Nagasaki, JapanThroughout the day on March 11 (enroute to Nagasaki we passed by Osumi Katkyo, Kush and Tanegashima), we set a north Westerly course towards Nagasaki. We had our formal dinner fast so we could see the show of multi-instrumentalist Kenny Martyn. Then we saw the movie “P.S. I Love You” starring Hillary Swank, Gerard Butler and Lisa Kudrow.

While cruising the Philippine Sea on March 11 and looking forward to the tour we signed up for where the atomic bomb hit it, we studied the material on Nagasaki that was made available for us, not knowing that we would really just content ourselves with just being armchair travelers.

Nagasaki has a moving epigraph that is inscribed on the Peace Fountain in Nagasaki’s Heiwa-koen (Peace Park) and the Heiwa-Do (Peace Temple) - a present from Nanjing City as proof of sister city.

“I was very thirsty and went out for water: I found the water with something like oil all over it. I wanted the water so much that I drank it as it was with oil over it” Written by Sachiko Yamaguchi (age 9 at the time of the 1945 Nagasaki bombing)

It is dedicated to the many citizens who died in a desperate search for water following the terrifying and deadly August 9, 1945 nuclear attack on their city. The solemn lines summarize, in simple terms, the horror and bewilderment people felt on that fateful day.

Although more than 60 years have passed, the people of Nagasaki and many others around the world, want to ensure that no one ever forgets the lesson they so painfully learned: In war, everyone loses. A sombre annual ceremony honours those who suffered and died.

A pretty place (be on deck for the approach!), Nagasaki means long cape, and refers to the narrow headland from which it grew. The busy port was the first point of European contact. Evidence of its ’East Meets West history’ is still seen throughout the city, which stretches along the Urakami-gawa River’s eastern bank.

Westerners did not know of Japan until the 16th century. The first Portuguese merchants landed at Tanegashima in 1543, having been blown off course en route to China. Soon others arrived, and the Christian mission did too in 1549.

Nagasaki quickly became an important trade centre, and Christianity was embraced. Not everyone was pleased. The popular new religion began to spread to other parts of Kyushu (the largest island of Japan) and by 1588, there was a sizable Japanese following.

For Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Emperor of Japan, it was too much too fast. Fearing the new religion might supplant his power by aligning faithful Lords with foreigners, he restricted the missionaries, and when that didn’t work, he ordered public crucifixion of 26 Nagasaki believers who were raised on crosses and impaled through with spears. The victims included six missionaries and three children. First, they were arrested in Kyoto and Osaka, and forced to walk through the snow to Nagasaki, 500 miles away.

They were publicly crucified on Nishizaka Hill on February 5, 1597. A decade later, Christianity was banned outright. The martyrs were beatified by order of the Pope in 1862, and the Memorial to 26 Martyrs was dedicated in the 1960s.

Ultimately, Kyoto came to view foreigners with such suspicion, they were restricted to “special” cities, such as Nagasaki. Established in the heartfelt hope that the consequence of atomic warfare will never stray far from human consciousness, a photographic essay with first-hand account of the blast make a powerful impression at Nagasaki’s Atom Bomb Museum.

Some pictures are graphic, and after you see the exhibition, it is hard to imagine that human beings still harbour such weapons. However disturbing, the museum near Hypocenter Park must be visited. There is a statue there of a woman carrying a dead child in her arms. Someone said, “War is never justified. Only rationalized.” Each day at precisely 11:02 am, its bell tolls in memory of the 1945 blast. Many victims are buried beneath it.

The proper name for Nagasaki’s Nishizaka district masterpiece is Fukusai-ji Temple, but most people call it Kannon Temple. The Zen shrine, shaped like a turtle with the statue of the Goddess Kannon on its back, is a post-WWII reconstruction. A Foucault Pendulum, a device that tracks the earth’s rotation is fascinating.

Four 19th-century homes were moved to Minamiyamate Hill (often called the British Hill) where Glover Gardens is named for Scotsman Thomas Glover, whose home is the oldest. A statue at the site honours opera star Miura Tamaki who famously portrayed Madame Butterfly and a painting is presented as Madame Chrysantheme, Pierre Loti‘s concubine.

Shimabara is best known for its Christian peasant rebellion (1637-38) when a group held out at Hara-jo Castle for 80 days. Handled with intense severity, more than 30,000 peasants were massacred during the uprising, which ended in removal of foreign missionaries. The castle is one of Japan’s largest and Shimabara’s Nehan-zou (in Kotoji temple) is the nation’s largest reclining Buddha (28 feet).

Practically Speaking - Currency: Japanese yen PO: Nagasaki Chuo (I-I, Ebizo-machi Info: JR Station or Shops: 10 am to 8 pm Browse: Along Homanu-machi, Kanko-dori Buy: Arita porcelain, pearls, glass, yuzu and electronics Transport: Nagasaki’s light-rail system - Oura Kaigan Dori Station is nearest the harbour. Arrival Information: The ship was not able to dock at Matsugae Pier, Port of Nagasaki.

Peace Park - Nagasaki’s rich history is filled with interesting events, but the events of August 9, 1945 still burned into the world’s memory. On August 8, local newspapers had informed readers about the destruction of Hiroshima by a “new-type bomb,” but no one imagined that a single bomb could cause such damage.

Euphemistically referred to as “Fat Man,” the load unleashed on Nagasaki just after 11 am that day was twice as powerful. In Hypocenter Park, a black monolith marks the exact epicenter of the explosion, A ghostly, charred section of the original Urakami Cathedral has also been preserved.

The Buddha-like Statue of Peace holds out his hand out in an appeal to human beings to realize that war is utter madness. At the same time, he points out heavenward ostensibly reminding us of horrors that human beings have often unleashed upon each other.

A black box at the base contains the names of the victims in the 1945 bombing. Each year, the entire list is read aloud. Nearly a third of the city’s residents died instantly, and another third were seriously injured. The rest were rendered homeless. Each year, on the anniversary of the bombing, a sombre demonstration in opposition to nuclear proliferation (and war in general) is held in the park.

A small fishing village secluded by harbours, Nagasaki enjoyed little historical significance until contact with European explorers in 1543 - among them possibly Fernao Mendes Pinto - when a Portuguese ship landed nearby in Tanegashima, (166 miles from Nagasaki) having been blown off course en route to China.

Nagasaki quickly became an important trade centre, many merchants arrived and missionaries seeking converts accompanied them. Portuguese products imported through Nagasaki (such as tobacco, bread, textiles and a Portuguese sponge cake called castellas) were assimilated into popular Japanese culture.

Tempura was derived from a popular Portuguese recipe originally known as peixinhos-da-horta (Deep Fried Green Beans)and take its name from the Portuguese word, ’tempero’ another example of the enduring effects of this cultural exchange. The Portuguese also brought with them many goods from China and re-opened trade routes between the two countries that had been previously severed due to a number of incidents involving Wokou (plainly translated as Japanese pirates) piracy of the South China Sea.

Two rivers divided by a mountain spur from the two main valleys in which the city lies. The heavily built-up area of the city, Nagasaki, also called the Skyscraper City, is confined by the terrain to less than four square miles (10 km squared)

On August 9, 1945, Nagasaki was the target of the world’s second atomic bomb attack at 11:02 am, when the north of the city was destroyed and an estimated 40,000 people (it was actually more than this) were killed by the bomb codenamed “Fat Man” (said to be named after Winston Churchill).

According to Nagasaki Peace Park statistics, the death toll from the atomic bombing totalled 73,884 as well as another 74,909 injured and another several hundred thousand diseased and dying because of the fallout and other illness due to radiation.

The city was rebuilt after the war, albeit dramatically changed. New temples were built as well as new churches due to an increase in the presence of Christianity. Some of the rubble was left as a memorial, such as a one-legged torii gate and an arch near ground zero.

New structures were also raised as memorials such as the Atomic Bomb Museum. Nagasaki remains first and foremost a port city, supporting a rich shipping industry and setting a strong example of perseverance and peace.

Instead of the “Nagasaki Yokoso!” (Welcome), we heard of the earthquake that struck Japan and rattled it so they closed all the ports but we could not leave. We had to wait for some 33 cruise mates of ours who decided to go to Tokyo while we were in Osaka. We felt bad for them but kind of relieved that we did not go to Tokyo despite its being Japan’s largest city, because we had been there so many times before.

In fact one time as we had dinner at Imperial Hotel (We stayed in this hotel for a few days to be near the Imperial Palace which we were booked to tour), the pianist played our theme song and we looked at her astounded as to how on earth she would know that. She just smiled at us so we smiled back and that was that.

The Captain made the announcement at breakfast that the Japanese Government stopped Queen Mary 2 from docking as they have not cleaned up the infrastructures yet like the terminal and the roads and the bridges as well. The catastrophe happened at exactly fifteen minutes to three, just one day and half an hour before our scheduled tour of Nagasaki. So since we were not able to get off Queen Mary 2, the sea day activities resumed as normal meaning we had Line Dancing after breakfast and ballroom dancing before lunch and other activities as well.

The 8.9 earthquake that unleashed a tsunami, (a flood of water of unprecedented proportion) that killed thousands of people, devastated the whole country. This was followed by an outpouring of effort and care from all over the world. And the disaster affected the Fukishima Nuclear Plant. The good news is that it has been said Japan is the most prepared country to deal with the disaster like this one.

Some said Japan’s worst earthquake in a hundred years was like a scene from hell. With the tsunami and the nuclear disaster following it, how could it not be? We still can’t believe that we were there the day the disaster shook Japan and the world. It was in those few days we realized what a special place QM2 is and how lucky we were to be in it.

While destroyed houses burned, the ground moved, shuddering violently, twisting sidewalks, swaying high rises for a full three minutes. This resulted in massive congestion for the street lights stopped working. It was nothing like the earthquake we felt in a Tokyo Tempura restaurant while visiting that city one year when the only thing that shook were the chandeliers.

The tsunami reaching 10 meters high in some places and at speed of like the jet’s 800 km per hour, hurled cars, boats and trains inland into buildings as far as six miles, obliterating roads and tossing jets like model planes. The port city of a million people, Sendai, famous for its greenery and aptly named as the City of Trees turned black as the sea deleted its landscape.

What broke our hearts more was when our twitter and facebook friends alerted us to the few who stayed behind to battle the Fukushima meltdown after 700 workers were evacuated from the nuclear power plant. We wished then there weren’t 24/7 cable channels as we watched in horror, but with hope, these 50 brave souls would be saved as they poured water into the reactors to stop overheating.

The tsunami was so bad that some debris from it reached the West Coast. The report said that “a black float about the size of a 55-gallon drum was found by a cleaning crew” in early December east of Neah Bay at the Northwest tip of Washington.

Experts think that tons of debris from Japan would start washing ashore in about a year from California to Southern Alaska. Items that could arrive would be portions of houses, boat, furniture, cars and just anything else that floats. At the last count 15,703 died and about 5000 disappeared in the fires and tsunami. And there had been reports recently that nuclear warning was not reported, that there was a cover-up regarding this worst-case scenario.

So on March 12, while were in Nagasaki (so close yet so far away) our thoughts and prayers were with the Japanese. We felt better when it was announced that the 33 co-passengers of ours who made the over land tour to Tokyo were safe and sound and they were making arrangement for Queen Mary 2 to pick them up along with the Chinese immigration officials who would conduct the immigration process while we were at sea to facilitate our disembarkation in the next port of call which is Beijing (Xingang).

We waited at sea on March 12 and at 3:00 pm (but back home in Toronto it’s already 1:00 am making us still 14 hours ahead), we counted the hours till our shipmates come back. And all 33 were brought back to us on a boat! We all breathed a collective sigh of relief; you could hear it reverberating through the ship. Never would you see such happy faces as those 33 when they saw Queen Mary 2 again!

This reminded us that we had quite a share of challenging situations but it did not faze us at all. For as Ray’s Quote of the day said which we will make a minor change since there seemed to have a misprint there somewhere, “It is easy to be pleasant when life flows by like a song, but what makes it worthwhile is when one can smile when everything else goes wrong. For the test of the heart is trouble and it always comes with years, and the smile that is worth all the praises on earth is the smile that shines through the tears.”

The 33 who toured Tokyo were kind of lucky they participated on a Cunard arranged overland tour booked through the Tour Office for had they disembarked independently in one port and remained ashore for a few days before returning to the ship in another port (they had to provide details to the Purser’s Office with a minimum of 48 hours notice) they may not have had such a happy ending. This is one reason we booked all our tours with QM2.

While it’s true there seemed to be a conflict with every wave, (Not! For it‘s just the earthquakes in Japan and in New Zealand, the tsunami and mudslides, piracy, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak holed up in Sharm el Sheikh, and all that) everything else felt as pleasant as if we were at home.

Throughout the day on March 13, we navigated the Yellow Sea and then later the Bohai Sea. We passed between China and Korea where we noticed a high density of fishing and commercial vessels. We were told this is typical for this area.

As well we were advised that Chinese territorial waters are known for areas of C-Band Satellite Communication Interference. As such, there would be limited availability of internet and telephone services. We appreciated that QM2 gave us some time to adjust as it would enable us to cope with unexpected situations like a bill that may come up or any emergency news from home.

We were also informed of the quarantine requirements for entering China. According to Frontier Health and Quarantine Law of the People’s Republic of China, guests are required to cooperate in the following:

1. If you have any of the symptoms or situations below, please report to the quarantine officials for inspection: I. fever, cough, vomit, diarrhea, rash, difficulty in breathing, subcutaneous hemorrhage for unknown reasons Ii. Infectious disease that has been diagnosed Iii. Having brought microbe. Human tissue, biologic products, blood or blood products with you.

2. It is forbidden to bring living animals (except cats and dogs), fruits, vegetables, meat and its products, and aquatic products contained in the list of What Not to Bring of animals, plants and their products into China. If you have brought any of the above or have dogs or cats with you, you should report to the quarantine officials to receive the quarantine inspection.

All the while we were thinking of our next port of call, Beijing, which is the cultural heart of China and we elected to climb the Great Wall of China which was just outside town. We were anticipating that tour so much but we were getting ahead of ourselves so allow us to delve into the info provided us in the Daily Program.

Chinese history is very long, a 5000 year old culture that will find any visitor awashed with. For a time, western civilizations were able to achieve control in other Asian societies, but they were never successful conquering China, save for a few communities at the coast.

The fertile society’s earliest traditions grew fainter, but the first known dynasty, the Xia, was recognized as early as 2200 BC. People thought it was imaginary but then latest archaeological finds became known to back its existence.

The Xia kings (most have one-syllable names preceded by divine ancestor) descended from the Longshan clan, a Neolithic community that spread out across the Yellow River valley. Well-known for their advanced polished pottery, the ancestors left no writings, but scientists think that a Xia writing system shaped the basis for the ritualistic Shang dynasty characters that were found carved on pig bones.

The founder of the Ming dynasty, Ming Taizu ascended the throne in 1368 AD. He unified and expanded the kingdom but was brutal and autocratic, executing thousands on loose suspicions. He had a significant effect not only in China but also in East Asia. And the Great Wall was begun.

With growth, commerce also improved. Tianjin was a major recipient, and the port was enlarged during the Ming period. The winding streets of the old centre remain something of the past, but the modern city buzzes happily around the old districts.

The central business area, the Heping District lines Haihe River which is near Jiefangbeilu Financial District. It is the centre of the Tianjin’s Financial City and radiates from Jinwan Plaza. At the neighbourhood’s southern end, a river front complex of Italian buildings have been conserved.

Head to nearby Yangliuqing Town in the Xiqing District to see more traditional Chinese style architecture. Shi Yuanshi’s mansion (former residence of Shi Yuanshi, one of eight great masters in Tianjin) features traditional Qing style. The estate is a cultural landmark.

“Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend’s forehead.” - Chinese proverb

Xingang is Tianjin Province’s main port. The busy capital (established as a municipality in China in 1927) is just a 3.5 hour drive from the pier, and although the harbour area holds little of historical interest, it is a convenient access point for the capital and other destinations. Tianjin (‘river crossing’) residents call their city ‘Jin’, and you may be surprised to learn that it is China’s 4rth largest city with over 9,000,000 residents.

Admittedly industrial, new hotels and shops have been installed in recent years to accommodate a growing number of visitors and affluent residents. A major commercial centre, Tianjin’s local government is extremely powerful (under direct administration of the central government) and like Shanghai, Beijing, and Chongqing (formerly Chungking), interacts directly with the national governmental body in daily affairs.

The city was named after positive Haihe River crossing Emperor Yongle (of the Ming Dynasty) made just before his victory at the beginning of the 15th century. The modern city centre was once the British Concession. Colonial buildings reflect the foreign custom and many have been carefully fixed as office buildings or shops ( including the restored 1920s era Quanyechang Department Store).

Near the old district, French-built St. Paul’s Catholic Church dates from 1917. Its distinctive towers are local landmarks. The northern district between the river and the main road, Dongma Lu, is another area of elegant antique architecture. Intricate wooden buildings give off a joyful, yet stylish ambience.

The many district shops are possible places to look for one of the famous Tianjin-designed carpets. Between the two old neighbourhoods, Food Street is a good place to sample different delicacies that will surely tempt your taste buds. Everything from noodles to American-style burgers is offered.

Tianjin Art Museum, at 12 Chengde Road (Heping District) was built in 1908 as a French bank and houses more than 4000 exhibits. Its square columns welcome visitors who come to appreciate the collection of calligraphy, paintings, porcelain, bronze, lacquer ware and ornate huge kites. A number of antique ink stones are shown as well as many works of folk art.

Dule Temple: In Jixian City, Dule Temple (“temple of unique joy”) is a National Historic Monument. Dedicated to the goddess Mazu, it was built in 984AD. The highlight is the 75-foot, eleven-faced 43-armed wooden carving of Guanyin statue, one of the largest in the country. Brightly painted murals line the inner walls and include portraits of stern-looking Ming-era guardians.

The portraits were added during the Ming Period (1368-1644) and were meant to scare those who considered opposing the Royal will. Armed with three heads and six arms, it served as a deterrent for the superstitious Chinese observers to trespass while the dreadful spectres were there.

At Jixian City (100 miles north of Tianjin), a 25-mile section of the Great Wall at Huangyaguan (Yellow Cliff Pass) Pass has been restored. It was built with the inspirational motto: ’If one man guards the pass, 10,000 are unable to break through.’ The wall was begun by order of the Ming Emperor in 556 AD.

Beijing (northern capital) is the heartbeat of a powerful nation. A busy city and a shining showcase of Chinese art, culture and architecture, it is always thought of in superlatives. Its more than 12 million residents makes it one of the largest cities in the world.

Beijing residents value their powerful 3000-year history, and proud of the amazing wealth of fascinating artifacts and classical monuments they share with the visitors. The successful 2008 Olympic games has made the civic pride even stronger.

The modern city spreads out from innermost Forbidden City and Tian Anmen Square, the largest city square in the world with a great museum, solemn halls, a lofty monument and a magnificent tower. Chinese students staged a massive demonstration for democracy in April 1989 but the Chinese army came in killing several hundred people, brutally repressing the demonstration on June 3 and 4, 1989.

The Ming and Qing emperors had the home and audience hall built in the 15th century with more than 9000 rooms! The royal palace has 165 acres. The Summer Palace housed the imperial court during the summer months near the rebuilt section of the Great Wall of Badaling, where the Ming Tombs, built between 1409 and 1644, preserve the remains of 13 emperors.

We tried to take in the details for better understanding of Chinese architecture and art and found them impressive yet restrained. The Chinese citizens, acknowledged to themselves as ’the people’, are as congenial as any hosts, and they love to have visitors appreciate their mother country.

Here’s a Chinese proverb worth pondering on: To plan for one year; plant rice. To plan for ten years, plant trees. To plan for 100 years, educate the children. = Chinese proverb.

Begun by the Ming rulers, Tian Anmen Square, the vast public plaza has been altered and got a face lift for the 2008 Olympics! Tian Anmen Gate, on the north side, was last refurbished in 1651. Also known as the Gate of Heavenly Peace, it shows the way to the Imperial Way and Gu Gong (Forbidden City), the Chinese Imperial Palace that served as the Emperors’ home for 500 years.

Imperial laws were read out from the gate’s balcony until Chairman Mao declared the People’s Republic of China from the same parapet on October 1, 1949. The gate is the very emblem of Imperial China. It has five doors but only the Emperor could use the central passage and bridge Those who did not follow this were executed right there and then. The many Imperial excesses led to the Chinese Revolution.

Many structures around the open area are central markers of modern Chinese society and government. The Great Hall of the People that line the western side can accommodate as many as 10000 viewers and the Museum of the Chinese Revolution and Museum of Chinese History are just opposite.

Mao’s Mausoleom, the revered airman, is to the south. They preserved and re-embalmed his corpse that annually is taken to Moscow. The Forbidden City compound was began more than 500 years ago when Ming Emperor Yongle ordered construction of the Imperial sanctuary.

A wide moat enclosed the 33-ft wall that encircles the palace. The Emperor is the only one who can use the color vermillion and one who interferes with the law is severely punished. Only the Emperor, his wives, concubines, eunuchs and diplomats or business are allowed in the palace.

The Mongols occupied the site as their home before Ming fighters drove them out of China. In the beginning, the new Ming Emperors did not want their palace where the Mongols lived so Beijing was destroyed and the government was established in Nanjing which means Southern Capital.

Practically Speaking - Currency: Chinese yuan Shop: 8:30 am- 7 pm Info: Chongwenmendong (near Tian Anmen Square) PO: Dongxi Lu or Xinan Browse: The main shopping streets in Beijing are Wangfujing, Dongdanbei, Longfusi, Xidanbei, Qianmen and Xiusuhi streets, and Liulichang Cultural Street. Wangfujing is the longest and most popular district and has a station in the Beijing subway network .

Transport: There were metered taxis at marked stands. Beijing has two Metro (subway) lines. Arrival Information: The ship docked at the port of Xingang (2 hours from Beijing).

Unique to China, a hutong is microcosm within a large city that serves as a refuge from the buzz all around. These communities have become known as a matter of natural course in a place where breathing space is a treat. The ‘usual’ hutong is a narrow road that links two courtyards, but it is usually a combo of neighbouring hutongs.

The buildings were typically arranged in a courtyard, but others lined isolated alleyways. Each has a name, but the name is local and can demote a local landmark or a symbol that can change over time. There are thousands of hutongs that have existed in China for centuries

The most interesting of these hutongs was the Sanmiao Street Hutong. It was established more than 900 years ago and so is the oldest in Beijing. The whole community is more than three miles long but its shortest section, Yi Chi Street is just 30 feet long. Another good example is the Jiudaowan Hutong, but it is atypically crooked so to follow the whole route, one must turn 19 corners.

Close to Qianmen (Front Gate) is Qianshi Hutong which is the narrowest with its center only a foot and a quarter wide so two people who meet have to turn sideways to pass each other. It is sad to see these old communes disappearing as China welcomes a modern future.

Tianjin experienced some redevelopment and transformation due to the 2008 Olympic Games. To make the city more tourist-friendly, many famous buildings were given commemorative inscriptions featuring their place in the past. Its main source of income is from being a chief commercial centre and heavy industry although new shops and hotels are being developed to meet the needs of a growing number of wealthy residents and visitors.

Historically, Tianjin’s wealth and fortune have been closely coupled with those of Beijing nearby. When the Mongols established Beijing as the capital in the 13th century, Tianjin rose to distinction as a grain storage port. Then it became a walled garrison by the 15th century.

European settlers have also influenced the city, with settlers from Britain, France, Japan, Germany, Austro-Hungary, Italy and Belgium all setting up self-contained worlds between 1895 and 1900. Famous for its lavish palaces temples and huge stone walls and gates, Beijing has been the capital of China for most of the past 800 years and has been the pressure point for much historical drama.

The 2008 Olympic Games marked a turning point in Beijing’s history and became the peak of China’s best urban development program since the 14th century. The project, launched by then President Jiang Zemin spent around US$200 billion (invested in new transportation systems and facilities) and US40 billion spent on the Games, making the 2008 Olympics the most expensive in history.

The result is a modern city with a well-built underground network, the world’s biggest airport terminal (designed by Sir Norman Foster), dazzling sky scrapers, a surging immigrant population, first-class sports services and traffic grid lock.

Since Beijing does not lie near a river or sea, it has spread out with organized boulevards and roads radiating out from the heart of the city. Its transport system is usually well organized and simple to use that taking time to navigate the city does not faze any visitor.

The Forbidden City was built between 1406 and 1420 during the reign of the Ming emperor Yongle. Now a UNESCO World History Site, its construction involved one million labourers, 100,000 craftsmen and was the largest palace compound in the world. Its total area is 720,000 square miles.

The residence of emperors and the centre of Chinese civilization for more than 500 years, the Palace Museum (Gugong) is China’s most popular tourist attraction. An ambitious $185 million restoration programme is going on with an expected date of completion in 2020.

Beijing (Xingang), ChinaWe had an early breakfast on March 14 and met with the tour group in the Queen’s Room. While waiting for the tour group to proceed to the bus, we were taught some Mandarin expressions and we will write then down here phonetically: xie xie kind of sounds like "shee-yeh" "shee-yeh" = thank you;

For hello, use nín hǎo - 您好 when speaking to superiors. elders and people in authority. Use nǐ hǎo - 你好 when speaking to friends, children and colleagues. As to how much, say dou shou chian (dwo shi-o chi-an) and for the rest room, it is cèsuǒ.       Gun approached us to talk and we complimented her excellent communication skills. I asked her how she got them and she said it’s from working on the ship. We met Virginia Mohn from Boston who is married to the Harvard guy and she bought the booklet on the Great Wall for $5 and we bought ours for $3 after haggling for it. She felt bad naturally.

Anyway, on with the tour where our tour guide was Zhang Lili our driver’s name is Tiang. We left late at 9:19 am because some unprepared tour member had to change currency and made us wait. The port was first built in 1930 during the Japanese Occupation and has since been extended.

Zhang said Tianjin is one of four big cities but when we looked them up they are Shanghai, Zhumadian, Beijing and Nanchong. But that’s neither here nor there. For one thing he may have been reporting based on area and the above we found is based on population.

In 1936, he said they had a strong earthquake 120 km northeast of Tianjin and 240,000 people died. Anyway the port handles 300 million tons a year. In addition they also have a container wharf that can handle 5 million containers a year. The area used to be sea but the land was reclaimed in the last two years. Some buildings will be built so they planted trees like ash but the popular ones are poplar, willows and pine trees.

We went by bus to the Great Wall that took about 2.5 hours. On the way there, our tour guide shared some info. Their new wharf will accommodate 20 ocean-going cruise ships. They export glassware, machines and salt to Japan. Tianjin produces 10% of the salt for they have lots of lands for salt fields.

During winter, the temperature goes below zero at the start of November and they heat homes until the middle of March. The lowest temperature is -20 degrees C while the average is -4 degrees C. He said that the day we started the tour was the beginning of spring.

Summer is hot and rainy and falls in July and August. High is 40 degrees C and 26 degrees C is the average. The normal temperature is 33 degrees. Most use air conditioning for a month. September and October are the best months for tourist.

There are offices for foreign companies like Motorola, Samsung, Toyota. Technology was introduced so it became most important in Northern China. Electronic, communication, new factories producing wheat. China is rich in coal but it produces pollution so they tried windmill to produce clean power.

They have factories to produce rocket, air bus, fish pond. China is the largest country to produce silk. Main industries are chemical, salt also used for chemicals opened up in 1980 when they established salt fields. From the port, it’s 160 km to Beijing.

At the right is large lake with fish pond and fish. Main crop is rice in South China. Winter wheat is a major crop. China is short of water but they grow vegetables like corn, tomato, cucumber, eggplant, cabbage, potatoes and carrots.

For winter they have fruit trees like apple, peach and melon. At the left are high-rise buildings which is a new village built to house farmers because the government wants to save the land. The price for this housing has grown 200% but the farmers don’t have to pay much. The price for an average apartment is 15000 per square meter.

At 10:25 we headed north on Tanjin Highway. Our bus is green #9771. The tour guide pointed at the hotel which has two kinds of buildings: European and Japanese. The Europeans and Japanese like to come to this hotel for their weekend and the Japanese love to play golf.

On the road we saw signs like these: Don’t try fatigue driving, No Drunken Driving, Parking Line No Parking, Carriageway No Parking; Rear End Collision Keep Space. We had a pit stop at Wenquancheng Service Area where we found expensive prizes because US dollar is only 77 yuan while before it was 120.

Farmers plant winter wheat in October then again in green house with vegetables. Cold drink is not good for the stomach, the tour guide said. The Chinese prefer hot tea. We stopped for lunch at Ying Bin Da Jie Hotel. We were supposed to meet at the lobby after lunch in an hour.

Lunch hour was at noon so school was out and students were all riding their bicycles in the bicycle lane and hundreds of bicycles parked by the two schools, the elementary one to the left and the middle school at the right in the same side where the hotel is. Education is compulsory from 1-9. We had lunch with this Menu: Lunch @ The Great Wall.

Cold DishesMarinated BeefGuangdong pickled vegetablesFried Pork PieFresh Celery

Hot Dishes Braised carpBraised beef with potatoKongpao chickenSauteed mushrooms & pork Assorted VegetablesFried rape with mushroomBraised eggplant with soy bean sauceFried egg with shredded pork & fungusTofu in chili sauceBraised pork & vermicelli

SoupTomato and egg soup

Main Dishes Rice

The Great Wall is the symbol of Chinese civilization. Long time ago, China was divided into different kingdoms and in order to hold back the other nomadic tribes, the emperor decided to have a wall built. It’s 6000 km long and 1/5 of the village was involved in the building and is made of brick and stone. The wall is 6 to 7 meters high and 5 meters wide with beacon towers. People have to pass by the bridge and bricks were carried by the donkeys. It was renovated in 1985, at least 15 km long of it.

We went to the Garden of Longevity, and the museum with historical relics and maps and the location of the great wall during the different dynasties. In the garden, there’s the statue of Chairman Mao who was a great leader and poet who said, “You’re not a hero until you reach the Great Wall.”

The Great Wall is 900 meters above sea level. The higher part is made of rocks. The Great Wall Book we bought mentioned it as an important military fortification in ancient times that runs thousands of kilometres on the vast territory of China.

From the Yalu River in Liaoning Province, it snakes westward across mountains, deserts and snow-covered plateaus. The construction of the wall lasted more than 2000 years - from the 7th century BC to the 17th century AD, during the late Ming Dynasty.

Over 20 dynasties contributed to its construction. The three most important construction projects were respectively carried out during the reigns of the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty, Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty and Emperor Taizu of the Ming Dynasty.

UNESCO put the Great Wall on the World Cultural Heritage list in 1987. But hundreds of years earlier, it has been regarded as one of the seven wonders of the world. Only China or a great nation could have made such a great monument.

Erosion due to water and wind has gouged many valleys and canyon along the rolling mountains for million of years which became the means of access connecting the north and south in ancient times. The Great Wall in the Beijing Area was built to block these passages making it a military fortification system. The building of the Beijing Great Wall section was started in the State of Yan, one of the seven powers during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). The construction went on until the Ming Dynasty, through the Qin, Han, Wei, Jin Northern Qi, Northern Zhou, Sui and Tang dynasties.

The Ming court sent such famous generals as Xu Da who secured the wall when the Mongols retreated in 1368 and Qi Jiguang reinforced it further in 1568. After the Ming Dynasty transferred its capital to Beijing, the Great Wall was further strengthened. A survey shows the Great Wall extends for 629 km in the Beijing area covering six counties and districts.

The wall describes a rough semi-circle in the mountainous area of Northern Beijing. The Great Wall in Bedaling lies at the north end of Juyongguan Valley, rimmed by towering mountains. This part of the Great Wall climbs along the mountainsides in a magnificent manner.

The formal dinner was fine and this time the lobster we had was very good which was quite a surprise. Then we went to see the movie called “Taken” starring Liam Neeson. Roger liked it so much we stayed the whole time.

To prepare for our Shanghai stay, we read the material available for us and here’s what we found. Shanghai is the Paris of the East and Queen of the Orient. These are among the sycophantic nicknames that have been bestowed upon Shanghai’s thriving business centre. Everything was once possible - for a price.