He is from the Netherlands and had dreamed of sailing a ship since he was a small boy when his grandmother took him on a ferry ride.

Ambassador Krishan Rajan gave two lectures: one was on Ghandi as the world is about to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his birth. His other lecture was on how Eastern Culture, Faith and Philosophy interact with the age of Artificial Intelligence. Artificial Intelligence continues to play a huge role in the world and one day might take over more and more of the roles of man. What issues and consequences might this cause in the world? Unknown.

For lunch we dined in the Pinnacle specialty restaurant with our friend Clydie from Florida and a couple by the names of Michael and Nancy from Buffalo, New York. Michael and Nancy have been very kind to us and we have shared many tours with them but sadly they are headed home tomorrow. They do not want to miss the grand babies 2nd birthday party, Thanksgiving and plans for the Christmas holidays.

The evening’s entertainment was a second show by the New York boys group Shades of Bublé.

November 2, 2018 – Keelung (Taipei), Taiwan

Boa-An Temple

Boa-An Temple Altar

Martyrs Shrine

Grand Hotel

Grand Hotel Lobby

National Palace Museum Treasure

Lin An Tai Historical Home

Chiag Kai Shek Memorial Hall

Chiag Kai Shek Memorial Hall Museum

Chiag Kai Shek Changing of the Guards

Chiag Kai Shek Memorial Grounds

Taipei 101 Skyscraper

Our tour this day was a private tour that we took with our neighbors Ana Maria and Sandra. They had arranged for a van to pick us up at the port with a driver and guide to show us the best of Taipei. Our guide was Roger, a young man of 27 from Keelung, Taiwan, who guides as a second job. His regular job is a kitchen helper in a restaurant. The day was wet and rainy most of the day but it did not dampen our spirits of adventure.

Our journey commenced with a relaxing drive from Keelung City, Taiwan’s second-largest port, to the Dalongdong Bao-An Temple. This temple was originally built of wood at this site in 1742, followed by a more permanent structure begun in 1805 and completed in 1830. This temple is known for its huge scale, grand style and exquisite carvings. The temple includes an entrance hall, main hall, and back hall with guard rooms on the sides. Every inch of this temple is so detailed with finely carved wood, stone and ceramic materials. The most recent renovation of the temple came in 1995, and what a spectacular job they have done.

On the slopes of the Qing Mountain, our next stop was at the Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine, a stately monument constructed in 1969 to honor the 330,000 brave men who sacrificed their lives in key battles. Two of these battles were part of the revolution against the Republic of China and the War of Resistance against Japan. With a style reminiscent of Beijing’s Taihe Dian Imperial Palace, this stunning shrine is surrounded by more than eight acres of grass and features a bright red main gate guarded by uniformed officers. We were able to catch a simplified changing of the guards due to the rain.

We then headed to the palatial Grand Hotel, which was built in 1952 in the decadent style of classic Chinese architecture. The hotel was considered the finest hotel in the world by 1967. Ronald Reagan and Dwight D. Eisenhower both stayed here. The two-story lobby with a mega pot full of living lavender orchid plants was spectacular. Everyone who entered the hotel wanted to take their photos in front of this mega bouquet.

Our next stop was at the Lin An Tai Historical House and Museum. The family which had owned this home had become wealthy from the trade business and built this very large home beginning about 1785. The house is built in what they call the Fujian style incorporating courtyards, woods and gardens that are all about nature and shaped to embody the pristine elements. The home is quite large with many rooms situated on a large parcel of land with lakes, several out buildings, bridges and covered walk ways. Many of the rooms are furnished allowing you to see how the family might have lived here.

Back on the road, we headed through the bustling city of Taipei, where taxis, buses and motorcycles zip along the busy streets. Here we visited the wonderful National Palace Museum, with one of the largest collections of ancient Chinese objects and art in the world. Many objects were said to have been brought to Taipei by Chiang Kai-shek from Beijing. Spanning more than 8,000 years, the impressive collection includes bronze, paintings, jade, ceramics, and precious objects amassed by ancient emperors and more from the Sung, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. The museum is very modern with all items marked in English and beautifully displayed. We spent about 90-minutes looking through three floors of priceless objects.

For lunch, we headed to a busy neighborhood in the city with many shops of local delicacies of food and a shopping district. We tasted pineapple cookies in a local bakery before sitting down in a noodle shop for beef noodles. Sandy and Ana had brought their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and went shopping, so we ate while our guide watched us struggle with the noodles and chopsticks. Finally, he ordered forks for us. The noodles are handmade on the premises and are irregular in shape with a chewy texture. In the bowl of noodles were chunks of beef, leaves of spinach and bok choy and a beef stock. Along with the noodle soup we tried the onion pancakes. All was good.

Next, we headed to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall — a regal monument paying tribute to the former President of Taiwan. With its brilliant blue glazed-tile roof, gold apex, white marble and natural red cypress ceiling, the shrine is designed to convey sacredness, solemnity, hospitality and peace. Inside, we saw valuable artifacts related to the late president’s life, including photographs, cars, a recreation of his office and historical documents. Upstairs in the main hall where there is an enormous statue of Chiang Kai-shek, we watched another changing of the guards. The solemn ceremony lasted about ten minutes.

Lastly, we headed to an old village museum from which we could look up at the exterior of the Taipei 101 Skyscraper built to resemble a stalk of bamboo tied with elegant ribbons at each fret.

All in all, it was a wonderful busy and tiring day in Taipei even with the poor weather (Kent’s legs were tired). The evening’s entertainment was a 24-year-old man by the name of Cy Leo, considered one of Hong Kong’s most promising harmonica players and song writers. His father was a champion harmonica player so he began playing at birth. His concert was the best received with the most applause of any show we have had so far this voyage. It is amazing the music he can create with such a simple and small instrument.