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Singapore to Tokyo by Cruise Ship – The Ideal Asian Cruise
By John and Sandra Nowlan
Silver Shadow – Hong Kong Harbour
Shipboard dinner and entertainment
The flight between Tokyo and Singapore took seven long hours. The return trip lasted 16 delightful days.
We were on the Silver Shadow, a small Silversea cruise ship consistently rated as among the best in the world. With five-star service, extraordinary cuisine and a crew ratio as good as any ship at sea, the experience was more like sailing on a personal yacht or private club than on a cruise ship.
The itinerary was ideal for anyone with a curiosity about Asia, its history, cuisine and unique cultures. From the heat and humidity of the highly efficient city of Singapore, Silver Shadow headed north to Vietnam for a two day stop in Saigon (now Ho Chi Min City), then another 48 hours in bustling Hong Kong harbour before proceeding to Taiwan and the Japanese cities of Okinawa, Nagasaki and Yokohama (the main port for Tokyo).
Our son, who teaches English in Osaka, has traveled to Vietnam and recommended it as a fascinating country well worth visiting. Saigon itself (most people still refer to it by the old name) is a typical high density Asian city – a congested, almost frantic pace of life complicated by unending motor scooter traffic and busy intersections where pedestrians literally risk their lives crossing. Our guide noted that there were seven million people in Saigon and more than three million motor scooters. The little machines outnumber cars 15 to 1. Some scooters carried families of four while others attached baskets of pigs or goats. Honda does a brisk business here.
Cable Cars and Hong Kong Airport
Along the Mekong Delta
We chose a tour to the nearby Mekong Delta, a huge agricultural basin where busy commercial and residential life on the waterways is in contrast with the many narrow rivulets covered with a canopy of vines and leaves. We went in a ten-person covered sampan with a friendly woman who handled the navigation and the long outboard motor with great skill.
Hong Kong was a delightful surprise as Silver Shadow docked next to the Star Ferry terminal and the busy Kowloon shopping area. The former British colony shows little evidence of a recession with major high-rise building projects adding to population density and streets, restaurants and tourist attractions appearing to be as busy as ever. In addition to exploring many market areas (the wet market, flower market, jade market and goldfish market are particularly interesting) we ventured to New Lantau Island (home of Hong Kong’s international airport) for a 5.7 km ride on the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car, the longest in Asia. It terminates in Hgong Ping Village, home of the giant Tian Tan Buddha statue.
Along with shopping and spectacular sightseeing, we ate like royalty (not difficult in Hong Kong) with dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant and, the following day, a delicious dim sum lunch accompanied by outstanding Hong Kong beer. Sailing away from the harbour at night, with its colourful laser show, was a memorable experience.
Taipei 101 dominates skyline
A Nagasaki Welcome
Taiwan has become famous not only for its cheap electronics but bragging rights to the world’s tallest building. Taipei 101 stretches skyward for over half a kilometre, the first structure to ever reach that height. Shaped like a series of Chinese food take-out cartons, Taipei 101 will be overtaken in height later this year by a new building in Dubai.
The skyscraper, with its massive underground shopping mall, is a good starting point for tours and most visitors head to the National Palace Museum. This huge edifice holds the world’s largest collection of Chinese artifacts, about 700,000 in total, only a fraction of which can be displayed at any one time. The jade and ancient pottery collections are particularly remarkable.
Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Memorial
Prices in Japan are significantly higher than those in Taiwan or Vietnam but the island nation is a model of courtesy and competency. The most emotional Japanese stop for the guests on Silver Shadow was the shipbuilding city of Nagasaki, the site of the second atomic bomb blast (three days after Hiroshima) during the Second World War. At Ground Zero a monument points skyward and messages of peace from many countries ring the park and nearby commemorative fountain. Over 40,000 Japanese were killed in Nagasaki on that August day in 1945 with another 40,000 dying shortly afterwards of injuries or radiation poisoning. The park and its many monuments are poignant reminders of the destructiveness of war and the need for world peace.
Before disembarking in Yokohama (most guests headed for nearby Tokyo; we took the bullet train to Osaka), we had a day at sea to reflect on the pleasure of a luxury cruise line. As one TripAdvisor client said about Silversea, “Once you graduate to this level of cruising, it’s hard to go back.” We’ve never experienced such attentive service (pampering beyond belief and sincerity in everything staff does for you) and comfort level on a cruise ship. Guests are always addressed by name and all requests are met with a “can do” attitude. Very refreshing on a ship with complementary wines at meals and a no gratuity policy.
The sixteen-day trip between Singapore and Japan was among our best-ever cruise adventures. Unpacking just once while experiencing some of the most remarkable countries and cities in the world and returning each evening to a private palace at sea was an experience every curious North American should try at least once.
For more information contact Barbara3@rogers.com.
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|Print article||This entry was posted by Barbara Kingstone on February 9, 2011 at 1:30 am, and is filed under Cruises. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.|